From Microsoft to Beer: Pair Create Homebrewing Machine

Bill Mitchell, left and Avi Geiger, formerly of Microsoft, with their PicoBrew home beer-brewing machine.


If you were one of the top guys who spent much of the 2000s trying to get Microsoft to develop tablet computers, you might be ready for a drink.

Or two.

Fortunately, that guy — Bill Mitchell — has figured out how to easily produce a never-ending supply of absolutely top-notch beer, in any style and flavor you can imagine.

After leaving Microsoft in 2010, Mitchell started a company called PicoBrew with his food-scientist brother and a gifted hardware hacker he used to work with in Redmond.

Together they created a dream machine for small-scale brewing that they’re unveiling Monday.

Called the PicoBrew Zymatic, it’s a device the size of a large microwave oven that almost completely automates the process of producing beer.

The idea was to take the drudgery out of brewing, without sacrificing the fun or the gratification that comes from creating your own batches, Mitchell said.

“The beauty for us, especially in beer-making, is it’s this great fusion of science and cooking, of chemistry and cooking,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose any of that — in fact we want to enhance that portion of it — and just take out the bad portions.”

They’ve also applied modern technologies to the ancient art.

Zymatic machines were designed to be Internet appliances. They are controlled by open-source software, connected to the Web and managed through a browser.

PicoBrew’s software dashboard is used to concoct recipes and adjust brewing cycles. Users can share recipes through the service and monitor the brewing process remotely on their smartphone.

Data collected by this online service — from users who opt to share their brewing activity — will be used to continue refining the machines, which are also designed to be hacked and modified as buyers see fit.

About 1 million people in the U.S. brew their own beer, from President Obama on down, according to the American Homebrewers Association. But it remains a niche hobby because home-brewing can be a hassle.

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