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Mellow, The Smart Sous-Vide Robot


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I've been cooking sous vide for the better part of a year now maybe (first used the cooler method) and last winter I upgraded to the anova circulator. Absolutely love sous vide...I probably use sous vide 60-70% of the time (still has novelty this my wane eventually). One of the only down sides to sous vide (other than me wanting to buy gadgets to along with all this high tech cooking methods) is cooking times, specifically on proteins such as steak or chicken or something simple.  I've been thinking to myself, there's got to be away to automate this like some of the fancier crock pots.
I recently came across the mellow sous vide machine... Between the wireless login controls (i wish the new anova had this  :angry: ) and the chill to cook function..the things ingenius. But alas, its a year away, a little too bulky  for my counter top, and not quite big enough for cooking large pieces of meat, and the price is a little too rich for my blood.  So I was sitting around today thinking , surely there's gotta be away to automate sous vide.... I mean if I can cook steak with a cooler and a tea kettle and thermometer...I can do this.
 
So I put the old noggin too it...and this is what I've figured out. All the sous vide machines out there are useless if you wanna try and hack something...unless you know something about programming and electronics. Alas I am firmly grounded in the social sciences, and despite having done a small stint as IT recruiter , I know nothing of either about these subjects.  So being at a loss, I did what in sane person does...I grabbed a beer.
 
Now I'm a homebrewer, and I've even got a keezer (deep freezer converted into a kegerator). In order to convert the kegerator into a refrigerator (and thus not have frozen beersicles) we use a little device that lets you set a temperature that you want and then (using a temp probe) it cycles the keezer on/off to maintain temperature- so me of us homebrewers even use similar set ups with minifridges to control fermentation temps. So I was looking at the temp controller, and low and behold its essentially the same as dorkfood dsv. Thats when the muse struck me.  Dorkfood   + crockpot +  appliance timer + iceI decided to go and test my fermentation fridge with the same controler and heavy duty appliance timer and hooked that up to see if the basic concept of using a temp. controller and a appliance timer would work....it did.
 
So this is the plan. Set the dorkfood dsv at the temperature wanted, and use the appliance timer to time the sous vide set up to cook dinner for around when I'll get home. I would use ice/ice pack to keep it "refrigerated" until it was ready to cook. Example, I plan on getting home at 5:30- set the appliance timer for say 4:45 that way when I get home its almost time to pull the steak out. Thoughts on this idea? Worth pursuing? Sound crazy? Too much work?

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Buy a counter-top 18-bottle analogue wine cooler (Danby coolers go as low as 6C). Make sure your water bath and circulator fit inside the wine cooler with the racks off. Have a timer setup for shutoff 15-30 minutes before the circulator turns on. Voila! lol. There's your complete DIY fully automated sousvide setup.

 

Too much messing around for my taste though. 

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For something like this I'd trade compactness for speed and energy efficiency, by having insulated hot and cold water reservoirs. The ideal way to go from chilled to cooking would be to pump out the cold water, hold it in a cold place for next time, and pump in hot water.

 

I can imagine this being plumbed to the hot / cold water supply, so it would be a real appliance. The water should probably be filtered every time it's pumped back into a holding tank.

Notes from the underbelly

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The Anova v2 has bluetooth control so it can be turned on remotely. I'd just keep in simple, an ice bath in a cooler can keep food cool for at least 8 hours. It'll take some more energy for the SV to melt all the ice but it's worth it to keep things simple.

PS: I am a guy.

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The Anova v2 has bluetooth control so it can be turned on remotely. I'd just keep in simple, an ice bath in a cooler can keep food cool for at least 8 hours. It'll take some more energy for the SV to melt all the ice but it's worth it to keep things simple.

Will the bluetooth actually work for remote activation. I didn't know bluetooth allowed for long distances like that? Wouldn't it need wifi to allow remote activation?

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I'm glad you like Mellow so much! I'm happy we inspired you to build.

