back to article Former Microsoftie in AUTOMATIC BEER MAKER funding plea

A pair of boozy ex-Microsoft employees have embarked on a mission to bring homebrewing to the masses with a machine that supposedly makes brewing a beer as easy as making an espresso. Bill Mitchell and his brother Jim launched the Picobrew Zymatic on Kickstarter, where it has quickly racked up orders. The project began on 30 …

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  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Only a country that thinks Starbucks is coffee could come up with the idea of press-button beer. The result will probably be yellow, fizzy & contain alcohol, and served so cold you won't be able to taste it anyway. Defining it as Beer is pushing their luck.

    Sorry, no bad MS puns come to mind.

    1. eJ2095

      Weatherspoons Beer

      So it will taste like Weatherspoon Carling or Fosters then..

    2. Naich

      As well as the generic piss, there is a large market for craft beer in America. They have invested a lot in developing new strains of hops which have revitalised the real ales available in this country.

      1. David Cantrell

        No, there isn't a large market. There are a great many tiny producers of good beer, but that isn't the same thing at all. Decent beer (which isn't just real ale, of course) accounts for less than 10% of the market.

    3. Cliff

      'Leave overnight to carbonate at 20psi'

      From the kickstarter page - this is the bit that convinces me we're not making the good stuff here. If you need to carbonate you're making pop, not beer.

      Wonder how it could be adapted to make a decent pint, though?

    4. hitmouse

      Actually Starbucks outlets in and around Seattle are generally pretty good.

      As a rule of thumb, the further you get from there the worse, but Britain has made it especially awful.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "As a rule of thumb, the further you get from there the worse, but Britain has made it especially awful."

        You've also experienced how Britain took the idea of fast food, and then eliminated the one single point of the product, then? Worst of all is when you get to a McD's and find the staff are all British natives. At least if they're all Polish or foreign students you stand a chance of getting your food quickly.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Press button beer....like the Germans have?

      This has been done....http://www.speidels-braumeister.de/

  2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    A few other ingredients

    water, yeast and TIME...lots of time.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: A few other ingredients

      "Shtop! This Ex-M$ beer is not ready!"

    2. The Man Himself Silver badge

      Re: A few other ingredients

      "water, yeast and TIME...lots of time."

      Or, Water and lots & lots of yeast to get the job done in far less time....probably resulting in a substandard brew IMHO. I've seen some wine kits which claim to complete fermentation in not many days, basically by putting tons of yeast in which will chew through the sugars in next to no time

    3. RainForestGuppy

      Re: A few other ingredients

      Water, Yeast and time is not enough, you need a starch source for the yeast to act on.

      Hence you need malt from Barley (or wheat, rice etc), and some hops to give it flavour would be nice. **

      ** not if you used to drinking Budweiser (US), Fosters, Carling etc you're probably not used to flavour.

  3. Roger Greenwood

    I'm not as thunk as you drink I am.

  4. Ken Y-N
    Pint

    Only brews beer up to 3.7% ABV

    Because 6.40 degrees proof ought to be enough for anybody.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Susceptible to viruses *AND* bacteria

      "New type of yeast detected - no suitable driver found. Allow Picobrew Zymatic to connect to the Internet and download it?"

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only brews beer up to 3.7% ABV

      I know it's nitpicking, but I can't help myself ...

      3.7% ABV = 6.475 degree proof UK or 7.4 proof US

      1. Moosh
        Pint

        Re: Only brews beer up to 3.7% ABV

        Why is the "proof" measurement even used?

        Some idiots I know think that you can't get alcohol as strong as 80+% because "it would kill you and/or make you go blind" and that antyhing with that high a content is instead only 80 proof. They also think that whisky, scotch et al is instead only 40 proof.

        1. Timo

          Re: Only brews beer up to 3.7% ABV

          I always understood "proof" to be determined so that "100 proof" was the point of flammability. 50% alcohol by volume in a liquid is what it takes to set said mix on fire.

