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dathzo

Data-based thread for comparing the big temperature controllers: Fireboard, iKamand, Flame Boss, etc

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Hi all,

 

I have lately been researching about temperature controllers for Kamados. Several alternatives are out there and each of them have their fan base. A lot of the information available is based on feeling and intuition, which is great. However, I miss a repository of information based on factual data of the controller's performance provided by users. This is the intention of this thread and hopefully, it will serve to educate the audience, firstly on how to make the choice when buying a temperature controller and secondly how to best use them.

 

I have put together a set of questions for the people to answer that will help fellow BBQers immersed into the temperature controllers world.

 

Thank you all in advance for supporting this research project!

 

1. What Kamado cooker you are using?

2. What temperature controller do you have?

3. What are your vent and fan settings on your Kamado? (Pictures when available)

4. Where do you place your ambient probe for temperature control? (Pictures when available)

5. At what point on your cook you let the controller to take over

6. Please share the graph from your temperature control with eventual fan output

7. What do you love about your controller?

8. What would you improve about your controller?

9. Anything else you want to share

10. And last but not least, share pictures of your cook :)

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And I will volunteer with the first reply:

 

1. What Kamado cooker you are using?

Big Joe

 

2. What temperature controller do you have?

Fireboard + Pit Viper fan

 

3. What are your vent and fan settings on your Kamado? (Pictures when available)

Pit Viper fan vent fully open. For top vent on the BG, see picture

image.png.494df0f70f48f31b08f6217d3294fb0f.png

 

4. Where do you place your ambient probe for temperature control? (Pictures when available)

Not too close to the edges, not too close to the food

 

5. At what point on your cook you let the controller to take over

During this cook, I put the food into the grate, and then started the control right away (it was not the best idea since it overshot)

 

6. Please share the graph from your temperature control with eventual fan output

image.thumb.png.2e58138a6cc110ce1014bf72e9cffc1a.png

 

7. What do you love about your controller?

Bluetooth, good dashboards, customization

 

8. What would you improve about your controller?

More robust PID control

 

9. Anything else you want to share

This was my first cook with the Fireboard and the food turned out great. Some improvements I would make:

a) Improve the connection of the fireboard to avoid signal loss. Note that the Drive did not log during the last part of the cook (wifi booster ordered)

b) Revise the time when I start controlling temperature and how to avoid overshooting (I was rather impatient and for sure I needed to stabilize temperature a bit more)

 

10. And last but not least, share pictures of your cook :)

 

image.png.0546027ec8b7200680fbb079a696dfcf.pngimage.png.71e20042bd30dac3afdbb0a9b21c3c59.png

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Here is the controller I made. I bought a PartyQ and that thing is pretty lame. I then bought a PitmasterIQ and it's solid but not very adaptive to different grills. All these controllers are PID based controllers. So I used an Arduino chipset and started from scratch, for 2 years we collected hundreds of hours burning data from a dozen grills and write custom algrithms for each type of popular grills (big, medium and small kamado grills, weber kettle, smokey mountain and even go-anywhere). 

I can cook 5 hour ribs to perfection in either Kamado Joe, WSM or just a small Weber Go-Anywhere. I just wanna prove that grill doesn't matter, it's all about temperature control. but with PID it's not going to be as precise and stable.

 

1. What Kamado cooker you are using?

Akorn 22", Akorn Jr, Kamado Joe Classic, Generic 28" kamado

 

2. What temperature controller do you have?

BBQube TempMaster Pro

 

3. What are your vent and fan settings on your Kamado? (Pictures when available)

lower vent is connected to the controller fan, top with minimal opening, 1/16" to 1/8"

 

4. Where do you place your ambient probe for temperature control? (Pictures when available)

This is the coolest part, the ambient probe is right on top of the meat. not off a corner at the grate.

 

5. At what point on your cook you let the controller to take over

From the very beginning right after i lit the charcoal.

