In 2013, PicoBrew unveiled its Zymatic automatic beer brewing appliance, which was marketed to professional microbreweries as a way to create high-quality, repeatable test batches of new beer recipes. Now the Seattle-based startup has launched the PicoBrew Pico on Kickstarter. A smaller, more stylish version of the Zymatic, it's aimed at the home brewer with little or no experience, but a desire to make craft beer with as little effort and mess as possible.

The PicoBrew Pico is a compact 12-in (30 cm) wide and tips the scales at 31 lb (14 kg). Based on two years of research, it was designed to be a less complex and less expensive version of the Zymatic that's more kitchen appliance than test brewery. It can automatically brew five liters (5.2 quarts) of beer on a kitchen counter and can be operated by someone with no prior experience making beer.

To make it even simpler, PicoBrew introduced the PicoPak system. Created by over fifty breweries and brewmasters, it uses pre-packaged ingredient packs, so no measuring is required, though the user can make individual adjustments to factors like bitterness and final gravity.

If PicoPaks sound a bit like the coffee pods that are so popular these days, it's because they perform a similar function. To use the Pico, the user inserts the PicoPak hop and grain modules, fills the attached keg with water, and turns the machine on. A microprocessor controls the brewing, after which yeast is added for fermentation, then the beer is decanted into a five-liter keg and carbonated. PicoBrew says the machine steam cleans itself and the used packs are compostable.

The Pico is designed to work in conjunction with the PicoBrew BrewMarketplace, which the company bills as an "AppStore for beer." This allows brewers both professional and amateur to purchase recipes and post their own in exchange for royalties, as well as leaving ratings and feedback.

"Our hope is that with the Pico acting as essentially a '3D printer for beer,' and the BrewMarketplace connecting craft brewers and customers, we can fundamentally improve the quality of beer consumed by the world today," says Bill Mitchell, CEO of PicoBrew. "Our mission is to get the world brewing, and Pico is at the center of it all."

The Pico is expected to be available in the second quarter of next year for US$999, but is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign where early bird pledges of $499 are still available at the time of writing. If all goes to plan, delivery to backers is estimated to start in March 2016.

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