Two new homebrew appliances launched on Kickstarter recently.
BrewBothttp://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cargo/brewbot-the-smart-brewing-applianceI'm curious what other homebrewers think of the idea of an automated brewing machine. What's your opinion? Would you use one of these machines? Have you kicked them?
I'm fascinated by the machines but my opinion is mixed. There's an obvious problem to solve that I feel the pain of: all-grain homebrewing is a time-consuming hobby with lots of tedious clean-up work. Yet I can't help feeling that to an experienced homebrewer, these machines are like selling a bread-making machine to a baker. Yes, it's consistent and has good mechanics but it blinds you from the intricacies of the process and the limitations of the machine can restrict creativity.
(Then again, I'm an advocate for creativity being inspired by constricted conditions so I could be talking out my arse here.)
From a marketing standpoint there's the "it's so simple anyone can do it" aspect of a brewing machine. That's nice, but the lack of instant gratification in brewing, not the complexity, is what I think will prevent even this type of machine from entering the mass market. A good number of these, like many a homebrew kit, are probably going to gather dust in the garage after the initial novelty wears off. After all, you don't need a $1500 machine to make good beer: at a minimum you need a big soup pot and a bucket.
The fact that these machines don't manage the fermentation process bothers me. These are really just wort-making machines. That's the more complex part of the process if you brew all-grain but it's only half of the story. The endorsement by White Labs is a little puzzling to me.
Maybe I have too much invested in my current practices to see the value in this level of automated brewing. I'm biased for sure.
I did have an opportunity earlier this year to taste beer produced by one of the prototype PicoBrew boxes. A friend of mine knows one of the founders and passed me a growler of machine-brewed porter. It was good but not remarkable. Too roasty for my tastes, somewhat light-bodied and lacked complexity in the flavor, but nothing technically wrong with the beer.
And worth noting these projects aren't the first to market with a homebrew machine:http://www.williamswarn.com/