          You can find in some places "Bacardi 151" rum that is 151 proof, or roughly 75% alcohol. Used to make many different kinds of flaming shot drinks. The shot is often set on fire and served up or dumped into another mixer for effect.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Only brews beer up to 3.7% ABV

            I remember hearing that it wasn't the inflammability of the spirit itself, but that of gunpwder with spirits poured over it. If the liquid was less than "proof" the gunpower wouldn't burn. Why that was a useful test I don't know!

            "proof" is 50% by volume in the US, 57.1% in the UK.

  5. Joseph Bryant

    puns?

    "an XP corker or a Vista damp squib. (Vulture Central's backroom gremlins welcome more terrible MS/beer puns"

    Are those even puns to start with? Or have you just put some MS-related words near some booze-related words?

  6. Sebastian Brosig
    Pint

    I expect "fully-automatic home-brewed" beer to be at best mediocre like "automatic breadmaker" bread. Not a patch on the real crafted product (be it liquid or solid bread).

    I advocate a better system: mains distruibution from your friendly round-the-corner microbrewery, taps "hot", "cold" and "beer" at the kitchen sink.

    Cheers

    1. Sporkinum

      Maybe you can use it like the breadmaker. Mix, raise and proof the dough, and then shape and bake as normal. BTW, breadmaker bread is good stuff, except the loaf has a couple of holes in the bottom due to the mixing paddles.

  7. jungle_jim

    Real men drink real ale

    I am waiting for the bunch that will berate anything that is not ale.

    I love a good pint of ale as much as the next man - but there is are occasions when a cold lager hits the spot too!

    There will probably be an open source version along soon that does a passable ale anyway.

    1. tsdadam

      Re: Real men drink real ale

      I'm an ale drinker, and I love a lager too, but a _good_ lager. Even a simple comparison between something like a bottle of Budvar and a bottle of Coors or Budweiser will show you that lager can taste of something other than brown and water.

      Ironically though, making a lager is MUCH more involved and needs much more time and care than knocking out a pale ale.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Real men drink real ale

        "Ironically though, making a lager is MUCH more involved and needs much more time and care than knocking out a pale ale."

        Boots used to do a home brew lager kit. Boil up the golden gloop with water, add yeast, ferment, bottle. Job done. Wait 10 days if you have the willpower, drink in 1 night, throw up in 5 minutes. Rinse and repeat. A 70's teenager's dream. Don't think Boots do them anymore. Kids of today!

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Real men drink real ale

          Boots don't (as far as I know) but Wilkinson's do.

          Signed, a happy Vulture. Hic!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Real men drink real ale

          "Boots used to do a home brew lager kit. Boil up the golden gloop with water, add yeast, ferment, bottle."

          It's all still out there, but not from Boots. From the "one box and add sugar" kits (even sold in larger Tescos), up to some quite passably beers made with full malt extract. Not the real McCoy for one moment, but with a bit of care and a very modest investment you can prepare a home brew from a kit that you can serve to friends without shame. I've got a Tarwebier conditioning in bottles as I type.

          As in the days of yore, the same rule applies: If you're adding sugar (sucrose, that is) then the end result will be piss.

  8. Great Bu
    Coat

    A fatal error has occured in module drink_beer_lots - the operator has stopped responding.

    Please call ambulance and reboot brewery.

  9. Sir Barry
    Pint

    BEER!

    That is all.

    Hic.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    push button beer, not

    From their Kickstarter page :

    "In about 3 1/2 hours your keg will be no longer filled with water -- it will contain beer wort (unfermented beer). At this point you just need to detach the keg from the machine (remove the hoses from the keg posts), chill the keg to room temperature (a 5G bucket of ice-water works well), add yeast and then seal the keg with an air-lock keg lid. Your beer will ferment in the keg you brewed it in in (typically) 5 days to 1 week. "

    So, not exactly a push button experience. Looks like it boils up the wort for you - but that's about it. After reading the article, I was expecting a machine where you insert a bottle of raw alcohol in one end, a bottle of 'flavouring' in the other other, a soda stream CO2 cylinder up its jacksie and, hey presto, beer at the push of a button.

