Today PicoBrew teased the release of a new beer brewing appliance called the PicoBrew Z.
Unlike the Seattle startup’s last two crowdfunding campaigns which offered up new appliances for home beer brewing, the PicoBrew Z looks to be designed for the pro market. While the company is keeping most of the details of the new appliance under wraps until next week, the teaser site indicates that the new device will brew up to 10 gallons and is targeted at brewpubs, restaurateurs and home brewers looking to take their hobby to the next level.
Here’s how PicoBrew CEO Bill Mitchell described the PicoBrew Z in an email to potential backers:
Today is an exciting day for us: We’re introducing the PicoBrew Z Series, our first professional-grade, all-grain brewing appliance line. While we have been very successful with 2 generations of consumer Pico machines, we have not yet addressed the needs of the prosumer and professional audience since the launch of our original Zymatic…until now! Reap the benefits of larger batch sizes from 1 to 10 gallons, rugged, maintainable, industrial grade components designed for professional use and more with the new PicoBrew Z Series.
In some ways, the Z appears to be an evolutionary step forward from PicoBrew’s first device, the Zymatic. While the Zymatic was never pitched as professional grade equipment, about half of the roughly three thousand Zymatics ended up in craft or mass market breweries.
The reason brewmasters liked the Zymatic is it gave them a way to prototype new beers without spending thousands of dollars experimenting on big batches. However, some craft brewers wanted to go beyond prototyping and use the Zymatic to create small experimental batches to serve their customers. The problem with that idea is the Zymatic only brews 2.5 gallon batches, about half the size of a soda keg (a cornelius keg) and just a fraction of the standard beer keg (15 gallons or half a barrel). The Z fills the gap between the Zymatic and smaller pro grade brewing equipment (which often start at half a barrel to a barrel of brew capacity) by brewing up to 10 gallon batches.
While PicoBrew has yet to release pricing on the Z, my guess is it will come in below $10 thousand. With the cost of entry for traditional microbrewery equipment often reaching $100 thousand or more, the PicoBrew Z could tap into an unmet demand by filling a substantial void between consumer and pro markets. The Z also looks like it will have some headroom to grow, as Mitchell describes the new line as a “series”, which sounds to me like it will have different SKUs with potentially different capacities.
In another departure from past product introductions, it looks like this time around PicoBrew isn’t headed to Kickstarter. In one way, they look to be taking a cue from Glowforge, a company which shattered all hardware crowdfunding campaigns in 2015 with its 3D printer.
Early indications are this was a good idea. In an emailed response to my inquiry about the PicoBrew Z, an exec said the PicoBrew Z is on a ‘GlowForge-like trajectory’ since unveiling this morning with “thousands of signups” in the first hour.