DIY Sous Vide Temperature Controller

So one day, I see a sale on a food vacuum sealer and I purchase it.  The next day, my friend mentions sous vide and voila!  It’s not long before we each have our own “do it yourself” setup.
Disclaimer:  Build at your own risk :-)

Sous-vide (French word meaning under vacuum) is a method of cooking where you seal food in air tight plastic bags and cook them submerged under water at their optimal temperature.  This way you r food will never be overcooked since it will never go above a set temperature.  You will also maintain all the flavors and nutrition.

Parts list:
All prices shown for eBay items are what I paid for them, shipped.  Prices for items purchased from other places do not include tax and/or shipping.  For your own setup, prices will vary based on ebay fluctuations, parts already owned, taxes, etc.  Also keep in mind that most of the “cheap” ebay parts are shipped from China and can take up to 1 month for delivery.

Parts Source Price
JLD612 PID Temperature control device LightObject.com $33.50
GFCI Outlet ebay.com $9.99
AC Inlet with Fuse Socket Power ebay.com $1.99
PT100 Temperature sensor ebay.com $3.56
Solid State Relay 40A SSR ebay.com $8.98
6.3A 250V Fuse (used 1 of 4 pack) RadioShack $2.99
1/8″ Stereo Phone Jack RadioShack $2.49
1/8″ Stereo Plug Gold-Plated Connector RadioShack $3.99
Insulated Spade Tongue Terminals (22-18 gauge) RadioShack $1.99
SPST illuminated Rocket Switch RadioShack $3.99
6 Terminal Barrier Strip RadioShack $2.39
Project Enclosure Box (7x5x3) RadioShack $5.99
Basics Acrylic 5×7 Photo Frame Box for clear top Michaels $1.19
Round Head slotted screws and nuts Home Depot $0.98
Power cord My House Free
18 gauge red and black wires Friend Free
Total Price $84.02

Pictures of all the parts:

Tools used:
Dremel – To cut the project enclosure and acrylic box top
Soldering Iron/Solder – To solder wires to Switch, AC inlet, Stereo Phone Jack, and temperature probe
Wire stripper/cutter
Multimeter
Screwdriver

Luckily, all my friends are ner….. engineers.  So I was able to borrow all the tools needed :-)

Picture WIRING DIAGRAM
If my instructions have helped you, let me know!

Picture Wiring Diagram


STEP 1: Cutting the Box

The most annoying part of the project is gathering all the required parts and cutting the box.  Initially, I assumed I could just cut the RadioShack plastic enclosure with determination and a box cutter. After a few frustrated hours, I borrowed a dremel.  Take time to think about the layout of the box.  I wanted the PID and switch holes to be in the front.  In the back I have the AC inlet, temperature probe, and GFIC outlet holes.

I used a pencil to first trace all the holes that needed to be cut.

I made sure that the PID and the GFIC outlet were across from each other since those are bulky items and take up a lot of space.  This leaves a nice open space on the other side of the box for the SSR and terminal strip to sit.

Take your time when you dremel.  It’s better to err on the smaller side than to accidentally create a hole too large to mount the items.

STEP 2: Connect 7 wires to the PID

We used red and black wires to help keep organized and identify ground. All wires will have Spade Tongues connected to them except for the wires coming from 8, 9, & 10 labeled thermocouple (those will be soldered onto the audio jack).  The bottom two wires 1&2 from the PID will be for power and connect to the terminal strip.

STEP 3:

Place the fuse in the fuse holder of the AC inlet, and solder on the wires.  Mount the AC inlet and rocket switch, then solder them together.

STEP 4:  Finish the wiring to everything except the thermocouple. See the wiring diagram for help.

Plug in the power cord and verify that the PID and switch powers on.  Note: The display should show EEEE when there’s no thermocouple attached.

STEP 5: Add the temperature probe

Solder the leads of the temperature probe onto the Stereo Plug connecter.  (Note: You could solder the temperature probe leads directly onto the PID if you don’t want the temperature probe to be removable)

Solder the PID wires from slots 8, 9, & 10 to the audio jack.  Plug in your stereo plug and power on the unit to make sure you get a temperature reading now.  Success!  I see 23.4° C as a PV (present value) on the PID display.

STEP 6: Dremel the acrylic top to fit on top. Also use the screws and nuts to secure the Outlet and Inlet in place.

You don’t actually have to buy an acrylic top.  The project box comes with a black lid.  However, it’s just so much more awesome to be able to see inside the box.  Visitors will be in awe of your sous vide creation.  Plus, you can keep a watchful eye over your precious components inside. I used a dremel to create space for the PID, switch and temperature probe so that the lid can sit firmly over the box.  I will either just use tape to secure the lid more or use a drill and screw down the lid.

I had to break out the dremel again, to help get the screws through the project box to secure the outlets.
Here’s the finished product!

