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osPID Sous Vide: Open source high tech cooking on a budget

osPID Sous Vide

It seemed inevitable that I’d put together a sous vide immersion cooker, when I came across a post regarding the osPID I knew the time was right. The osPID or Open Source Proportional–Integral–Derivative Controller is a device which can be employed to turn a heater on and off in such a way as to keep the temperature of an environment at a specific level — in this case a container of water used to cook sealed food, or a sous vide.

What I liked about the osPID is that it’s more than just a PID, it’s a platform. Programmable as any Arduino is along with four buttons, a two line LCD display (my favourite white-on-blue style) and limitless expansion possibilities, the osPID can be used in many, many applications — a sound investment I thought, so I invested. Can anyone spot the other PID in the gallery?

Commercial sous vide cookers can be extremely expensive. Creating one yourself is easy, it can be taken apart for storage and you can also salvage parts from it for other projects if need be.

Parts

  • osPID Kit $85.00 (Rocket Scream)
  • Exoterra Repti flo 200 Circulation Pump $10.99 (Pets & Ponds)
  • Milwaukee Type K 49-77-2002 Thermocouple $14.17 (Amazon)
  • Norpro 559 300 Watt Water/Tea/Coffee Heater $7.05 (Amazon, eBay) *Ensure the coils are submersed before powering (plugging-in) or these will fry themselves
  • 12V, Positive Center, A/C Adapter
  • Grounded Extension Cable
  • Coat Hanger
  • Clip

Alternate Parts

Once I had the osPID up and running, thanks to great support from Brett (one half of the dynamic duo responsible for the osPID), I cut the black (hot) wire of the extension cord and attached each stripped end to the relay onboard the osPID. By using an extension cord I can plug any type of heater into the relay, for this project I purchased two Norpro Water/Tea/Coffee Heaters which have a useful clip style base. Because the extension I wired only had one outlet I needed a power bar to plug both heaters in — whether or not you’ll need one will depend on how many heaters you want to use.

I then purchased a K-Type thermocouple (don’t ask me what it means, K-Type is what the osPID supports), removed the connector it came with and connected the positive and negative leads to the thermocouple terminals on the osPID. These terminals are polarized so keep track of positive and negative leads on the thermocouple while working.

That’s it really. I purchase a circulation pump to keep the water moving in the vessel and thus heating evenly. I try to include a coat hanger in every project so I used one to suspend the ziplock full of tenderloin secured with a clip in the sous vide.

Keep in mind the thermocouple will most likely not read the proper temperature until calibrated so just use a thermometer to find the target temperature and set the osPID accordingly. For me an input reading of 57 translated to the 130°F I needed for medium rare, so I set the osPID to maintain an input of 57.

I would’ve preferred a larger bowl and will track one down, but the Beef Tenderloin With Lemon-Parsley Butter I cooked with my favourite gal turned out fantastic and we’re looking forward to more sous vide meals.

Thanks to Brett for the swift support and for the osPID itself.

Update: The Norpro Heaters stopped working on my second cook. This is probably due to the fact that I plugged them in before fully submersing the coils, that being said, many others have had these types of cheap immersion heaters die on them — so I included an alternate upgraded heater for those wishing to avoid the issue. Thankfully since I wired in a cord not the heaters themselves I was able to plug in another heat source for the osPID to control in order to get my dinner cooked.

Update: To replace the Norpro Heaters I picked up a couple of heating elements at a local electronic surplus store (Active Surplus) for $3 each. I snipped and soldered the Norpro power cords to the new heating elements and covered the connections with heat shrink tubing. You can see the final results in the gallery above. These weren’t stainless steel but they work just fine, I bent them to follow the curve of the bowl (which I’ll probably regret when I switch to another container) and to keep them from slipping I fashioned some clips out of, you guessed it, left over coat hanger. They’ll probably short circuit if both solder joints hit the water, heat shrinking or no – be mindful of that if you decide to go this route. I believe these are somewhere around 140 Watts, I needed both to maintain a temperature setting.

Macro Photography on the Cheap (ish)

Not long after I picked up my Canon Rebel XT 350D I realized the stock lense left a lot to be desired. After drooling over numerous macro photos on Flickr from this same camera I decided to look into a macro lense. Not being a pro photographer I couldn’t really justify spending $250+ on something like the Canon 50mm f/2.5 or better so, as I often do, I poked around for a comparable, less costly solution. That’s when I found out about Kenko Extension Tubes.

Kenko Tubes are lense extensions, they have no optics, they are connected between a lense and the camera, by changing the distance between the lense and the sensor it changes the focal length. This allows you to focus on objects which are much closer, hence, macro photography. These tubes come in sets allowing you a number of combinations.


So I purchased some Kenko Tubes ( http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Kenko-Extension-Tube-Set-Review.aspx ) not knowing that they would not connect with Canon EF-S lenses, such as the EF-S 18-55 that came with my Rebel XT. Damnit!

Some searches revealed that you can modify the tubes to work, so here’s how it’s done. Basically, there are a number of plastic rings inside the Kenko Tubes whose diameter is not wide enough to allow the EF-S lense to insert the required depth to be able to lock the ridges.

You can simply take a dremel to the frist ring in order to widen it to accomadate the EF-S lense. All you have to do is be careful not to grind too close to the brass connector pins, only grind the first ring and remove all debris when you’re finished.

The red in the first pic is the opening which is too small, the green is what’s got to be removed. The finished pic shows the larger hole.

This,

Plus this,

Gets you this,

I did this on the 12mm tube figuring if I ruined it, I’d still have the others and if I wanted to use them I could simply attached the 12mm to them instead of grinding all three.

You can check out more of the resulting photos w/ the tubes on my Flickr.