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Hardware Hacking

Build Your Own BSD Beer Brewing Control System 222

gnuguru writes "Here's a great use for some of your old hardware, a BSD beer brewing kit! Components: one 486, FreeBSD, a temperature logger kit, a relay board, some odds and ends from the useful box, and some time. Summer's just around the corner, so get to work gang!" You'll have to use this recipe, naturally.
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Build Your Own BSD Beer Brewing Control System

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  • Cool (Score:1, Funny)

    by ikkibr ( 848955 )
    Finally I found an use for my Old Pentium 100!
    Now I can make my own beer and spend my money on geek things and not in beer anymore!
    • Yet another misinterpretation Richard Stallman's manifesto []! It must drive him bonkers.

      JavaScript is not Java []
    • Now I can make my own beer and spend my money on geek things and not in beer anymore!

      Actually, by the time you factor in the energy costs associated with making your own beer - buying from the store is actually cheaper.

      Not always better, but definitely less expensive.
      • Re:Cool (Score:3, Informative)

        by misleb ( 129952 )
        Energy costs? I just brewed 5 gallons of ale and it didn't take more energy than it takes to run a gas burner for 60 minutes. All the fermenting and aging was done at room temperature.

        Maybe it takes a lot of energy to brew a lager, but not an ale. I like ales better anyway...


      • Re:Cool (Score:2, Informative)

        by courious1 ( 849689 )
        As a EX beer and wine maker I know by the time you factor in all the costs it is cheaper to buy. I made my beer from grain and talk about alot of labour. :( and to be able to get QUALITY BEER it takes patience and many failures.
        • Re:Cool (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bush Pig ( 175019 )
          I've been avoiding using grain for just that reason. If you make it out of malt syrup and hop pellets (all of which can be bought cheaply in bulk) and recycle the yeast for a few brews, it is considerably cheaper (about $A12 for 22 litres - which is about 60 stubbies, only I keg it these days). I don't even usually need to worry about temperature control. I brew ales in summer (the temperature gets a bit high sometimes, giving a bit of a butterscotch taste, but it's rare I have a complete failure) and lage
          • Re:Cool (Score:2, Interesting)

            by courious1 ( 849689 )
            Mashing was a learning experience and agreat hobbie. I had a keg system (with cold beer always on tap) and belonged to a local club. Made beers ales stouts brown ales the only thing I never tried was larger. It was simple enough just never got around to it. I used two s/s beer kegs with the tops cut off one for mashing the other for boiling. I used a 75,000 BTU burner. Had to build a exhaust to outside and air intake. Built a filter system and a counter pressure bottle filler (that was a challenge) I found
            • I intend to try mashing when I retire - it's a bit too labour-intensive to fit around work, whereas using extract gives almost as good a result with about 10% of the effort.

              As for distillation, it's illegal in Australia also (although I've never heard of anyone getting busted unless they were trying to sell it), but it's apparently legal in New Zealand. The home-brew shops here all sell reflux stills for extracting *cough* "essential oils". They also provide, just to satisfy a quite natural intellectual cu
        • As a EX beer and wine maker I know by the time you factor in all the costs it is cheaper to buy. I made my beer from grain and talk about alot of labour. :( and to be able to get QUALITY BEER it takes patience and many failures.

          Oh sure... but don't EVER post any woes to a geek-oriented site about exchanging labor for quality in the end result ;)

          By your argument I must be insane. I want to grow my own wheat, barley, corn and hops to use for making my own lagers. :-D

  • by ZiZ ( 564727 ) * on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:18PM (#11369964) Homepage
    This really sounds like a neat system - not just for beer, but for anything for which a relatively constant temperature is useful or important. Like, say, you could hook it up to (or really, instead of) your classic thermostat, although a mercury switch has the advantage of not needing to reboot if it goes out due to a power outage...

    I wonder how feasable it would be to set one of these up to regulate the water temperature in your shower. Set it for something warm and cozy, and it will run at that temperature until the hot water starts to decline, sound a warning, and maintain as high a temperature as possible following that, with a gradual return to the desired temperature if the supply of hot water returns to normal...

