It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, -
Now I've seen it all and I don't know if I like it. There's a home brewing machine that is just
about a one button operation from beginning to end. It's supposedly designed to help people
with “no brewing experience” make beer—brand-name beer—on their kitchen counter.
We've both dabbled in home brewing Bill and we've both enjoyed the work so the idea of a
countertop brewing machine seems crazy. Nonetheless a startup called PicoBrew is selling
something they call the Zymatic, which they claim makes beer with digital precision, and less
mess. And, I might add, with little fun.
Bill Mitchell, CEO of the Seattle-based PicoBrew, calls the new machine a “3-D printer for
beer,” yet I think of it more like a Keurig: You buy $19 PicoPaks, which contain all the
ingredients to produce five liters (about 14 bottles worth) of beer. Insert the Pak in the
countertop system, and it circulates water heated to just under boiling, extracting the grain
sugars and hop essences in a process that takes about two hours. All of the good stuff ends
up in a steel tank, and you can throw the biodegradable Pak itself into the compost.
The only nod to human interaction is that you still have to pitch the yeast and wait five to seven
days to ferment at room temperature before you can cool it and tap it. Because the Pico is
connected to the Internet, you’ll get an alert on your smartphone when your beer is done. I
wonder if the machine will then drink the beer for you.
Ah, you're wondering about the recipes. That too is in the no effort, no thinking mode. More
than 50 name brewers are contributing PicoPak recipes (in exchange for licensing fees,
naturally). Pico recognizes the recipes, even the date that the PicoPak was assembled, The
price tag for becoming a pseudo home brewer is $1,000
Frankly Bill I can't understand why anyone would buy it. Even if it works as advertised you're
paying a lot of money to remove the joy from home brewing
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time.
Well, I'm forced to admit I agree with you. I should have warned you to sit down first. Ha. For me
part of the fun, maybe most of the fun, of home brewing is crafting your own recipes, tweaking
beers you love, making them your own. This device has basically taken the creativity out of beer
making and that is not good thing in my mind..
Look at it this way, I can walk down the street and pick up a ton of great craft beer, no creativity
needed and it is very affordable. If all I wanted was the machine's end result, name brand beer
clones, why do I want this thing in the first place?
I did a bit of research and found that there are other automated and very sophisticated beer
making machines out there. Some of them even give the "brewer" a bit of creative input along
with the flexibility to make any beer you could dream up - no pre-packaged pods , While to me
this is still not real home brewing at least they involve learning a little bit about the beer making
process. Gina, I accept bread makers, they make some sense because they retain the creativity
part of the bread making process. I get 3D printers too since they are endlessly creative. I just
don't get Pico.
I have no understanding of someone who would spend over a thousand dollars so they can
automatically make beer recipes based on craft beers they can already go out and buy. Now
being the frugal type (no Gina, not cheap) If I saw that beer at the pub or the grocery suddenly
quadrupled in price, then it might barely begin to make sense. Until then, this seems like a toy for
the well off who will soon tire of it and move on to the next overpriced gimmick.
Anyone who has done some home brewing knows that is not that hard to do. If I may get on my
soapbox I see this machine as appealing to a desire for everything in life to be whittled down to
the level that a eight year old can do it. For me the pleasure of home brewing is being in touch
with the ingredients and enjoying the process itself. The resulting beer is icing on that cake.
I'm sure of one thing - beer does not need to be 3D printed. Consider the fact that it's the yeast
who does all the work not the human brewer. His/her job mainly consists of preparing the wort,
which most people can do in a couple of hours. I've never really timed it but I'd be willing to be
that in less than five total hours a person can brew the way people have been doing since the
dawn of civilization. That's not much of an investment of labor for a hobby that as you say is a
truly joyous one.
Here's my advice to anyone considering buying the Pica..Save your money and get a copy of
The Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian. Just read the first 20 pages or so and you'll see
what I mean.
Here's looking at you Gina