From making your bottled beer taste like it came from the tap of your favorite bar, to brewing your own beverage at the push of a button, these beer machines have the noble goal of making better tasting beer more accessible to all.
Ever wanted to bring your beer home in a doggie bag? No? Well, what if that doggie bag kept your beer fresh for up to 30 days, and hooked into a specialized tap on your kitchen counter? The $330 Synek Countertop Beer Dispenser promises all of that, and the dispenser that acts as the heart of the system also controls temperature and carbon dioxide as it pours.
I had my doubts about this dinky-looking plastic machine that promised to make your beer taste better using sound waves. But I was certainly happy to be proven wrong by the competent $170 Fizzics. It genuinely does make your bottled beer taste more like it came from the tap, without the use of carbon dioxide cartridges or any other elaborate paraphernalia. It works, and I promise that's not just the beer talking.
A trimmed-down, less expensive version of Fizzics, the $130 Waytap uses the same sound tech to make your beer bubblier. You can't fit growlers in this model, but the Waytap still proved surprisingly effective at making your beer taste more like it came from a tap without the use of carbon dioxide canisters.
Another device that mixes up your beer with sound, That UltraBeer Thing will stir up a nice head on your bottled beer after you pour it into your glass. Like Fizzics transformed into a stick, That UltraBeer Thing is also appealingly affordable at $20.
A connected beer brewing robot, the $2,000 PicoBrew Zymatic helped usher in this new wave of beer tech, and for a brand-new, very ambitious technology, it did a lot of things admirably well. Flaws and all, it's still one of the few automatic beer brewers currently available on the market.
With lessons learned from the Zymatic in tow, PicoBrew released a new, smaller, and easier-to-use brewer called the Pico. You need to use prepackaged ingredients called PicoPaks, and you'll still need to allow your beer to cook for a couple of hours, then ferment for a couple of weeks, but the $600 Pico (now called the Pico Pro) makes the process pretty simple.
PicoBrew's third attempt at an automatic brewer comes closer than ever to combining authentic automated brewing with ease of use. The $400 Pico Model C is still not quite perfect, but since you can order a huge variety of PicoPaks to use in the machine, the Model C is a good way to try beers from all over the world.
The $300 Pico U was supposed to combine the functionality of the PIco Model C with the ability to brew beverages other than beer, such as coffee or chai, but the crowdfunding campaign for the Pico U was canceled despite meeting the funding goal several times over. PicoBrew's promised to relaunch the campaign later this year or next.
Rounding out PicoBrew's offerings, the $3,500 Brewvana stitches together the company's Pico with a temp controlled kegerator called the Kegsmarts to help regulate the longer stage of fermentation. The Brewvana will even tap your beer when it's done and add carbon dioxide while it pours. It's everything you need to automate the process from ingredients to your glass, if you can stomach the cost.
One of the most prominent competitors to PicoBrew, the $2,000 Brewie does everything the Zymatic can do plus a little more. You're still on your own for fermentation, but Brewie helps you cool your beer to get it ready for that process and has two main tanks in its body instead of just one to help it increase circulation throughout the brew.
Unlike PicoBrew, which produced more streamlined and less expensive products with each subsequent iteration, Brewie's second-generation brewer will be even more expensive than its predecessor. The $2,400 Brewie+ offers a number of quality of life improvements such as an app and custom-designed hardware for faster brewing. It'll need to be very competent to be worth the price.
HOPii sits between fully automatic brewers like PicoBrew and simple taps like Fizzics. Like the various Pico models, HOPii brews using prepackaged ingredients, but one of those ingredients is a big bottle of premade wort. Wort is essentially unfermented beer, so by the time you interact with HOPii, the cooking stages of brewing are already done. Put in your bottle of wort, add the prepackaged yeast and hit a button. HOPii will control the temp of the wort while your beer ferments. When it's done, you can cool it down and pour yourself a glass from the machine's tap.
A simpler way to regulate your beer's temp during fermentation, the $350 BrewJacket Immersion Pro sits in the mixture and controls the temp directly. It functions similarly to sous vide circulators, and would complement automatic brewers like the Brewie and the Zymatic that take your beer up to fermentation without including it in the automation.
Another fermentation machine, the Vessi from Whirlpool goes beyond simple temperature control. For a hefty $1,800 retail price, Vessi controls the temperature, pressurizes your fermenting beer to speed up carbonation, helps you remove sediment, and lets you tap the final result. Given the price difference, BrewJacket will be fine for most, but if you want to go big into brewing, Vessi has the features to be enticing.
The very large, very expensive $4,000 BrewBot is certainly not something you could fit on your kitchen counter, but it does look good, and it does handle the brewing process from start to finish, while letting you add ingredients and make changes along the way if you'd like.
The $990 upcoming iGulu (formerly Artbrew) is one of the smallest automatic brewers at roughly the size of your microwave. Surprisingly, despite its size, it matches the Brewvana and BrewBot in automating the process all the way through fermentation. If it can pull off an authentic and accurate process despite its size, iGulu could be the most accessible beer machine to date.
Then, there's the SodaStream Beer Bar. It's an automatic beer brewing machine by name if not actual execution. It brews in the same way that sticking a frozen dinner in a microwave counts as cooking. Basically, it'll inject carbonated water into concentrate and you'll have yourself a tall container of something similar to beer. That said, it should be much simpler and quicker than the machines that automate an authentic process, so it'll have convenience going for it. If it can come close on flavor, it might be worth a look.
Walking the line between an authentic beer brewing machine and the SodaStream Beer Bar that just adds bubbles to concentrate, Coopers BrewArt starts with concentrate so you can skip the mash and the boil, but still goes through an authentic, temperature-controlled fermentation process. The two pieces of the system are the BeerDroid that ferments, and the BrewFlo that carbonates and taps the finished product.