Brew Bubbles: Web-Enabled Airlock

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Lee Bussy, Jan 4, 2020.

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  1. Lee Bussy

    Lee Bussy New Member

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    I just did a Google search:

    upload_2020-1-4_14-16-57.png

    That seems to be pretty important to many homebrewers. Nobody agrees what's "right," and about all the Internet can do is help you pass the time in between trips to stare at the airlock.

    Wouldn't it be great if someone made something to tell you when your airlock is bubbling? At the very least, it would cut down on your significant other asking you where you are going at 2:00 AM as you tiptoe out of the bedroom by the light of your cellphone. I mean, we're in a day and age where you can ask your television questions. You'd think someone would make something that could help. What if you don't have computers connected to your grain bin and antennas on your growlers?

    Enter Brew Bubbles.

    upload_2020-1-4_14-17-25.png

    Brew Bubbles will happily count every bubble and report it to you on a web page served by its own web server. Not enough? Brew Bubbles optionally allows you to hook in a couple of very inexpensive and standard temperature probes to display the fermenter and room temperature.

    upload_2020-1-4_14-18-16.png

    Still not enough, you say?

    Well, if you want to go crazy, you can connect Brew Bubbles to Brewer's Friend and integrate the readings with your recipe journal and see how it all graphs out. Already wired? Connect Brew Bubbles into BrewPi Remix or Fermentrack and amaze your friends!

    Have I piqued your interest? Want to know how to get started? I'm glad you asked. The average garage handyman can build Brew Bubbles for around $10, and it takes all of an hour before you are up and running.

    You can hit the website as a jumping-off point. I have prepared full documentation, or you can dive right into the repository if that's how you'd like to start.

    The Homebrewtalk thread will serve for general support, true bugs should get logged to the issues in Github.

    I really hope some of you will get some use out of this. I know there's a homebrew club up in Canada who have managed to find me already, and they are planning a club build. I'm pretty excited to see how it works out.

    (Apologies to people who have read this already elsewhere. Also, and explaining the delay posting here, I do have permission from the folks who run this place to post this.)
     
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  2. Lee Bussy

    Lee Bussy New Member

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    Release Announcement: v1.0.1 - Timers and Bracket

    The biggest visible change for this release is to the bracket. @matridium (on HBT) was instrumental in getting me going on this whole project which is something I should have put in the first post. His questions in another thread inspired me to do the project to begin with, as well as providing a good deal of information related to work he did with a similar project in an academic setting. He designed the first bracket which was offered at launch. His creation sort of "backed in" to the object file. He created the first bracket in a machine shop, and subsequently put that into a 3D model.

    Thanks to @matridium for the inspiration and hard work!

    This change adds a few tweaks which @gromitdj (on HBT) was nice enough to do. The changes were all around the hole where the airlock stem passes:
    • Enlarged the hole, the original would only allow a smaller stem
    • Three different ways now to secure the bracket to the airlock
      • Added a small hole for an optional M3 set screw
      • Added a collar to secure a zip-tie around the bracket and stem
      • Added "ears" which allow for a rubber-band to wrap the device
    [​IMG]

    Thanks Donnie!

    All changes in this release:

     
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  3. beer1965

    beer1965 Active Member

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    Ok so this will sound like a snarky question but it's honestly not meant to be. I'm new to the brew world and making my way through my currently fermenting fourth beer and have a mead on the go too. I look at your product and think why? Why do I care how many bubbles bubbled in the last minute? And I have an inkbird for temps so that's not needed. Not sure i get the bubble counting point.
     
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  4. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    I would say that it's completely superfluous given the availability of Tilt hydrometers but it's actually sort of cute. ;) As long as it's DIY and cheap, I could see some brewers getting some use from it.
     
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  5. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    I can see it now. Twice as many new brewers posting, "my air lock isn't bubbling, should I pitch more yeast?" :D

    Sounds like a fun little project though.
     
  6. Lee Bussy

    Lee Bussy New Member

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    We're 54 years old ... we're allowed to be snarky. ;)

    This project exists for several reasons:
    • If you do a web search you will find a great many aborted projects which do this. I say "aborted" because they all seem to finish with "let's see what you can do with this" or "you can customize the code" ... none of which really does anything for the average DIYer. Making is one thing but creating/coding is another. People need to see what "done" looks like.
    • Most homebrewing relayed projects exist for the "cool factor." Nobody needs a Tilt (although I have a couple,) For that matter I have made brews without a hydrometer. Mostly because I dropped it and didn't replace it. These things exist because they enhance the experience for the homebrewer in some way. Obviously it does nothing for the current beer.
    • People like to collect information about their brews in order that they can learn from it. This project is completely passive, it controls nothing. However, it passively collects three pretty important pieces of information for the homebrewer: fermentation temp, room temp, and fermentation rate (which obviously can be converted to gravity.) This links perfectly with the homebrewer on Brewer's Friend who has collected so much about the recipe but doesn't use controls. An Inkbird may control temps but there's no way to display them along with the other fermentation characteristics.
    • It's a "gateway drug." This may be the simplest and least expensive DIY electronics project out there, yet the skills the DIYer will learn translate to other projects. It's an easy way for the rank beginner to gain some experience and most of all to gain confidence.
    There's more but that's what strikes me off the top of my head. If it doesn't interest you (and I think it does since you are reading and thinking about it) then no harm no foul. If it does, even a little, you can build one or two for next to nothing. At the very least you get some great skills and confidence.
     