 

6. Please share the graph from your temperature control with eventual fan output

attached

 

7. What do you love about your controller?

I made it and it's the best in the world :)

 

8. What would you improve about your controller?

Firmware and app are being updated to include more features and recipes. Reduce manufacturing cost is another one.

 

9. Anything else you want to share

If you don't like what's out there, make your own and make it better.

 

10. And last but not least, share pictures of your cook :)

The ribs shown is cooked in a weber go-anywhere, with my controller and a custom made dripping pan.

 

4-grill-chart.jpg

1126029472.jpg

Adapters.jpg

AdapterinUse_WGA.jpg

BBQ-Qube-KJ_setup-1.jpg

Air 2 Pic 1.JPG

1078710155.jpg

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I'm a new KJ owner and have already realized my cheap Walmart meat thermometer ain't gonna cut it.

 

I am actively researching both wireless temperature monitors (don't have fan) and wireless temperature controllers for my KJ Classic I. My inclination was to go with the iKamand but after reading about all it's issues and kinks to be worked out I'm wary. 

 

Honestly right now I'm leaning towards the Smoke Bloq that I saw JS post about. I really like that it is battery operated and didn't require Bluetooth proximity or line of sight to monitor. 

 

I am not convinced yet that the price of a fan controller is worth it as the few cooks and smokes I've done so far have shown basically no temp swings (besides opening lid) once you get the temp set. Though I get some don't want to spend the time required to get temp set.

 

Curious on community's thoughts and recommendations? What would you buy? Why/why not?

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19 minutes ago, kpkacts238 said:

I'm a new KJ owner and have already realized my cheap Walmart meat thermometer ain't gonna cut it.

 

I am actively researching both wireless temperature monitors (don't have fan) and wireless temperature controllers for my KJ Classic I. My inclination was to go with the iKamand but after reading about all it's issues and kinks to be worked out I'm wary. 

 

Honestly right now I'm leaning towards the Smoke Bloq that I saw JS post about. I really like that it is battery operated and didn't require Bluetooth proximity or line of sight to monitor. 

 

I am not convinced yet that the price of a fan controller is worth it as the few cooks and smokes I've done so far have shown basically no temp swings (besides opening lid) once you get the temp set. Though I get some don't want to spend the time required to get temp set.

 

Curious on community's thoughts and recommendations? What would you buy? Why/why not?

 

I went through the same route like you, first kamado - wireless thermometer - fan controller - making my own fan controller. I'd say the best part of using a controller is when you start the fire, you don't ever need to come back to check to see if it's settled down at target temp. most of controllers will gradually bring up the temp and keep it there. I also made a battery box out of an ammo box that can power the controller for 20+ hours. I took it camping w/ me and a weber go-anywhere. All can be packed into a drone case I made for DJI Inspire and roll it away.

Competition BBQ at the beach...howz that!

 

 

 

1698852941.jpg

DSC_3903A.jpg

129374000.jpg

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1 hour ago, kpkacts238 said:

I'm a new KJ owner...

Get to know your Joe. Find out what you like and dislike about it. Then go looking for things you like, and ways to solve whatever you dislike. In my case, most "dislikes" result from my ignorance using quality Kamados. The more I learn, the better I like them. 

Frank

 

Note that some folks like to play with the gear, and that's a valid option for those so inclined. I have a number of questionable accessories myself...

Edited by fbov

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12 hours ago, Daz said:

Here is the controller I made. I bought a PartyQ and that thing is pretty lame. I then bought a PitmasterIQ and it's solid but not very adaptive to different grills. All these controllers are PID based controllers. So I used an Arduino chipset and started from scratch, for 2 years we collected hundreds of hours burning data from a dozen grills and write custom algrithms for each type of popular grills (big, medium and small kamado grills, weber kettle, smokey mountain and even go-anywhere). 