    Alternatively, you could push buttons on your keyboard and have beer delivered to your door in hours.

    1. Richard 22
      Thumb Up

      Re: push button beer, not

      Having helped a friend with his home brewery, producing the beer wort is the tedious part of the process - there's an awful lot of waiting around while water heats up, drains through the malt, heats up again for boiling with the hops. It's a tedious process and is only really worthwhile bothering if you're making a fairly large amount. A machine which took the tedium out of that process would allow smaller batches to be made. Beer doesn't really keep more than a few days once tapped, so making smaller quantities would be great for home use and experimentation with flavours (mixtures of malts, types of hops etc). I wonder how flexible it would be on when to add hops etc though (eg can you add most during the boil and a few at the end for extra bitterness).

      Just because it comes from a machine doesn't have to mean there's no art involved in the process. Sounds interesting to me.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: push button beer, not

      Years ago I saw a big copper microcontroller-powered hombrew kettle that was built around a one-vat process, that would allegedly do everything. There was the option to draw off the wort to do a keg fermentation so that you could get another brew going.

      So I'm curious as to how this qualifies as something really new.

      On the other hand, if they have genuinely managed to implement a perfectly repeatable process, then we might see similar technology (on a slightly larger scale, naturally) slowly penetrating into smaller pubs -- a supply of fresh, additive-free beer might go down quite nicely....

  11. Ralph B

    Seen it advertised in GTA V

    Pißwasser Beer!

  12. tsdadam

    Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

    As any all-grain homebrewer will tell you, getting the wort out of the grain is only half the job.

    There's no provision for chilling the wort (throw it in a bucket of ice...), and the fermentation is treated as something trivial that happens afterward. Temperature control during fermentation is just as important as the rest of the brew. This machine never even gets to a full boil, and starts at about 50% efficiency, I get better from my £30 home-made mash tun and £150 boiler.

    Four weeks is the bare minimum I would expect to get anything even approaching a nice beer into a glass, but they reckon you can drink it after a week?? Then they talk about adding the kegs to your kegerator for serving. Anyone who goes to the trouble of building a kegerator isn't going to be too bothered by doing a full mash.

    I suppose it could be useful for making up small test batches of a recipe, but that's as far as I'd go. For the cost of one of these you could easily put together a 23 litre all-grain setup and buy enough grain, hops and yeast to make beer until the end of the world :) Brewing's a labour of love, it takes time.

    1. Don Jefe
      Pint

      Re: Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

      If you're a home brewer then you enjoy brewing. There are certainly plenty of decent options ready made if you just want to get to the drinking.

      The brewing isn't the hard part anyway. It takes time, but it certainly isn't difficult. The hard part is the sterilization of the equipment. That's a bugger and there is no room for error. I don't see how this gadget is going to help with that. It might even exacerbate the issue.

      1. phil dude
        Thumb Up

        Re: Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

        fully agree. Before I was a biochemist I made beer at high school and uni. We had a small "cooperative" so we had 4 "barrels" brewing at a time. Makes for quite the party. Helps to have hands to "wash" stuff though....

        What I really wish I had had as an undergraduate was the autoclave I now have a biochemist...

        As a thinking point, since many American beers are pasteurised, perhaps that is how they solve the problem. Notice that since the yeast is added after the heating, if the temperature reaches 170F I'd say that is pasteurised. Anyone else?

        keeping things hot, then cold it may prevent the growth of undesirables...

        Wibbly barrels, not quite clean bottles and stirring with the wrong thing caused most of the problems...;-)

        P.

        1. tsdadam

          Re: Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

          @phil dude: Are you talking about boiling the wort, or pasteurising the bottled/canned finished beer?

          If you're talking about boiling the wort, the yeast is always added after the heating. I boil my wort for at least 60 minutes (more often 90) on a strong rolling boil. It does what you're talking about but also drives off Dimethyl Sufides (DMS) responsible for nasty tastes, and helps isomerize the bittering oils in the early hops.

