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The Pros and Cons of Homebrew Automation Systems

Whereas there are some methods that don’t require any brewing information or talent (right here’s taking a look at you, LG and Pico C), most homebrew automation units help brewers good their craft, not exchange it. These tools vary from cheap to very costly, and have anyplace from a minor to a serious impression on brew day.

Automation in homebrewing is a contested matter, nevertheless it shouldn’t be. Here is a rundown on six well-liked homebrew automation techniques.

Beersmith ($14.95-$49.95/yr)

Beersmith doesn’t automate any bodily points of the brew day. What it may possibly do is assist make your recipes and measurements extra constant. This software helps the brewer design recipes based on Beer Decide Certification (BJCP) type tips. This consists of beer’s colour, alcohol by volume (ABV), and bitterness, measured as International Bitterness Models, or IBU.

As you advance your expertise, Beersmith presents measurements for manipulating brewing water and pH, as well as calculations for yeast starters.

Pros

  • All-grain and extract suitable. Any homebrewer at any degree can benefit from this software program.
  • Prepared-to-use recipes. Beersmith takes the guesswork out of recipe creation. It could actually especially assist alleviate the daunting transition from malt extract to all-grain brewing.
  • Better outcomes. Understanding in case your recipe aligns with fashion tips helps create beer just like business manufacturers. Do you’ve enough roasted malt for a stout? Beersmith will let you recognize, before you wait two to 3 weeks to taste the ultimate beer.
  • Straightforward to make use of. It’s not probably the most aesthetically pleasing software (assume Microsoft Phrase from the late ‘90s), however its interface is straightforward to navigate. What it lacks in finesse, it makes up for in clarity and accuracy.

Cons

  • There are not any actual cons. The subscription prices less than two packs of liquid yeast. Plus, the company provides a 21-day trial to make sure clients are glad before investing.

Blichmann Tower of Power ($250)

The Blichmann Tower of Power. Credit: blichmannengineering.com

The Blichmann Tower of Power is right for more advanced homebrewers who wish to enhance their recipes by brewing consistent batches. (Perhaps for a contest?) One of the unique homebrew automation tools, it controls the temperature of the mash tun inside +/- zero.5°F. It additionally allows a brewer to step away from continually adjusting the burner or watching the thermometer, with out operating the danger of the mash getting too scorching and denaturing enzymes.

Pros

  • Extra mash control. The extreme precision of the Tower of Energy ensures you’re mashing on the similar temperature and period each brew day, so batches grow to be repeatable. This can be a big plus if you brew typically.
  • Straightforward set up. Several options might be custom-made to the gear you already have.
  • Fuel or electrical. Tower of Energy can be utilized with indoor electrical methods or propane techniques. As someone who started homebrewing outdoor using propane, this was a serious profit!

Cons

  • Worth for impression on brew day. This can be a steep investment for a bit of gear that basically only regulates temperature.

PicoBrew Zymatic ($2,000)

PicoBrew Zymatic. Credit score: picobrew.com

The worth of the PicoBrew Zymatic is prohibitive, to say the least. It was PicoBrew’s first product and was groundbreaking as the “world’s first fully automatic all-grain brewing appliance,” so its worth level seemed less steep on the time, but because the product’s debut many comparable appliances have adopted.

The word “automatic” within the description is a bit deceptive: While the steps of heating the strike water, mash, mash out, sparge, and boil are automated, different points of the brew usually are not. Building the grist, setting the mash rest temperatures and durations, and hop additions are calculated and managed by the brewer. (This can be why the brand advertises this product “for brewery professionals,” and many business breweries have one tucked away somewhere.)

Pros

  • Straightforward clean up. Compared to a three-vessel or brew-in-a-bag setup, cleaning and sanitizing the Zymatic is straightforward, and could be completed in a big kitchen sink.
  • Small area friendly. The Zymatic might be saved in a regular closet. That is especially useful to aspiring brewers dwelling in flats.
  • Highly customizable recipe software. The Zymatic permits all steps of the recipe to be up to date manually, giving the brewer a high degree of management.
  • Fermenting in kegs. The Zymatic brews, ferments, and finally serves beer from a single vessel. That is one other major area saver, and makes serving straightforward, in case you plan to serve from a keg. It additionally means there’s no have to sanitize or prep a fermenter on brew day.

