It’s Memorial Day weekend and you have nothing to do but brew, drink, and eat. But you could make your future brewing a little more productive with the very clever — and slightly challenging — UberFridge.
Homebrewer Elco Jacobs has posted a very detailed and easy-to-follow guide on how you turn an Arduino Nano and Asus router into an internet-connected temperature controller for your fermentation needs. Total cost? A couple of hours and about $100-$125, assuming you have a fridge. Not the cheapest project, but given that fermentation temperature has a major effect on the outcome of your homebrew, it’s not the worst money you could spend.
Jacobs has posted the code needed to run the whole system on Google Code, but his guide is definitely the place to start.
Innovation in pint glasses tends to come in the form of shape or weight, though not much has changed in decades (save for the famous Sam Adams glass). But clever marketers came up with a brilliant way to make you want to fill your glass with a dark beer: screen a special QR code onto the glass that can only be read when it’s up against a dark enough background.
For those who don’t know, QR codes are modern bar codes — they hold some form of data that can be read by one of dozens of different smartphone apps. For a QR code to work, like a barcode, the scanner needs to be able to tell the basic difference between white and black to be read (or some other combination of contrasting color). By printing a light-colored QR code onto a glass that simply can’t work with a light beer, it’s possible to provide some sort of bonus material with a dark beer.
Very clever, in the can’t-believe-I-didn’t-think-of-this-first kind of way.
This has been around for a little while, but we felt like it was worth posting again for another Friday how-to article.
The team at SparkFun electronics has written a detailed guide on how to connect your kegerator to a Twitter account, allowing you to broadcast the status of your keg to the world.
When I was first given the duty of making sure the SparkFun kegerator had beer for the SparkFun employees I was excited about getting to choose beer for my colleagues. My excitement quickly waned when I got a knock on my door while in the middle of a panelizing session for BatchPCB. The keg was out. It turns out the SparkFun drinking habits vary and the keg never goes out at a convenient time. People never like going to the break room to grab a cold pint of beer only to get the dreaded fweessssssh of an empty keg. I needed a solution. I wanted something that I could monitor remotely that could tell me when the keg was about to run out.
The most well known method of determining the fullness of a keg is to try to pick it up. If you can pick it up and not feel the mass of the liquid swishing around inside, the keg is out. The more difficult it is to lift the keg, the more full it is. This is just not feasible when it’s carefully wedged inside the keg fridge and is not the most accurate method around, plus it shakes up the beer. Weighing the keg would work well and four 100 pound force sensors would work for weighing the whole kegerator. I replaced the casters on the kegerator with carriage bolts that rest on the force sensors that rest on leftover PCBs that rest on furniture coasters. Hot glue was added to give some support that was needed for the lateral forces of moving the keg in and out of the kegerator.
It unfortunately doesn’t involve an iPad, but it’s certainly a cheaper solution. And as soon as you get it up and running, be sure to have your keg follow the Lautering account.
The engineering team at Yelp has created a fantastic iPad interface for their office keg. Building off of the existing KegBot platform, they built an iPad app that allows them to check-in with an RFID keycard, track user ratings, and track the amount of beer coming out of the keg. It even tracks the temperature.
Sensors attached to the keg feed data into an Arduino microcontroller, which in turn communicates directly with the iPad via a serial connection. The iPad processes that data and displays it in a snazzy manner along with a description of the current brew. An RFID reader attached to the system allows users to ’swipe in’ to KegMate and keep track of how much beer they’ve had, as well as assign a star rating for the beer currently in the keg (this is Yelp, after all).
If you were going to starting from scratch, this definitely takes some understanding of circuitry, iPad app development, and a host of other technical skills. Forunately, the team at Yelp has released everything they’ve done — the app, schematics, even part numbers — to help you put it together. If you’ve got an extra Saturday afternoon and a little ambition, they’ve made it simple enough to be an approachable project for almost anyone.
The downside? It requires an iPad, which is $500 alone, making this a $600+ project. If you’re interested in a simpler version of this, you can eliminate the iPad and use an old computer with the KegBot software.