I can cook 5 hour ribs to perfection in either Kamado Joe, WSM or just a small Weber Go-Anywhere. I just wanna prove that grill doesn't matter, it's all about temperature control. but with PID it's not going to be as precise and stable.

 

1. What Kamado cooker you are using?

Akorn 22", Akorn Jr, Kamado Joe Classic, Generic 28" kamado

 

2. What temperature controller do you have?

BBQube TempMaster Pro

 

3. What are your vent and fan settings on your Kamado? (Pictures when available)

lower vent is connected to the controller fan, top with minimal opening, 1/16" to 1/8"

 

4. Where do you place your ambient probe for temperature control? (Pictures when available)

This is the coolest part, the ambient probe is right on top of the meat. not off a corner at the grate.

 

5. At what point on your cook you let the controller to take over

From the very beginning right after i lit the charcoal.

 

6. Please share the graph from your temperature control with eventual fan output

attached

 

7. What do you love about your controller?

I made it and it's the best in the world :)

 

8. What would you improve about your controller?

Firmware and app are being updated to include more features and recipes. Reduce manufacturing cost is another one.

 

9. Anything else you want to share

If you don't like what's out there, make your own and make it better.

 

10. And last but not least, share pictures of your cook :)

The ribs shown is cooked in a weber go-anywhere, with my controller and a custom made dripping pan.

 

4-grill-chart.jpg

1126029472.jpg

Adapters.jpg

AdapterinUse_WGA.jpg

BBQ-Qube-KJ_setup-1.jpg

Air 2 Pic 1.JPG

1078710155.jpg

 

Thanks for sharing Daz, great info.

To be frank, I have not heard before about the BBQube TempMaster Pro, but I have now researched a bit and here are my thoughts:

 

1. Temperature control seems to be super tight. Interesting to see that it is quite conservative and there are no initial overshoot as many other controllers in the market

2. Great idea to be able to setup the type (and size) of grill you have. I have to agree that different cookers behave quite differently regarding air requirements

3. Only Bluetooth connection is rather limited in my case. I dont necessarily want to be close to the grill when doing long cooks. WiFi to me is a must

4. Having the temperature right after lighting your fire is a great feature. Most of the controllers recommend to first stabilize your temp/fire and only then start control

5. I am very curious to see more log files from cooks with the BBQube TempMaster Pro from users

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9 hours ago, dathzo said:

 

Thanks for sharing Daz, great info.

To be frank, I have not heard before about the BBQube TempMaster Pro, but I have now researched a bit and here are my thoughts:

I only had enough inventory since last November to put them on the market. So it's relatively new.

 

9 hours ago, dathzo said:

 

1. Temperature control seems to be super tight. Interesting to see that it is quite conservative and there are no initial overshoot as many other controllers in the market

 

Often times I come to check the temp and it's within 1 degrees in a Kamado. Even with Kettle grills it's within 5 degrees of deviation. Other PID controllers need to take temperature samples to determine the three parameter it needs to control the fan, this will cause overshoot, and in a kamado, overshooting takes a long time to come down. That's the main reason we ditched the PID idea.

9 hours ago, dathzo said:

2. Great idea to be able to setup the type (and size) of grill you have. I have to agree that different cookers behave quite differently regarding air requirements

Yes, my favorite grill is weber go-anywhere. ha...I used to build custom motorcycle exhausts. For every pipe i built, the fuel/air mixture map of the motorcycle has to be re-mapped on a dyno. So I borrowed that idea and put it on the grills.

 

9 hours ago, dathzo said:

3. Only Bluetooth connection is rather limited in my case. I dont necessarily want to be close to the grill when doing long cooks. WiFi to me is a must

 

 I hear you. Our next project will be a dual mode controller, with options to connect google home and alexa. but from my experience, bluetooth was sufficient (i rarely use bluetooth even). I only check temp when food is about ready, and you'd know the time it takes to cook most common meats. Next thing would be the voice of Alexa to tell you the meat is ready.

