About this project
THANK YOU BACKERS, FOR AN AMAZING KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN! IF YOU MISSED OUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN, PLEASE COME SEE US AT PICOBREW.COM!!!
Seattle Times - "... produce a never-ending supply of absolutely top-notch beer, in any style and flavor you can imagine"
USA Today - "...the at-home beer brewing system PicoBrew looks very timely"
CNET - "Just add water, grain, and hops. The PicoBrew Zymatic can serve up your homemade brew with minimal hassle and cleaning"
Washington Beer Blog - "Their beers had all of the consistencies and flavors of any professionally brewed craft beer"
Medium - "Here's a little box that could change the beer world forever"
Fast Company - "There is clearly a big potential market for the Zymatic"
RedOrbit - "Tech news sites have hailed the Zymatic as a modern marvel while large breweries have taken to using the machine to try out new batches"
GeekWire - "...one of the more badass Kickstarter campaigns we’ve seen..."
PennyArcade - "I back a lot of hardware on Kickstarter.... But there’s a marked difference between what they’re pitching here and what I usually see."
ARS Technica - "... takes the legwork out of home-brewing"
DudeIWantThat - "Even at a $1,600 investment, it would really only take about 6 weeks of home brewing for me to recoup the cost of a PicoBrew Zymatic in consumed beer."
CoolThings - "No more complicated microbrewery setups in the basement -- just a simple tabletop rig you can set up conveniently in the kitchen."
The Drainage - "F...ing Cool : PicoBrew Zymatic: Automatic Beer Brewing Appliance"
The Verge - "The PicoBrew Zymatic is the Nespresso of beer brewing"
Stretch Goal Summary
10/29/2013 Last Stretch Goal - Thank you Zymatic(TM) hardware-level backers! The support you've shown has been overwhelming, and we're happy to announce that you've earned all 4 stretch goal rewards! We have 18 hours to go and we've already had unprecedented support, but if we can top 650K we want to throw a little party: a PicoBrew Backer Bash!
10/24/2013 Stretch Goal #4 - Thank you again! Well, you earned it: a spare Keg Lid and Airlock for all Zymatic(tm)-level backers! Looks like we're well on our way to another big milestone too -- 600k! There are still 5 days to go, so here's what we're going to do. We have a special "keg accessory pack" that we were planning on selling separately -- we're now going to throw that in with your Zymatics if/when we hit 600k in pledges.
10/19/2013 Stretch Goal #3: 500K! - Thank you for your votes on the 500K Stretch Goal Reward! The votes were strongly in favor of a spare keg lid and airlock so upon reaching 500K we'll be adding this to all machines that ship (in addition to the fermenting lid + airlock already included).
10/16/2013 Stretch Goal #2: 400K! – We will now be including sampling ports with all machines. We think you’re going to love ‘em! This is what we use every day in the lab to draw our samples.
10/11/2013 International Reward Level – We’re pleased to announce that we are adding an International Reward Level! We are making the PicoBrew Zymatic™ available now in 110v or 220v versions to ship to your international location (non-Us and Canada).
10/06/2013 Stretch Goal #1: 300K! – Thanks to your great support we are able to include a custom keg-cozy with all PicoBrew machines! Why a custom keg cozy instead of off-the-shelf? Turns out that slipping those off-the-shelf cozies on/off the kegs is not so easy (think sliding a sweater on/off a hot stainless-steel wiener-dog!) So ours opens up via either snaps or a zipper (we’re testing both as we speak to see what works best).
10/1/2013 Wow, 100% of Goal in 34 hours! – We’re very excited and humbled by the amount of support you’ve shown for PicoBrewing! It’s just been overwhelming! We’re so lucky to have such great support (and to have the ability to crank out kegs of our favorite beers on demand!). Thank you Kickstarters!
Why can't we brew beer at home as easily as we can make a loaf of bread with a bread-maker, or a shot of espresso with an automatic espresso machine? Making quality beer this easily: that was the dream 3 years ago, and we're proud to announce that after thousands of man hours of R&D, we've made that dream a reality in the form of the PicoBrew Zymatic(tm).