    • by ZombieEngineer ( 738752 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:35PM (#11370120)
      The purpose from the article was to provide a temperature profile. Biological processes are a tad bit complicated with the desired product sometimes will only be produced under certain circumstances, from memory Penicilin is only formed by a certain fungus during the "death stage" of fermentation at a specific temperature. eg: all the culture is used up and the biomas starts to consume itself)

      By controlling the temperature profile during fermentation it is possible to radically change the "taste" of the product. That is why the Australian / South African wine growers can churn out a reasonably good product cheaply (as opposed to the French) as they use large temperature controlled stainless steel vats with scorched oak chips rather than small wooden casks.

      Zombie Engineer

      • For your information, in France as elsewhere, the fermentation phase of wine brewing is done in large containers (inox or wood or cement vats).

        The wine is only transferred to casks when the fermentation is done.

        The period while the wine stays in casks is called elevage (can't remember the english term), and aims at refining the wine taste before bottling (this can last up to a few years). Not all wines go through a cask elevage.

        There are a few cases of fermentation in casks, but they are truely the exce

    • This really sounds like a neat system - not just for beer, but for anything for which a relatively constant temperature is useful or important

      There's something more useful or important than beer?

    • Shower temperature regulation is one of the things I've been thinking
      of for decades. It requires much faster responses than beer brewing,
      and to do it right you need to understand the differential pressures
      of the hot and cold water. It's a lot simpler to buy a thermostatic

      • Oh man... Are you sure you want to buy one?

        A good quality thermostatic valve (up to $500) also requires a device called a "valve rough" (couple of hundred), plumber's services (couple of hundred), provided you have the tile or whatever is there stripped off to solder/braze the water pipes, plus tile installation (can be bloody, up to three-five hundred).

        Ask me how I know...

        Though must say that it works perfectly. The only downside is that the hot water ends really abruptly when the hot water tank goes

  • BSD (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:19PM (#11369968)
    BSD: The Beer Service Device.
    • BSD: The Beer Service Device.

      Leading to the BSoD ... Beer Screen of Death? :-P

    • it's the kind i asked deadbeat college roomies to get me: Buy Some Damn Beer!
    • (To the tune of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine")

      Do Bud and Miller have too little taste for you?
      Does Coors taste too commercialized and spare?
      Are all the microbreweries too much for you?
      Do trips down the beer aisle lead to despair?

      Well there's no need to complain.
      We'll eliminate your pain.
      We can lupulize your brain, you'll feel just FINE!

      Buy a BSD... Brewin' machine!

      Does your own homebrew's quality just get you down?
      Is life without some good hooch just a drag?

  • Accessories? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eziril ( 657544 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:21PM (#11369988)
    Now to put some in my Peltier Beer cooler []
    • Let your Guinness warm up. You'll find it has much more flavor and aroma that way.* The Guinness Extra Stout is best, I find, when consumed at somewhere between cellar and room temperature.

      This is true of virtually all ales that are worth drinking, and a rather high percentage of quality lagers (as in "bottom-fermented beers", not meant in the "fizzy and yellow" sense) as well.
      • by G-funk ( 22712 )
        He said beer, not guiness.... Why anybody would want to drink vegemite instead of just putting it on toast is still a mystery to me of course.
    • Or for a more geeky approach (or atleast more dangerous!) try the Jet Powered Beer Cooler [].
  • Summer? (Score:4, Funny)

    by BladeMelbourne ( 518866 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:22PM (#11369998)
    Summer's just around the corner, so get to work gang!

    Being the 15th of January, it is exactly half way through Melbourne's 3 month summer season now. You self centered US folk :p

    • And Jan 14th is the dead of winter in most northern latitudes. My home town is suffering temperatures of -40 right now, which makes it very very difficult to see summer as being "just around the corner".
    • besides.. don't they drink during winter?

      and damn snobs! you can brew without fancy computers!
    • Re:Summer? (Score:2, Interesting)

      Not just US centered. Face it most of the Earth's land mass -- and therefore most of the human population, live in the Northern hemisphere where it is the dead of winter right now. Not that being in the Southern hemisphere, and therefore being different is a bad thing; IMO being different is good!
    • it is exactly half way through Melbourne's 3 month summer season now

      3 Months? Melbourne has all four seasons in a day, then it rains for the rest of the year...

      You're better off migrating to one of the more sensible parts of Australia where we experience climate rather than weather.
    • Re:Summer? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eap ( 91469 )
      I don't know why they mention summer. If you're lagering your beer you need to ferment it around 55 degrees fahrenheit, and it's hard to keep the temperature that low for weeks on end during the hot summer. If you don't, your beer will end up with nasty banana flavored esters, and you will get headaches when you drink it. You can, of course, brew ales, but they still need to be kept relatively cool.

