Everything Is Under Control-Part 2
01/19/15 - 16:56 Filed in: Thermometers | Pit Controllers
In PART 1 of this blog entry I discussed pit temperature controllers is general terms. What they are, their basic components, why you would want one, why I specifically DIDN”T want one and why I changed my mind. This entry will describe the actual model I purchased, discuss why I chose it, and finish up with some unexpected difficulties relating to the ordering and delivery process. PART 3 will describe WiFi Networking in general and setting up the simpler Adhoc mode. PART 4 will describe setting up the more feature laden, but more difficult Infrastructure WiFi mode. PART 5 will cover installing and setting up the CyberQ WiFi on your smoker. PART 6 will give my first impressions using it. It was an “interesting” initial purchase to say the least. There were some initial problems that made things difficult, although I must say none of them were the direct fault of the pit controller itself. I will cover them because they may be things that effect other people. But lets begin at the beginning with the model I selected.
THE CYBERQ WiFi:Main Features: I selected the CyberQ WiFi from the BBQ Guru company. Here are the some of the main features of the unit in their order of importance to me:
- WiFi Control (Ad Hoc): The CyberQ has two WiFi Connection Modes. In the AdHoc mode the CyberQ is able to create a WiFi network a provide a 1 to 1 direct pairing with a smart phone or tablet device. The network is just those two devices directly connected to each other via WiFi. The device you are pairing must support this type of WiFi pairing, called “Ad Hoc pairing”, but most modern smart phone or table devices do. Both my iPhone 5s and my iPad Air support this protocol. Also the device itself must remain within range of the signal the CyberQ generates, since the CyberQ is creating the network signal.
- WiFi Control (Infrastructure Mode): In this mode you add the WiFi onto your Local Area Network (LAN) where it can be seen by any other device on your network. In order to work properly you must go in and change some network settings in your router. With some additional settings changes to the network, the CyberQ WiFi can be configured so you can access and control it from anywhere on the internet. This was one of the biggest selling points for me for reasons I will explain shortly.
- Third Party smartphone or tablet software for easier control. Rather than using just the four Left-Right and Up-Down keys to enter the data, the 3rd party software allows you to use a standard keyboard to configure the device. Also, many of these software solutions enable additional features such as logging and or graphing your cooks. This was a biggie for me. I had gotten away from logging my cooks mostly because I was becoming too busy doing multi-item cooks. Letting the software take readings and graph my cooks required no extra time or effort from me and gave me not only a log of the times and temps, but a graph which is far quicker and easier understand. The logs and graphs can be saved and recalled at any time in the future.
- Ability to use 3 Food Probes. The control unit of the CyberQ has jacks for up to 3 food temperature probes. Many competing units come with 0, 1 or 2 food probes.
- The Stock Food probes (as well as the pit temperature probe) come standard in a 6’ (180 cm) length. I always ended up ordering (at extra cost) 6’ probes for my Maverick remote read thermometers, because the stock 3’ (90 cm) probes sometimes proved too short. Additionally, for extra cost you have the ability to order the unit with 8’ or 10’ (245 or 305 cm) wires.
- Quality Temperature Probes-Construction: Unlike the Maverick remote read thermometers where the probes seem to be just good enough to survive and only with great care, the probes with the CyberQ WiFi seem to be of very good construction. The cables use an armored braid with a teflon insulation designed to resist both rain and smoke. The CyberQ will control the pit for temps up to 475 degrees (245 C) and the probes are rated up to 500 degrees (260 C) which seems to be a reasonable choice to me.
- Quality Temperature Probes-Sensor Type: These temperature probes do not use the more inexpensive thermistor type sensors used in inexpensive probes and thermometers. They use the more expensive thermocouple sensor, just like the highly thought of Thermapen instant read thermometers. A thermocouple is faster, more accurate and the sensor is in the tip of the probe and not hgiher in the shaft 1” (25 mm) above the tip like thermistor probes. To me this is like having up to 3 Thermapens placed in my food at all times. Not for a final check, but for the entire cook. I should note that much of this probe information discussed in the last two items is not in the ad copy on the website. It was found in the PDF of the CyberQ manual I downloaded before purchasing. Reading the actual Owner’s manuals often help you decide whether the item you are considering does what you really need or want it to do. I always try to read the manuals of devices I am considering in advance of actually buy them.
