Anyone remember the Ronco Rotisserie Oven infomercials where they said to "Set it, and forget it"? Well, there are a lot of companies making homebrew machines that could use that catch phrase too.
In the past few years we've seen a huge influx of countertop beer brewing machines and all-in-one homebrew systems that can heat water, mash, lauter, sparge, boil, chill, ferment and even dispense from the same unit. Traditionally all of these brewing steps required separate vessels and transfer methods, but new technology innovation has engineers thinking differently.
Many of these systems got started as projects on crowd funding sites like IndieGoGo and KickStarter and quickly saw interest grow. These machines answer questions like how can I combine steps for less cleaning and sanitizing? How can I reduce transfers for less oxygen exposure? How can I harvest yeast without transfers? How can I track and control the mash/boil for a more repeatable brew?
These All-in-One brewing systems are being made in many different countries across the globe now including Australia, China, Norway, Germany, New Zealand and the USA. Availability of each machine varies, but most are available for shipping worldwide. With so many systems to choose from, what's so different about each one? I looked at the most popular systems currently available to see what sets each one apart.
The Brewie system is a fully automated beer brewing device with step-like mashing, sparging, boiling, hop additions, cooling and cleaning. The makers of Brewie designed the unit for both newcomers to the art of brewing and veteran, professional brewers. For people who are new to brewing they provide a wide range of all grain "ready-to-brew" packages, called "Brewie Pads". These "pads" include all the ingredients that are needed for around 5 gallons (20 liter) batches (malt, hops, yeast). After ordering a pad the only thing left is to place the hops and malt into the machine and press the brew button. The machine takes care of the whole process and can be monitored from anywhere via internet from your smartphone, tablet or PC.
Once the brewing process is done, the user receives a notification that the wort is ready for fermentation. Then with a press of button the user can transfer the ready wort into a fermentation tank (happens outside of the machine so the user can use his/her machine without interruption) and run the automatic cleaning program. Brewie has an online community where brewers can interact, exchange recipes, learn from each other and organize events. Advanced homebrewers can use their own mix of ingredients, create or modify recipes and reproduce their favorite beer anytime.
Unlike other systems on the market, this is not a push button, fully automated system so it still allows the brewer to demonstrate their skill and adjust the machine to their personal style of brewing. No pots and pans or gas burners are necessary and it is easy to assemble with no experience necessary. Grainfather works for all-grain, partial or extract brewing.
The GrainFather is made of high quality materials such as 304 grade stainless steel, tempered glass, a magnetic drive pump and copper cooling coils. The temperature controlled heating elements allow you to set mash temperatures and not worry about fluctuations. You are able to manually enter step mashes to get the perfect mash profile every time. 8 Gal (30L) capacity means it can produce approximately 6.6 Gal (25L) of craft beer at one time without taking up huge amounts of space in the home.
The magnetic drive pump and constant recirculation helps extract all sugars in the grain giving optimal brewing efficiency. The expandable grain basket allows the brewer to create very high ABV beers (almost 10%) as well as lower ABV beers. The included counter flow wort chiller is an impressive and efficient inclusion - it runs wort through a counter flow copper coil, chilling one way while hot liquid goes the other. It chills 6.6 Gal (25L) of wort in under 20 minutes. It also runs the chilled wort from the Grainfather straight into a separate fermenter, without the need for pouring. No doubt the most impressive feature of the Grainfather is the ability to transform into an alembic pot still with optional attachments.
The MiniBrew system is an impressive feat of engineering. It may only brew 1 gallon of homebrew at a time, but it claims to be a true all-in-one system with no other equipment needed. The mini all-grain system heats water, mashes, recirculates, sparges, boils, chills, ferments and dispenses homebrew in one week.
After adding all of the ingredients, this small batch brewing machine will boil and cool the wort. After adding the yeast the machine is ready for fermentation, which is done automatically in the same copper vessel. If desired you can add some extra yeast or hops before fermentation. This preparatory process takes around three-and-a-half hours and in as little as a week you could be sipping on your personalized beer, five liters at a time. If you want to keep brewing while your other beer is fermenting, you can order an extra keg.
Using the MiniBrew software, brewers can easily replicate their favorite recipe or pick and choose one of the 10 recipes that are already available via the app. The MiniBrew Discovery App uses a taste wheel to help you select your desired beer style based on Color, Alcohol % ABV and Flavor. Once you've selected your personal beer style you can order the ingredients direct via the app.
A pro-style system that allows you to mash, boil and ferment all in the single vessel without any messy liquid transfers and without the need to use chemical sanitizers. It reduces the number of vessels you need to brew by being your temperature controlled fermentor, your mash tun, and your boil kettle. The Unibrau Pro is all 304 stainless steel with 1.5" sanitary fittings throughout for easy sanitation. They included quick take apart sanitary ball valves for easy cleaning and offer optional stainless steel brewing elements with an integrated twist lock connector.