          Beer is naturally pretty resistant to nasties once it's fermented. In fact, even while it's fermenting it's pretty hardy. The thick foam (krausen) forms a natural barrier, and from then on there's a nice layer of CO2 sat on top of the beer. The PH change in the beer helps make sure nothing nasty takes hold too.

          Pasteurisation of beer is a bad thing if you ask me. Hop flavours and smells aren't as good, and it can taste a bit... old.

          (sorry if I got the wrong end of the stick, I'm not trying to tell a microbiologist his stuff :) )

          1. phil dude
            Pint

            Re: Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

            I am referring to the former, and hinting at the latter ;-) By boiling the wort you will be pasteurising the mix. If yeast is added and then the system is sealed it would stay reasonably uncontaminated (not sterile you understand...) and ferment just fine.

            I agree that pasteurisation of beer (and cheese! ) in the US may be based upon unwarranted litigation and relieve things of any flavour. But if you knew a bit more about food poisoning clinical outcomes, a bit of caution is not a bad thing. Let us not forget that in near minimum wage massive industrial facilities the lowest common denominator wins, and keeping things clean on a large scale is expensive. Better to give a massive vat a "bit of a treatment" in the bottling plant, as it mitigates the possibility of contamination being propagated (milk,beer,fruit juice...).

            As I alluded to previously sticking external implements INTO mix is nearly always the cause of problems. If not for the implements themselves but the "opening to the atmosphere" requirement can ruin many experiments. You wash your hands because you hope everyone else washes theirs - nothing is quiet so dangerous as someone else's bugs....;-)

            Drinking the ale in Oxford is very different from "beer" in America. Until you realise they pasteurise a lot of beers, especially in bottles but I wonder if not also kegs? I have an suspicion that perhaps it is the ethanol tolerant microbes that makes ales more palatable/digestible in the UK.

            I do like American IPAs bit, but they are a bit acidic in quantity...but I think I can see where these guys are coming from, at least from a "make beer" point of view.

            If more people did, the world would be a better place ;-)

            P.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

        "The hard part is the sterilization of the equipment. "

        Bloody hell, what equipment are you using, rocks and wood? Sterilising plastics, glass, stainless steel and aluminium is a piece of pee - bleach, rinse, rinse, rinse and you're done.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts

          'Hard' in comparison to the rest of the brewing process. Not hard as in giving a cat a bath or digging holes for body parts fence posts.

  13. Goldmember

    "Home beer brewing takes entirely too much time, is too imprecise, and frankly, when you account for all of the clean-up, is not all that fun,"

    I've never brewed my own due to a lack of space, but I imagine I'd get a great deal of satisfaction from putting in the effort and eventually working out how to create a decent brew. You know, doing it properly and persevering until it's done right?

    That little quote pretty much sums up America though, doesn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I've never brewed my own due to a lack of space, but I imagine I'd get a great deal of satisfaction from putting in the effort and eventually working out how to create a decent brew. You know, doing it properly and persevering until it's done right?"

      Welcome to the world of country wines, my son. No need for hundreds of beer bottles, just a single demijohn, and six wine bottles. Cheap, compact, easy, and yet challenging. Rose petal wine is a personal favourite, but I'm also persevering in my efforts to make good wine from tetra pak juice, with some very good results from pineapple or orange juices.

  14. Crisp Silver badge

    The Nescafe of beers.

    I don't see it working that well myself. I brew my own beer, and it's already pretty damn simple. Hop syrup, sugar, malt, hot water, yeast, and wait a week. Bottle it, then wait another week.

    All that waiting gives the yeast time to turn all that sugar into tasty tasty alcohol, but even more time is needed to let the yeast settle and condition the beer. The yeast need to consume all the micro-nutrients to produce the deep rich flavour of the beer.

    I imagine a machine like this producing a kind of artificial drink almost but not quite entirely unlike beer.

  15. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Pint

    meh!

    Due to our water supply not being drinkable for three years the whole neighbourhood got unlimited free bottled mineral water.

