Automated Brewing Systems – PicoBrew VS Brewie VS BrewBot

Is brewing beer more science than art?

While automated brewing systems may definitely blur the line a bit, brewing has always been a healthy combination of both. So what if we automate the process a bit more? There will still be someone passionate about beer creating recipes and adjusting temperatures, timing and testing ingredients behind the controls. The art form isn’t dying – it’s simply evolving. Still… It’s weird to think think that during our lifetime, ‘hand-crafted’ beer could be something that only exists in a defunct wiki-page article. (All’s not lost – The future still has Wiki pages….and beer!)

/Begin Rant
(Feel Free To Skip This Section If You Just Want The Review)

Whether you love them or hate them, Automated brewing systems are here to stay.  But just for a bit of fun, Let me ask you this: Does Slow Brewed coffee taste better than instant? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that most of us would prefer an artisnal double shot mocha-chino cafe’ whipped grande latte’ (Can you tell I don’t drink coffee?) rather than some cheap instant crap that was forced through an intricate maze of plastic and metal tubing. Now let me ask you another question: How many Keurig units do you think sold over the last 5 years?

More Than 15 Billion Worth.

My point is this. Convenience. Trumps. Quality.  Am I saying that these machines are going to brew crappy beer? Hell no. In fact, I happen to think that many of these designs are pretty ingenious.. Heck the damn things might even brew better than me! I guess the point i’m trying to get across is to just be cautious before you spend a few grand on such (an awesome) luxury item.  And don’t only be cautious of the price tag, the real threat of course is the slow and methodical sacrifice of qaulity for the sake of convenience. Perhaps I’m being a bit paranoid though, perhaps automating the process will get more people excited about beer. Perhaps it will improve quality across the board, free up hours of our time on brew day and usher in a grand new era of beer making at it’s finest.  I don’t know. I’ll tell you this though – If they ever make a ‘K-Cup’ equivalent for these brewing machines, They’ve gone too damn far.

/Rant Over

 

PicoBrew


PicoBrew is a small form factor, all grain automatic brewing machine that can brew 2.5 gallons of finished brew per batch. It works in tandem with a 3 gallon keg to initially supply the water to the unit, meaning that you can literally brew anywhere you have electricity. (No water attachment required). Just like it’s competitors, You can start brewing using one of the recipes from their online recipe library, create your own recipe or search the constantly updated database of other PicoBrew users recipes.

The Bottom Line:
The small form factor does come with it’s share of drawbacks, One of which is that, compared to it’s competitors it can only brew half the volume per batch. You would think that given it’s small batch size and comparatively short list of extra features, it would be the cheapest of the 3 options on this list… But the PicoBrew starts at $1,999 bucks (Compare that to the $1,599 price tag of the Brewie below). Unfortuantely its shortfalls don’t seem to end there… No water attachment, no interface on the unit itself, limited device support and probably the most concerning of all is that it completes the entire brew cycle in some sort of plastic container. While I think the concept of being able to watch the entire brewing process via the clear plastic container would be fun for newer brewers, I can only imagine it has an impact on the final taste of the brew.

Features:

Technical Specs

  • Dimensions: (WxDxH) 20.5″x14.5″x17″
  • Weight : 50 lbs
  • Connectivity: 802.11 b/g WiFi + Ethernet
  • Interface: Web-browser based PicoBrew.com software

Brewie


Brewie delivers on all fronts. Designed by handful of engineers who are passionate about brewing, It boasts the most features and lowest price of  all three systems. Able to Brew a proper 5 gallon batch, and still compact enough to not seem out of place on the kitchen counter. Brewie offers support for every major device (Android, iPhone & Windows devices), has it’s own self cleaning program built in, a built in touch screen, a massive community driven recipe library and looks pretty damn slick to boot. Brewie is slated to launch September 2015.

The Bottom Line:
Brewie is fucking impressive.

Features

  • Capacity: 5.2 Gallons
  • Recipes Library: Yes (Built into Phone App)
  • Cost: $1,599
  • Availability: Preorder
  • Hop Additions: 4

Technical Specs

  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 21.15 x 12.8 x 17.7 inch
  • Weight: 55 lbs
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Interface: Android, Windows, IOS & WEb Interface

 

BrewBot


Brewbot is an Arduino powered brewing monster. Weighing in at about 220 pounds, and costing over 3 grand! Stainless steel and reclaimed wood form its modern exterior and serve to artfully disguise the automated home brewery in almost any home. The team has gone the extra mile to source high quality(stainless steel vs copper) materials with an emphasis on building a quality product that will last and perform for many years.