Stay tuned! 

9 hours ago, dathzo said:

4. Having the temperature right after lighting your fire is a great feature. Most of the controllers recommend to first stabilize your temp/fire and only then start control

yea, so we're NOT most the controllers :) I think starting the fire and stabilize temp is the most dreadful part of using a charcoal grill. It should be "set 'n forget". That's where our proprietary algorithms shine.

9 hours ago, dathzo said:

5. I am very curious to see more log files from cooks with the BBQube TempMaster Pro from users

There will be. I'll do more videos to demo how stable the temperature is. You can also read the reviews on Amazon. I do admit with bluetooth, your phone has to stay within a certain range all the time to record the whole session. but all our graphs are true samples we took and I'm confident that you'll see the same straight line on all different types of grills. Kamado or not. 

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22 minutes ago, Walrus said:

Heatermeter, with servo controlled damper and fan. Holds within 1/2deg all day long.

this is as geek as it can get. awesome stuff!

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1. What Kamado cooker you are using?      Primo XL

2. What temperature controller do you have?     Flame Boss 300  https://www.flameboss.com/

3. What are your vent and fan settings on your Kamado? (Pictures when available)     top vent 1/16 of an inch

4. Where do you place your ambient probe for temperature control? (Pictures when available)    back of grate

5. At what point on your cook you let the controller to take over?     at about 180 degrees

6. Please share the graph from your temperature control with eventual fan output:  https://myflameboss.com/en/cooks/291388

7. What do you love about your controller? How accurate it is along with the graph.  They are constantly upgrading firmware. 

8. What would you do to improve about your controller? They already improved it with the FB 500 which I would buy except I have the 300. 

 

9. Anything else you want to share:  They updated to be able to use the controller without wifi as a standalone. 

10. And last but not least, share pictures of your cook :)     

 

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On 3/14/2019 at 1:20 PM, dathzo said:

 

 

1. What Kamado cooker you are using?

2. What temperature controller do you have?

3. What are your vent and fan settings on your Kamado? (Pictures when available)

4. Where do you place your ambient probe for temperature control? (Pictures when available)

5. At what point on your cook you let the controller to take over

6. Please share the graph from your temperature control with eventual fan output

7. What do you love about your controller?

8. What would you improve about your controller?

9. Anything else you want to share

10. And last but not least, share pictures of your cook :)

 

 

1 - Kamado Joe Classic

2 - Fireboard, Flame Boss 200, Flame Boss 400, Digiq Party Q, Digiq 2 DX, iKamand

3 - There are no fan settings, only vent settings.  I open my top vent to whatever might be appropriate for the temp I'm cooking at... less for lower temps and more for higher temps

4 - I clip it to the stem on the dome thermometer

5 - From the point where I light the charcoal - immediately

6 - Graphs are useless to me.  I have never referred back to a graph on any previous cooks.

7 - I love that it lets me get my grill ready to go without having to come in and out tweaking the vents

8 - Nothing

9 - no

10 - irrelevant to this thread :)

 

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Thank you all for your replies so far. In my relatively short research time with Kamado controllers, I have seen that most of them are able to control temperature accurately (both with PID and non-PID algorithms). I have made sort of a dry-run with the Fireboard during the weekend that ended up in cooking some babyback ribs. Below some results and comments:

 

1. Cook performed on the Big Joe, BGE lump used, pretty full firebox. I don't think coal makes a difference, but this is the one I had available

2. Top vent barely open, between 1st and 2nd mark.

3. I used the Fireboard Drive + Pit Viper fan for temperature control

4. I decided to test both Grate (called Pit) and Dome temperatures for the sake of experimenting. I used the Pit temperature for control

5. My setpoint was 225F

6. I used the suggestion from @John Setzler to start the control soon after the fire starts. I let it go to around 130F and then I turned on the Fireboard Drive.

