Author Topic: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion  (Read 1299 times)

Offline Fporch

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Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« on: August 18, 2015, 03:06:37 PM »
Hello AHA members, I am a beer writer working on an assignment for a leading craft beer trade magazine. The title of the article: "Is It "Cheating" to Use Technology to Home Brew?".  The purpose of the article is to compare traditional hose and bucket home brewing to that offered by some of the closed systems, such as Pico Brew's Zymatic or BrewBot. Here are some points to consider in your response.

1 - What's your own experience?

2 - If you have not seen a closed system brew, what's your perception?  Are you interested in seeing or trying?

3 - Is trial and error necessary to be a good brewer?

4 -  I'm celebrating both viewpoints, so civil comments are the most useful.

Thank you for your time and help.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2015, 03:35:35 PM »
Honestly I can't recall anybody ever saying an off the shelf or DIY automated system is "cheating" in any type of brewing. I have seen people talk about whether it is as rewarding to brew on an automated system but that's not the same thing.

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Offline Phil_M

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2015, 03:43:19 PM »
1. I brew PID controlled BIAB, and stovetop extract.

2. Meh. Lots of upfront costs, doesn't seem to solve my particular problems.

3. Automation doesn't mean there still won't be trial and error. Just that the variables will be easier to control when experimenting.

So, no, I don't consider it cheating. And really, is using thermometer cheating? What about a hydrometer? They're technology, just like the circuits that control an automated system. People still made beer before the thermometer was invented, just as they did before computer control was invented.
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Offline jimr67

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2015, 03:46:07 PM »
Trials are required to dial in recipes, processes, and equipment.  Using more automated equipment does not obviate this need: nor is it cheating.  My only çoncern with picobrew is its cost and the difficulty of troubleshooting or repairing should problems arise. I prefer equipment I pretty much totally understand.


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Offline Fporch

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2015, 04:20:00 PM »
Great viewpoints folks, very helpful so far.  Thank you

Offline gsandel

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2015, 04:28:07 PM »

1. Manually Controlled, 3 vessel, 2 pump Heat Exchanged Recirculation System.

2. I like bells and whistles!  But, I don't think I will ever fully automate, and because I like to be hands on, and my brewery resembles a Rube Goldberg Device, I believe that I would never buy a 1 vessel closed system, ever.

3. Yes.  You become a better brewer by actually brewing and being able to critically taste the beer.  I suppose there are textbook brewers that could brew without tasting, but you wouldn't empirically know what your processes contribute to the finished product.

4.  I believe that there is almost no cheating in brewing...everything is fair game.  You can make excellent beer in a plastic bucket, or a fully automated system.  Beer made with either can be horrible as well (if you don't pay attention to the basics).

There is no difference with even competitions....the only rule there is that you actually brewed it.  And, at the end of the day, it is a hobby.  Gear that adds to the enjoyment of the hobby is a personal choice.  I wouldn't begrudge anyone for brewing with an automated system, a Mr. Beer Kit, or any primitive historical method like throwing heated rocks in to boil.

Likewise, there are people who use dry yeast and liquid yeast.  Those that use extract only, and those that mash.  Those that make yeast starters, and those that just pitch whatever they have.  There are those who experiment with wild fermentations, and those that only use one yeast ever.  Those that conform only to German Purity Laws and those that will try to use interesting and unusual ingredients.  It is a big tent, and I don't think I would have it any other way.

You wouldn't believe the things I've seen...

Offline ulander6206

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2015, 04:32:56 PM »
My brew set up is very simple - small batch BIAB on the stovetop. In my opinion you need to know recipe design - ingredients and process and how they affect the final product. It's about managing the dozens of variables to get the desired result. Automation is not cheating but does not help unless you know how to consistently brew the beer you want to drink.

Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2015, 04:48:27 PM »
I don't really think brewing beer can be called cheating anyway you choose to do it.  If you want to grow your hops, grow and malt your own grain or buy a turn-key, push one button and make beer system they are equally valid ways to to brew.

Brewing is very much trial and error no matter how you do it.

My own system is strictly batch sparge.  A cooler, a boil kettle and chiller IC.  Pretty basic.  Someday, when the kids are grown and through college I might think about more automation in my brewery but that's a cash flow question more than a right or wrong thing.  Pretty/shiny is usually pretty pricey.  Cheap works, most of the time.

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Offline erockrph

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2015, 05:11:01 PM »
I am a small-batch, all-grain brewer. I typically brew 3-gallon batches in my kitchen using a cooler mash tun and boiling on my stovetop. Personally, I would love to have a PicoBrew system. My biggest challenge with homebrewing is finding time to brew. Between my family and career, I don't find myself with the large blocks of free time I need for an all-grain brewday. Having a tool like the PicoBrew would let me squeeze in more brew days.