- Alligator Clip Pit Probe: This is a just a nice little touch, but the pit probe uses an alligator to clip to attach the pit probe. The alligator clip makes it easier to attach to the grill grate and it can be attached with a vertical orientation. This takes up less room than the type of snap on clip used by the Maverick pit probes. Some folks use the alligator clip to attach the pit probe to an exposed part of a food probe so they are measuring the pit temp at the same area as they are measuring a food temp. Many other pit controllers share this feature, so it is not unique to any one brand or model. But it is a nice touch.
- Open Lid Detection: The controller is able to distinguish between a sudden temperature loss and a sudden temperature loss caused by opening the lid. In the case of a loss caused by the open lid, the controller is less aggressive with the fan. It lets the pit try to recover more naturally resulting in less chance of overshooting the mark.
- Intelligence: The controller learns your smoker and becomes more accurate over time. If the unit over or under compensates, it adjusts and learns from the mistake. Over a long cook the unit will become more and more accurate with the adjustments. Sadly on the CyberQ this information is not stored from session to session. So the unit must relearn with every cooking session. It seems to be a quick learner though. Although that could also be caused by being used with a ceramic Kamado grill which is relatively stable out of the box and therefor is easier to control.
- Ramp Mode: With this mode turned on, as the food gets closer to the doneness temperature you set it lowers the pit temperature more and more. Eventually it will lower the pit temperature to that of the food in an attempt to avoid overcooking the food. I don’t know how much I will use this feature, but I can think of two potential use cases. First case is if your guests aren’t there yet. If you see that the food will be done early or your guests called and will be late you could activate Ramp Mode. Or perhaps you are away from the pit and when you log in remotely to check on things, you see the food may be done before you can make it back home.
Why This Model From This Company?:
For these three reasons alone, I really didn’t look far beyond the BBQ Guru product line. I did look at other models from other companies but the BBQ Guru products seemed to be the best and safest choice for use with my Big Green Egg. Sure PERHAPS I could save a little money going with one of the new comers, but here was my thinking on that. My first use for the CyberQ WiFi was to monitor my $100 plus standing rib roast for Christmas dinner. How much could I save with a cheaper model from someone else? How much does the food I am trusting to a pit controller cost? End of discussion. To me the BBQ Guru was the only real choice for me. Here are the other features that were important to me.
- BBQ Guru was one of the first companies to produce this type device. In fact if I am not mistaken they created the product category.
- This device has widespread use among competition BBQ teams. For a long time it seemed like BBQ Guru pit controllers were the only game in town. Competition BBQ is a high stakes game, so the fact these teams trusted a BBQ Guru product says a lot.
- The BBQ Guru company has had a long standing relationship with the Big Green Egg company. In fact the Big Green Egg company sells a BGE branded version of the DigiQ DX2 in a BGE green finish. To me this meant this company was totally familiar with the smoker I wanted to use their product on. It was NOT a case of: “Oh yeah those funny looking green grills, sure, yeah our product should work on those.”
- WiFi control, both locally and from a remote location.
- 3 Food Probes
- The controller learns the pit.
THE ONLINE STORE ORDERING PROCESS-LESS THAN PERFECT:Normally I would not have even discussed the ordering process. I order products online all of the time and rarely do I have problems. It is typically smooth and painless, which is why I often prefer it to going to a brick and mortar store. But this is not my first trip to this dance and I ran into several problems that may trip you up. So it might help others to be aware of them in advance.
Website Online Store Hiccups: I decided to order my controller on Monday, December 15 about a week before Christmas. When I went to order they wanted me to create an account for myself with a user name and password. Frankly I am sick of having to have accounts and passwords for every site I go to these days. Sure I have some great password manager software (1Password) that manages, remembers and fills in the password for me, but the amount of accounts you are required to have is getting ridiculous these days. I look at many of these accounts as ways for the company to market to you. When I went to order I rolled my eyes when I saw I needed to create an account for myself. But I quickly noticed there was a choice to place the order as a guest, without the need to create a user name and password. This was more like it, you still had to enter a bunch of info but my password manager did that for me. Rather than leave my credit card info at yet another site, I elected to use PayPal to pay for my purchase. I was taken to the PayPal site where I logged in and authorized payment.
