When it comes to brewing beer, most of us envision a time-consuming process, one that uses large kettles to heat up the mash, requires pounds of hops, and takes weeks for fermentation to take place in large conical tanks.
The folks at Countertop Brewery have been working hard over the past 7 years to change this time-consuming process for home and craft commercial brewers alike. The brew masters behind the company have taken the beer game to the next level by engineering a system that allows brewers to focus more on the craft of brewing and think less about equipment and process.
Countertop Brewery: Hard Work, Dedication and Brew-a-Thons
Officially founded in 2014, the minds behind Countertop Brewery had one goal: to make it easy to brew beer in your kitchen with real ingredients. They had already been brewing beer for over seven years on all types of brewing equipment. A large amount of that time was spent brewing beer in their backyards or garages, using mainly propane as fuel. However, as their lives became more complex with full-time jobs and growing families, all day brew-a-thons became more challenging to negotiate. The team became inspired to eliminate all of the time-consuming details and hassles of brewing equipment and to focus on the fun part - the beer!
The wish for an easier system led to a whole lot of hard work and dedication, and Countertop Brewery was born: a small batch system that facilitates the process but does not rob the brewer of the full sensory experience of brewing beer.
Engineering a Prototype for Ease of Usability
Countertop Brewery brings all the necessary equipment for brewing together in one unit. This allows the user to easily brew beer in the kitchen without turning the kitchen into a laboratory (and keeps roommates and partners happy!). The system utilizes Wi-Fi to input recipes right from your smartphone and save your data, while it conveniently stores everything needed for brewing inside. The system runs off any standard 120V kitchen outlet, and is capable of brewing up to three-gallon batches using the same method as larger breweries in as little as three and a half hours.
The team considered a number of housing configurations and materials for their design, but it was their previous experience with Protocase that brought them back again. "It made sense to use a one-stop facility so we could focus on the development of the control system, plumbing and brewing hardware," said co-founder and engineer, Nate Ernst. "We devoted our design time to perfecting a housing unit. Protocase made adjustments, and delivered a housing we could depend on."
Countertop Brewery went through four different working/brewing prototypes. Each prototype used different heating systems, pumps, housings units, heat exchangers, and much more. There were many things the team had to adjust (and add) to make the system reliable for all types of beer. For example, with an IPA you add a significant amount of hops that have to be filtered out and for imperial stouts, you have more than two times the typical grain bill, therefore the mash basket had to be enlarged to handle the big beers.
The controls interface also took a long time to perfect. The process of determining what the brewer needs to see and control vs. all the data the system can show went through many iterations before it reached a satisfactory conclusion. Most importantly, the team had countless test rigs to make sure all the components would survive a lifetime of brewing. The result was an all-in-one solution that allows the user to easily brew beer in the kitchen.
Using the Countertop Brewery System
There are 5 main steps to brewing on the Countertop Brewery system:
- Load your customized recipe from the online beer recipe builder over Wi-Fi.
- Pour in the water and grains and control your brew session with the touchscreen.
- Remove grains and add hops as the system prompts you.
- Dispense into your fermenting container, and ferment.
- Carbonate and serve!
Where to Go From Here?
Countertop Brewery's first ten systems are going to selected beta users, pro brewers, and to first timers for feedback. As feedback is provided, the team will make updates and begin low-rate production by selling online through one of the top homebrew supply stores. Since Countertop Brewery is their base offering, as it hits the market, they plan to begin work on additional home brewing equipment that will complement the brewing system.