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BrewBit Model-T / BrewPi Comparison

07-17-2013

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A lot of people have been comparing the BrewBit Model-T to the BrewPi, and in a lot of ways this makes sense. The two have a number of features in common: remote monitoring and control, open source hardware and software, similar temperature accuracy and precision, similar output current rating and more. Despite these similarities, there are a number of key differences that we think make the Model-T stand head and shoulders above BrewPi.

Plug-and-Play

AC power is extremely dangerous. If not handled properly, you can end up damaging your property, causing an electrical fire, or even fatally electrocuting yourself. BrewPi does not provide standard pre-wired electrical outlets. Instead you must manually wire it up using screw terminals. Mix up two wires and you can create an extremely dangerous condition just waiting to happen.

We take these risks very seriously which is why the Model-T comes pre-wired, tested, and ready to use safely from the moment you take it out of the box.

Pricing

We have seen several claims that BrewPi is cheaper than the Model-T. Our initial rough estimate of actual BrewPi pricing showed that they were very close in price, however as more people made this argument, we decided to take a closer look. Based on pricing from the BrewPi store and Amazon, here is what we found:

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Already, the BrewPi is nearly $90 more expensive than the BrewBit Model-T. Due to the fact that the BrewPi is not plug-and-play, you will likely need to purchase additional parts in order to integrate it into your brewing/fermentation systems adding even more cost to an already costly project. In our Kickstarter comparison chart, we made a conservative estimate of $15 in additional costs to complete a BrewPi build, bringing your total to nearly $260.

Display/User Interface

BrewPi comes with a basic character LCD which displays the current temperatures and status. In order to interact with it, you use a rotary encoder. This interface works well enough, but feels a bit antiquated in the age of smart phones and tablets.

We think that the full-color touch screen display on the Model-T offer a much more natural mechanism for interacting with the device while also allowing for an extremely flexible and beautiful platform for displaying status.

Integration

BrewPi is composed of two general purpose control boards (Raspberry Pi and Arduino). We believe that this architecture has a couple of downsides:

  • Wasted resources - Do you really need a 700Mhz ARM processor, GPU capable of playing 1080p video, 512MB RAM and a Linux OS just to read a couple of temperature sensors and switch some relays?

  • Size - The Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards end up taking much more space than a purpose-built integrated solution.

The Model-T integrates an appropriately spec’d microcontroller into custom made PCBs which are designed to fit compactly into the case and reduce the cost and complexity of the final device.

Case

BrewPi uses a laser-cut acrylic case. Some people find this DIY look to be charming, inviting the user to crack it open and hack away, and indeed it can be. Others don’t care about seeing the internals and just want a polished finished enclosure. This matter is largely a matter of taste, but we wanted the best of both worlds with the Model-T. It comes in a nice, finished, injection molded case, but is easy to crack open and hack for the more technically inclined.

Setup

BrewPi is largely aimed at programmers. They have done a nice job in writing instructions to help less technical folks to get it up and running, but there is no avoiding the command line.

Model-T on the other hand is ready to rock out of the box. For those that prefer to take the less travelled path, all the source code, schematics, and tools you need are available for your hacking pleasure.

Conclusion

BrewPi offers an impressive platform for beer monitoring and control. In many ways it equals the BrewBit Model-T, however in the end BrewPi is more expensive and less user friendly. Model-T is just as hackable as BrewPi while also offering a simple route for non-programmers along with a number of features above and beyond those of BrewPi.

What do you think? Did we miss anything?

Want a Model-T of your own?

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