 

I think your plan is pretty solid, but I'd look out for one or two things:

 

-Can your crockpot heat water fast enough through the danger zone? This could be really risky without circulation, since the controller would only be measuring temperature at one spot. I'd highly recommend hooking up an aquarium pump or something of the sort. Also, do 3 or 4 trial runs, measuring the temperature in multiple points through time.

 

-If you can spend the cash, why not build a remote thermometer for $30 or so? You'll learn a little bit of electronics and programming, while making a pretty useful device for yourself. That'd allow you to monitor everything from a distance. (though not control it).

 

Let me know if I can help with anything. I'm not on egullet a lot these days, but feel free to reach me at ze@fnvlabs.com

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It'll take some more energy for the SV to melt all the ice but it's worth it to keep things simple.

For now, definitely. I'm not seeking great complications and expenses. But it's fun to imagine how the next generations of slow/precision cooking tools will work. I won't be surprised if immersion circulators will seem like funny lab gizmos compared to future appliances.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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You don't appear to know about PID's, they're used extensively in the process control industry. It's a kind of smart switch that can predict the heating latency of your electric element (for example). This functionality makes them unsuitable for traditional switching (like a fridge compressor) because those devices don't work well with their power being pulsated every few seconds, but an electric element has no such problems and it works beautifully for sous vide cooking. In fact, basically all immersion circulators are PID controlled.

 

Some of them can have a whole heating cycle programmed, as you described. Some can control a heating element and a cooling device. Some are hardware boxes, some are just software.

 

http://www.auberins.com/?main_page=index&cPath=1

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You don't appear to know about PID's, they're used extensively in the process control industry. It's a kind of smart switch that can predict the heating latency of your electric element (for example). This functionality makes them unsuitable for traditional switching (like a fridge compressor) because those devices don't work well with their power being pulsated every few seconds, but an electric element has no such problems and it works beautifully for sous vide cooking. In fact, basically all immersion circulators are PID controlled.

 

Some of them can have a whole heating cycle programmed, as you described. Some can control a heating element and a cooling device. Some are hardware boxes, some are just software.

 

http://www.auberins.com/?main_page=index&cPath=1

And what is it that has been said above that leads you to believe that we don't know about PIDs?

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And what is it that has been said above that leads you to believe that we don't know about PIDs?

The fact that the OP mentioned a refrigerator switch (clearly not a PID)  and no-one made any effort to tell him he could do better than a thermostat. We may have known but OP didn't.

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The fact that the OP mentioned a refrigerator switch (clearly not a PID)  and no-one made any effort to tell him he could do better than a thermostat. We may have known but OP didn't.

Perhaps then in future you could use the quote function on the appropriate post (as I am doing now) or address the poster by name to avoid confusion. Kerry Beal wasn't the only one taken aback by your remark suggesting that this community was unfamiliar with PIDs. Welcome to eG. We are a friendly community on the whole but pridefully protective of our communal expertise.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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The fact that the OP mentioned a refrigerator switch (clearly not a PID)  and no-one made any effort to tell him he could do better than a thermostat. We may have known but OP didn't.

 

Thank you for pointing this out. Sometimes it takes time for the members here to jump in and respond.

 

Just for your information, as you are new here, there is a huge reservoir of sous vide related discussions in this Forum on any topic you can think of. The posts must numbered well over a 100,000 including from many very well known  authors and manufacturers.

 

Regarding switching refrigerators, many inexpensive aquarium temperature controllers can do that by incorporating a slight time delay for the refrigerant to equalize.

 

The Mellow circulator mentioned above will not need that because the cooling is done using a solid state Peltier device, not a mechanical compressor.

 

dcarch

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So I tired things out...mixed results. The crock pot wasnt really able to heat the water fast enough for my liking. I found that it took nearly 1 hour to get temperatures up in the water bath...let alone to get the meat up to temperature.  I suspect I might have better success by using a heating stick as my heating source...but this was a very cumbersome process.

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