Small Appliances

I brewed beer in my basement with this automated brewing system

Fresh IPAs at the touch of a button.

A person is holding an IPA beer in front of a yard. Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

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Though I live in a part of New England that’s filled with microbreweries and brewpubs, I’ve never stopped thinking about making my own beer from scratch. I almost bought one of those homebrew kits to start a “mini-brewery” in my closet, but I was discouraged after learning about the number of hours I’d be spending sanitizing the tools and measuring ingredients.

But thanks to smart technology like Beermkr, an automated home brewing system, brewing beer is no longer reserved for dedicated fans. When I stumbled upon this product earlier this year, I knew I had to try it.

About Beermkr

About
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

It's a relatively low-maintenance way of brewing beer, as you can monitor from the comfort of your couch.

Beermkr is an automatic beer-brewing machine that brews one gallon of beer at a time. Despite being technically automated, you'll still be checking on it regularly throughout various points in the brewing process.

It has two main components: the Beermkr that controls the fermentation process and the Beertap that carbonates the freshly made beer.

Once the machine is set up, you can select the beer you’d like to brew, from a bright IPA to a rich stout. Next, Beermkr sends you a Mkrkit for that particular recipe, which contains all the grains, yeast, hops, and tools needed. All ingredients are pre-portioned, just like a meal kit.

There are currently six beers you can buy from their website (12 to choose from in the Beermkr app) and the Beermkr team releases new recipes on a regular basis. The brand also encourages advanced brewers to create their own recipes using the customization feature in the Beermkr app.

How does Beermkr work?

How does it work
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

Although the machine is large, I had no issue setting it up myself.

To start brewing, you’ll need to download the app and connect your brewer to it. Give your machine a name (I named mine “Otto”) and then click on the Mkrkit recipe that you’re about to brew. Full disclosure: While I enjoy a good IPA, this was my first time doing any sort of homebrewing, which also makes me the perfect candidate to test this smart gadget.

In addition to connecting the machine to my phone, the only assembly required was to connect the brew tub, a large plastic container located on top of the machine, to the two brew bags using the white and grey valves that came with it. To assist new users like me, the Beermkr app offers video tutorials on how to successfully attach every component while explaining the objectives of each step, which helps to ensure you’re doing everything correctly.

Once a brew cycle starts, the app will alert you with updates on your beer. Whether it’s announcing the completion of a step or reporting issues, you will get notifications immediately.

Since I have limited countertop space, I decided to conduct this experiment in my basement. It took me 13 days from start to finish but as recipes may vary, other types of beer might take a few more (or less) days to brew.

Data privacy

As app-enabled home electronics are gaining popularity, privacy concerns are also one of the areas I took into account while reviewing this gadget. I spoke to Beermkr CEO Aaron Walls about how the company is protecting its customer data.

“All our user data (name, payment info, shipping, and more) is stored on Stripe (a secured payment processing portal), not directly by us, which is about as safe as we can get,” said Walls.

“We do store machine data (temperature, times, pressure readings), which shouldn’t really be a concern from a security standpoint,” Walls added. “All that does is to help us understand how the machine is functioning or how a specific brew is progressing. If a beer is deviating from its normal course of action, we can then alert a user, and they can fix the problem.”

Internet accessibility

Although the machine is Wi-Fi–connected and regularly checks in with the server, an internet connection isn’t necessary to run a recipe. In a situation where the internet is limited, brewers can actually set the brew up using their phone hotspot, and the machine will run its program from start to finish. This feature allows users to continue brewing their beer in places with limited internet coverage.

What we like

What we like
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

I had no problem following the recipe.

Beermkr offers an experience similar to a professional brewery, as its temperature-controlling technology allows the brew environment to remain at a calibrated level, without requiring users to intervene in the process. Homebrew kits may give beer enthusiasts a more hands-on experience, but they're also more time-consuming. Additionally, homebrew kits typically provide users with malt extract, which is different from traditional brewing methods using all-grain.

The set-up was easy

I’m not a handy person, but I was impressed with how relatively easy it was for me to set up this giant machine. It came in two big pieces, the sizable Beermkr that houses the brewing chamber and a slightly smaller dispenser called the Beertap, which won’t be used until the fermentation process is complete.

The entire brewing process was mostly stress-free

My first beer is a Citra Smash IPA (available via app purchase), a hoppy citrus-forward beer that uses citra hops, fresh yeast, and malt from England. Every ingredient I needed for this recipe came in a brown paper bag, which included pre-portioned grains, yeast, two CO2 cartridges, and other supplies.

When I started brewing, the app prompted me with a brew schedule that gave me a detailed timeline of the brewing process, as well as an estimated time to fresh beer. I was a bit timid the first few days, even though the steps were as simple as adding pre-portioned grains and tap water to the brew tub, closing the lid, and hitting the only button on the machine.

The trickier step came later when I transferred the brew bag to Beertap to start the carbonation process. For this part, I asked my husband to help me out because it was difficult to close the Beertap with a bloated bag inside.

The app monitors your beer for you

To check on the beer, all you need to do is to go to the app. Its interface is user-friendly and intuitive—I can see the current temperature of my beer, estimated time to finish, and order new Mkrkits at the tap of my finger.

When the first step finishes, the app alerts me to proceed to the next step. Though the schedule may vary from recipe to recipe, the first few days of brewing may always be more busy, as crucial steps like pitching yeast and adding hops take place earlier in the cycle.

Customer service is prompt and helpful

Early on into the brewing process, I spotted a leak because I didn’t properly attach the brew bag to the top tank. I emailed Beermkr’s customer service and got a response within two hours. They gave me a helpful diagnosis and made sure that I was able to get back on the right track.

What we don’t like

What we don't like
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

I struggled a bit with the dispenser—the beer didn't flow quickly enough.

It’s not an entirely quiet machine

I put my Beermkr in my basement, which is one floor below my condo. Though it didn’t cause too much distraction, the machine made audible noise that was particularly noticeable later in the evening. It could be a nuisance for people who store it in their living area or kitchen.

Beertap assembly isn’t totally intuitive

Additionally, the Beertap wasn’t particularly intuitive to set up but we eventually figured out how to make it work after discovering a tube was twisted due to user error, causing the beer to flow slowly. Then it was over-carbonated because we had to depressurize and repressurize it to resolve the issue.

How did the beer taste?

How did it taste?
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

The hazy color is a result of the type of hops used in the Citra Smash IPA.

I’m satisfied with the result of my first ever beer. As I grew more confident with brewing later in the process, I’m positive that I’m well on the way to making my second beer taste even better.

My inaugural brew, “Baby Otto,” came out refreshingly crisp with notes of citrus and a nutty undertone, thanks to the Maris Otter malt. Admittedly, it isn’t in the same league as the craft beers made by professionals, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of making a decent beer. After all, I’ve got a fun story to share!

Should you buy the Beermkr?

Should you get it
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

I like how every ingredient is pre-portioned so I don't have to worry about messing anything up.

If you’re interested in learning about brewing your own beer, Beermkr is a great way to start. It takes care of the most stressful parts of the brewing process—temperature control, measuring the ingredients, and sanitization. It helps you become familiar with what exactly happens during fermentation, and once you feel more knowledgeable about it you’ll eventually be able to customize your own recipes.

Or, if you know someone who has talked about starting to home brew for years, this automated brewing machine may be the perfect gift to give—it’s almost guaranteed that the beer will come out delicious, so what’s the risk?

Get the Beermkr home brewing system for $579

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