The main downside for me is the rather steep price. I enjoy the brewing process, but I'd be willing to sacrifice some of the hands-on part to free up some time. Personally, my favorite part of the hobby is designing and testing new recipes. Moving to a closed system wouldn't affect that.

I do think that it is a benefit for a brewer to get some hands-on with each step of the process. But I don't think less of someone as a brewer for using technology. Many pro's use automated systems, so I don't see why someone would look down on a homebrewer for doing so. It's a lot like using extract, or brewing a kit beer - you may give up control of part of the process, but the end product is still your creation. I am all for anything that brings new people into our hobby.
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Offline rcemech

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2015, 07:10:22 PM »
Hello AHA members, I am a beer writer working on an assignment for a leading craft beer trade magazine. The title of the article: "Is It "Cheating" to Use Technology to Home Brew?".  The purpose of the article is to compare traditional hose and bucket home brewing to that offered by some of the closed systems, such as Pico Brew's Zymatic or BrewBot. Here are some points to consider in your response.

1 - What's your own experience?

I've never brewed on a system like the Zymatic, but a brew system no matter how fancy is only as good as it's inputs. The real brewing is done between your ears.

2 - If you have not seen a closed system brew, what's your perception?  Are you interested in seeing or trying?

It certainly isn't cheating. It's a trade off and each brewer decides what they want out of their experience. I wouldn't begrudge anyone that used one of the fully automatic systems.

3 - Is trial and error necessary to be a good brewer?

Absolutely. Nothing is better than practice and going through the feedback cycle. The equipment is completely irrelevant in this respect. If you ferment well and have good sanitation you will make beer. Knowing how the malts, hops, yeast, and water interact with each others flavors, aromas, and mouthfeel is really where experience helps. It's impossible to tweak a recipe without using your senses for feedback.The rest of the mechanical process of brewing is easily learned.

4 -  I'm celebrating both viewpoints, so civil comments are the most useful.

Cheers!

Thank you for your time and help.

Offline MDixon

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2015, 08:49:37 PM »
If you make crappy beer using a cooler, your beer will still be just as crappy on the most elaborate system in the world. If the brewing system made any notable difference it would only be with regard to temperature control of the mash.

Think about it this way. A brewer makes mediocre beer using rudimentary equipment, will an outlay of thousands of $ guarantee the beer brewed by this person will now be outstanding?
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2015, 09:03:44 PM »
1.  I'm a long time cooler mash brewer. I like things straight forward and simple but I have accumulated a few shiny gadgets along the way.

2.  Not cheating at all, but more pricey than I want to pull the trigger on. Brewers should brew any way they like.

3.  Of course !!!!!!!!!!  There are no easy shortcuts to consistently good beer. Experience, especially through hard lessons, is a great teacher. As is experimenting with different processes, ingredients, etc.

4.  Cheers and welcome.


If you make crappy beer using a cooler, your beer will still be just as crappy on the most elaborate system in the world. If the brewing system made any notable difference it would only be with regard to temperature control of the mash.

Think about it this way. A brewer makes mediocre beer using rudimentary equipment, will an outlay of thousands of $ guarantee the beer brewed by this person will now be outstanding?

^^^ All of this.
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Offline narvin

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2015, 10:45:12 PM »
The best automation will only give you one thing - consistency.  You can make consistently crappy beer either way   :).  This is especially true because some of the most important variables, like yeast health and fermentation temperature, aren't controlled by most automated systems.

Also, is the brew bot ever going to actually ship?  Last notice was that they fired their manufacturing company and brought everything in house.  I'd hate to pay $3000+ for a problematic prototype. The joys of kick starter!
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Offline tommymorris

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Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2015, 11:10:50 PM »
These "automated" brew systems are only partially automated. They don't treat the water for PH and style. They don't pitch the yeast. They don't ensure yeast health and proper pitch rate. They don't ferment the beer at proper temperatures. They don't perform diacetyl rests. They don't sanitize kegs and bottles.

So the claims of consistency are only valid if you are manually taking care of these other variables.

My fear is a lot of new brewers will spend a lot of money buying these systems expecting a short cut to quality homebrew but end up with estery phenolic beer their friends and family don't want to drink.

Offline Hooper

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Re: Beer Writer Needs Your Opinion
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2015, 11:39:08 PM »
1 – I’m an all grain 6 gal batch brewer…I brew 10 gal batches occasionally. Built a RIMS system and added some automation. I didn’t see any improvement in product and started subtracting equipment to get the least amount of stuff to clean and still accomplish a brew day. I enjoy the minimalist system I’m using and don’t plan to automate.

2 – I’ve seen videos of these and they look interesting.  I’m not interested in this type of brewing.

3 – Yes…It takes a while to learn the brewing process and what works with your system.

4 -  I see nothing wrong these all in one automated systems and really the end product should tell the tale whether these things are worth a darn. I think if beers from these systems started winning competitions, you would see quite a bit of interest in these systems…Just not from me…

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