      This is one reason the Czechs brew their Pilsner before it gets too hot, and then age it in cool cellars

  • Hey... (Score:2, Funny)

    The first time I read that headline, I thought it said "BSD Beer Brewing System."

    Oh, wait...

  • by Ghostgate ( 800445 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:26PM (#11370030)
    This brings new meaning to the phrase: "Free(BSD) as in beer."
  • ... up there with the first commercial use of refridgeration by another Australian, keeping the beer cold of course!!.

    Zombie Engineer

  • by trs9000 ( 73898 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0009srt]> on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:27PM (#11370046)
    So, now, I can make beer that's free as in speech? I'm confused.
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:28PM (#11370053) Homepage Journal
    The fun part is explaining to your boss why you need a fridge for the new computer "disk pack".
  • by kingjosh ( 792336 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:30PM (#11370079)
    As with any open source project . . . we'll need a lot of testing. Any volunteers?
  • by nuxx ( 10153 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:30PM (#11370084) Homepage
    Wow, what a weird post to read right now... I'm actually brewing beer as I type this. There's about 52 minutes left in the boil. Unfortunately I'm doing it the old analog method.

    If anyone is interested in reading the recipe for the beer I'm making, look here [].
    • And you're reading slashdot instead of stirring? Methinks your wort runneth over....:P
      • Hehe... Actually, I'd just taken care of the foam from the first hop addition and there's 15 minutes left before the toasted coriander and Mt. Hood hops go in. :D
    • I'm actually brewing beer as I type this
      Technology and beer go together. My first use of USENET or really the internet at all was to get hold of part of "The Jolly Brewer", written by plenty of people on alt.rec.brewing.
    • Neat. I just tasted the first of my 5 gallons of brown ale. Fortunately, temperature controls are not necessary when brewing an ale. Room temperature will suffice. Good luck with your brew. Looks good!

      • Thank you, and congrats on your brown ale. That was the first beer I ever made, and it came out surprisingly good. I personally don't like it too much, but my friends do... The aforementioned batch is the third I've done, and the second (a very, very hoppy strong ale) should be done bottle conditioning in about a week.

        I'm doing some minor temp control for this ale... The person I got the recipe from specified 70F-75F and... Well... that's warmer than I keep my house in the winter. So I'm doing the fermenta
        • Heh, I have the same "Ale Pail" ;-)

          My home is colder than 70F as well. I also kept the fermenter in the bathroom next to a radiator. Seems to have worked well. My next beer is a nice dark Porter. Although I suspect that I will have a much smaller audience for that one.

  • by cepler ( 21753 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:34PM (#11370118) Homepage Journal
    See, FreeBSD isn't dead! Just drunk!
  • BSD eh? (Score:3, Funny)

    by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:35PM (#11370123) Homepage
    Beer Software Distribution

    Should have known.

    A distro dedicated to wonderful.

    So when will we see Windows XP "Hard Lemonade" Edition?
  • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:38PM (#11370144) Homepage
    As in beer?
  • YES.

    hmm. beer.
    i for one, welcome my new beerbrewing overlord. because at my place, the beer brews me.

    wait a sec ...
  • They won't succeed, but if they bombard me with enough traffic, it'll be expensive anyway.

    Let's not nuke the guy's interactive telnet temp server, OK?

  • I would like to see some something like this earlier in brew cycle. Temperature controls on relay assisted valves in a 3 or 4 pot brewing system would be a great addition. You could go from raw materials to chilled wort in a short time, and your brewing results would be more consistent. Add a USB capable pycnometer for measuring the specific gravity and then ferment in the refrigerator described.

    Of course you might as well pony up the dough for a real microbrewery at that point, but if we are going to d

  • I roast my own coffee at home, currently using an iRoast which allows me to input temperatures to form a roast curve. Now I'm wondering if it would be possible to modify what the article mentions (or similar) with a thermocouple rated for 500F+ ?

    Some coffee geeks even modify espresso machines & coffee roasters with a PID (a type of temperature controller). This kind of data logger would be very useful. There are thermometers that do this, but they are expensive.

