It automates an effective and customizable brewing process, but the Brewie+ is too expensive and tedious to be a good fit for most interested home brewers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These steps likely won't be a problem if you're a practiced home brewer, as you probably already have the equipment and knowledge you need to ferment and serve beer. In that case, you'll find the Brewie+ easy to use once you set it up, but it's definitely better if you hook it up to a faucet.
Each of the batches we made took the Brewie around 6 hours to finish. After it's done, if it's hooked up to water, the Brewie+ will automatically cool off your freshly cooked wort to get it ready for transferring to your fermentation vessel and adding the yeast.
If you don't attach the Brewie+ to a water source, it can't cool your wort down for you. You also need to measure out and add precise amounts of water at one to two different stages of the process. Cooling off 5 gallons of wort on your own can be a pain, but otherwise, adding water when you need to isn't too tedious. Except, you won't know when you need to intervene unless you're hanging out around the Brewie+.
The Brewie+ has an app that mimics the touchscreen on the front of the machine and lets you control it and enter recipes remotely. It's definitely easier to enter detailed recipes on the app, as the tiny screen on the machine can be a pain to use when entering text and specific volumes for each stage of your brew. That said, the app disconnects from the machine too quickly if you do something else on your phone, so you constantly need to reestablish the link whenever you open the app and it won't send you notifications when your brew is done or if you do need to add water.
Setting up the Brewie+ for the first time is also kind of a pain. Again, it's 60 pounds, so recruit help to get it out of the box. Turn it on, and you use the intuitive but clunky touchscreen to establish a connection to your Wi-Fi network. The Brewie+ comes with hoses and some cleaning materials, but you might need an adapter to attach the main hose to your faucet.
You can establish automatic water input as a setting, but then the Brewie will take you through a lengthy calibration process where you'll need to measure out very large and very specific amounts of water several times.
Once you're done brewing, the Brewie+ can help with cleanup. The hop cages and false bottom for the mash tank are both dishwasher safe. Otherwise, the Brewie+ offers a variety of automatic cleaning modes from a quick rinse to a lengthy sanitation. For the most part, Brewie's cleaning process involves heating up water and transferring it from one compartment to the next.
You need to scrub the sides using the included nonabrasive sponge, which necessitates a lot of elbow grease to remove any stuck-on sediment. Cleaning the bottom of the narrow compartments for the hop cages can be a particular pain, but for the most part, Brewie helps make cleanup pretty quick. Again, it's easier if you've connected it to water so it can automatically use what it needs.
Given how much control you have over the process, how good the beer from the Brewie+ tastes will be largely up to you. That said, I brewed and tasted two different Brewie Pad beers.
Rusty Rex, an amber ale, had the malty characteristics I was hoping for but an odd bitter finish. I'm guessing the bitter finish came from a mild infection I introduced as I was slow to transfer the wort to the fermentation container after the Brewie+ was finished. The beer was also a little thin. This is likely due to the fact that the Brewie+ doesn't agitate the bag of malt sitting in the mashing compartment -- it just sits and soaks. (Brewie points out that the water continues to circulate around the grain, but the bag itself still sits there and the beer still tasted thin.)
The second beer was a little thin too, but the hops helped mask that better. In fact, Hopersonic, an IPA, tasted pretty great. The Brewie Pad included a packet of hops for dry hopping (where you introduce hops during fermentation for the sake of aroma), so it smelled wonderful. The taste was pleasantly hoppy throughout and it was only a little thin. I would have been happy if a restaurant had served me a glass of Hopersonic.
Since the $2,500 Brewie+ leaves you on your own for fermentation and carbonation, I don't recommend it to beginners. The barrier to entry isn't worth the effort. Since you need to learn how to ferment and carbonate your beer anyway to use the Brewie, you might as well spend a little bit longer learning how to do the first couple of steps, then you'll be able to buy a basic kit for a whole lot less and get the satisfaction of doing it all yourself.
If you know how to brew and want extra automation and consistency, the Brewie+ can help. It's a convenient, low-effort way to experiment with pilot batches. Even then, since it doesn't agitate the grain and the results might taste thin, you could probably find better a better way to spend $2,500 on home brewing equipment. Once I was set up, I really did enjoy my time with the Brewie+, but that might be mostly the beer talking.
Originally published Dec. 20.
Update, Dec. 21: Updated with additional information from Brewie. The score has not changed.