With the rise of the craft beer market, many are looking for ways they can piggy back off of its success. Homebrewing, being a branch of the craft beer market, has also seen an explosion in the wake of craft beer boom seeing a 24% increase in sales in 2014 and our friends at Love2Brew here in New Jersey say business is booming, as they expand to more locations throughout the state. With the homebrew market being previously untapped by technological entrepreneurs, except those selling ingredients, we are now starting to see innovation in the market aiming to make homebrewing more accessible and let’s face it, make money.
With a goal to bring homebrewing into every household, we have seen a rise in the automatic homebrewing devices. These devices seek to simplify the art of homebrewing and bring personalized hand crafted craft beer into everyone’s kitchen. The Brewie, The PicoBrew, The MiniBrew, and others all aim at grabbing a piece of that homebrewing pie. With all of the nuances of homebrewing and so many ways to make bad beer, these devices aim to turn homebrewing into the next Kuerig and make it fool proof.
Admittedly homebrewing is a long, tedious and arduous process that sometimes you wish was just a little easier and less involved. My typical all grain brew day from start to finish is about five to six hours for five gallons of beer (roughly 2 1/2 cases). That’s six hours of constant checking, of sanitizing, cleaning, stiring, measuring, adjusting temperatures, trouble shooting, and more, needless to say, its a very involved process. At the same time, that is the very thing that makes homebrewing a passion, an artform, a hobby, and for some, a career. When you freak out because you don’t hit your target numbers. When you have a boil over and know you’re going to have to clean it all up. When your mash lost 5-10 degrees in the last hour and you scramble to figure out what to do. These are all part of the pain and learning process that not only make us better homebrewers but also give us a pride for what we do. When you open your first bottle of home brewed beer and taste the hours of labor spent over the kettle in your glass, that’s victory! That’s pride!
Let’s say I’m a seasoned homebrewer and I want add something to my process that’s going to make my life easier give me more time, less headache and less body aches all while giving me the same results. Is this something worth investing in? Sure! So let’s look at the top three personal home brew systems and see if they truly offer that experience.
A big stainless steel box that looks puuurdy! With this box you order ingredients on the website of the company (or purchase your own) and they ship you sacks of ingredients that you just pop into the machine. Fill with water or use a dedicated water hose to have the machine do it automatically. After the brewing you are on your own, this still leaves many crucial steps out of the process, mainly the fermentation. Without proper fermentation, you could lose your entire batch of beer months after you brewed it.
First impressions: It looks simple enough to use and almost fully automates the homebrewing process. It’s great that it brews a full five gallon batch instead of the other small batch brewing systems. New homebrewers might be daunted by the onboard display and its many configurations settings.
- Does this machine actively monitor gravity, IBUs, and how easy is this to clean?
- The touch interface while in the video looks great, is it designed well enough to tame the non-tech savvy homebrewers?
- Its fairly large to keep as a permanent fixture in most kitchens. Which means you might have to store it away and lug and tug this 55 pound machine around. Unless your fortunate enough to have a man cave with a dedicated water supply line.
- At $1,700, this product remains out of reach of most homebrewers.
- Additional steps not automated by the device leave room for error. Fermentation, bottling and/or kegging all could make or break a perfectly brewed batch of beer, so leaving that to the user really puts a kink in the value of this device.
Next The PicoBrew cont.