Not Quite Normal

Home Brewing | BrewTroller | Building the BrewTroller


I've decided to combine my passion for electronics with my passion for beer and start making an automated home brewery - a bit like a giant bread maker, except you get a 25 litres of beer at the end instead of a loaf of bread. While I hate measuring anything accurately when I cook, the fact that beer production is basically chemical engineering allows me to automate the hell out of it with a relatively clean conscience.

It seems other people have had this idea too, and decided to build an open source project to do just that - the Sanguino based BrewTroller. Both the hardware designs and software source code are open source, making it an ideal project to get me started.

The BrewTroller can be purchased ready assembled or in kit form - I chose the latter as I wanted to build it myself. It should be noted the BrewTroller is only the control centre of the automated brewery; all the other equipment such as SSRs, valves, pumps, heaters, etc need to be purchased separately and how you put them together is up to you.

(Click on images for full size versions)

The kit as it arrives.

I asked for the 'Ultimate Kit' (Version 2.4) as that included the LCD but I opted to not have the temperature sensors included as I had another source for these. The PCB is a basic one sided board, produced in very small quantities, and has no silkscreen - I had to rely on a pdf of the board layout and a photo of a finished board to put it together - hopefully more documentation will become available as the project matures.

The board about half assembled. You can see the jumpers underneath the ATMEGA644 40 pin socket.

Almost finished. Just the green connection headers, the LM7805 5v regulator and encoder socket to install.

The finished board showing the green power LED indicating operation - the small black component connected to the top left green screw terminal is a Dallas DS18B20+ 1-wire temperature sensor.

The back of the finished board. I've been soldering since I was 7 years old but I had to change my soldering iron bit for a smaller one to assemble this. Some parts are pretty tight and the uncoated copper traces make it easier to get accidental solder bridges.

The complete setup with LCD and encoder connected.

The encoder seems very sensitive to line noise - it doesn't like me touching the harness connections but this shouldn't be an issue when it's properly mounted in an enclosure.

The LCD is showing the 'Brew Monitor' program where it monitors temperatures and turns things on and off appropriately - the HLT actual temperature is below the target temperature (shown in the square brackets on the bottom left), so the system has turned the HLT heat on as shown by the red LED on the board and the "On" next to the HLT target temperature.

Unfortunately the shipped firmware is in US measurements - I'm going to have to recompile the firmware with the metric flag to switch it over to metric.