Many first-time home brewers are surprised to find out how hard it is to make decent beer. Everybody knows that drinking beer can lead to loud, uninhibited philosophizing along with deeply felt and temporary pledges of brotherhood. But actually making the stuff? That calls for a fussy sobriety usually reserved for tax preparation. Temperature, timing, pH, specific gravity, mash efficiency… all of it makes all the difference between something that tastes like Helles Bock and something that tastes like hell. Thankfully, a six-pack of designers and developers out of Belfast has figured out a way to take all that alchemical calculus and put it in an iPhone app. They call it Brewbot.
Brewbot is two things: 1.) A stainless steel beer-brewing automaton, and 2.) an app that tells you exactly what to feed that thing and when. The minifridge-sized appliance is a self-contained system that allows even the most careless newbie to produce craft beers with a quality approaching the great German pilsners and Belgian abbey ales.
Brewbot launched with a successful 31-day Kickstarter campaign back in October 2013, pulling in £114,368 (roughly US$175,000)—well above its £100,000 goal. For the next year and a half, the six-man crew travelled between the US and UK meeting with suppliers, backers, and press folks as it worked to build out production capacity. Last fall, during one of those US trips, Team Brewbot landed $1.5 million in a seed funding round led by Bebo founder Michael Birch. Finally, on April 27, work began on the first small batch of production units.
Brewbot is super-simple to use. No bottle-brushing five-gallon carboys or sparging a makeshift lauter tun with a garden hose. You start by picking one of the thousands of recipes available in the Brewbot app, representing all 80 beer types defined in the 2015 Beer Judge Certification Program style guide. After that, just get your ingredients, connect the appliance to a water line and a Wi-Fi network, and add your Crystal malt or Saaz and Fuggle hops when the app calls for it. A few hours later, you’ll have a batch of wort (young beer) cooling in your basement while billions of little yeasts convert grain sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. That can take more than a month, but when it’s all said and done, you’ve got beer. The app will alert you when that happens, too.
There’s still a waiting list for new units as the company clears out a backlog of Kickstarter orders. But you can pre-order the Brewbot Original—in stainless steel with a reclaimed wood finish—for $3,380. You can also get crazy and customize the look with just about any finish you want. Or, if you find yourself in Northern Ireland, drop by Brewbot Belfast. The company opened its first robot-controlled taphouse and cafe just last month.