Brewbot lets you control home brewing with your smartphone
By David Szondy
September 30, 2013
Brewing beer in small batches can be difficult, time consuming, and very daunting for the neophyte. To make things a bit easier, and let homebrewers have a life away from watching the temperature of the malt tun, the Brewbot system aims to automate much of the brewing process. The result is a smartphone-controllable machine that brews 20 l (5.2 gal) of beer in each batch.
Brewing beer isn’t easy. It’s a complicated process of malts and hops and worts that require all sorts of mixing, heating, cooling, timing, and other steps that can make it seem more like alchemy than science. Small wonder that one batch of homebrew can taste like an import from heaven and the next like it passed through the urinary tract of a gnat. So can the burden of the brewing hobbyist be eased by automation? The developers of Brewbot think so.
Brewbot is aimed at amateurs, pubs that want to break into craft beers, and breweries that want to run pilot brews of new beers. It’s a self-contained, self-monitoring beer-brewing machine that fits in a home environment and is monitored by a smartphone.
Brewbot is designed to ensure that each batch is consistent with the one before, so you can concentrate on recipes rather than processes. Simplifying the process also makes brewing more accessible to the complete neophyte by providing a digital step-by-step guide.
The design of Brewbot puts a heavy emphasis on compact size and aesthetics. Measuring 121 cm x 40 cm x 119 cm (47.6 in x 15.7 in x 46.8 in) and weighing about 100 kg (220 lb), it’s available in a choice of wood facades and is designed to be easy to tuck into a corner. The latter is appreciable to anyone who’s had his home brewing rig banished to the garage on pain of divorce.
According to the developers, Brewbot uses off-the-shelf catering parts and stainless steel wherever possible to keep down costs without affecting flavor. The prototype currently uses copper pipes, but the company wants to replace these with stainless steel. Inside is an Arduino-based processor, for rapid prototyping and open sourcing, which controls the brewing processes.
To use Brewbot, you put in ingredients from the local brew shop, and then input the desired recipe and settings using the accompanying iPhone app. Brewbot takes it from there, adding the right amount of water, heating it to the right temperature for the right time, and telling you via Bluetooth to your iPhone when to add additional ingredients. When finished, the beer is poured into the stainless steel fermentation tank, which is sealed against light to prevent “skunking.”
Monitoring all of this are flow, load, and temperature sensors. The developers claim that it’s capable of brewing beer at a cost of 26p US$0.42 per 330 ml (12 oz) bottle.
To create Brewbot, Cargo, a multidisciplinary team of designers and developers based in Belfast, partnered with Nelson and Caroline Santos, the founders of Mette, which is a creative consultancy specializing in products and environments for cooking and living, the Brewbot project is moving from Northern Ireland to Portland, Oregon in order to be in the middle of the US microbrew market.
Brewbot is currently in the prototype phase and Cargo is raising money through Kickstarter to complete development of both hardware and software in the hope of bringing the machine to production, first in the US, then Britain, then globally. An earlybird pledge for the Brewbot is listed at £1,500 (US$2400).
The video below introduces Brewbot.