The Pico, designed to make it easy to brew small batches of beer, is the third product from Seattle startup PicoBrew.
The former Microsoft executive in Fremont who wants to help every beer lover in the world become an accomplished home brewer is taking to Kickstarter for a third product.
Bill Mitchell and the team of Seattle startup PicoBrew is introducing the campaign Monday for a smaller, easier-to-use version of their automated brewing machine.
The Pico device uses house-made software and a bank of recipes stored online to make home brewing simple. PicoBrew is also starting to sell prepackaged ingredient sets that can be popped into the machine, no measuring needed.
The company’s first Kickstarter raised more than $660,000 for the Zymatic, a larger automatic home-brewing system. That one, about the size of a large microwave, produces 2.5 gallons of beer and is mostly used by small craft brewers and serious home brewers. The company said it has sold about 1,400 devices in the past two years.
The Zymatic is more self-directed than the Pico. Brewers find and add their own ingredients.
The PicoBrew team found the process can be challenging for brewers who are just starting out. Less experienced customers wanted a smaller, less expensive machine that offers ingredients as well as recipes, Mitchell said.
Enter the Pico.
About the size of a large home espresso machine, the Pico costs $499 during the Kickstarter period. It fits easily on a kitchen counter and requires no measuring of ingredients.
“We want to get the world brewing and make it affordable enough so everyone can,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who managed early versions of smartwatches and tablets at Microsoft, started the company in 2010 with his food-scientist brother and a hardware engineer he worked with in Redmond.
The idea is to save brewers’ time — home brewing can take a full day to make a batch — and help keep batches made from the same recipe tasting the same.
Along with the new device, PicoBrew is launching an online marketplace to sell ingredient packs, called PicoPaks, designed by craft brewers across the country as well as other home brewers. Customers will be able to search for their favorite brewery or type of beer and buy pre-made packs from the site. Packs start at about $19, with the price depending on specific ingredients.
The packs come with premeasured grain and hops in compostable containers. Users just pop the containers into the Pico, and the device detects which recipe the pack is designed to make. The batch is done in about two hours. Users then add yeast and refrigerate the brew to let it ferment.
The 5-liter kegs that the Pico produces can fit on a standard refrigerator shelf, another thing customers asked for.
Mitchell likened the Pico to a 3-D printer for craft beer or a Keurig for beer.
He is hoping the PicoPaks also provide a way for small craft brewers to get their brands more widely known. Distribution can be challenging for small breweries, especially as more and more brands are controlled by a few large companies.
Peter Charbonnier, owner of Ballard-based Populuxe Brewing, said the brewery self-distributes some product around the region, but noted that it’s hard for small breweries to attract the attention of large distributors.
Populuxe will offer a PicoPak for its Cascadian Dark Ale. “It’s a nice way to get our name out there and expand our brand,” Charbonnier said.
Breweries will make a commission every time someone buys one of their PicoPaks online. The craft breweries just provide the recipe, while PicoBrew secures the ingredients and assembles the packs.
PicoBrew is expanding its own operations as well. The startup has grown to 34 employees in its offices near Gas Works Park and has raised $5 million in funding from angel investors.