    Oh and btw, coffee made from beans roast

  • Temperature sensors are good and all, but what would really rule would be a networked hydrometer or refractometer inside the fermentation tank giving you gravity readings. For non-homebrewers, the hydrometer reading shows the amount of dissolved sugars in your beer. This value decreases as the beer ferments (yeast eats sugar and turns it into alcohol), thus showing you when the beer is done fermenting. Normally it's a royal pain to measure [] because you have to extract small amounts of beer from the tank w

  • I've been trying to design a computer controlled distiller. The worst part is trying to come up with the temperature sensors and the interface.

    The sensors have to be able to go a bit over 100C, and I'm still not sure how to interface them with the PC. Too many temperature interfaces will only accept one or two probes.
  • Instead, just build this Son of Fermentation Chiller []. Probably a bit less effort.
  • The creator of this project, Lehey, is apparently world-renowned in his field. He is an author of an OReilly BSD book, a lecturer at world BSD conventions. ANd yet his top rate for corporate BSD work is 180 bucks an hour as an independent consultant. He charges less for working for edu or private personal projects and less for long term work.

    Yet as a fairly green patent agent, I was hired out at about 100/hr. And almost ANY and EVERY lawyer in America charges somewhere between $US125-250/hr. Any schmoe law
  • Mixing an accelerant (such as caffeine) with a depressant such as alcohol, is a very bad idea. Typically, it leads to violence and violent behaviour.

    If you drink, just drink alcohol with good ole carbs (like normal beer). Avoid drinks like Rum+Coke (alcohol+caffeine) because they tend to make you a "mean drunk".

    Vodka and Tonic = ok
    Jack and Coke = recipe for bad news
    Captain [Morgan] and Coke = bad news
    Liquor and Red Bull = very bad news
    Roy Rogers = ok
    Beer = ok
    Wine = ok
  • Beer is good!
  • Tooting my own horn (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @12:13AM (#11371089) Homepage Journal
    Speaking of FreeBSD and brewing, check out QBrew. Open Source brewing software for FreeBSD (or Linux, Unix, OSX, Windows, etc). It's developed on FreeBSD, and as far as I know it's the only (stable and released) native brewing software for Linux, BSD, Unix and OSX. Get it at and start Open Source brewing today!

    p.s. That last link of the story blurb goes to some folks who claim to have brewed the world's first Open Source beer. Balderdash! They're greenhorn newbies when it comes to Open Source beers and ales! My brewing software and recipes have been Open Source for years prior to their arrival. Heck, they even predate the license they use! So get the Original(tm) Open Source Beer and get QBrew!

    p.p.s. Okay, I'm done blowing my own horn now. I won't do this again until the next beer/brewing story appears on Slashdot...
  • Fundamentally flawed (Score:2, Informative)

    by kimanaw ( 795600 )
    While it maybe kewl (hmm, unintended pun...), its waaaayyy overbuilt, and definitely violates the Homebrewers Prime Directive: "Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew" aka. RDWHHB.

    For a simpler (albeit less sexy/techie) solution check here []

    Works fine for me, but only during warm temps, since it only turns the fridge off/on, and doesn't control a heat source.

    And as for "open source" beer, there are recipes aplenty freely available on the 'net (e.g., HBD []). All you need is a couple buckets with spigots, an

    • My grandfather build a homebrew kit years ago in his back shed. It was a box lined with insulation foam, a fan a lightbulb and a thermometer. The fan constantly ran and the thermometer turned off the lightbulb when the box became too hot. It constantly turned out great beer and I still use it today. He showed it to someone who worked at the local brewery and he said that he wished he could have such good temperature control on his vats.

      You should only go high tech when you have to. Why have a computer cont
  • Save for the fact that I don't drink. I would absolutely love to use this sort of technology for a water-cooled desktop.
  • RIMS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dcigary ( 221160 ) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @08:06AM (#11372476) Homepage
    Seriously, this whole project could be replaced by one simple device [] that's been in use for years by homebrewers. (search down the page).

    To see a truly automated brewing system, you need a RIMS [] system, which are pretty cool.

    /homebrewer for 12 years
  • by drwho ( 4190 )
    Does it come with a faux beard for those who don't have strong enough or correctly placed hair follicles? Or are you just expected to move some down from the top of your head?

    Because both BSD and Beer require a big bushy beard. The belly is self-sustaining.

BLISS is ignorance.