Sunday, September 15, 2019

Brewie+ Repair Update (fixed on 9/21/2019, failed again 9/29/2019)

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, my Brewie+ quit working properly on July 12.  I reached out to the manufacturer and was told that new wiring would be shipped to me for installation.  Unfortunately, it's now two months later and there is no wiring. There are also rumors online of the manufacturer going out of business, supported by the fact that their web site seems to go online and offline randomly and (last time I tried) I could not submit trouble tickets or send an email inquiring about the status of my repair part order.

Fearing the worst, I ordered some high-temperature wire, high temperature connectors, high-temperature silicone tape, and thermal switches of the kind used in the Brewie and Brewie+.  Earlier today, a friend and I created replacement wiring for the Brewie+ heating element and thermal switch.  We also removed the failed thermal switch and replaced it with a new one.

After reassembling the Brewie+, it booted up fine and looked to be working. Since it was long overdue for a cleaning, I started a cleaning routine.  After almost overloading the boil kettle, the Brewie reported that it thought the water supply was turned off.  I drained the machine, opened it up, and found that we had connected the pressure sensor wire incorrectly.  After correcting that, I fired the Brewie up again and went into the developer mode.  I poured a bit of water into it and watched as it recorded the presence of water.  I turned the heating element on the boil side on and watched as the temperature began increasing.  It seemed to be fixed.

The Brewie+ internals, with the fried wiring replaced
Realizing that we might have thrown off the pressure sensor calibration, I ran the calibration process to ensure that it seemed to be accurate.  When it was over, I went into the Developer Mode and added two liters of water (by weight).  The display claimed that only 1.2 liters were added.  This didn't surprise me, because I've had issues with it loading too much water since the last firmware update.

With a cleaning cycle long overdue, I started a full clean program.  The Brewie began loading water.  And loading water.  And loading water.  As it seemed about to overflow, so I cut off the water and bailed a bunch out.  I let the cycle continue, but stayed there to watch it.  It took the machine a while to heat up all the water it had loaded, but it managed to do so.

An unexpectedly large amount of water, clearly something amiss
When it appeared that the Brewie was about to start cleaning the mash compartment, I went downstairs to check on it.  Unfortunately, it had overflowed the mash compartment, onto the table, onto the shelf, and the floor.  A rather unpleasant mess to mop up.  I removed more water from the mash compartment and allowed the machine to finish cleaning itself.  When it was finished, I shut it down, wiped out the inside with clean towels, and unplugged it.

No doubt there is something still amiss in the Brewie+ since it's overloading water.  Still, this does show some progress.

Update 09/17/2019:  After running through a test procedure designed for the Brewie+, it became clear that the issue is a problem with the Outlet Valve. Most likely this is a result of the fact that I wasn't able to run a cleaning cycle when the unit failed in July.  I'll have to open it up once again and see if I can get the valve unstuck.  If I can't do that, I may have to replace it with a valve from one of the broken Brewie B20 machines I bought from eBay.

Update 09/21/2019:  After checking the electrical connection to the Outlet Valve, it became clear that the valve could close, but could not open afterward.  I removed it and replaced it with the Outlet Valve from a used original Brewie B20. That valve was not working either.  Removing yet-another valve from the donor B20 machine, I found one that was working.  I was able to complete a full clean cycle after replacing the valve with no overflows.  I was also able to successfully run a full test brew using the built-in Test Recipe, with the Brewie+ performing properly from the initial water load through the mash, boil, and wort chilling steps.  Tomorrow I'm hopefully going to brew my first batch since July 12 when the machine went offline.

Update 09/29/2019:  After running a couple of cleaning cycles and a successful brew on 9/22/2019, the Brewie's boil heater failed again today during the brew of a SMASH beer using Pilsner malt and Mandarina Bavaria hops.  I had to drain the wort out of the Brewie and boil it on an induction cooktop I have in the basement, which I used to use to heat sparge water for the Grainfather.  Using the cooktop I was able to save the batch of SMASH beer, but it's clear there is still something wrong with the Brewie+ device. I don't know if our repairs on 9/21 failed or if something new has gone wrong, such as a failure of the temperature cut-off switch or the heating element.  It will be a few weeks before I have the time to crack open the machine and figure this out.


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