In my mind, the perfect automatic beer brewer offers prepackaged ingredients if you want an experience similar to making coffee with a Keurig -- hit a button and you're done. It should also allow you to add your own ingredients and experiment when you want to. It should take the beer from start to finish in an authentic brewing process without cutting corners and while controlling the temperature at all stages. Finally, it should be affordable.
I've yet to test a beer bot that meets all of my criteria for perfection, but one could finally be on the horizon. BeerMKR launched on Kickstarter on Tuesday, and it does everything I'd hope for in an automatic beer brewer. It will cost $400 when it hits stores in the Spring of 2019, but you can get it for less if you want to support the crowdfunding campaign. BeekMKR will ship anywhere in the world. The US price converts to roughly £300 and AU$550.
How it works
BeerMKR squeezes three compartments into a relatively compact machine that should fit on your countertop. You place your own ingredients, or the ingredients from the company's prepackaged offerings, into the top compartment and add water. Hit start, and BeerMKR combines the water with hops and malt while cooking it into unfermented beer called wort.
As your beer cooks, it flows into a recyclable, conical-shaped pouch in the middle compartment. After your beer is done cooking, the app will notify you that you need to add the yeast. Add it, then your beer ferments within the conical pouch and BeerMKR will control the temperature and monitor the pressure so it knows when your beer is done. The spent yeast flows to the bottom of the cone and into the waste compartment at the bottom.
The app will notify you again once fermentation finishes, and then you can place the pouch into a separate dispenser and attach a carbon dioxide container. Let it sit in your fridge overnight and then pour the beer directly from a dispenser into your glass and enjoy. Dispose of the pouch when you're done, and the other pieces of BeerMKR are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
Expect your beer to cook within a couple of hours, and ferment within seven to 10 days. You'll be able to use your own ingredients if you'd like or BeerMKR will sell premade recipes for $12. Since it produces roughly a gallon of beer -- which comes out to roughly a dozen 12-ounce bottles -- that's a nice $1 per beer cost.
Why it sounds great
BeerMKR controls every step of the process for you, including fermentation, while allowing you to use your own ingredients or a prepackaged set. That combination of features is unique.
PicoBrew sells a number of different beer brewing bots, and the Model C is a pretty good machine that also only costs $400, but you're on your own for fermentation. Other beer bots cost more than $2,000 or start from concentrate. In theory, the upcoming iGulu will take your beer from start to finish, but it's also more expensive at $990.
Reasons for concern
I'm certainly excited about BeerMKR, and the company behind it has already successfully made the BrewJacket Immersion Circulator and Immersion Pro ($319 at Amazon) -- basically an immersion sous vide device to help control the temp of your fermenting home brew -- so the team has successfully brought crowdfunded products to fruition and proven capable of controlling the temperature of a batch of beer.
Still, fitting all of the pieces needed to make good beer into such a small machine feels like a lofty goal, and this is still a Kickstarter campaign, so approach with the necessary skepticism.
As always, please note that CNET's reporting on crowdfunding campaigns is not an endorsement of the project or its creators. Before contributing to any campaign, read the crowdfunding site's policies -- in this case, Kickstarter -- to find out your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.
Also, PicoBrew makes prepackaged ingredients appealing by offering a wide variety of recipes from small breweries located all over the world. BeerMKR's starting offerings will likely be dwarfed by comparison, so hopefully they'll add options quickly or you might have to settle for a smaller rotation of beers you can make without using your own ingredients.
Nevertheless, the BeerMKR team is making the right promises and supposedly already has working prototypes, so I'm going to go ahead and get excited and hope the final product can live up to my expectations. I certainly look forward to testing BeerMKR when it hits the market next Spring.