I brewed two beers yesterday. It was a good day.
Like theI reviewed earlier this year (now called the Pico Model S), the PicoBrew Pico Model C turns prepackaged ingredients into beer with relatively little effort on your part.
You insert your ingredient pack -- called a PicoPak -- into a big plastic bin, put the bin into the Pico's main compartment, add distilled water and hit start. It's more involved than making a cup of coffee with a, but it's also a genuine brewing process. The PicoPaks contain the ingredients you'd expect -- malted barley, hops and yeast. Pico takes a couple of hours to cook your beer. Then you'll need to wait a couple of weeks after your initial brew while your beer ferments and carbonates.
PicoPaks cost roughly $20 a piece and produce about five liters of beer. At this point, PicoBrew sells quite a variety of PicoPaks with all different types of beer, including beers from a different countries and microbrewed beers that aren't widely distributed. Head to Picobrew's store to browse the options of beers you can make with the Pico.
For the most part, the Model C works just like the original Pico, so check outof that product and our for a more in-depth look at how Pico makes beer. The Model C differs from its predecessor in price -- it's $550 vs $800 for the Model S. The exterior of the Model C is plastic now instead of stainless steel. The display is smaller and the brewing keg is redesigned to be more user-friendly for beginners.
Both models will ship overseas. The Model C price converts to roughly £400 and AU$725. The Model S price converts to £600 and AU$1,050.
All of the changes were meant to make the machine more affordable -- $550 is a more reasonable splurge -- and to streamline the process to lower the barrier to entry for beginners. In practice, the changes didn't save me much time while brewing. Like the Pico S, you'll want to keep the instruction manual handy for your first couple of brews as you'll need to rinse the system, use the right amount of water, properly insert the PicoPak and correctly attach the brewing keg to the Pico.
Pico's display will walk you through each step. The hoses that attach to the keg are labeled and the machine handles most of the heavy lifting of the actual brewing. So once you get rolling, you'll find using Pico is mostly intuitive. Don't expect to push a button and be done a la Keurig, but the process is much simpler than brewing with more traditional analog methods. Once the machine kicks into action, you can walk away and monitor the progress of the brew on the company's site since the Pico is Wi-Fi enabled.
I did find the Model C's brewing keg easier to use than its predecessor. The Model S used a small cornelius keg -- a type of keg frequently used in homebrewing. Keeping a corny keg clean requires that you disassemble its valves and keep careful track of the small springs and pieces that make up those valves while you wash away any sediment buildup. You'll be used to that if you regularly brew at home, but it's tedious for beginners.
The top of the Model C's keg simply pops off, so I'd imagine cleaning the keg after the beer ferments will be much easier. The Pico C also makes cleanup after the brew pretty painless. The system rinses out its pipes, and you can compost the used PicoPak. I was brewing my second batch of beer within 10 minutes of finishing my first batch, but I had an extra brewing keg. The system only comes with one, which holds your beer while it ferments, so without paying for an extra keg, you'll need to wait before you start your next beer.
I still have doubts
The Pico C instructs you to leave you unfermented beer (called wort) to cool overnight before adding your yeast to kick off fermentation. That step worried me when testing the original Pico, as your beer is particularly vulnerable to infection while it cools, so common practice when brewing is to cool your hot wort as quickly as possible and then add your yeast.
Neither of the beers I brewed with the original Pico turned out well. I don't know if they got infected during that overnight step or at another point in the process. In addition to the overnight cooling, I'd also worry that the pop-off top might make it easier for the brewing keg to not be properly sealed.
Nevertheless, the wort smelled great when I added (or pitched) the yeast the next day. The Pico C hasn't made many drastic changes, but hopefully the little tweaks and streamlined features will help cut down on the risk of infection at other points in the process.
PicoBrew also has a new $60 attachment called PicoFerm which attaches to your brewing keg and monitors your wort while the yeast works. I'm testing the PicoFerm on one of the beers I'm brewing and it'll supposedly monitor the pressure of the keg and let me know when fermentation is complete.
Yesterday was a good day because I was able to brew two beers with very little work on my part. I'm hoping it'll be an even better day in a couple of weeks, when I get to try the beers and see how they turned out. I'm skeptical, as the beers I brewed in the Pico S's predecessor weren't great, but maybe all of the Pico C's little changes will add up to better beer at a more affordable price.