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The Ideal Sous Vide Controller


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So, if you could make a sous vide controller do anything, what would you want it to do?

Some choices: Simplicity of interface OR Ramp/Soak, multiple program steps, multiple internal stored programs, computer Interface..

Higher Wattage or lower cost? Is there any advantage to going beyond 1800 watts? Theoretically, going beyond 15 amps/1800 watts would require a different style plug, both a wall plug and a plug on the back of the unit - the first step is half compatible, at the plug range. Going beyond 20 amps would require a completely different plug that would require electrical work at both ends.

Timer or not? Is there any advantage to having a timer on the sous vide machine?

As I read instructions, there are two choices. One is a single step controller that simply reaches a temperature and holds it. It can be set to ap mode with a single long button push, and the simplest use of the up and down arrows sets the temperature.

The other choice is the more complex type of controller. It has the ability to run a program that can be in multiple steps, The steps can mean that it will try to hit a linear rise or fall in temperature over time, or it can do something like, "run to 180 in 20 minutes then drop back to 131 and hold that - that sort of thing would be simple. But setting a single temperature to be held would be a 5 step process.

Of course, if your computer has an interface and if the PID has the same interface, you could do everything from the computer.

So, which would you buy, simple or complex? Some variation of the two? Which features are important?

SousVideOrNotSousVide - Seller of fine Artificial Ingredients such as Lactisole through Amazon.Com....

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I built my own dual SV unit one with a more programmable time/temperature profile PID and one with a straightforward hold X degrees. I find that for SV I rarely use the more complicated feature set. I went with a dual profile so that I could do meat and veg simultaneously (say one at 55C and one at 80C).


Another thing I would consider is circulation. If your using a rice-cooker style system with water you're likely fine with convection however if the heat source is localised and your water-bath large or you intend to use oil or butter you probably want to include a circulating pump, I found some decent heat tolerant pumps at www.lightobject.com.


The last comment I would make is that you want to consider making your thermocouple (PT100) removable/replaceable as it's easy to accidentally tug the cable and stress/break the wiring.

Hope this helps.

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I think usability, especially in the form of simplicity, is worth more then features. My Sous Vide Professional is placed on the side of the container, you hit power, you hit up/down to select the temp. It is very very straightforward, no extra components, no extra cables, no possibility of having a program in play you didn't notice, etc. I also have a PID + Heater (Fresh Meals Solutions), which works well and I use it when 2 set-ups (and used it alone for a year), but I really love the very stream-line experience of the SVP. I have very very rarely came across the need for anything beyond that.

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Power rating is very useful... lower power can be fixed by starting off with hot water, preferably hotter than your set point.

Most important feature is an accurate probe, and second most important feature I would say is reliable and fast convection/circulation.

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So, no one sees the need to have temperatures that change over time, or, say, the ability to program an entire cycle for tempering chocolate at once? Would it be OK if there was a simple mode that worked like today's PIDs do, with a self programming mode and then just up and down to change the setpoint if there was a "hidden" way to go into complex mode but it was usually in simple mode?

Would you rather not have a timer if it added an extra mode to the controller?

Anyone see any value in being able to computer monitor the temperature over time?

SousVideOrNotSousVide - Seller of fine Artificial Ingredients such as Lactisole through Amazon.Com....

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About the only feature I've ever had any desire for is to start the bath at a particular time, so that it was up to temp when I got home. Of course, this means I need an interface to set the time, I need to be check that the time is right, it needs power while it is turned off to keep the time, and I need an interface to set the timer. Probably not worth the small increase in functionality. This is achievable with a conventional timer of course.

I don't do chocolate, so don't know about that.

I expect my SV device to maintain +-0.1 C or there abouts so that I don't have to monitor it. If it needs monitoring, its not doing its job.

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Power rating is very useful... lower power can be fixed by starting off with hot water, preferably hotter than your set point.

Most important feature is an accurate probe, and second most important feature I would say is reliable and fast convection/circulation.

Oops, I meant to say _not_ very useful - can't edit now.

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I tend to agree that simple is best. I have been sous vide cooking for about 6 months now, and the only thing that would add to the experience of my home brew PID controller is the ability to pre-select temperatures for the various proteins that I regularly cook. Startup time is easily taken care of by a $5 plug timer.

That said, I am now looking to convert an eBay bain marie to a dedicated sous vide unit by adding the PID controller and possibly a small circulating pump


Edited by Simon Lewinson (log)
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Multiple program steps may be useful for turbo-aging, see my post of 24 December 2010.


