Day 190

In Brewing Equipment, we learned more about the thought processes that go into the programming necessary for automation. It goes like this: a well meaning programmer who has no knowledge of brewing comes to you and says, “Hey dood, I can create a program to automate your <insert piece of brewery equipment here>. Just tell me what processes are used.”

You then sit down and describe exactly what valves open or close and what motors turn on or off, and for how long and under what conditions, and in what order. Or make up a graphical interface that shows the programmer what processes are used for each sub-process of the process.

Although this sounds easy, consider the steps needed for even the simplest things we do without even thinking about it–say, finding the mash temperature is a bit low and supplying some steam to the mash tun:

  1. [Input from temperature sensor] The mash temperature is too low!
  2. We need steam! Open the steam valve! Turn on a panel light to let the operator know!
  3. [Input from temperature sensor] Is the mash temperature correct yet?  If no, repeat Step 3. If yes, close the steam valve and turn off the panel light.

It sort of reminded me of days of yore creating BASIC programs on my Commodore 64.

Our next assignment is to choose a piece of brewery equipment and create the list of processes that a programmer would need to know in order to create an automated program.

Maybe I should go and hunt up my old C64–I’m sure it’s in the basement somewhere.

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