7. I used the suggestion from @Vanole of having the Pit Viper damper half way open/close.

8. I limited the fan to 30% of its capacity (that was my personal flavor) ;-)

 

See the plot below:

 

image.thumb.png.0efc4642e94ccb09938c348820f1d3bd.png

 

After an initial overshoot of around 15 degrees, it went down and then up again to stabilize around 225. The temperature was super stable thereafter. Both Grate and Dome temperatures were the same after some time.

 

Once I saw how this was behaving, I headed to the local butcher to get some babyback ribs (I could not "just" let those coals burn). To my surprise, they only had the ribs frozen, which was a big bummer, but I got them in any case. I thawed and dry-rubbed them and around 2pm I put them on the grill.

 

Of course the ribs were wetter than usual, so I am partially attributing to that, what I observed next:

 

image.thumb.png.5c331c6b767798113109da0dc48d519a.png

 

The above is a super interesting plot:

 

a) First of all, the control, although not as thigh as without meat, it is very good (max deviation 8 degrees, which in my opinion is fantastic). As said earlier, I was controlling based on the Pit temperature and not on the Dome.

b) The Dome temperature started to get hotter than the Pit one after placing the meat. I would think that this is because all the water vapor evaporating from the thawed ribs. After most of the moisture was gone, the Dome temperature went down and it became lower than the Pit one, which is what you would normally expect.

c) After some time, Dome temperature was around 15 degrees lower than the Grate. After opening the lid for adding some pieces of corn, such difference became larger (30 degrees).

d) During the last part of the cook, I did increase the temperatures to get the ribs done quicker (not shown).

 

In summary, here are some findings:

 

1. Patience is critical, not rushing things will get you far. Start your fire and control, a couple of hours in advance before start cooking

2. I have had some connectivity problems in the past. I added a WiFi extender close to the grill and it works perfectly. I never lost connection to the Fireboard during this cook.

3. Fireboard is capable to control temperatures without the need of stabilizing first the temperature on the Kamado. This saves a lot of time.

4. The ribs were ok, but not great. The last-minute thawing is definitely a terrible idea. :|. In any case, I have not managed to cook awesome ribs at 225. My favorite ones have turned out to be at 250-275F. Maybe a coincidence, but if somebody has experience on this, it would be appreciated.

5. In the meantime, I have a friend here in NL that started to build a BBQ controller for myself. He is now doing the programming and it would be fun to compare it to the Fireboard. See below a dummy test he sent me yesterday:

image.thumb.png.bb9808bc2dec02888ebef086281e0814.png

 

Most importantly, I think that the Fireboard Drive is doing a solid job: the fan activity from 10:30 to 14:00 is minimal (showing the great capabilities of the BJ in keeping temperatures), but super accurate (deviation of 1-2 degrees). After introducing the food, swings go up to 8 degrees occur. 

I see similar results with the Flame Boss, Smobot, BBQube TempMaster Pro, etc. Even the iKamand with their new Firmware is starting to produce decent results regarding temperature control. 

Still gathering more data, so anybody that wants to share theirs is welcome.

 

Good week to all,

José Rafael

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wow, that's some data analysis. 

But a controller should not need any further attention after you lit the fire...til the meat is ready. I start my fire, set my controller to 225 (TempMaster Pro), put the ribs in, insert the probe, and come back in about 4 hours and take the ribs out. The grill will reach 225 by itself and then the ribs will reach 200 by itself. Hands free all the way. Temp swing is within 2 or 3 degrees in an Akorn Kamado, 5 degrees in a Weber smokey mountain. 

Time for a new generation of automatic controllers!

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I recently bought a pellet grill (or two) looking for a set it and forget it grilling solution, as well as easy, cleaner (less charcoal mess) grilling. Although its going ok, I'm now looking at temp controllers for my Akorn. Ready to fall back in love with it! The Tempmaster Pro looks like a good option.

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