STEP 7: Program and Autotune PID

Programming the JLD612 PID for the first time:
1.  Press SET and then enter code 0089 using the arrow keys.  Press SET again.
2. Set the value of Inty (In red on top) to P10.0 (In green on bottom) to get the temperature to display with one decimal place.
3. Use the arrow keys to select END in red letters on top to exit the programming menu.

Next, I auto-tuned the device. Auto-tuning time varies, but I recommend allotting at least 1 hour. Auto-tuning should be performed whenever the type of heating device changes.
1. Setup your sous vide environment with the heating device you will typically use.  I attached my rice cooker (filled with water) to the sous vide controller and placed the temperature probe inside.
2. The SV (Set Value) defaults to 80° C, which is a little on the hot side.  I pressed the down arrow until SV = 60.
3. Activate auto-tuning by pressing and holding (>) until the “AT” indicator light blinks.  The “AT” light will continue to blink while the auto-tuning is in progress.  Once the “AT” indicator light turns off, it’s done!

Additional notes: The 2 wire PT100 temperature probe I bought is great because it’s waterproof.  Although, I found it a tad too short for my liking.  It just barely fits over the top of my rice cooker.  Make sure you buy one that’s long enough for your usage.  Also, I should have mounted my switch slightly lower to avoid having to dremel the acrylic top for it.

I welcome suggestions and comments!  Good luck and happy eating!

7 comments to DIY Sous Vide Temperature Controller

  • tward

    This looks quite awesome and complements what seattlefoodgeek (where I found a link to this page) and some others have done. I’d just thought of using a barrier strip and then I saw this!

    I’ve got some thoughts / questions…

    1) I’ve never used an audio plug and jack like this. Do you know of anywhere online that shows a bit more detail of exactly where the solder points are? Also, I’ve got a three wire PT100 and am not sure what to do with all three wires as yours seemed to only have two wires.

    2) Any reason you used black wire in the diagram for ground? Green always means ground in diagrams. Is this really what is meant? I’m having a tough time following it, especially with two black wires and one green one coming from the AC inlet…

    3) I plan to build a little plexiglass cover for my barrier strip. That exposed voltage scares me a bit.

    4) I think I’ll go with a bit larger (lower AWG) wire for the main power in and the relay power (maybe 14 AWG).

    5) I spent some time talking to some SSR engineers and looking at documentation (not available for Fotek, but I’m assuming it’s similar across manufacturers, in fact Fotek is a cheapy, so probably is even less robust than, say, Opto22) and the nominal rating (amps) for these relays is for room temperature AND attached to a heat sink. The rating goes WAY down if there is no heat sink (or forced air convection) and also drops with increasing temperature. For example, Opto22′s 25A rating drops to 8A at room temperature if no heat sink is attached. It drops further to aboutt 6A at 100F with no heat sink. I’m thinking that box will get warm and will no have air circulation, so a heat sink may be in order. (Also, they specifically mention keeping amps at 75% of rating for on/off heating applications due to cycling effect and in-rush.) 75% of 8A is 6A and of 6A is 4.5A. That implies wattage at 120V of 720W and 540W, respectively. So as long as the connected wattage is no higher than that it should be fine. I plan to use this with some higher wattage, so I’m going to vent and add a fan and/or add a heat sink (applied with good thermal compound).

    • Admin

      Sorry for my delayed response. Wow, with your kinds of questions I think that you should be helping me!

      1) You can definitely use a three wire PT100 instead of a two wire PT100. Use a multimeter and have 2 wires connected to ground. http://www.cip.ukcentre.com/PT100G.gif
      2) As you can tell by my wonderful artwork I don’t normally make wire diagrams. You’re right, green is usually ground. Please ignore my colors. In my diagram I had used black as ground.
      3 & 4) I found mine to be sufficient, but those are good ideas
      5) I was also looking for a heat sink to add in the future. Let me know if you find a good one that would fit in the small box space :-)

  • JerTheRipper

    Thanks for the plans, but I’m having some trouble figuring out where you soldered the leads of the temp probe onto the stereo plug. Is one soldered to the sleeve and the other soldered to both the tip and the ring?

  • Calc

    If I’m reading the information for the JLD612 correctly it has a dual output: SSR(8V, 40mA), Relay(3A 120V AC). Why did you decide to use the SSR output and not just trap directly into the Relay line?

  • Allen

    This is one of the best write-ups I’ve seen on DIY sous vide! Thanks for posting this; it will help a lot with my setup. I do have a couple questions, though.

    First is about the JLD612 PID controller. Does it remember the autotuned parameters between uses, even after powered off? If not, is there at least a way to see what the parameters are so you can write them down and program them in next time?

    Second, why did you go with a GFCI outlet instead of a normal one? Does that really matter for this application?

    • Admin

      Thanks! I hope my DIY sous vide instructions helps others out too.
      Yes, the JLD612 PID controller remembers the last parameters even if it is powered off. You should only have to calibrate it once you’re using a different heating source. Also, a normal outlet would probably suffice. However, I went with a GFIC outlet since it is placed in the kitchen near wet elements. Good luck!

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