Countertop Brewing

Innovation by | Dec 2013 | Issue #83

Take a look around your kitchen. What’s on the counters? Coffee maker? Toaster? Microwave? What if “brewery” could be added to your kitchen counter appliances collection?

That’s precisely what the inventors of Seattle-based PicoBrew Zymatic are hoping will happen.

Just a bit bigger than a microwave oven, PicoBrew is designed to fit under your kitchen cabinets and promises to crank out pro-brewery-quality beer with minimal effort—even down to simplifying the cleaning process.

Designed and built by two homebrewing brothers, Bill and Jim Mitchell, and a former Microsoft colleague of Bill’s, Avi Geiger, the goal behind PicoBrew is “to amp up the art and science of brewing, and eliminate some of the pain-points,” says Bill, who names pre-loading ingredients, unattended operation and dishwasher-safe parts as some of the system’s key components. “You create precisely what you want to create.”

Their Kickstarter campaign had raised over $660,000 as of press time.

Using internet-based, open-source software, PicoBrew is controlled through a web browser dashboard. Users can share and design recipes, and even monitor the three-and-a-half-hour brewing process remotely through their smartphones. “Opening it up like this we think allows the system to serve [as] a baseline for those who’d like to build even more complex systems or experiment with the myriad possible instruments that could be really interesting to add on—think inline color sensors for SRM or refractometers for OG measurement,” Bill says.

To brew, follow your selected recipe: Add grains to a plastic tray, place the hops in a filter basket, and slide the whole thing into the machine. A small Cornelius keg full of water is connected; the water flows to the machine, magically mingles with the ingredients and comes back into the “corny” keg as unfermented wort. Yeast is added, and about a week later, your beer is ready.

But the big question is, how does the beer taste? Washington beer blogger (and BeerAdvocate contributor) Kendall Jones was lucky enough to try a few samples.

“The two beers I tasted, a Stout and an IPA, were both outstanding beers,” Jones says. “In a blind tasting, you would be hard-pressed to tell that they were not brewed with a ‘real’ brewing system.”

Famed homebrewer Annie Johnson, who was named 2013’s homebrewer of the year by the American Homebrewers Association, is also endorsing PicoBrew. She signed on for a partnership with the company that will let PicoBrew owners brew her recipes on the system.

With a price tag of $1,500, it sounds like the manufacturers are targeting high-end homebrewers and pro brewers looking for a small pilot system to test out new recipes. Details at picobrew.com