The nectar of the Gods, magic elixir, cerveza, brew. Whatever you call it, it’s the greatest beverage us mere mortals have the pleasure of enjoying. I am, of course, talking about craft beer. Not to be confused with the lackluster suds pumped by the millions of gallons from macro beer conglomerates, craft beer represents true artistry and the attention to detail that makes local small business great. Similar to how one might obsess over the performance of a gaming PC, the passion that craft brew fans have for quality ingredients, nuanced flavors, and care for the finished product as something to be savored and not pounded down blindly is what really makes all the difference.
While visiting a local brewery can be fun, it can be rewarding to take the DIY approach and brew your own beer. Home brewing has been popular for thousands of years, but PicoBrew has injected the age old process with an innovative tech aspect that makes it easy to get fresh homebrew with consistency.
As a home brewer myself, I love the hobby. It’s exciting to craft a recipe, tinker with different elements, and produce something that is the tangible, tastable fruits of your labor. The driving force behind most home brewers is the same: creation, testing, experimentation, and the delicious end result as a reward.
And to the naysayers who are already yelling “Why don’t you just buy it?” well, it’s an example of the buy vs. build debate in the world of home computers. Brewing your own beer gives you control, and a very custom product. True, the initial investment is higher and at $799 for the Pico brewing system (along with the first kit), and $19-$30 per additional kit isn’t cheap—but it is most definitely fun.
Also, beer is delicious. Did I mention that?
PicoBrew system overview
The Pico unit at its core is a countertop, closed-loop nano brewing system, capable of pumping out 5L batches in a pretty quick turnaround. It uses pre-packaged recipe kits from over 150 brewery partners across America to simplify the brewing process and automate many of the steps.
The initial setup is very straightforward and well-documented, and the step-by-step process makes it incredibly easy for someone who doesn’t have any previous brewing knowledge. The whole system is super easy to clean too, which is one of the great perks of using something more technologically advanced.
The mission driving the great minds over at PicoBrew was to create a brewing process that focused on ease of use, while still maintaining the actual brewing characteristics. By automating most of the steps, they nailed down the repeatability and precision that makes winning craft beer so great, but in a way that is attainable for entry-level hobbyists.
When you brew with Pico, the whole pack of grains needed for the heart and soul of the beer is self-contained in a neat package, as are the hops. This makes things incredibly easy to clean up, and since both packs are biodegradable simply dumping the two into the waste bin is a quick and responsible way to eliminate 99.9% of the brewing mess in one fell swoop. This is an advancement in the field I think is pretty slick.
Brewing with tech
The unit itself demonstrates insight into the process while leaving out many of the areas for potential contamination or failure for newcomers (or even those who have been at it for some time). I recall my first foray into brewing in college coming out tasting absolutely terrible, and many home brewers have similar stories. Proper handling of the ingredients and following procedure is a huge part of the process, and the Pico simplifies that.
Wi-Fi connectivity comes standard with the Pico unit, which allows you to monitor your brew process (time, temperature, and the brewing stage) from your desktop or phone. The automated cycle keeps things consistent, so you can eliminate the variables that often result in off-flavors. Even cooler, this machine automatically identifies the recipe packet when you insert it, so all the times for hop additions are already locked and loaded without human input.
Operation of the unit is simple, since there is only one knob for selection and a bright screen to display menu options and messaging. You can adjust the bitterness and ABV with a simple turn of the knob, which is awesome and not possible with such ease in normal home brewing.
Speaking of hops, the delicious little dank packets are compartmentalized for hot water injection at different pre-programmed intervals. Normally you would dump the free floating hops into the boil at different times to adjust the bitterness and aromatics, but PicoBrew has this all nicely wrapped up in its own packet. When you want to increase or decrease the levels all you do is turn the knob, and the saturation times are adjusted accordingly. Talk about easy!
But how does it taste?
Arguably the most important question of all: how does PicoBrew beer taste? Like fresh beer should! We had the Half Squeezed IPA, which was a mouth-watering tribute to the Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA. On our batch I cranked the ABV and bitterness up a tad from the 6.2% & 72 IBUs (international bitterness units) the stock kit had, and it still tasted balanced and peppy with loads of citrus flavors and aromatics.
There’s a “Fast Fermentation” option which reduces the amount of time your beer spends working itself into a boozy delight to only five days. When you opt for the forced carbonation method using the included pressure regulator and mini CO2 cartridges, you can be drinking your fresh brew in as little as eight days, which is quicker than normal home brewing methods.
The PicoBrew for you
If you’re a fan of delicious beer, this should interest you. If you also love to tinker, experiment with DIY projects, and like to know the “why” behind the “what,” home brewing and the PicoBrew kit are right up your alley.
As a final bonus, the PicoBrew kit can also double as a sous vide cooker, so you can exercise your culinary skills while you wait for your beer to be completed. This extra utility also makes it a more practical kitchen companion. It can heat water up to 205° to seal in flavors, making for a killer infusion for any protein.
Once you hammer down the concepts of brewing using the Pico, you can actually create your own recipes on their website and they will create custom recipe packets for you. This is a great transition between push-button brewing and jumping into all-grain methodology. For the more adventurous folks out there looking to step it up into all-grain brewing with absolute control over all the variables, the PicoBrew Zymatic is a jump up in size and complexity.
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