PicoBrew Pico review

The PicoBrew Pico delivers homebrewed beer without too much hassle

Anyone with enough cash and time can make high-quality homebrew with the PicoBrew Pico.
Anyone with enough cash and time can make high-quality homebrew with the PicoBrew Pico.
Anyone with enough cash and time can make high-quality homebrew with the PicoBrew Pico.


  • Faster than traditional homebrew
  • Lots of options for beer types
  • Easy-to-follow steps, once you get the hang of it
  • Makes pretty good beer


  • Expensive
  • Still lots of cleaning involved

DT Editors' Rating

“The waiting is the hardest part” are not only lyrics in a Tom Petty song but how you’ll feel when using the PicoBrew Pico, a countertop appliance that promises to take the hard work out of homebrewing.

Though some have called it a “Keurig for beer,” the process isn’t as simple as pushing a button. The ingredients do come in preportioned packs that significantly reduce the amount of time you’ll spend actually doing the work.

Though it’s significantly less hassle than traditional homebrewing, it’s still more difficult — and expensive — than just grabbing a six-pack. What’s the point of the Pico? Let’s examine further.

A box full of toys

The Pico arrives in a giant box. It may be only 16 by 12 by 14 inches (I say only, as if it’s not bigger than my Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista), but it comes in a 28-by-22-inch box. There are more boxes inside that box, one of which holds the Pico. There’s also a brewing keg, serving keg, Fresh-Squeezed IPA PicoPak, and a box of knickknacks — a racking tube, keg cozy, keg seal, CO2 regulator, and so on — al of which are necessary to complete the brewing process.

There’s also the fairly thick manual. Do not lose this. Do not throw it away. You need this manual. Read it before you do anything else, because otherwise you’ll get everything set up, only to realize that you need gallons of distilled water that you have to schlep back from the grocery store. Ditto for hydrogen peroxide. You’ll also want to think about timing before diving in. It will take some time to set up and clean the machine, as well as start it brewing. Then you’ll need to do some more cleaning once the brewing is done. Don’t start right before you’re headed out on a weekend trip, because there are some steps that you should do the next day.

After you’ve read the manual and discovered what you’ve gotten yourself into, it’s time to set up the machine. The Pico takes up some counter space, and it obviously needs to be plugged in. Also, it’s going to connect to your Wi-Fi network. The first time you turn it on, you’ll be prompted to connect, and then you’ll have to go to Pico’s website to create an account and enter your device’s registration code. Next, you’ll want to do the “first rinse,” which should take around 10 minutes, provided you read ahead and have distilled water on hand. This is one of the machine’s self-cleaning phases, and the display will walk you through the steps, so you will have to be present and participate a bit.

Hops to it

Once your machine is clean, you’re ready for the 2.5-hour brewing session. This does not mean your beer will be ready to drink in less than three hours. Oh, no. But you can binge watch a few episodes of The Crown or what have you while the Pico does most of the work. You’ll insert the hops pack and grain pack into the plastic tub, and then put on the plastic lid. If you put the lid on upside down, liquid will start overflowing and spilling onto your counter. Probably. OK, definitely. It happened to me.

The PicoBrew Pico turns just about anyone into a beer maker, but it comes with a high price tag and requires patience.

More distilled water goes into the brewing keg, and you’ll attach ball lock connectors to the keg’s posts and use the lid to seal it up. More distilled water goes into the reservoir at the top of the machine, and then you can actually start the machine running.

When you turn on the Pico, it reads the PicoPak’s RFID tag, so it knows exactly what you’re brewing. That means it will take care of all the settings for you, preventing you from messing things up and leaving you only a few customization options: the alcohol percentage and the bitterness. I made the Buffalo Sweat Stout, and upped the alcohol a smidge while also lowering the bitterness a bit. I felt very powerful. Then you hit start, and the machine gets to work.

Mid-brew, my husband came home. “Is it going to sound like that for a week,” he asked, looking skeptically at the space hog sitting on the counter. “No, only another 45 minutes or so,” I assured him. It was loud. It was kind of like being inside a dishwasher, I imagine. The scent wafting from it isn’t unpleasant, but it reminded me of what we used to have to feed the horses at camp. If you’re interested in what’s going on in there as it’s making the wort, you can watch its progress on PicoBrew’s site.

PicoBrew Pico review
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

Once the brew session is over, it’s cleaning time. The PicoPaks are compostable, which means they have one distinct advantage over Keurig pods.

The brewing keg will be hot, and you need to leave it to cool overnight before adding a packet of yeast to it. Then you have to decide if you want fast ferment (four to seven days, depending on your room temperature and type of beer) or standard ferment (about 10 days). I did the fast version and left it for about six days, since my kitchen was hovering around 70 degrees most of the time.

Carbonation station

By now you’ve watched all of The Crown and are wondering if you should give Reign a try. You can decide later. Now you have to rack your beer. This step requires some in-depth cleaning and the aforementioned hydrogen peroxide. Once again, your Pico will lead you through the steps of racking the beer. I actually had some problems here and had to hop on a call with customer support. The machine is supposed to use suction and pressure to transfer the liquid from the brewing keg to the serving keg, but while some brown liquid would enter the clear tubing, there wasn’t enough pressure to push it into the serving keg. The Pico rep thought it might be because I still had the fast fermentation adaptor in the brewing keg lid, as opposed to having swapped it out for the pressure release valve — a step I couldn’t find in the manual. After a half an hour on the phone (and after I’d managed to squirt uncarbonated beer in my face), we’d fixed the problem without entirely diagnosing the issue.

