There’s never been a better time for craft beer aficionados in the United States. New brews are taking over menus in bars and specialty shops, and this summer it became legal to home brew in all 50 states. Legalizing home brewing, however, doesn’t make the process any simpler.The task is a complicated chemistry where timing is crucial: add hops at 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes and you produce two totally different drinks. Miss the timer for cranking up the heat and you’ve botched the fermentation process.
We use our phones to automate everything from our schedules to our home thermostats, heck–even the number of fresh eggs in our refrigerator. So why not do the same for beer?
Meet the Brewbot, a smartphone-powered appliance for making at-home hooch. The device is composed of plastic bins and pipes enclosed by a sleek steel and wood box that while big–it’s about the width of two refrigerators–is handsome. It comes equipped with accompanying software that guides users through the process via a smartphone app alerting them to key moments in the brew process.
“Things like push notifications help,” says Chris McClelland, cofounder of the Irish design company, Cargo, that designed Brewbot. The company had dabbled with making its own in-house brew, but ran into problems developing a consistently delicious beer. That’s when, McClelland says, they realized how automated technology could improve the process not just for Cargo, but for every home brewing enthusiast. “We thought the timing was right and we could do something that could help.”
The Cargo team used Arduino, an open-source electronic prototyping platform, to develop software that automates much of the brewing process. Once in the app, users are connected to a variety of beer recipes provided by the Cargo team. They can also upload their own and save past ones. Once a recipe is selected, “The machine knows how much water, how to heat it, it pulls the sugars, all very accurately depending on the beer,” McClelland says.
So why bother, why not just buy a six-pack or go to the local bar? “It’s important that we didn’t automate everything,” McClelland says. Brewbot’s modular system still asks its human operators to manually add the grains and hops, as well as creativity when it comes to recipes. “We saw that recipes were constantly evolving,” McClelland says. “We built that into the app, so people can have face offs or competitions. It’s social and beer is about being social.”
Get a Brewbot through Cargo’s Kickstarter campaign, for $2,750.