Cons

  • Worth. The Zymatic could be very expensive. There are different more reasonably priced techniques.
  • Small batch measurement. The Zymatic can only make 2.5-gallon batch sizes. Brew days take five to six hours, and fermentation can take as much as two weeks. That’s so much of time for about 26 bottles of beer, particularly when you are able to do this with common homebrew gear much cheaper.
  • Chiller not included. Brewers want to offer their own coil or plate chiller.
  • Fermenting in kegs. Cornelius Kegs, or “corny kegs,” are tall, slender, cylindrical kegs that originate within the delicate drink business and are extensively used by homebrewers. While there are positives to fermenting in a keg, the shape of the corny keg does have an effect on flavor outcomes. You may ferment in another vessel, but that’s an additional buy and more labor, and you acquire an expensive machine!

Grainfather Connect ($999)

The Grainfather Join. Credit: homebrewing.org

The Grainfather is an all-in-one, all-grain brewing machine. It features a strainer-like bucket that permits for a sparge and lauter, and the vessel is giant enough to make a 5-gallon batch, which yields up to 50 beers.

Grainfather is controlled by a smartphone app, where users can construct, edit, and save recipes. Cellular notifications let the brewer know when to heat sparge water, add hops, and perform other brew day actions.

Pros

  • All-in-one system. The Grainfather comes with a wort chiller, so all steps of making and cooling wort are coated.
  • Ferment in something. Brewers can ferment in any vessel of their selection, akin to a glass carboy or coated plastic brew bucket.
  • Ease of use. The app makes every step of the brewing course of clear and straightforward to execute. It isn’t exhausting to have a perfect brew day on this technique.

Cons

  • Worth. The Grainfather is an investment, even whether it is half the worth of a PicoBrew.
  • App issues. The recipes for Grainfather are principally customizable. Nevertheless, some automated calculations may be frustrating for brewers in search of full management. For example, strike and sparge water are mechanically calculated, which is annoying for brewers trying to attempt no-sparge brew days, or who need to experiment with mash thickness.
  • Proprietary elements. Things like nuts and gaskets have to be replaced from the Grainfather retailer, and elements ship from New Zealand, which is both pricey and time-consuming.

Robobrew ($450)

MoreBeer Robobrew. Credit score: morebeer.com

Robobrew is a inexpensive various to the Grainfather, with fewer bells and whistles (no app, and a less highly effective heating aspect and pump). Though this writer doesn’t have hands-on expertise with this specific system, shopper blogs and product evaluations (and many, many tweets) point out the following execs and cons.

Pros

  • Worth level. The Robobrew permits you to complete a 5-gallon, all-grain brew day at a lower value than different tools available on the market.
  • Ferment in something. Brewers can ferment in any vessel of their selection.

Cons

  • Weak pump and caught mashes. The commonest grievance is that the pump can turn out to be “stuck” with hop materials and high-gravity mashes. Though this may be comparatively straightforward to fix, it is an inconvenience nonetheless.
  • Materials high quality. A number of critiques point out sharp edges, decrease high quality metallic, and imperfect welds. The Robobrew can also be single-walled, so many users insulate it with the $20 add on jacket to assist keep temperature. With the lower cost level, some high quality sacrifices are to be expected.
  • Troublesome consumer interface. Brew day settings have to be entered by means of a digital interface, which is inconveniently situated on the backside of the machine. Since brewers have to pour scorching sparge water and heavy grain into the Robobrew, it doesn’t make a lot sense to have the machine arrange on a high counter, so brewers have to take a seat on the floor or bend over to enter and examine temperatures.

The Brewie+ ($1,800)

MoreBeer Brewie. Credit: morebeer.com

The Brewie+ is a two-chamber, absolutely enclosed system that brews wort. Like other methods, the wort needs to be pumped into a fermentation vessel and fermentation just isn’t automated. There’s much less chatter about this gadget on American homebrew forums, but an unaffiliated “Brewie Owners Group” on Fb has over 1,000 members from around the globe.

Pros

  • Cleans itself. Brewers say it all the time, “90 percent of brewing is cleaning.” Brewie+ has absolutely automated cleaning and sanitizing settings.
  • No-worry wort. This is the epitome of “set it and forget it” wort creation. As soon as the system is calibrated and operating, the brewer can walk away, run errands, or take a nap and the wort will probably be brewed to pre-set specs.

Cons

  • Large and heavy. Several weblog posts and articles mention the “enormous” measurement of the Brewie+. At 65 kilos, it isn’t straightforward to carry right into a excessive place or store on a weak shelf. Finding a place to store it might be troublesome.
  • Delicate calibration. The Brewie+ have to be calibrated before every use, and some customers complain of calibration fails. A system that won’t calibrate won’t permit the consumer to brew.