The way it works is very much like a BIAB system. You bring your water to the desired mash temperature and the system recirculates the wort over top of the grain bed. The heater elements mounted under the mash bed can be fired on for control of the temperature. Once the mash is completed, the mash basket is raised out of the vessel and the boil begins. After the boil, the cooling coil lid is added and chilling starts. Once the wort is chilled, you can pitch your yeast into the fermentor.
The Unibrau Pro comes in two sizes 45L and 95L to brew 23L high gravity batches and up to 60L high gravity batches respectively. The 45L size has an extra element port and can be configured for 120V or 240V power to suit worldwide power configurations.
The BrewMaster ignores all the rules that you probably were taught when you started brewing beer. Myths like all-grain brewing is better, you can't ferment under pressure and it takes 30 days to make great tasting beer. Well the team at WilliamsWarn didn't listen and their BrewMaster system makes award winning beer with malt extract in 7 days. The BrewMaster is not an all-grain system, it brews under pressure and cools under pressure and clarifies under pressure. The system focuses on temperature control and clarification techniques for balancing the beer's final flavors. You simply clean/sanitize the unit, then fill with water, add malt extracts, (optional hop teas or other flavorings), add yeast and ferment. So when those steps are done in 7 days you can keg or bottle the carbonated beer or drink right out of the integrated kegerator.
WilliamsWarn currently has 14 pre-packed beer kits and 1 cider kit available for purchase. These kits match 15 specific beverage styles within the BJCP Style Guidelines. They also provide an advanced guide to show how you can brew 80 different styles with their recipe kits as the base and soaking extra hops and malted barley.
You still have the option of mashing an all-grain batch and adding the wort into the BrewMaster to benefit from its temperature control fermentation capabilities. They do offer a more stripped down version of the system called the BrewKeg which does not incorporate the chilling/cooling or dispensing components.
The Zymatic is one of the smaller all-grain systems available on the market. It brews 2.5 gallon batches and their newest machine, the Pico, will soon be available in a 1.3 gallon system. The Zymatic can hold up to 9 lbs of grain in its removable step filter, has 4 hop/adjunct baskets and has a powerful recipe customizer that allows a lot of freedom with recipe creation. The advanced recipe creator allows you to choose between a single infusion mash at a single temperature or a high efficiency mash schedule, which will allow much more control for Dough-In, Protein Rests and Saccharification Rests. The unit even has settings for sous-vide cooking.
You can import your favorite recipes in BeerXML, or seek inspiration from their recipe library filled with hundreds of proven recipes. The Zymatic can perform multistep mashes, accurately timed hop addition and automatically log and save brewing data on the Picobrew cloud servers. The entire system is Wifi enabled and connects to the internet so that you can monitor remotely from any phone, tablet or computer.
You can make money with Picobrew too. The Picobrew BrewMarketplace allows homebrewers and popular breweries to scale their recipes down into 'PicoPaks' and receive royalties on every Pak sold.
The Pico is the little brother of the Picobrew Zymatic. It brews 1.3 gallon batches using ready-to-brew "PicoPaks" designed by breweries and other homebrewers. The PicoPaks are available in the PicoBrew marketplace, which is like an app store for beer recipes. Each PicoPak contains all the brewing ingredients (grains, hops, etc) and the recipe is automatically recognized when you slide it into the machine. You can adjust the bitterness and alcohol level with a turn of the dial on the control panel.
You press the 'brew' button and the system takes about 2 hours to heat water and complete the mash. Once the process has completed, the entire PicoPak can be discarded (composted). All that is left is adding the provided White Labs PurePitch yeast package and ferment for around a week. The beer is carbonated and transferred into small drinking kegs.
Another small batch all-in-one system that checks all the boxes is the iGulu. Available for pre-order, this crowd funded project sought to build a machine that brewed, fermented and served all-grain batches from the same machine.
With iGulu you choose the type of beer you want to brew. You can select it from their library or create your own recipe. Fill iGulu with ingredients and fill the MiniKeg with the specified amount of water. Press start on the machine or via your mobile phone through their APP. Brewing begins and the brewing status will be uploaded to the cloud server, so you can keep track of it on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. After brewing, your beer will enter into the fermentation stage.
Leave the keg inside the machine and add the yeast. You will still be able to track the status on the APP. You may also pull out the MiniKeg at any time during this stage, put on an airlock, and do the fermentation outside of the machine. You should do this only if you are trying to brew another batch of beer and have another MiniKeg. Next, you take the ingredients out of the container, remove the waste, rinse the malt and hops and place the container back into the machine. The fermentation process will take from 7 days to 3 weeks, depending on the beer style, the fermentation temperatures, and some other factors. Finally, you transfer the beer from the fermentation keg to a clean serving keg, carbonate, and dispense from the machine's built-in draft tap.
The BeerDroid is basically a temperature controlled fermentation vessel for extract brewing that also dispenses the finished beer. It's WiFi enabled for firmware upgrades and their BrewArt App allows you to monitor and control the BeerDroid wherever you are. The machine features a no-thread tap system which makes cleaning simple and fast. They use a quiet compressor for temperature control during fermentation.
