A computerized beer machine takes the legwork out of home-brewing

Story highlights

  • A Kickstarter campaign seeks to automate the small-scale beer creation process
  • The PicoBrew Zymatic automates some steps of beermaking, but it's not cheap
  • The machine can import recipes and scale them to the PicoBrew's setup

Home-brewers who may have dreamt about harnessing the power of Arduino to automate their process may find something to envy in the PicoBrew Zymatic, a project posted to Kickstarter Monday. The machine's makers purport to automate the process of home-brewing from beginning to end; owners simply add their ingredients and come back in a while to processed beer and an easy clean-up solution.

Brothers Jim and Bill Mitchell, the latter a former Microsoft executive, constructed the first prototype in 2010 using, among other things, an Arduino controller and a custom heating loop. The two teamed up with Microsoft software architect Avi Geiger in the fall of 2011.

More recent versions of the PicoBrew machine moved to custom AMTEGA controller boards and a number of custom parts, some rendered by Geiger himself. With the level of specificity provided by the PicoBrew, the founders state that users should be able to turn out recipes "precisely on spec." The machine can also import BeerXML-formatted recipes and translate and scale them to the PicoBrew's setup.

The machine is sort of an odd meeting ground between the act of homesteading and using science and commercial techniques on a consumer level. The founders cite the amount of work and hands-on time home-brewing requires, although that's part of the charm for some enthusiasts. At $1,300, it's not really for the casual home-brewer.

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The PicoBrew has more potential clients in commercial craft breweries. One source in the Kickstarter video, Matt Linecum of Fremont brewery, notes that the machine could be used for quickly testing the quality of ingredients before committing to their use in a full batch.

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