    It came in shrink-wrapped 6x2 litre plastic bottles and soon everyone had the same idea.

    1. Carefully cut the shrink-wrap from around the caps.

    2. Pour the mineral water into your bucket until full, then immediately replace the caps.

    3. Wait a week.

    4. Syphon the beer back into the sterile bottles.

    5. Put your easily stackable shrink-wrapped bottles into the shed.

    6. Wait a month

    7. Drink beer, no need to wash bottles, throw them away!

    8. Repeat

  16. Pete the not so great

    Combine it with a teasmaid

    Perfect wake up accompaniment

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Combine it with a teasmaid

      A beermaid at your bedside?

      1. Crisp Silver badge

        Re: Combine it with a teasmaid

        SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

  17. BeerTokens

    Credit where credits due

    That is a nice bit of kit, if you had watched the vid you would see that all the hops etc are added automatically.

    A lot of the brewing process was left out of the video and description but they do look like they know what they are doing, also there is a massive micro/home brewing foloowing in the US.

    My problem is the price for nearly $1500 you could make your own with a greater capacity and control. The problem being if I were to try out home brewing to see if it was for me, that is too much and I could get away with a bucket and a large pot for £50.00 then if I thought it was for me the next step would be to upgrade my kit. Now do I spend $1500 on an automagical one with a low yeild or do I go the whole hog and get a propper full grain set up now I know what I am doing? http://www.ebay.com/bhp/all-grain-brewing (an american site to give a better price comparision)

    Don't get me wrong if someone gave me one for keeps the shed would be used for storing stuff as it should be and I would be watching the TV as my beer brewed.

    1. Timo

      Re: Credit where credits due

      @BeerTokens - I completely agree. A person can make great beer with around $100 of equipment. $250 will get you pretty far into all-grain. The beer from this machine isn't going to to be 15 times better than that.

      My take on this is that it's a gadget that moneyed folk will buy for bragging rights. First big warning sign is that you can personalize it or customize the color or startup screen. And so for the people that buy these as a home-fashion accessory, the novelty will wear off quickly. Then it might be time to find one on the second-hand market.

  18. Stoneshop Silver badge

    3.5 hours

    Well, for turning barley into fluids it's quicker than a horse, but the result will be much the same

  19. ChristopherPontac

    Possibly the best idea in the world.

  20. hitmouse

    Will it come in a Blue Bottle of Death?

  21. severs1966

    Tea on tap

    Can a UK-based team of developers please invent a tap that dispenses tea on demand?

    A bit like the ones that already exist for boiling (or very very nearly boiling) water.

    Sorry for the sudden change of subject, but I feel that this would be a greater contribution to civilisation than increasing the ready availability of beer.

    Or do both!

    1. Shrimpling

      Re: Tea on tap

      You mean a Tea Urn?

      I think somebody has already invented that.

  22. Tony Green

    Come back when...

    ... you can use it to make beer as good as the monks at St Sixtus in Westvleteren do it.

  23. Solly
    Joke

    Don't take the piss out of MS Beer...

    ...They'll be nothing left in the glass

    1. BeerTokens

      Re: Don't take the piss out of MS Beer...

      You say MS Beer but did you see the mac in the video and I bet that board is not running a version of embedded MS software!

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    Putting the "homebrew" back into "homebrew engineering."

    Seriously it's the time factor I can't figure out.

    I heard of some idea of exposing it to ultrasound to speed up the process but I'm doubtful.

  25. Irongut

    Trust Americans to take the fun out of homebrew.

    Well one of the fun parts anyway.

  26. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Unhappy

    A few weeks too late to help SchraderBrau.....

    Hank might not have been impressed anyway.

