Review: Beer Machine

Home brewing tends to be a deliciously messy and involved process. The Beer Machine promises to change that with a simple, all-in-one kit for making your own brew at home — in 7 to 10 days, no less.

To be completely honest, our beer lust was only matched by our skepticism. In the end, The Beer Machine turned out to be less of a letdown than we were expecting, but not by much.

Since the relatively compact unit functions as a fermenter, conditioning vessel and dispenser, careful assembly was required. Getting the main (and cheap-feeling) plastic barrel set up was easy enough, but piecing together all the valves (a pressure release and a spigot for dispensing) and checking the corresponding seals took a few tedious tries.

The included instructions and website both offer a number of useful pointers, but we suspect first-time brewers might be a little perplexed by some of the more esoteric steps. For instance, ensuring a proper airtight fit on the main barrel involves soaking the main rubber seal in warm water, so that it’s malleable enough to manage a snug fit. Little steps like these aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but we were expecting a little less work for a such a pricey all-in-one solution.

After tackling assembly, pressure tests and sterilization of … well … everything, getting the brew started was a relative cinch. Our particular kit shipped with the basics: a straightforward ale mix and brewer’s yeast. At this point, the old “just add water” adage rang true. We poured everything into the barrel, sealed it up and began the waiting game.

Though this was the easiest part of the process, we still had a minor gripe. At 2.6 gallons the capacity of the Beer Machine is on the light side, yielding about 27 bottles. Although this is enough to get a Gadget Labber (or three) adequately tipsy, we’ve encountered more than a few, less-expensive DIY kits that yield 5 gallons or more. Otherwise, checking on the progress midbrew was simple, thanks to the opaque drum, integrated temperature and pressure gauges, and spigot for the occasional taste test.

Aside from a few precarious location swaps to maintain temperature — thank you, California heat wave! — we were ready to start bottling. In addition to the very basic spigot, the Beer Machine sports a bottle holder and tubing for spill-free bottling. Despite its inelegance — both the holder and tubing reminded us of cheap aquarium accessories — we had no problems filling the six resealable bottles with the relatively quick tap. No fuss, no muss.

Ay, there’s the rub. Though the Beer Machine definitely works, it isn’t really anything special. The build quality leaves a lot to be desired, and we suspect even first-time brewers would quickly outgrow the device — especially when the market is flooded with cheaper, higher-yield alternatives.

It does a decent job of simplifying peripheral brewing tasks — checking PSI, bottling, taste tests, etc. — but the advantages are rather minor. Our suggestion? Do a little more research and brew up a better kit.

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