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Brewie+ review: An effective, if impractical, home brewing bot

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The Good The Brewie+ automatically makes beer using prepackaged kits or your own ingredients. The intuitive display offers lots of customization so you can create a recipe with the exact ingredients, times and temps you want. It will hold those temps accurately and is particularly easy to use if hooked up to a faucet.

The Bad It costs an awful lot and doesn't include equipment or guidance for the second half of the brewing process. It's enormous, so you'll need to find a dedicated space for it. Using the display can be tedious. Using the machine without an automatic water hookup is much more difficult and the primitive app isn't very useful.

The Bottom Line While the Brewie+ gives you some handy automation, it doesn't do enough to help beginners and isn't effective enough for experts.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.3 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 5
  • Design 5
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Weighing 64 pounds (29 kg) with a width of 29 inches (73.7 cm), the Brewie+ is a countertop automatic beer brewer that won't conveniently fit on many countertops. Aside from needing a friend just to help you lift it out of the box, you'll also need to attach it to a spare faucet if you want the brewing process to be truly automatic. Add in an eye-popping retail price of $2,500 and the Brewie+ isn't a viable purchase for most folks with a casual interest in making beer.

Brewie+ also does little to help teach you to make beer and leaves you entirely on your own for the second half of the process -- the longer half where your beer is much more vulnerable to infection. With that in mind, I don't recommend the Brewie+ to beginners, even beginners with enough expendable income to swing a purchase like this on a whim. The $2,500 price doesn't even include all the equipment you'll need to bring your beer from grains to glass.

Despite the large footprint and the larger price, the Brewie+ makes some sense if you're already a practiced homebrewer and you're looking for automation to either make your brew day easier or add consistency to your process. The Brewie+ is easy to use once it's set up and offers detailed temperature controls and customization options. Even then, the clunky display and the useless app stop me from recommending it wholeheartedly, as you could likely spend that same $2,500 on plenty of really nice brewing equipment that would help you more.

Brew what you want

It's not a wise purchase for most home brewers, but I actually enjoyed my time testing the Brewie+ once I finished setting it up and started making beer. The Brewie+ is the second automatic beer brewing machine from the beer-focused startup Brewie. It has more memory and brews more quickly than the first model, which was just called the Brewie (the company now calls it the B20). 

You can use your own ingredients with the Brewie+ or order prepackaged sets called Brewie Pads from the company. Brewie Pads cost between $30 and $50 apiece. Right now, Brewie's site offers 17 different options in a variety of styles. The packs include a big sock of malted barley that you put into the right half of the machine as well as labeled packets of hops to distribute among the four different hop containers. You also get a packet of yeast for the end of your brew day. Each Brewie Pad yields roughly 4.7 gallons of beer (18 liters) which makes roughly 50 bottles. That translates to 60 cents to $1 per bottle, so the price of the Brewie Pads checks out.

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You can put hops into four different hop cages and add them at different times during the brew. 

Brewie

Since the Brewie automates a natural brewing process with all of the normal ingredients for beer, you can easily substitute in your own malt or hops and make a recipe of your design. The Brewie+ offers a great deal of customization. Using the display, you can indicate the type and amount of malt and hops you're using. You can set different times and temps for each stage of the brewing process and even add extra steps if you want to steep your grain at a couple of different temperatures or rinse it with an optional step called sparging.

Regardless of what temps you set, the Brewie+ will hold them accurately for the time indicated, so you can save your customized recipe and expect a great deal of consistency from batch to batch.

If all of that sounds appealing to you, you can buy the Brewie+ now on the company's site. The company offers deals and discounts regularly, so look for one of those if you want to splurge on the Brewie+ but aren't quite up for paying the full $2,500. Brewie+ will ship to the UK and Australia too. The US price converts to roughly £2,000 or AU$3,500.

A tall order for beginners

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Put your malted barley into a grain sock and you can toss it into the right side of the machine on the false bottom. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

In addition to the hops and malt, Brewie pads include a packet of yeast, but whether you're using Brewie pads or your own ingredients, you're on your own after the Brewie finishes cooking the batch. It's not beer yet. The Brewie leaves you with an unfermented liquid called wort.

The machine can drain the wort into your fermentation container of choice, but the $2,500 price doesn't include any equipment for fermenting, carbonating or serving your beer. This is the biggest reason why the Brewie isn't for beginners. After spending big bucks on this automatic beer maker, you're left with a vat full of wort and zero guidance on how to safely guide that wort into finished beer. (Brewie points out that it does offer YouTube tutorials for these steps, but you can find plenty of those online and you still have to do the research yourself without help from the machine.)

At minimum, you'll need a fermentation bucket, a bunch of bottles, priming sugar to carbonate your beer once it's bottled, and a siphon to transfer your beer from your bucket into your bottles. Oh, you'll also need sanitizer and a working knowledge of how to properly use it on each of those pieces. Your beer is actually quite vulnerable to infection during each of these steps. You'll also need to control the temperature of your beer while it ferments to prevent any off flavors.

All told, expect to wait at least a couple of weeks from when the Brewie+ finishes its part until your beer is ready to actually drink. You're going to be sorely disappointed if you spend big on the Brewie+ thinking it'll quickly make ready-to-drink beer.

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