The Bottom Line:
While the Brewbot looks like a great product at first glance, As you make your way through it’s list of features, You start to notice a few red flags. EG: There is no android or Windows phone app, No Web interface, No Touch Screen on the device itself, it doesn’t have WiFi OR an Ethernet connection and it only connects to your phone via Blue-tooth…. which Begs the question – Does it require your phone to be near to feed it Recipe instructions? While I can’t imagine that being the case…I didn’t see any specs for a WiFi connection on their kickstarter page. BrewBot is in a really weird place right now…I feel with it’s bulky design and limited list of features, it can’t hope to compete with the likes of Brewie in the same market space. The one distinct advantage that BrewBot does have though – Is that it also offers it’s Core Components Kit for the DIY crowd for just a fraction of the price ($475 USD).

Features

  • Capacity: 5.2 Gallons
  • Recipes Library:  Yes (Built into Phone App)
  • Cost: $3,642.00
  • Availability: Preorder
  • Hop Additions: ?

Technical Specs

  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 47.6″x15.7″x46.6″
  • Weight: 220 lbs
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth
  • Interface: iPhone (Android not Released yet)

All Hail Our New Robot BrewMaster – Brewie!


I’ve done the research, I’ve read through their crowd funding pages and looked through their specs and features list. Without a doubt – Brewie is absolutely the best of breed. Not only for it’s design, features list and technology…but surprisingly it manages to also have the best damn price among the three. I’m not sure what the hell the other companies are doing so terribly wrong, They have less features, with less supported devices and and somehow still are considerably more expensive? How Exactly does that work? It really becomes painfully obvious just how outmatched PicoBrew & BrewBot are once you compare their features & Specs side by side.
Automated_Brewing_Systems_Side-by-side-comparison

Over To You.

What’s your take on these Automated Brewing Systems?


**Just wanted to make it clear that this is not a paid endorsement of any kind. The opinions in this review are mine and mine alone and nobody is paying me to portray the Brewie in a posative light. It simply deserves the number one spot, because (at least on paper) It is without a doubt the best automated brewing system money can buy right now. If by chance anyone from the Brewie team is reading this – I’d be happy to do a proper review of the Brewie if you want to cut me a deal 🙂

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  • Sarkadi Zsolt

    Yes, we reading this, thank you for your kind words, it means a lot to us! We will contact you soon. Big up! Zsolt Sarkadi, product designer of Brewie

    • Scott Welker

      Brewie backer here! Safi, you are the MAN. I can’t wait for my machine in Feb/March, I already have the Saazer hops from Czech, the yeast culture I borrowed from the Pilsner Urquell brewery, and the Bohemian malt ready to go. I’m using distilled water with added minerals to match the water in Pilzen as locsely as possible. My first batch will be glorious.

      Köszi!

  • Will Fisher

    I agree with your analysis, in fact I’m a backer of brewie on indiegogo. I simply do not have time to do AG brewing the traditional way, so for me brewie looks a perfect way to move away from extract kits and start the fun part of creating my own beer recipes and to enjoy the higher quality of true AG beer.

    The problem is, you (and nobody that I can see) has actually got the machines side by side to see which is best.

    Brewbot and picobrew are actually shipping, but brewie is still a few months away.

    So, while I have confidence in the brewie team to deliver a great product, it is still to early to say it is best.

    • Absolutely true. I haven’t actually gotten to field test any of the units, simply doing the research and comparing the specs side by side.

      I’ll definitely be doing a follow-up when/if I ever get my hands on a Brewie 🙂

      • poke

        It does look like the Brewie is the way to go. I like it much better from what I have seen over the picobrew. However, the picobrew is available now. You mention the ship date of the Brewie to be sept. 2015. However, all the information I get is that shipping to US will be February or March 2016 (which means June). So it seems that there has been a bit of a delay. My concern is will it be released and actually when. There is no definitive time given.

        • I just sent the team a message asking for more information. I will let you know as soon as I hear back from them!

          • poke

            Thanks. That would be great to find out more specific release plans. I would love to get the Brewie for the reasons you mentioned but I don’t know if waiting 6 months is what I want to do. I will watching for updates.

          • I guess the Brewie is now slated for a February / March release date.

          • poke

            Bit of a bummer. I was hoping you were going to get an inside scoop that there would be an actual release at Christmas. I would get one now if available but not sure about the wait which always can be further delayed. Definitely looks like the better machine. Thanks for the extra footwork Ryan. Will be watching for further brew developments.

          • Np:) Yea bit of a bummer, but I think it will be worth the wait. The team seemed adament about not releasing brewie until it was ready.

          • Just thought I’d follow up here. The Brewie team just sent out an update, saying that their new target launch date is now mid-October!

          • poke

            Hey Ryan, that was exciting news. I emailed them and it seems that next week we will begin to preorder but it looks like they won’t be shipping those preorders until February. I can’t see why I will not order one. I have 4 recipes with grains/hops ready to go but cannot find the time to brew them. I could have 4 brews in the keg by now but I have none.

      • Friend

        Ryan you should have compared mini brew too along with above 3

        http://minibrew.nl/

        • Also looks very interesting 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Jim Rush

    I was just looking at Brewie’s website. Now slated for mid-2016 release and the current, 15% discounted price, of $1799. Which, puts its base price at over $2100.

