Inventor Bill Mitchell is developing the PicoBrew Zymatic, an appliance that brews beer at the touch of a button
So I’ve seen links to this posted on tumblr for a bit, and felt compelled to finally weigh in on this in a post (much) longer than just a reply.
I’ll go ahead and admit that there are some cool things about it, including the low profile, automation, custom software, and easy cleaning. I could see this being very useful if you wanted to do a bunch of test batches and simply change one variable, such as the grain or the hop. I don’t know why White Labs was featured; you would think that brewing a huge batch of wort and splitting that into multiple fermentations would be an easier way of testing a yeast strain. Not to mention they would be more interested in fermentation temperature control.
I don’t much care for the low efficiency (50-60%), small batch size (around 2.5 gallons), and limited hopping schedule. If you really want a quick and easy no-sparge system then just do brew-in-a-bag— it’s cheap and Beer Smith has a preset for it. However, if you wanted automation and perfect temperature control you could just build/buy an awesome HERMS system, one that would be exactly like what the real brewers use as a pilot system and could give you up to 95% efficiency with no restrictions.
Also, it appears they use the keg as a liquor tank, boil kettle, fermenter, and serving tank. Drinking from your fermenter, and after only the recommended one week fermentation time? Eww.
And then there’s the attitude that homebrewing is inaccurate drudgery and there is no “art” to scrubbing a kettle or watching a pot. Of course there is no art to that; but part of the fun of brewing is the process of doing it. You don’t really need fancy equipment to make good, consistent beer. All you need is an accurate thermometer and a way to measure your water/hops/etc. It’s really not that hard. There’s easy online calculators for measuring strike temperature, so you pretty much have to be a moron to fail. Trust us, we’re morons.
And dammit, brewing is fun. During the down times, such as the mash rest, you can just do whatever you want. I’ve worked out, caught up on TV shows, read comics, gone grocery shopping. We hang out with friends, cook steaks, drink beer, have a party— brewing is pretty easy, and very fun. Sometimes we like to do weird, complicated things: decoction mashing, putting weird stuff in the mash (graham crackers, pumpkin/sweet potato mix, roasted pecans), doing partigyle brews. We throw all kinds of crazy stuff into the kettle— hops, coffee, or cocoa nibs as first wort hops (something you can’t do on the pico brew), insanely complicated hop schedules (I have a brew planned up where we will continuously hop according to the DNA code of a certain hop, with C, A, T, and G hops filling in for the different nucleobases), not to mention all the spices and sugar additions for our Belgian or holiday beers.
We don’t like to brew because it’s easy (which it can be), sometimes we brew just for the challenge and the fun of it. We’ve been watching the TV series Brew Dogs, where in each episode they come up with not only a ridiculous recipe (try putting lobsters and clams in your brew zymatic!), but an equally ridiculous way of brewing it. Sure, it’s kinda the show’s gimmick, but it’s a fun gimmick, and you can tell they do it because they like the challenge and the fun it provides. I would never remember the brew day where I pushed a button on my brewspresso machine, but I do remember all the crazy stories, adventures, hot scotchies, misadventures, near disasters and most importantly, fun. Do you know how boring this blog would be if it was “here’s our recipe, we hit play on the machine, had a colonic, and came back four hours later.”
Sorry for the length of this post, I’ve been in novel writing mode.