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  7. Lee Bussy

    Lee Bussy New Member

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    I almost forgot!

    Thorrak on HBT has recently released BrewFlasher, a small application that makes it quite a bit easier for folks to flash the firmware. It supports several ESP-8266 and ESP32 projects (including Brew Bubbles.) It is available on GitHub as well as (soon) BrewFlasher.com. If you have any questions about it specifically, he has posted a thread dedicated to the application here.

    I'll add a section to the docs about using this soon.
     
  8. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    That's patently untrue. If you mean that bubbles can be counted on as a method for determining how fast the yeast is converting sugars to alcohol, that's at best a very broad estimate. In terms of "obviously" converting that estimate to gravity, that's just not possible. A beer could go like crazy for a day and stop completely. There's absolutely no way of determining if it's gone all the way to 1.008 or if it's stuck at 1.020 and won't budge. The only information that can be reliably converted to a gravity reading is the level of a hydrometer in a sight glass or other analogous instrumental reading.

    I'll give you that tracking temperature is useful and that the number of bubbles is an interesting piece of information to look at over a couple of days, but there's nothing there that'll give you any real data about how far along your beer actually is in terms of attenuation.
     
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  9. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    And after all of this, the beloved little yeasty guys magically make beer out of sweet wort, no matter what we do! Bless their little hearts for not understanding code!
     
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  10. Lee Bussy

    Lee Bussy New Member

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    That’s a bold statement which ignores science. Don’t tell the Plaato guys that.

    There definitely is a hard correlation between CO2 emitted and alcohol produced. Whether a given airlock setup can be counted upon to deliver uniform (and thereby volumetrically quantifiable) bubbles is another thing of course. That’s why I left that part out of the design, because frankly I don’t need the headache trying to help people calibrate and correct their data. I’ve seen enough of that with some other projects.
     
  11. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    Amen! If you can't rely on bubbles as an accurate indication of fermentation activity, why would you count on them to indicate something as important as attenuation?
     
  12. Mase

    Mase Well-Known Member

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    Other than my first homebrew or two at the most, I stopped worrying about the bubbles... the yeast know what to do. And once you gain that experience and knowledge, there’s no need for this. But you’ll likely catch a couple new brewers for the aforementioned reasons to purchase this product. Best of luck in your endeavor...
     
  13. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I for one will not be buying it. Of course, I haven't bought a Tilt either, for the same reasons. And I believe a Tilt will ultimately work, while any idea based on counting bubbles in an airlock runs afoul of the "bubbles" question we've answered at least a hundred times here - bubbles are not a good indication of fermentation vigor or completion unless your fermentor is completely sealed. Even if I thought the counting bubbles idea would work, I don't need to know that much about my fermentation and if I do need to know fermentation progress to schedule a diacetyl rest or make sure my WY3724 fermentation is really still working, my refractometer and correction spreadsheet works just fine. You'll sell a few, mostly to new brewers who don't know better. Best of luck.
     
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  14. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Your making my point for me...the number of bubbles in a given time span by itself isn't an accurate or scientific measurement of anything, certainly not the actual amount of CO2 released, having any number of variables that have to be accounted for. Perhaps it's possible to do a strictly controlled experiment where you can correlate the amount of CO2 released with the amount of alcohol produced and perhaps even come up with a way to use the molecular weights involved to predict the specific gravity of the resulting liquid but if there's anything "obvious" about your conversion protocol, you're going to have to show your work, professor. :)

    You've got something that's interesting and probably fun for brewers to play around with but you shouldn't make misleading claims about it. There's already enough misinformation on the internet for inexperienced brewers to wade through.
     