Post-racking, you can decide between quick and natural: a fast carbonation (about 36 hours) with a CO2 regulator or keg condition/natural carbonation (twice as long as the original formation). I chose the former. I screwed a CO2 cartridge into the regulator, stuck it in the serving keg, and shoved the whole thing in the fridge for 36 hours. Luckily, one of the fridge’s shelves tilts up, or I would’ve had a hard time fitting it all in there. Then, it was time for the deepest clean yet, which involved taking apart the brewing keg to fully clean it.

A day and a half later, I pulled out the regulator and replaced it with a plug and started pouring. I’ve never had Buffalo Sweat (the beer or otherwise), but it was pretty good, rich and a bit malty. The keg poured a decent head. The serving keg holds 5 liters or 169 ounces. That equates to about fourteen 12-ounce beers. My beer was ready to serve on a Saturday. By Tuesday, it was decidedly flat, so you don’t want to leave it in there too long.

Who’s it for?

My friend Luis banned himself from Kickstarter for overpurchasing, and I think it was the Pico that did him in. It’s $799. I asked him why he — who has never home brewed before — wanted to take the plunge. He said it was precisely because he’d never done homebrewing and he liked how simple the Pico looked. He received his machine before I did and has used it six times. He thinks the beer turns out well and is pretty happy with it, though he did say if it was something he hadn’t Kickstarted, he might not be inclined to buy it in a store.

The screen walks you through all the steps.

The PicoPaks range in price from about $21 to $30, and there are currently 41 types available in the brew marketplace. When I spoke with some of the brew masters at Pico, they said they have many more in the works as well. For them, the excitement is getting people to make beer from all over the world that they’ve never tried before. All that depends on breweries licensing their recipes, so  the company can turn them into PicoPaks. PicoBrew also wants to let customers start creating their own recipes and potentially sell them on the marketplace, with those customers getting a percentage of the sale. That would certainly inject some more creativity into the process.

Our Take

The PicoBrew Pico isn’t quite an automated beer-making machine, but it comes fairly close. It takes out much of the labor that goes into homebrewing but also some of the personalization. It doesn’t fully eliminate some of the pain points — so much hydrogen peroxide! — but is far less intimidating than old-fashioned homebrewing.

What are the alternatives?

PicoBrew actually makes another machine, the Zygomatic, which is aimed more toward professionals. It’s far larger and requires more babysitting and more work overall. But the Pico has some competition for the amateur, automated homebrewer: the MiniBrew is on Indiegogo right now, and there’s also the Brewie. Both are more expensive than the Pico. The former is closer in spirit to the Pico, while the latter is more like the Zygomatic. Depending on where you live, you might also be able to pick up a comparable six-pack at the corner store.

How long will it last?

The Pico seems pretty well-made, though I did have some sort of software issue in addition to the pumping problem. Basically, I got an error that wasn’t really an error, according to the Pico customer support team. To keep it in tip-top shape, the responsibility is on you to clean it really well. But to survive and thrive, PicoBrew really needs to get a glut of breweries to sign on to making PicoPaks. Forty-one varieties is a good start, and they should definitely keep the focus on the unique and hard-to-get. My favorite beer of all time is one I can’t buy in the U.S. anymore, so if PicoBrew can get Beamish on board with making a PicoPak, I’d be thrilled.

Should I buy it?

If you have a lot of money but not a lot of time and are looking for a new hobby, the PicoBrew will definitely keep you entertained — especially if you’re rich enough to hire someone to do the cleaning for you.

Product Review

You don't need Alexa in your microwave, but you'd be surprised what she can do

Amazon has added to its long portfolio of products with the AmazonBasics Microwave, a small appliance that works with Alexa. We took the microwave for a test drive to find out more.
DT Daily

Comedian Craig Conant discusses sobriety, comedy, and throwing fireworks at cops

From throwing firecrackers at mounted police to doing stand-up gigs in Los Angeles' biggest clubs, Craig Conant has lived an interesting life. He talked to DT Daily host Greg Nibler about all that and more.
Home Theater

How to make your TV squeaky clean for not much green

Not sure how to clean the LCD, OLED, or plasma display that's the cornerstone of your living room? You don't need to buy expensive cleaning solutions to clean your TV -- we'll teach you how to do it with simple household items.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Smart Home

Wynd’s new air-purifying bundle lets smart home owners breathe easier

Wynd is already well known in the tech industry for its popular Kickstarter-backed air purifier and now the company is launching two new products designed to improve air quality to inform smart home owners.
Smart Home

Google Assistant adds smart home bells and whistles in time for the holidays

Just in time for the holidays, Google Assistant is introducing a bunch of new smart home features, including the ability to reply to broadcast messages, create and use cookbooks, and access enhanced storybook content for kids.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…

Xfinity indoor/outdoor camera zooms in on Grinch’s faces and license plates

Comcast's Xfinity Home security cameras can help the police catch Grinches who steal delivery packages from your home. The cameras use artificial intelligence to analyze moving objects and zoom in on faces at your door and license plates.
Smart Home

Airbnb hosts are offering free rooms to those displaced by California wildfires

Several thousand Airbnb hosts in California are opening their homes to help those displaced by the devastating wildfires in the state. Free accommodation is being offered to those affected through November 29.
Smart Home

Here's our comparison of the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View

Looking for the right smart display? We're comparing the Lenovo Smart Display vs. JBL Link View, two excellent smart displays that are made for different audiences. Here's what you need to know about both displays and what they do.

Shop early Black Friday deals on Philips Hue products from Amazon, today only

Avoid the Black Friday hassle and shop great online deals. Amazon is offering huge discounts on refurbished Philips Hue smart lighting products to help light your home. For today only, you can grab a range of smart home tech from Amazon.