My name is David Wiebe. I have to clarify first and foremost that Wiebe is correctly pronounced “Weeb” in English. “Weebee” is just one of the pronunciations I’ve heard in the past (and one that has stuck with some people).
Professionally I’m a mechanical engineer. Currently and from around 2009 or so I’ve been working as a Project Engineer. I still like the technical side of things and get my fill with some of my projects at home. I’ve always liked to build and tinker with things, albeit typically I’ve stuck with things mechanical in nature. My dad is a mechanic by trade and he had a shop at our home so I started at young age. Vehicles have always been something I’ve been drawn to and I continue to have a love of cars and motorcycles; half of that is love of driving, the other half is working on them. I have a number of other hobbies too, including woodworking, skiing, shooting, guitar….and of course brewing (beer and coffee).
Brewing is actually a relatively new hobby for me. I only started thinking about brewing after hearing two of my co-workers talk about home brewing; before that I never thought of brewing as being something accessible for the average person. I started doing a lot of research and realized this was something I could get into. Unlike many, I skipped the step of extract brewing and went straight to All-Grain. Nothing against extract brewing, but for me that’s like baking with a cake mix. I’m the kind that likes growing his own vegetables and cooking his own food (actually it’s my wife that does most of the cooking now….luckily she shares the same thoughts on food). I like to start with raw ingredients so that I know what goes into the end product and ultimately that gives me more control over the final product quality. Knowing this, I figured I might as well tackle the all-grain learning curve up front for better or worse.
The first problem I had was what to use for equipment. I had a few key criteria:
- Brew year round – Being up here in Canada, I didn’t fancy the idea of using a propane burner outdoors in -20C.
- Brewing in a controlled environment – Even in the summer, I didn’t like the idea of brewing outside with bugs and other “debris” blowing around.
- 5 gallon minimum, preferably 10 gallon batches – considering the effort required for all-grain I didn’t want to do small batches.
- High Degree of Control – In the long run I knew I’d want a system I could have a high level of control over realizing the importance temperature plays in the process.
- Do It Yourself – As I said above, I like to build things. The aspect of building my own brew setup was exciting in itself for me. I didn’t want to buy something off the shelf.
Considering the above, I opted for an electric brew setup. As with many others, I leveraged heavily off of Kal’s design (www.electricbrewery.com) as well as a few other alternate electric brew setups floating out there. I ordered Stainless Steel Pots and performed the necessary modifications for an electric brew setup. As for the control panel, I ended up coming up with my own modified design that was simplified vs Kal’s design (ie. I didn’t use contactors, I didn’t have any alarms, I had to manually move cables to switch from my HLT to my BK etc, etc). Best of all….I used a toolbox for a panel (panels are expensive!). Definitely not as professional looking.
It wasn’t as nice or feature rich as Kal’s panel, but it came in cheaper and still gave me the same control over brewing temperatures. My brew equipment went through a couple changes (ie. bought small DC pumps and changed to a HERMS instead of batch mashing, then bought chuggers, etc) but I brewed with this panel for quite a while. Eventually I got thinking that it would be nice to have temperature profiles recorded from my brew sessions. I did a lot of searching again but this time found nothing that fit my requirements. I did find one or two products but they were not fully functional at the time.
Therefore, in December 2015 knowing next to nothing about micro-controllers or circuit boards, I started my research. I found Arduino almost immediately and purchased a starter kit to learn some basics. I already had some coding knowledge in C++ from university….but that was pretty foggy. My full time job in the oil industry also had given me a lot of useful knowledge through the years to build on. RTD’s, electrical and control panels are part of everything we build. Fast-forward to about June 2016 and I had a RTD board designed and built, a micro controller, and a Windows application that functioned so I thought I better build a proper panel to make proper use of my new equipment. Fast-forward again to October 2016 (with a few changes along the way) I had my panel and controller complete and I brewed my first batch of beer with my new equipment and it worked great! Don’t get me wrong, I did a bunch of testing before brew day to work a few bugs out so I didn’t find them halfway through a brew.
My beer brewing hobby is what got me started with electronics. Now I just look for excuses to start new projects, like building my espresso controller!
I’m glad you found your way here and I hope you find the information on this page useful. Feel free to drop me a line with any questions or comments.