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  15. Lee Bussy

    Lee Bussy New Member

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    You guys are cracking me up. I'll address a couple of things:
    1. Plaato has, by measuring bubble count with an optimized airlock, been able to keep remarkably accurate gravity and fermentation characteristics and trending. I don't think an S-lock is "optimized" however I am very sure the controller and application are capable of that level of speed/accuracy. Therefore an individual might expand upon what I have provided to show rough gravity changes over time. With optimized airlock hardware, it could be as accurate as Plaato. I don't have to show my math because I don't work for you. I think in a relatively short amount of time you could do the math yourself. Here's a nice place to start. If you are unable to mathematically prove a relationship between CO2 production and a resultant decrease in gravity, you probably should just give up on arguing this point.
    2. Don't buy this. Please do not. Because I'm not selling anything. As a matter of fact, I'm out my own money having developed this and provided the information and time to the community.
    And just in general: Please use this opportunity to not say anything and move on. If people are interested in the project, then it's cool that they get some use out of my work. If you want to argue against it then I have to ask why? What purpose does it serve to argue against the principles which have been leveraged commercially? Why argue about being able to leverage the same principles for a fraction of the cost, and learn something in the process?

    You guys certainly are different than the community I am used to. I guess now I know.
     
  16. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    I don't use airlocks as I turned to closed fermentation under pressure pretty much exclusively now, so a Tilt or similar device is more of something I would use and am very interested in purchasing. Fermenting under pressure poses some new obstacles that make something like the Tilt come in really handy. That said, I've looked at the Plaato a few times and think it's pretty incredible on what it's capable of doing. I've looked at your device and documentation and the geek in me thinks it's pretty cool also, and if nothing else I give kudos to you for being intelligent enough to do what you have so far. I sure don't have the know how, so I think it's cool that others do and can be so creative. Yeah, it's not for everyone and kinda goes against what or how most of us think about bubbles and fermentation, but I still think it's pretty ingenious. Even though it doesn't really fit how I brew, I'm tempted to put one together just to check it out. I like geeky toys!
     
  17. Lee Bussy

    Lee Bussy New Member

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    I have built spunding valves - but I've just never used them. It's a psychological victory at best to rack off the lees, and at worst potentially harmful if done carelessly, but I still do it. :) I've been brewing since '91 and it's worked so far. Still ... I might want to do it so there they sit. :)

    I've spoken with people who have used their Tilt in a closed system and so far not heard of anyone springing a leak. It's pretty much stuck there till the keg is kicked but they have more than one. Tilt is by far the most impressive piece of brewing electronics I've come across. Very well done, well written, well supported. I enjoy it most when I am working with something where I want to schedule an event by the fermentation progress.

    I know all about the arguments against "bubbles", but if people can't be trusted to seal their fermentation vessels, whether or not a bubble counter works is likely to be the least of their issues. I have not yet done a side by side with Plaato and Tilt (and a hydrometer of course) but people I trust have and their results prove it to be quite reliable. It seemed unlikely to me as well but there are commercial processes that use a similar method as well as academic papers that have explored the possibility of trending decay and/or fermentation by CO2 production(1, 2, 3). The academic with whom I worked early on was able to share some results from an undergrad's work from 2007 that showed a direct correlation, although the work was never peer-reviewed.

    But mostly, it's just a fun project that provides some data people may like. Used as a relative indicator, it's effective, and could be expanded upon. I expect however that once someone builds and uses something like this, it's going to lead to bigger and more effecive things (iSpindel for instance.)
    1. Latremouille, Gabriel. (2016). The Effect of Sucrose Concentration on the Percentage Change in Carbon Dioxide during Ethanol (Yeast) Fermentation. 10.13140/RG.2.2.29541.81123.
    2. GOOD, H. & DARRAH, JOSEPHINE. (2008). Rates of decay in wood measured by carbon dioxide production. Annals of Applied Biology. 59. 463 - 472. 10.1111/j.1744-7348.1967.tb04463.x.
    3. Ritonja, Jozef. (2017). Model reference adaptive control of carbon dioxide production in milk fermentation process. Journal of Biotechnology. 256. S74-S75. 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2017.06.1054.
     
  18. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    I have a Tilt, but only used it twice so far (haven’t brewed since about September). I love it.

    I spent some time talking with the Plaato guys at HomebrewCon, and I was quite impressed with both them and the Plaato. I did not want to spend the $99 (HBC special) to try it myself, though!
     
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  19. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I don't have a Tilt - don't need information on my fermentations at that level.

    I'm not going to dive into the plusses or minuses of this system other than to say the basic idea is sound. It's simple chemistry. If you are the kind of person interested in this kind of thing, as long as you're aware of its limitations, build it and have fun with it! To me, it's in the same category as a Tilt, interesting, maybe even cute, but in the long run, it's producing information I don't need for my brewing. Yours may be different.
     
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  20. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    One of the things that appealed to me about homebrewing was the fact that it didn't need to involve anything high tech. I still feel that way and find no need for a Tilt, Plato, bubble thing or the ability to check/and or control any aspect of my brewing via my phone. After working with electronics for many years, I find the simpler things in life refreshing.
     
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