  27. bed

    BSOD

    The Brewery Scream Of Death. It does seem that Microsoft anticipated this device, just look at the list of system Error Codes: ERROR_OUTOFMEMORY, ERROR_NOT_SAME_DEVICE, ERROR_BAD_YEAST, ERROR_OUT_OF_HOPS, ERROR_HANDLE_TUN_FULL, ERROR_BAD_DEV_TYPE, ERROR_CANNOT_MAKE, and, of course, ERROR_VESSEL_OVERFLOW. Meanwhile, here is one I made earlier http://www.brewuk.co.uk/store/ag-equipment/brewing-systems/micro100l.html

  28. kiwi.paul

    we were there first

    and yet again New Zealand got there first: http://www.williamswarn.com/

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: we were there first

      There's a problem, though: the single-container construction means you won't be able to start batch n+1 until you've finished batch n, leaving a 7-day gap in the beer supply. Disaster!

  29. Hud Dunlap
    Joke

    Am I the only who noticed the computer was an iMac?

    I guess the old Microsoft guys know what a good computer is.

  30. jukejoint

    I don't drink beer but I am An Authority

    First off, that GTA V Pi$wasser commercial, Pi$$ed me off. It violates the old rule of 'only you (a family member) - can call your brother fat' - for others the statement is a thrown gauntlet. On the other hand, it goes nicely along with our motto of 'America - F*ck Yeah!'

    Secondly, I don't drink beer yet my other half does, and has been home-brewing at our home with a partner for almost 3 years, first started with 5 US gallons now brewing 10 US gallons at a time. (I looked it up - approx 8.3 UK imperial gallons). The process of brewing takes almost a workday and they usually barbecue many delicious items for lunch while they're waiting, and sample a bottle of two of their former brews for readiness, if recently brewed and fermented; and for joy, as they sample their older brews. Each gets about 48 bottles or pints to himself after every time. They ferment for about 2 weeks, then test, and bottle/label the beers and let them rest another 6 weeks.

    Their setup is made up of rubber hoses, thingamajigs, heating kettle, carboys, all kinds of stuff which they sterilize and use over and over. They will laugh themselves silly over this article and the description of its brewing and price. I think their biggest expense was the large kettle with taps/connectors, whatever they are, and it was around 100 US.

    They have a tasting party every year and a number of people come to sip samples in a blind tasting and choose their favorites as the guys make all kinds - IPAs, and lagers, and red ales or whatever the heck they all are, dark and light. They always brew from grains/hops and create their own recipes and labels. The winner of the tasting for the year is brewed in November for their 'Anniversay' brew.

    Also - they cart their equipment outside to brew because our lovely home is very space-limited with a big yard. Then all inside to sterilize stuff, bottle & cap when ready, and label. Our downstairs bathroom is a bit spacious & so kept temp-controlled and is the 'fermentation room'. (It used to be the darkroom).

    Since my beverage of choice is wine or liquor when I indulge, ours is a marriage made in heaven. The guys give it away to their friends and bring it to parties and celebrations. The only time one of their brews failed came after a year of brewing and they made an additonal brew for a wedding - it turned out flat, we use it for a marinade. The couple received another gift instead (weren't told in case they were superstitious).

    Aside from that, I detest crowdfunding appeals from people who are financially fine. Unbelievable that they have raised that amount of money. Especially for stupid-a$$ consumer crap that makes its own crap.

  31. Peter2412

    Nice try but.........

    Brewers make wort and yeast makes beer, this machines seems to offer to save time and produce great beer. I would not be investing a penny until I had tasted the beer, unfortunately we can't just download a pint from the sales pitch. The beer making process has evolved to its current state for a reason, not to mention the thousands of man years spent refining the process. This may well be a step on, but it looks like too many compromises have been made to cater to the bread makers who want to up grade. Fermenting and drinking from the same vessel, which looks like it includes the hot break materiel is like eating oranges without peeling them. What you get will defiantly taste of oranges, but you'll also get other things as well. The efficiencies are poor and all for 16 pints. This seems like an expensive way into brewing for non brewers. Whats the fun in making something as wonderful as beer if you don't have a clue about how you made it or why you made it especially if you have shelled out a shed load of cash on a black box.. Unfortunately brewing is something that you need to interface with or the in-to-face experience will probably disappoint.

  32. Nasty Nick
    Pint

    Drink and wait for the...

    Beer Scream of Death!

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