Automated small-batch brewing appliances have been around for a little while. The first to hit production was probably the Picobrew Zymatic, which makes 2.5 gallon all-grain batches using conventional ingredients and sells for about $2000. The next to reach production will probably be its little brother, the Picobrew Pico, whose Kickstarter campaign was extremely successful. The first production units, originally predicted for March shipment, should be going out fairly soon. Given that their first Kickstarter project resulted in the Zymatic, a product that has been delivered in decent quantities (well over a thousand), it seems likely that the Pico will come through. That one is half the price (and half the production quantity) of the Zymatic. It is much smaller, too. The big difference is that, although it is an all-grain system using “normal” ingredients, they can’t be loaded directly into the machine. Ingredient packs must be acquired from the vendor. They have acquired the rights to a fair number of popular craft brews and their in house brewers, who have created a large library of recipes for the Zymatic, are busily converting those to Pico packs as well. They are also aggressively pursuing independent homebrewers for their recipe development program. It appears the Pico owners will have no trouble obtaining recipe packs that will please them – but this one isn’t going to be nearly as attractive to homebrewers as the Zymatic. They (we) like to use the ingredients we already have on hand (and generally buy in quantity to control costs). It should be a pretty cool item for a non-brewing craft beer drinker, though.
The Brewie is a riskier proposition; it isn’t yet in production and the company can’t point to a previously successful brewing appliance as Picobrew can. Pre-orders are $1600. If successful, it will do 5 gallon batches, and you can use your own ingredients. I don’t feel very confident about that one.
The next contender’s Kickstarter project just went hot today. The Artbrew will be about the same price as the Pico (though adventurous Kickstarter supporters can snag one for $490). Same capacity as the Pico, too – but with the ability to use your own ingredients. It seems to be one to watch. There’s no history to look at, but the price seems right for what it offers. If successful, it will offer features not available in the Pico, such as internal chilling to fermentation temperatures, as well as maintaining proper temperatures during fermentation. That last bit is important, especially for casual or careless users, as poor management of fermentation temps is a frequent cause of poor homebrews. It is more of a crossover machine, probably directed primarily toward the craft beer crowd yet offering homebrewers the option of using their own recipes and ingredients.