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​BrewBot hopes its machine will make craft-beer brewing a breeze

Hipster companies and home-brew experimenters may be able to slake their thirst for small batches of beer with little effort thanks to a Northern Ireland startup's $4,000 automated system.

The BrewBot, designed to ease beer making, costs $4,000 on Kickstarter. The post-Kickstarter price hasn't been set yet.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

DUBLIN -- Today, swanky offices offer employees high-end coffee machines as a job perk. Tomorrow, if a startup called BrewBot gets its way, a beer-making machine might stand next to it.

The company, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, plans to begin selling its brewing machines in early 2016, said Adam Robertson, vice president of product at BrewBot. The company was brewing a batch at the Web Summit tech conference here, but those who want to try it themselves can sign up for the $4,000 device on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site. The eventual price for post-Kickstarter sales hasn't yet been set, Robertson said Tuesday, but the company hopes to find a market among hip startups and the home-brew crowd. You can currently preorder the device for around $3,400 or £2,200 including shipping.

A beer-making machine about half the height of a refrigerator may sound like a product of very limited appeal, but that's the beauty of the crowdfunding idea: It's a way to find interested customers and use their financial commitment to help bring a new product to market.

The BrewBot is a do-it-yourself product in the craft-beer movement, which embraces flavorful small-batch beers instead of mainstream brands brewed in giant vats. BrewBot tries to balance automation with manual control with its brewing system, taking care of temperature and liquid pumping on its own but using smartphone alerts to get brewers to step in when needed.

BrewBot customers can order $60 prepackaged recipes of specific beers from several established breweries.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

That intervention means a BrewBot can't run totally unattended. And since it takes a week or two to make an India pale ale and three weeks to make a stout, it's not good for the instant-gratification crowd.

Customization comes through the beer recipes, too. Through partnerships with Russian River Brewing Co., Brooklyn Brewery and others, people will be able to make their favorite beers, said Michael McKelvaney, a company programmer. A batch of ingredients costs about $60 and includes enough hops and other raw materials to produce about 20 liters of beer, he said.