So how does one PicoBrew anyway? We're glad you asked! PicoBrewing is a quicker and more enjoyable way to brew! The basic steps are simply creating (or borrowing) a recipe, loading ingredients into a container we call the "step filter", and selecting the recipe to brew using the rotary encoder on the front panel of your PicoBrew Zymatic(tm).
After 18+ years as an executive at Microsoft leading pioneering efforts in PDAs, smartphones, automotive and wearable computing I know a thing or two about creating computing appliances. Jim has spent much of the last two decades building innovative food processing plants in CA, following in the footsteps of our grandfather, Dr. William Mitchell, inventor of Pop Rocks, Tang and other fun foods.
We got to work quickly in early 2010 and began building a succession of Proof of Concept (POC) systems based on an off-the-shelf Arduino-based controller, off-the-shelf pumps, relays, valves and a custom heating loop.
A succession of POC prototype machines followed as we incrementally invented a new brewing process that allowed for the pre-loading of ingredients and total hands-free automation. By late 2011 we had created a proven solution, and were ready to move to the next step: Functional Prototypes (FPs). A custom motherboard design was needed, however, and significant mechanical engineering lay between us and a shipping product.
One fateful day in the Fall of 2011 I met with my old colleague Avi Geiger at one of Seattle's great local craft breweries. Avi was a long-time Microsoft hardware architect and beer aficionado, and as luck would have it, had just left Microsoft. When I told him about what we were doing at PicoBrew he was intrigued. We quickly decided to join forces and Avi became the third PicoBrew co-founder, bringing us the perfect set of complementary new skills (electrical and mechanical engineering).
In 2012 our PicoBrew team made rapid progress on a sequence of 4 custom ATMEGA controller boards, firmware, web-side services and software. These improvements manifested themselves in Functional Prototypes 1 through 3 (FPs).
In August we started refining our process (especially mash efficiency and hops utilization) and focusing in earnest on reliability and repeat-ability testing, and we took a lease on a 4000 sqft lab/shop/office space in downtown Seattle on North Lake Union. This allowed us to move out of our home shops and into a real wet-lab and shop space and hire full-time employees, expanding our prototyping and testing capabilities tremendously. We were also able to take the final step towards manufacturing our first PicoBrew product by hand-building final Engineering Validation Test (EVT) units.
The past year has been spent mostly refining our PicoBrewing process, testing recipes, and refining prototypes of the custom parts we need as well as sourcing our necessary off-the-shelf parts. (Avi's quite the CAD-jock, but we had some great summer intern help too!)
Now, after over 3 years, thousands of man-hours of effort and over a dozen prototypes, we're almost ready to manufacture the world's most automatic all-grain home-brewing appliance!
We're excited to partner with Seattle-based designer Will Hays to bring you this artist's series of shirts as well:
Whew, It's been a long journey! We now have our machines at the final EVT (Engineering Validation Test) phase, though, and we're really excited to introduce PicoBrewing to the world! We have a few final steps before we can start manufacturing the PicoBrew Zymatic(tm), and some of them, like cutting the tools for injection molding of our step-filter, are expensive. So we need your help: Please pledge today and allow us to take these final steps to bring you the most automatic all-grain beer brewing machine at the best price we can arrange!
Thank you from the PicoBrew Team!
Risks and challenges
Like many Kickstarter projects, we face common risks associated with bringing a great new product invention to production. The main risks include:
To re-invent brewing and take it into the 21st century, we needed the diverse contributions of our founding team: Bill for the software and overall new appliance design and innovation, Jim for his background in food chemistry and food processing plant design, and Avi for his mechanical and electrical engineering expertise. Together with the rest of our team we've had the right stuff to innovate in a truly cross-disciplinary fashion as this product has required.
To create a system that brews beer at the touch of a button, we've had to re-invent the beer brewing process. Consequently we've labored over nailing down precise fluid flow rates and flow path dimensions, hops ulitlization,rates, mash efficiencies, and multiple other brewing parameters so that we could prove out the science of this new approach, and then nail the engineering.
