Happiness comes from setting proper expectations, so if you want to spend $299 for the DIY MyBar.io robot cocktail maker, you should expect that it will be (pretty) easy to build, frustratingly hard to set up, but will ultimately work as promised.

Before any review of MyBar can begin, it’s important to know that this is basically the side hustle of one guy, Juan Pablo Risso. He’s an IoT engineer by day, and does pretty much everything for the MyBar by himself: designs, assembles and ships the kits, and even answers customer service questions. In short, this is not the same experience as buying a fully-formed product constructed by a venture-backed company. You just need to know what you’re getting into.

Ordering the MyBar was easy and the kit arrived as promised. The company says it should only take 2 hours to assemble, but I think that’s for DIY enthusiasts who already know what they are doing. I am not, and did not, so it took me more like 6 hours.

In my defense, it wasn’t just my own technical shortcomings. The online guide was incomplete, skipping entire steps (like adding the LED light), or not specifying that the flathead screwdriver required was for tiny parts on circuit boards, not regular screws. Additionally — and this is another danger of buying DIY products that aren’t fully tested before they ship — the first circuit board I got was faulty. Some of the terminal screws also would not tighten so wires would pop out.

To his credit, however, Risso was very responsive to my frustrated weekend emails, responding to every one, and even replacing my circuit board.

Those issues notwithstanding, the MyBar was pretty straightforward to build. It’s the housing, wiring 9 pumps to the circuit board, and attaching a bunch of tubes. It looks a little Frankenstein-y, but overall, the hardware is solid.

While the machine itself is solid, the software side needs a lot of work. The app is Android only, and I installed and ran it on an Amazon Fire HD 7 tablet. To be fair, the HD 7 is all of $50, so it is not the snappiest of tablets, but using the MyBar app was excruciating.

Ideally, you assign each tube a liquid (tube 1 = vodka, 2 = rum, 3 = grapefruit juice, etc.) in the app. The app then knows what ingredients you have and presents you with a list of drinks you can make. Tap a drink and the corresponding pumps spit out precise amounts of booze and mixers into your cup.

But the software is rigid and buggy. It works best if you can just use the pre-defined bottles already in the app: tequila, rum, grapefruit juice. There’s a UPC scanner in the app to ideally add any bottle of booze, but it didn’t work for any bottle I tried. Plus when you add a bottle, you have to fill out every line in the app’s form before it will be accepted. That means you have to add a UPC code (which I just wound up making up) as well as an image of the product. It’s very clunky.

Once built, setting up the MyBar to make drinks just takes. a. long. time. Too much time. And even when I successfully added ingredients, it only presented one cocktail recipe, so I had to manually create more. I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole here, but adding those recipes was the second biggest frustration with the product because the workflow is not well designed, takes too much time and was just very amateurish.

I say “second” biggest, because my biggest frustration with the product was the wireless bluetooth connection to actually talk with the MyBar itself. Perhaps it was because I chose a cheap tablet, but unless it was literally right next to the MyBar, it lost its connection. This would then freeze and crash the app, forcing me to re-start. Multiple times.

We threw a party over the weekend, and I spent a good hour prior just trying to get the MyBar to work. In my mind, I had already started writing a scathing review of the product. Yeah, it was relatively easy to build, but it was far too onerous to set up. It didn’t work as promised. The app sucked. The wireless connection sucked. Everything sucked and I was ready to chuck it all in the trash when something happened.

It worked (You can see the video of it in action below).

Not only that, it kept working and worked throughout my entire party and what I thought would just be a novelty for people to point at and then ignore actually became a fun way for partygoers to get their own drinks. They liked MyBar and enjoyed (and marveled at, if I’m honest) the experience of tapping a button on a tablet and that drink magically appearing out of the machine.

And these party people weren’t rubes, many of them worked in tech and were still surprised and fascinated by the MyBar. To be fair, no one asked how they could get one, but that didn’t stop them from coming back throughout the night. I had to re-think my review because though it was a pain in the @$$ to set up, it ultimately did what it was supposed to do, and it delighted people while doing it.

My experience may have been less-than-stellar, but the end users loved it. I had to re-write my mental review.

I can’t say you should run out and purchase the MyBar, especially if you are not a DIY person and are frustrated easily. But I also can’t say you shouldn’t buy one, especially if you have some patience, a little technical know-how, and want an easy way to serve cocktails at your parties.

The advantage of the MyBar is that it’s a third of the price of the high-end, fully automated Barsys, and the cocktail recipes come straight from your bottles, not flavor pods like the similarly priced Bartesian (so you can do more customizing).

If you go into MyBar with these expectations, the happiness of your guests might just make you happy.

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