PicoBrew’s newest beer-making machine is easier to use and costs under $300

picobrew pico model c
Nobody said brewing your own beer is easy, but PicoBrew has tried to automate the process with its beer makers. With each succession, the appliances have gotten smaller and easier to use, and its newest device, the Pico Model C, is the most user-friendly version yet.

Physically, the device isn’t noticeably smaller than the original Pico, but to help lower the cost, it utilizes a black powder-coated body instead of a stainless steel one, and the OLED display is two lines, so it won’t display the same graphics as the Pico. The bigger differences lie in the keg, which loses the ball-locks that some users found confusing.

“We took the opportunity with the keg to target it a little more toward the new brewer,” Bill Mitchell, PicoBrew’s CEO, told Digital Trends. “It lowers the cost of the product, but it also makes it simpler.” Though it will eventually retail for $549, the Kickstarter campaign drops the price to $279 for very early backers.

The new keg also has a new shape. Though it has the same 1.75-gallon capacity as the old brewing keg, this one is more squat and easier to clean.

“The dip tube is similar to the dip tube you have in a smoothie cup,” said Mitchell. PicoBrew actually looked at smoothie cups for inspiration in order to make something intuitive and dishwasher-safe. The Model C works with the same PicoPacks as the original, and it still makes beer in two hours (this of course doesn’t include the week or so it takes to ferment and carbonate).

The machine recognizes exactly what pack you’ve put in, and it will adjust its settings accordingly. When the machine is helping you out, there’s very little guesswork involved, but there are still some mysteries that go into homebrewing that PicoBrew wants to solve.

Follow the fermentation

One of PicoBrew’s goals is to make novices into beer connoisseurs by teaching them about the whole brewing process. While the original Pico’s directions were mostly easy to follow, the company decided to make an app.

“One of the bits of feedback we got was during the brewing experience, everything was nice and managed, and I can watch it from my browser,” said Mitchell. “Then I’m done brewing and then what?”

picobrew pico model cWith the BeerPulse app, brewers will be able to get a clearer understanding of what happens to their beer during the racking, fermentation, and carbonation phases. Mitchell compared it to having a Tamagotchi: “Your beer is a living thing, so take care of it.”

Thanks to the original Pico, the company realized newbie brewers were having issues with fermentation. They’d be using the fast fermentation method, and without a good idea of what was going on inside the keg, they’d decide it was done before it really was. They were following the chart provided by PicoBrew, but sometimes the cold temperatures in their kitchen would slow the process. The beer would come out tasting yeasty.

To combat the problem, the new Pico will have a low-power mode that lets it act as a temperature sensor. If brewers keep the keg nearby, the Pico can keep tabs on the ambient temperature and let them keep better tabs on the fermentation process. Mitchell said he hopes one day to have remote temperature sensors and hydrometers for kegs instead.

Beer-of-the-month club

The other new feature PicoBrew is rolling out with the Kickstarter campaign is its Brew Unlimited program. Aimed at those who have this brewing thing down to a science, the program provides two PicoPacks per month for $59. As soon as the machine’s RFID reader picks up that you’ve brewed one of the packs, the company will send another. If you have several kegs, you could brew several beers in a day, to get your money’s worth. PicoBrew expects to have around 200 beers by the end of the month.

Recently, the company introduced its FreeStyle packs, so users can choose which grains and hops they want to make into beer.

“To me, that’s the pinnacle of what we’re trying to get customers to do,” said Mitchell. He wants to convert wine drinkers who discuss terroir and tannins to opt for beer that’s perfectly suited to their meal.

Speaking of pairing with food, the Model C actually has the advantage over the old Pico when it comes to sous vide. There will be a special program on the new version, and you’ll be able to throw your bag of food right into the keg. The machine will circulate the water in and out to keep it a consistent temperature. Maybe one day the BrewPulse app will be able to recommend a great beer to go with that sous vided salmon.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Racing drones and robotic ping pong trainers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Expect to see a lot more from IKEA in the smart home sector

IKEA is doubling down on its smart home efforts with the formation of a new business unit dedicated to the sector. The Swedish company said the move marks its biggest commitment to a single product line in more than 20 years.

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Smart Home

New Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo models vacuum and mop with multi-floor mapping

Ecovacs Robotics launched two new robotic home floor care models. The Deebot Ozmo 920 and Deebot Ozmo 950 add new laser-based navigation and multi-floor mapping capabilities combine robotic vacuuming and mopping for total floor cleaning.

Locate a runaway pet with the Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker, now $64 on Amazon

A good way to monitor your pet’s movements is through a GPS tracker. A great option is the Whistle 3, which is available on Amazon for only $64 as an early Prime Day deal. It’s normally sold for $80, so you get $16 savings.
Smart Home

Google Assistant’s reminders will soon nag your significant other for you

Let Google take the heat for all that nagging: Google Assistant will soon allow you to assign reminders to others. The feature will roll out to Google Assistant-enabled phones, speakers, and displays over the next few weeks.
Buying Guides

Back to school smart home gadgets under $50 for your dorm

Today’s students are accustomed to a high-tech lifestyle, which they'll want to maintain when they start college. But they're also strapped for cash, so these back to school smart home gadgets under $50 for the dorm are perfect!
Smart Home

Startup Camect is on track to deliver a private, unified smart camera hub

It's not every day you run across a crowdfunded startup that has raised nearly three times its goal but startup Camect has done just that to fund the development of a secure smart camera hub expected to launch in 2020.
Smart Home

Smart thermostats explained: How they work and how they save you money

Thinking of buying a smart thermostat, but don't know exactly what you're looking for? We explain how smart thermostats work, the features they offer, and how they can save you money.
Smart Home

The best pet tech products on the market for dog and cat owners

Pet-centric tech has come a long way in the past decade. From self-cleaning litter boxes to DNA tests designed to trace your pup's ancestry through the ages, here is some of the best pet tech available.
Smart Home

Amazon and Walmart match lower prices on Echo Dot and Google Home Mini

Amazon and Walmart resumed their price competition on the entry-level smart speakers for the Amazon Echo and Google Nest Home smart home ecosystems. The price cuts have started with 40% discounts on the Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini.
Smart Home

Alexa’s Custom Interfaces hope to augment gadgets, games, and smart toys

Alexa is growing smarter again with a new feature for developers called Custom Interfaces. The feature is aimed at augmenting interactivity between users of Alexa-powered devices like Amazon's Echo and developer's newest products.
Smart Home

Your smart oven might be more ready for breakfast than you realize

Several owners of the June Smart Oven have reported the device turning on and preheating in the middle of the night without any input. June says this is due to user error, but customers are concerned.