Many Kickstarter projects run into problems when they launch before they've figured out a production plan or even designed, blueprinted and sourced all of their parts. PicoBrew founders have built a diverse array of products before from miniature smartphones to massive food processing plants. We've owned multi-million dollar product development budgets and we've built cool stuff on a shoestring. We've taken stuff to market: it's always hard, but we know how to do it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Shipping costs especially for large items like this vary dramatically by location. Its going to be cheaper for you if we handle this separately. We will ship from Seattle, WA and if you live in the continental US, we expect it will be under $100. If you are in Alaska or Hawaii it may be significantly more, but you probably know that. And if you'd like to stop by and pick it up from our office in Seattle, there will be no shipping charge at all.
We’ll also collect sales tax where we are required to by law.
After the campaign ends, you’ll be asked to log into our web site and pay the appropriate shipping charges and taxes.
Unfortunately Canadian costs are not as deterministic as domestic shipping costs, but we’ll do our best to minimize it. They may also be additional taxes and duties that we may be required to collect. If you order a Picobrew Zymatic™ shipped to Canada, we ask you to assume responsibility for all of these charges.
After the campaign ends we’ll ask you to log into our web site and pay appropriate shipping charges and taxes.
After every brew cycle, flush clean water through the machine. This takes no more than a few minutes and is the most important thing you can do to keep your machine clean and healthy.
The step filter and all its components can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Its important to use a dishwasher tab instead of standard liquid or powdered soap because they container the enzymatic cleaners that break down leftover beer wort deposits.
Every few cycles, run a cleaning cycle through the machine with a full keg of water and a dishwasher tab placed in the step filter. Follow up with a simple flush cycle to leave only clean water in the machine. We do this every five batches on our machines, but we’d also recommend this if you plan to leave the machine idle for extended periods.
As needed, run an extended cleaning cycle on the machine with the cleaning powder we provide.
The Zymatic™ connects directly to the internet so that you can control it from any web browser and not worry about whether an app is available for your platform.
The prototypes you see in our videos connect with wired ethernet. We did this initially because it’s the most reliable connection we can have. We have wireless prototypes in the lab and plan to include this feature on the shipping products, pending additional testing and regulatory approval.
We would love to. It would heat water faster and save time on the process. Unfortunately there are a wide range of regulatory and other issues we would have to deal with before shipping world wide. We hope to get there, but its not going to be until after our Kickstarter campaign.
Zymatic™ can brew up to 2.5 gallons finished beer across a very wide range of brewing systems. This is usually about 3 gallons of wort into the fermenter but depends on the recipe. The limitations are two-fold: grain capacity of the step filter, and water capacity of the keg/fermenter. For a lighter beer, its certainly possible to do a slightly larger batch. For extremely heavy beers you may get less than 2.5 gallons finished beer.
Higher gravity beers can be a challenge as they are for conventional homebrewers. We’ve brewed all-grain beers up to 1.090 O.G. in the Zymatic™, and for extremely high gravity beers you can mix some DME (dry malt extract) directly in with the rest of the grain. We’ve brewed beers up to 1.1 O.G. this way.
We’ve brewed some pretty crazy imperial stouts and IPAs on Zymatic™ right out of the box.
There are four adjunct compartments in the step filter which gives you four hopping steps, but you can always pause the machine mid-boil and swap them out for new ones if you really want to step it up.
Zymatic™ is designed to run on a standard household 15A circuit (110V). We’ll ship a GFCI-protected power cord with the machine.
No. You fill a clean keg with water and attach it to the machine. There are no external plumbing connections
Absolutely. Just add the shirt ($19 for the logo tee or $29 for the artist tee) or tasting paddle ($39) costs to your pledge and we'll have a place to note on the post-campaign survey to make sure you get the right rewards.
We usually run the fluid just below boiling temperature. The near boiling occurs in the heat exchanger, adjunct compartments and keg.Through testing we have found that there is nothing magical about boiling- it’s just traditional since beer was invented a long time before thermometers and process controls. In a conventional homebrew system, boiling is important since the temperature control is not as precise- keeping the entrie kettle at 208° steadily for an hour is impossible for most home brew systems. Also in home brew systems, a vigorous boil ensures mixing of the brew kettle. In the Zymatic™, this mixing is done by circulating the wort. We have run extensive testing for hops extraction, off flavors and clarity, and have found no detraction from running slightly less than boil.
