Just like its more formal sibling, craft brewing, home brewing has exploded in popularity in the United States in recent years, and if startups have anything to say about it, the category should keep on growing. Joining the Pico brewer on the crowdfunding circuit, the MiniBrew is another all-in-one countertop brewing system that makes brewing beer nearly as easy – though more time-consuming overall – as brewing coffee.
In November 2013, the American Home Brewers Association reported survey results that found there were an estimated 1.2 million brewers in the country, two-thirds of whom had started in or after 2005. In short, home brewing has experienced some serious growth.
The Dutch designers of the MiniBrew feel there's room for even more growth, targeting an eager legion of potential home brewers put off only by the difficulty involved in setting up and operating traditional home brewing equipment. They position the MiniBrew as an all-in-one small-batch brew system that lets anyone pose as a seasoned brewer.
MiniBrew claims its brew system is the first in the home brewing market to combine and automate the brewing, cooling and fermentation with a single machine. The MiniBrew design relies on sensors and software to control brewing and spit out a 1.3-gal (5-L) mini-keg in as little as a week (not quite as quick as a coffeemaker, but coffee doesn't need fermentation time).
To brew, you simply add water, hops and other ingredients to start things off, and the MiniBrew takes over, performing the mashing, boiling and cooling in about 3.5 hours, before transferring the batch to the fermentation tank, where it turns into delicious beer over the course of a week+, depending on beer style. For styles like IPA, you'll need to add hops during the fermentation stage, but outside of that, your work is done. When the beer has finished fermenting, you simply tap the mini-keg and enjoy your fresh, home-brewed beer.
Beyond just guiding you through the process, the app also helps you research and share beer recipes. You'll be able to order hops, yeast and other ingredients directly from the app, and MiniBrew says that it plans to partner with microbreweries and other brands for exclusives.
The machine itself is made from aluminum, walnut wood, brushed RVS and copper, and tips the scales at 17.6 lb (8 kg) and measures 11 x 21.7 x 17 in (28 x 55 x 43 cm). It includes Wi-Fi and a semi-automatic self-cleaning function and relies on a 240 or 110V power source.
MiniBrew says that the machine is about as loud as a dishwasher when the heating and cooling elements are at work, which is only about 30 minutes of the brewing process. The startup has made an effort to cut down on the smell to prevent it from being overpowering.
So far, there seems to be some demand for a easy-brew system in the US$2,000 price range. MiniBrew has raised close to half its $100,000 Indiegogo goal since launching earlier this week. The lowest pledge levels have sold out, but you can still pledge at the $2,250 level for a MiniBrew, with deliveries slated for April 2016 if all goes to plan.
It looks like there's a big audience for automated brewing machines in general. MiniBrew seems to have a good chance of meeting its goal, and PicoBrew has already doubled its and is moving toward the half million-dollar mark. If the prices seem prohibitively expensive, consider that, based on those same 2013 survey findings, the AHBA identified home brewers as "highly affluent," with close to 60 percent reporting household incomes of $75,000 or more.