Now I ask you: Does this look like I should need to have a password for the Express Checkout option?
This is where things ran totally amuck. After authorizing the purchase I was redirected back to the BBQ Guru site. I was told the order would be processed shortly and I would be getting confirmation from PayPal the order went through. They said a few final steps were needed to complete the transaction and presented me with a log in screen where I was asked to provide my user name and password. SAY WHAT? I had just gone through an Express Checkout procedure whose sole purpose was NOT having to create an account. I could infer the user name was your email address, but I had no idea on a password. I mean I hadn’t been asked to create one.
I placed the order around 8:30 AM. I waited a few minutes to see if I got an email from PayPal confirming the transaction, but nothing. I suspected the order hadn’t gone through, but I had no way of knowing and I didn’t certainly didn’t want two pit controllers. Nearly a day passed and I still hadn’t heard anything back by email from BBQ Guru or from PayPal confirming the purchase. I went back to the site and decided to try something out of desperation. Like most login screens, I remembered there was a button to check off saying: “I lost my password”. I had no idea if this would even work because I used Express Checkout to order. As a result I had never been asked to create a password to begin with. But at this point I had nothing to lose. To my surprise I was sent an email with my “password” in it. I logged in and checked on my recent purchases which was empty. Then I logged out and to make sure what happened the day before wasn’t some silly fluke, I went through the Express Checkout process again. Once again I paid with PayPal and was taken back to the BBQ Guru site where once again I was asked to log in to finish the transaction. This time I had the password (although I shouldn’t have needed one) and everything went smoothly from there. I started getting confirmation emails and this second attempt to purchase was moving forward. In two days I would have my CyberQ-or so I thought. But I was left rather underwhelmed with online ordering process with the BBQ Guru company. Your mileage may vary.
(Pony) Express Mail From the Post Office: I wanted to have my CyberQ well before Christmas. I was quite busy with work and wasn’t sure exactly when I’d be able to get it set up and on the grill. I definitely wanted some hands on time with it before I trusted it to babysit a $100 plus roast for a family holiday dinner. I checked off to use USPS 2 Day Priority Shipping for $23.00. This would get it to me on the Thursday 1 weeks before Christmas. With the holiday I figured it might slip a day or so, which was still fine. When 5 days went by I started to get concerned. I talked to several people in the same boat as me who had packages being delivered by the Post Office that were also wicked late. One of the problems was I had no tracking number, so I was totally in the dark. To cut to the chase it took not 2 days, but 6 days. It arrived on the Sunday before Christmas. While I was slightly impressed that the Post Office was making deliveries on Sunday, I would have been a lot more impressed if it had been two days as promised. I was also a bit pissed off at paying extra for 2 day delivery and it took 6. While this was the Post Offices fault I wold expect that the BBQ Guru company had an idea about how timely the deliveries actually were. It would have been nice to get a popup saying what the expected delivery date REALLY was prior to your paying extra for 2 day delivery that took 6. I wonder how many folks that ordered even a few days after me had their deliveries arrive after Christmas and had nothing to put under their tree. If I didn’t think you laugh at me, I’d also mention I think the Post Office should have offered a refund or credit.
PART 3 covers WiFI Networking in general and cove the setup of the simpler Adhoc device to device networking. PART 4 covers the setup for the Infrastructure networking methods which is more difficult to set up, but gives you additional capabilities. PART 5 discusses attaching the CyberQ to a grill or smoker. PART 6 will give my first impressions after several uses.
CYBERQ WIFI BLOG SERIES
: EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 1 What is a Pit Controller & why would someone want one?
EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 2 Why did I choose to but the BBQ Guru CyberQ WiFi?
EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 3 WiFi Networking overview and setting up an Adhoc WiFi connection on the CyberQ WiFi.
EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 4 Setting up an Infrastructure mode WiFi Network Connection. More difficult but more capabilities.
EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 5 Attaching the CyberQ to a grill/smoker.
EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL - Part 6 First impressions after several cooks.
CYBERCOOK: CYBERCOOK - CYBERQ WiFi SOFTWARE iOS Software that enhances your use of the CyberQ. It makes it faster and easier to use & adds capabilities such as Logging/Graphing your cooks.
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