Reviewing PicoBrew's 'Pico Model C' homebrewing system - Tipopils recipe.
In this post, I'm going to break down the Pico Model C system, from unboxing to brewing to tasting. Pico Model C retails for $375 and promises to brew you 5 liters of great tasting beer in as little as two hours that can be enjoyed in 10-14 days after fermentation and carbonation. This is, as others like to call it, the Keurig® of beer.
This isn't going to be as much as a step-by-step guide or instruction manual to use the Pico Model C - just my reaction to the steps and processes of the system and its instructions. For complete instructions, visit Pico Model C's manual here.
The system was shipped to me in three separate boxes. One box contained the Pico Model C itself, another box contained two recipe PicoPaks, and another box containing C02 cartridges and a pressure gauge.
The Pico Model C box contained a Brew Keg, a Serving Keg, a Step Filter (where the PicoPak goes), and the Step Filter lid, as well as all the connections, siphons, and valves needed to brew your beer. Including an accessory cleaning bucket.
Speaking of sanitation, I should note that just because this is an automated brewing system, the golden rule of homebrewing still applies: sanitize everything. With that in mind, PicoBrew requires these additional components to your Model C kit:
• 11 liters of distilled or reversed osmosis filtered water
• Access to clean tap water
• 1.5 cups of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (I used Star San)
• Fragrance-free powdered dishwashing detergent
Oddly enough, the system doesn't come with a manual. Instead, PicoBrew asks you to visit their website for online instructions. An interactive PDF of the manual can be found here.
Turning the system on, I was greeted with a WiFi Connect command on the LDC screen. It prompts you to do all the right things and helps you with your recipe along the way.
• You have to make sure everything is rinsed off and sanitized appropriately before brewing. Here, Pico is asking me to rinse the Step Filter, Keg Vessel, and necessary gaskets and valves. Brewing is cleaning, after all.
• First thought: This guy is loud. If you have a dog, he will probably leave the kitchen.
• Other than having some issues making sure the gasket was sealed on the Keg Vessel, this step went smoothly.
• Time to Complete: 12 minutes.
• I was really paranoid that this thing was going to overflow with water and leave a mess on my counter. While they said I could walk away, I didn't feel comfortable doing so for awhile.
• The machine was able to instantly recognized the PicoPak I chose and gave me some customization options (ABV, IBU). But, I know Tipopils and what it should taste like. I'm going to see if the default recipe is good enough for now.
• Again, kind of loud. It sounds like a dishwasher on top of a laundry machine.
• I do like how the LCD screen clues me in on what step it is on and the current temperature.
• There was some overflow foam on the keg from the 'out' tube. This is not uncommon.
• At the end of the day, my kitchen smelled like wort/beer/grain. That's a good sign!
• Time To Complete: 2 hrs, 30 minutes
• Time to let time and temperature take control in this step, you can't pitch the yeast until the wort has reached 68º Fahrenheit. So set it aside and don't touch (really, the keg is hot anyway).
• Cleaning the Step Filter proved to be easy. It's recommended to clean the newly-disconnected hoses and connect them to each other to prevent spilling any remaining wort from the system onto the counter.
• You can pitch the grain into your compost...or perhaps save some to make your favorite spent grain recipes later on.
• Time To Complete: 15 minutes.
PITCHING THE YEAST
• One really interesting addition to this system was the temperature decal. Slap it on and the decal will tell you the approximate internal temperature, as well as if it is ready for fermentation or not.
• As with everything that comes into contact with the recipe, make sure to sanitize the whisk before stirring the wort and pitching the included yeast package.
KEGGING / OPTIONAL DRY HOPPING
• No issues here. Fermentation and racking went well. Instructions were clear. Just know that some of your recipes might require an additional dry-hop step which will add a few days to the process.
TASTING / MISC. THOUGHTS
While I was brewing, my main gripe was "Okay. This might be neat. But it doesn't leave room for customization." Turns out, PicoBrew might have also implanted mind-reading devices within the Model C. While the beer was fermenting, Pico announced new customization abilities via empty PicoPaks.
If you listen to the podcast, you know I'm not much of a homebrewer. I've failed too many times to count and get incredibly frustrated with the whole brewing process. Brewing is cleaning, after all.
So...how'd it turn out? I love Tipopils. That beer might be one of the few beers I could point out in a blind taste test. I can tell you confidently that this Pico version is not a perfect clone.
But you know, it tastes good and it is in the ballpark of what it should be - so hey, maybe chalk it up to human error. I know I couldn't have done any better on a traditional homebrew system. If you're a traditional homebrewer, Pico might not be for you. But for me? Yeah, I'll use it again.
Pico: One suggestion. Please stress how important sanitizing equipment is throughout the process. The manual barely mentioned it.