Their brewing process does not require mashing, lautering, boiling, so your brewday is extremely fast with minimal cleanup. You can use one of their pre-packed BrewPrint recipe packs or create your own custom recipe on their website. After the beer has completed fermentation you can bottle or keg the beer straight out of the bottling tap on the machine.
The Braumeister was one of the original countertop all-in-one mash/boil systems. A proven system since 2003, the team at Speidel has made many improvements and added new features to the Braumeister over the years. A true automatic step mashing system controlled over WiFi, the Braumeister can brew a batch in 4-5 hours.
The Braumeister control panel has a large LED screen, allowing for easy recipe selection, as well as a memory bank to store recipes for future brews. Water is poured into the system and heated. The malts are added and a return tube and screen are put in place. During the mash the machine uses a recirculation pump for clear wort production. The inner vessel is raised up and put on a stand to allow the wort to drain out for boiling. The Braumeister reaches and maintains a true boil, which some brewers believe is a key factor in final beer quality. After the boil, the wort can be cooled in the system with the optional wort chiller attachment.
The machine is made in Germany with all German parts.
The BREWHA BIAC (Brew in a Conical) simplifies the brewing process and reduces equipment requirements for home brewers. Heating, mashing, boiling, chilling and fermenting is all handled inside the mobile conical.
Water for mashing is added and heated. A large colander style basket is inserted and grain is added. Mash temperature is precisely regulated by the temperature controller and heating element. When mashing is complete, the grain is removed by raising the colander. The wort filters through the spent grain and down into the vessel for boiling. Sparge water can externally be heated and added to rinse the grains. Since the system boils, there is no need for chemical sanitizers. After the boil, the wort is chilled by passing cold water through the cooling jacket. After cooling, cold break is dumped out of the bottom port, the wort is aerated and yeast can be added. Fermentation temperatures are regulated with the cooling jacket and temperature controller.
The BREWHA team designed the system to reduce transfers, reduce the footprint and speed up your brewday. Some nice features are the automated valves and temperature sensors to give you many options for customizing the system to fit your specific brewhouse needs.
The BREWHA BIAC can also be used for producing wine and even spirits with the optional condensing assembly.
The Brew-Boss COFI Filter System is Brew-In-A-Bag (BIAB) type all-in-one brewing system. The filter, heating elements and fittings are all manufactured from 304 grade stainless steel.
The Brew-Boss has is a very sophisticated software program with audible queues to control and guide the entire brew session using an Android tablet or iPad. Water is heated in the kettle to the desired strike temp. A mesh mash basket is filled with grains and placed inside the kettle. A pump recirculates the water through the grain bed using their Center Out Forced Infusion (COFI) technology to assure that all the grain is in constant contact with the mash water and that there are no dead spots.
After mashing is completed, the filter is lifted and the grain gets squeezed. The squeezing action extracts much of the trapped sweet wort from the grain.
The Brew-Boss controller can be purchased separately to fit into any homebrew system or you can buy complete systems ready to brew right out of the box.
The Brew Easy system is a modular mash/boil brewing system that recirculates wort between two kettles during the mash. The system is available in gas or electric versions and comes in 5, 10 or 20 gallon batch sizes. The BrewEasy system can be purchased as a complete system or separate pieces can be purchased if you already own some of the equipment.
Water is heated to strike temperature and the grain is added to the top kettle fitted with a false bottom. Once the dough-in is complete, additional water is heated in the kettle sitting below. The Tower of Power module is an optional component that allows you to automate and control the burner (or boil coil) heat source and pump. The wort is recirculated through the grain bed until starch conversion is complete. After the mash is complete, the wort drains down into the bottom kettle for boiling.
The Brew Easy offers no-sparge convenience and time savings from a BIAB type setup. With the BrewEasy, you can grow into it as your brewing techniques change and develop. You can also still do fly sparging with the separate kettles if that is a technique needed in your beer making.
The RoboBrew looks like a big coffee percolator, but this all-in-one single vessel brewery is perfect for home brewers who are looking to get into all grain.
The system is not overcomplicated and allows an all-grain brewer flexibility to brew in many different styles. Water is quickly heated using two heating elements (1900 watt element + 500 watt element). A steel malt BIAB style basket is added along with the grains for mashing. Once mashing is completed the basket is raised out of the vessel and rested on a stand for draining. Sparge water is manually added over the grains and then you turn on the heating elements to start the boil. Once the boil is complete you chill the wort with the included stainless steel immersion chiller.
The BrewCrafter is a very affordable unit with a lot of capability. The system includes a 220V circulation pump that fits on the ball valve outlet and recirculates wort back up through a port in the lid. A BIAB style setup with a grain basket and built in heat elements with an LCD temperature control panel. After mashing your grains and recirculating, the grain basket is lifted up and locked into place for draining. Sparge water can be added from an external source and then the boil begins.
The grain basket can hold 18 lbs of grain and has a patented stepless lifting system and feet to rest on top of the boiler, which prevents aeration of the wort during mash-out.
The BrewCrafter can also double as a sous-vide slow-cooker, and it's perfect for boiling vegetables, potatoes, crustaceans and other types of seafood.