Brewing your own craft beer at home is a difficult, complicated and time-consuming process. Now, two former Microsoft veterans want to help you make a perfect glass of beer in less than an hour and with a push of a button.
In what is probably one of the more badass Kickstarter campaigns we’ve seen, a Seattle-based company called PicoBrew has developed what they call the world’s first fully automatic all-grain beer brewing system that’s the size of a microwave.
The PicoBrew Zymatic basically allows you to have a full-scale brewery on your kitchen countertop. The device is simply a brewing box connected by hose to a Cornelius keg.
To make beer, you pour in your desired amount of malted barley, hops and water, then push a couple buttons to set a recipe. Three-and-a-half hours later, that water turns into beer. All you need to do is add yeast and let your new concoction ferment for a week and voila — you’ve got great-tasting craft beer at your disposal.
“It is, essentially, an espresso-maker for beer,” Bill Mitchell said in the Kickstarter video below.
Mitchell, his brother Jim and Avi Geiger are the co-founders of PicoBrew. Mitchell is well-known in Microsoft circles, having spent nearly two decades leading teams that developed PDAs, smartphones, automotive and wearable computing.
Back in 2010, he reached out to his brother, Jim, a food scientist and physicist who followed in the footsteps of his father, Dr. William Mitchell, the inventor of Pop Rocks, Tang, Cool Whip and other foods. Using an off-the-shelf Arduino-based controller, off-the-shelf pumps, relays, valves and a custom heating loop, the brothers began building a proof-of-concept device to brew beer at home.
Things were going well after one year, but there was a big void for engineering work needed to take the Zymatic to the next level. That’s when Geiger, another Microsoft vet who worked on several hardware devices in Redmond, joined the team and became the third co-founder.
Then, in August of 2012, PicoBrew set up shop in a 4,000 square-foot space in North Lake Union that served as both a lab and office space. A few other employees came on board and the company spent the next year refining the machine (and brewing a ton of beer in the process). Now they’re nearly ready to sell the Zymatic to customers and just need some Kickstarter money to finish the production process.
There’s some sweet technology behind the Zymatic. The PicoBrew Recipe Crafter is a web-based software that logs data and records recipes so you can brew identical beer time after time. Brewers can also share and import recipes made by others.
“What people can do with this machine is limited only by their own imaginations,” Mitchell said.
The Zymatic, which can be easily cleaned in a dishwasher, may also appeal to more than just individuals brewing at home.
“The amount of time we can save using this is incredible,” said James McDermet of Fremont Brewery in the video. “It basically allows us to do the pilot brews that we can’t fit into our big brew system. It’s pretty incredibly engineered.”
Paul Shipman, founder of Redhook Brewery, calls the Zymatic a “breakthrough.”
“The craft brewers address small audiences, but not down to individual human taste of one or two individuals,” Shipman said.
As of Monday afternoon, less than 12 hours after launching the Kickstarter, PicoBrew was already one-third of the way to its $150,000 funding goal. The 25 pilot Zymatic’s, which sold for $1,299, are already gone, while the 75 machines at $1,399 are sure to run out soon if today’s interest is any indication.