I did this with my very first SousVideMagic model 1500A 6-steps-programmable which is to my knowledge no longer sold by FMS; now I use the SVM 1500D which is easier to handle and more accurate. The same procedure can be done by setting an alarm clock and changing the set point manually. If you absolutely insist on 6-steps-programmability, there seems to be the Programmable Bradley Smoker Controller Model WS-1200CPH (similar to SousVideMagic model 1500A 6-steps-programmable) still available from Auber instruments, but it is 12 amps only and rather tedious to set the programs, and temperature can be set in 1°-steps only (I used to operate my 1500A in Fahrenheit mode to be able to set temperature in 0.5°C steps).

A built-in timer is of no value, as you may not spend your time in the same room as your SV rig. A simple kitchen timer does the job and you can take it with you.

Wattage higher than 1500W is unnecessary. Should you once in a lifetime want to cook SV in a bath tub or whirl-pool with a steady state consumption of more than 1500W, you can still provide basic heat supply with a bucket heater connected directly to a wall outlet in another room (i.e. separate circuit to avoid blowing the fuse) and let your PID/FMM deliver the difference needed to stabilize the temperature.

Computer interface: do you really want to turn your SV controller into a "flying supersonic Swiss army knife"?

Peter F. Gruber aka Pedro

eG Ethics Signatory

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Bring on the features! If I could load my own macros I would. I am still on the SV fence....taking the basics and just heating up at this point. Pretty short list of things I like SV. At some point I want to expand the things I enjoy to SV and will want to experiment with various temps and ingredients (fats for example) in the SV bag. This is not an immediate thing but if I am going to invest I want to do so for the long term. Has to be well engineered and have a history of usage with credible feedback. Overambitious most likely and having something that does 1 thing perfect is fine....its the curiosity.

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  • 6 months later...

I think a simple setup would be necessary for the initial interface, but that some users would benefit for programable steps. I did 25 bugers sous vide last night. I would have loved to be able to program it for 1 1/2 hour at 150F (my target temperature for doneness) and the drop to 125F or 130F to hold until we finished.

The same is true when a PID/Sous Vide bath used to control a cheese vat. Cheese making often calls for changing temperatures, or slow raises or drops of temperature over a period of time. While the input is often based solely on time, many cheese makers use PH as their guide, which would be outside the PID controllers capability, I'm guessing. Still, being able to set the unit to ramp up or down over a specified period of time would be very desirable.

I am also looking at using an accurate controller for higher temperature oils as well. I do Belgian style fries, 320F and 375F. I finish the above mentioned hamburgers at 400F or 420F. A controller that could handle 2200 or 3000 watt heating units (I'm on a 220v Electrical system) and reliably keep the oil from getting to the 450F smoke point would be very handy, providing it was durable.

Perpetual Novice Living Abroad: High in the Cordilleras of Luzon

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  • 4 months later...

Multiple program steps may be useful for turbo-aging, see my post of 24 December 2010.

Sorry for my ignorance Pedro ...but does this works? Is it noticeable over a flat 60ºc profile? How does it compares with classic aging ?



I didn't do any systematic comparison between meat cooked to e.g. 55oC with / without turbo-aging.

According to J. J. Wu, T. R. Dutson, Z. L. Carpenter: Effect of Postmortem Time and Temperature on the Release of Lysosomal Enzymes and Their Possible Effect on Bovine Connective Tissue Components of Muscle, more lysosomal glycosidases are released at 37oC than at 2oC, helping dissolution of collagen fibers by collagenase.

According to D. J. ETHERINGTON; The Purification of Bovine Cathepsin B1 and its Mode of Action on Bovine Collagens, not only collagenases, but also certain cathepsins have collagenolytic activity.

This might imply that by aging at 37oC or 45oC, not only muscle fibers are weakened, but also collagen may be dissolved.

Instead of aging at a constant temperature, one might start with cold water and set the SV rig to heat slowly (e.g. 4h) up to 55oC by reducing output power, as I described in the PID tuning guide in chapter "Output Power Limit % (Level 3 parameter menu SLA)" on page 13-14. Unfortunately, there is a software bug in the SousVideMagic 1500D in software versions 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0 which I described here: SLA in level 3 parameter menu is max. output %, can be set from 20% to 100%, but below 60% there is no output at all.

Here is a workaround:

SousVideMagic 1500D correcting max-output-bug.jpg

Peter F. Gruber aka Pedro

eG Ethics Signatory

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  • 3 months later...

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