Depends on the grain load. Typicaly 50-65% as you might expect for a spargeless system. The important part is that you don’t have to calculate this and adjust your recipes accordingly. We have taken the data from hundreds of batches to make sure that when you build a recipe using our tools, you get the beer you expect coming from the machine.
The Zymatic™ has precise temperature controls so that you, the user, can define all the temperatures throughout the brewing cycle. If you want tannins from the grain- you can pass hot water through the grain after mashing. To keep other off flavors from developing you can do multi-rest mashing, with a protein step at whatever temperature and length you desire.
For DMS, the process itself seems to be very low in production. When the liquid is dropped into the step filter for the boil stage, there is plenty of opportunity for the DMS precursors to escape.
The fact is, we have made hundreds of batches, and had many professional beer brewers come through our tasting room. They typically go through our taps trying to find that one beer that has off flavors from the brewing process. To date they walk away impressed.
Many off flavors can develop due to fermentation problems: wrong yeast, wrong temperature, or insufficient sterilization. With the sterilized keg of wort from the Zymatic™, the chances of losing a batch due to poor sanitation is vastly decreased.
Zymatic™ firmware is based on an Arduino core and the firmware will be open source. Want another brewing profile or to add some new instrument? Go for it! We'll also define a set of web service APIs to interface with.
If you pledge for any of the Zymatic™ machine levels, you’ll receive
• The Zymatic™ machine itself
• Hoses and connectors for standard ball-lock keg connection
• Power, networking, and USB cables
• User manual
• The step filter and four adjunct containers which hold your ingredients
• Replacement inline filter screen
• Our custom modified keg lid for attaching the foam collapse and airlock.
(this fits on a standard Cornelius keg)
• The foam collapser and food grade anti-foam.
• Keg insulating sleeve
• Cleaning tablets and powder
And if you are part of the pilot tiers, it also includes a new five gallon keg and an ingredients kit so that you can open the box and start brewing right away.
With the right care and feeding, Zymatic™ is designed for years of great service in the home. We are still working on our warranty and support program, but what we will guarantee is that you receive a working machine and we’ll be taking extra great care of those of you who are supporting us from the beginning.
Zymatic™ gives you near-perfect temperature control, sanitization, and a huge range of options for how and when to combine your water and ingredients. We've run hundreds of test batches to give you recipe tools that will accurately predict and help you steer towards your intended gravity, color, and IBU for typical beer styles and a simple mash. That's a pretty good start -- our first goal with Zymatic is to help professional brewers make quickly precise, repeatable, beer in small test batches. Have piles of experimental hops around and want to find out what they will taste like, or want to run a few variations on a new recipe before committing to a 10 or 500 barrel batch? load it up and press go.
But that's only where it starts.
We made the software open source and were sharing the hardware schematics for exactly this. Brewers are a crafty bunch and there's a reason the term "homebrew" is applied to a lot more things than beer. Multi-step mashes to experiment with sugar and enzyme profiles, that's already built in. You can develop intricate and unique mash schedules and run them repeatedly enough to know what makes a real difference. Want to do infinite hop editions? A few software changes will let you replace the adjunct load mid-brew and go as long as you want. You can even load up the mash compartment with a couple pounds of fresh hops. A new brewing vessel with additional compartments, go to town. You want to attach ball valves and multiple vessels for full-on decoction rig, no problem. Chillers, oxygenators, fermenting, all outside this box, though there is no limit to what you can do if you want to link things together with software. There is a ton more than "brewing" required to make amazing beer and nobody should kid themselves about this.
Having a automated brewing system doesn't make anyone a master brewer more than having an a sniper rifle makes them a master marksman. In the hands of an beginner it can still produce some very good beers by starting with someone else's recipe and eliminating some common sources of error as they start to explore brewing, and there's huge value in that.
But in the hands of a highly skilled or professional brewer we hope its an entirely different story. The point is to give you better control on the knobs you already have, and then to open up new ones to turn. What to do with that? Hopefully its making even better beer.