After introducing Keurig-like pods for brewing beer at home, PicoBrew is back with a more traditional all-grain setup. The new Z Series allows brewers to use their own loose grains and hops instead of the company's own pre-packed ingredients. There are also four models, from 2.5 gallons up to 10 gallons -- each one increases brew capacity by 2.5 gallons. Like the Zymatic these units replace, PicoBrew designed these devices for pros, especially since a 5, 7.5 or 10 gallon batch would be enough to put on tap in a tasting room -- for pilot batches, at least. However, experienced homebrewers can also use their expertise for the Z Series.
Like all of PicoBrew's devices, the Z Series centers on a clear drawer that holds all of your grains and hops. Add your ingredients, select the recipe and hit start. The machine does all the heavy lifting with a connected brew keg that acts as both boil kettle and fermentation vessel. As long as you've input your recipe correctly (or selected one from PicoBrew's library), the Z Series will heat the water to the proper temp, steep the grains, boil the wort and add the hops at the correct time(s). All you have to do is wait a few hours to add the yeast to begin fermentation.
The Z Series also wields a WiFi connection so similar to previous Pico models, you can monitor the brewing process from a computer, phone or tablet. That internet connection can also help you tap into PicoBrew's "extensive" library of recipes.
If you want to brew a batch with less fuss or based on an existing beer, the Z Series can also be used alongside those PicoPaks the company developed for its Pico Pro and Pico C devices. If you're not familiar, you basically pick a beer or use your own recipe to order packets of hops and grains that come in biodegradable containers. All you have to do is place them in the drawer and Pico's brewing gear automatically detects the Pak, pulls in the recipe info and does the rest while you enjoy a cold one.
Of course, the only downside to a PicoPak is having to wait for it to arrive. With the Z Series, you can just run down to your local homebrew shop and pick up ingredients whenever you get the urge to brew. You also have to consider the fact that both the Pico Pro and Pico C, two brewing set-ups that only use PicoPaks, are also a lot cheaper than even the most affordable option in the Z Series.
For each additional 2.5 gallons of brewing capacity, the Z Series adds an extra gain drawer. This means that if you opt for the 10-gallon option, you essentially have what looks like a brewing file cabinet as the mash drawers stack on top of each other. It looks a little wonky, but it makes sense in terms of a modular brewhouse. Speaking of modular, PicoBrew says that after the Z Series launches, it will offer customers add-on kits to increase that capacity should the need arise. There's no word on pricing yet, but the option is nice, and it means you don't have to spend several hundred dollars extra right now if you don't need to.
PicoBrew is also announcing an option for avid homebrewers to make money off of their best recipes. Through the PicoBrew Network (PBN), you can upload recipes that will be used to build PicoPaks. When other PicoBrew owners make a purchase, you'll get royalties. The company didn't offer specifics on rates in its announcement, but it did say over 800 homebrewers have already signed up for PBN with plans to publish beer recipes for others to try.
The PicoBrew Z Series is made for serious homebrewers and for professional brewers who need a realtively compact setup to experiment on. That said, it comes with a pro-grade price tag: the 2.5 gallon unit will cost you $2,500, the 5 gallon model is $4,000, 7.5-gallon capacity is $6,000 and the 10-gallon behemoth will set you back a whopping $8,500. The good news is the company is offering some huge discounts during the pre-order period that reduce cost by half on the 7.5- and 10-gallon options. The limited-time price cut takes $1,000 off the 2.5-gallon model and $4,500 off the 10-gallon stack. And if you splurged for the $1,999 Zymatic, PicoBrew will offer a trade-in program so you can get a break on the latest model.