  • Marijke Dyke

    Your comments on PicoBrew’s Zymatic are a bit assumptive and incorrect. No water attachment is a huge bonus as it lets you easily move it about. Even share it among friends who home-brew in their individual homes. Brewie on a kitchen counter? It’s big and would not fit on many home kitchen counters. The “some sort of plastic container” in a Zymatic is a step filter made from Triton which is a non-BPA, non-polycarbonate resin that is food grade and can safely hold liquids in excess of 200 degrees F. As owners will attest, there is no impact on final taste of the beer produced through it. The comparison chart that you show between BrewBot, PicoBrew and Brewie was produced as a marketing tool by Brewie and does not properly state Zymatic’s capabilities. No need to sparge is another unique and time saving feature of the Zymatic. You can monitor what the Zymatic is doing on a Smartphone, tablet or any computer. You can connect a chiller but you can just let the wort cool on its own for a few hours because it is in a sterile keg, then pitch your yeast. As for limited brew size, if 5 gallons is what you want, it’s a breeze to brew 2 batches on the Zymatic, and then ferment the total 5 gallons in one external keg. Zymatic has been adopted by over 2000 craft breweries and home brewers alike for it precision, consistency and ease of use. It’s a real product that’s working away today around the world. The guys at PicoBrew have built a great product and anyone considering an automated all grain brewing appliance should give it serious consideration.

    • No water attachment being a benefit/drawback is entirely perception. Since i’m the one writing the article, I inserted my opinion here on what I consider a negative aspect of the Picobrew. Anyone that happens upon this article is free to decide for them selves just how valuable any one feature is to them personally.

      Many K-Cups are made from non-BPA plastic as well and I can certainly taste the shitty plastic-like taste from those. Having said that – you are right. I haven’t personally tasted a beer made from the picobrew (yet). I simply drew upon my experience with other products that combine non-BPA plastics and very hot water. It doesn’t help that the second result I get in google when I entered “picobrew +plastic taste” is this:

      http://www.straighttothepint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/picobrew-plastic.png

      Keep in mind that this is a post from an actual PicoBrew user from the PicoBrew Forum. Lastly If i want to brew 5 gallons, I sure as shit don’t want to brew 2.5 gallons 2 separate times.

      I’m sorry if this article has garnished some bad press for you guys….If you don’t like it, take my criticism and make picobrew 2.0 better. Don’t come on my website and start posting self promoting crap like this.

      • Andy

        It’s not compulsory to attach brewie to a water outlet as far as I know. You can add water manually by selecting this option before starting the brewing cycle. This is definitely a plus over PicoBrew as you have the option to do either or.

        • Ah good to know! Thanks for sharing that Andy 🙂

    • GSW

      Brewie can be used without attached water as well and mine is sitting on my kitchen counter…as for sparging you don’t have to with Brewie either…but you can if you want to. I have watched the Zymatic and unfortunately after using Brewie there is no comparison with regard to function. If Pico has any advantage it is with service and communication as Brewie right now is terrible in that regard.

  • Frank Wiebenga

    Brewie still not shipping. Brewbot still not shipping Excellent article, crowdfunding is a gamble at best. Perhaps an update article is in store?

    • I am just as shocked as you are that these products are taking so damn long to hit the market. If I had pre-ordered one of them, I would be pretty pissed off at right about now if I had 2k tied up in something that was suppose to launch months ago.

      In any event, An updated article is an interesting idea. I’ve come across several other systems that attempt to (at least partially) automate the some of the brewing processes.

      Perhaps I’ll circle back and do another article if there is enough interest.

      To be completely honest with you though, I’ve decided to move on to more lucrative projects. So I’ll maintain this blog so others can use the tool + info I have here, but It probably won’t see many updates until I have the free time to devote to my many ‘just for fun’ side projects.

      ~Cheers,
      Rionoskae

  • evo34

    So basically, Brewie has automated only the steps before transfer to carboy and bottling? That’s basically takes out the fun part, and leaves you with all the mess and hassle.

    • GSW

      Just brewed with it and after brewing on a 15 gal all grain system for two decades I cant be happier – put ingredients in, push a button and come back later and drain chilled wort into a fermenter, pitch yeast and done (I keg). Cleaning was draining out trub and then pushing another button and walking away for a while – again way better than scrubbing pots and false bottoms in the yard. The fun for me is recipe creation and changing fermentation through yeast and temperature adjustments etc.

  • Ed

    What’s up with Brewie? Still not released and will not answer my emails, but will take my money. Have not sent any pre-order payment yet but would like to know what’s going on???

    • I haven’t heard anything new either. Probably best to pester them on social media.

  • Ed
  • GSW

    Got my Brewie in the US last week. Everything worked better than expected. I watched it all but you can basically put ingredients in and come back 5 hours later and drain your chilled wort into a fermenter then start an automated cleaning program. So far I am very happy with it but again i have only brewed one batch so far.


Straight 2 The Pint