This smart home brewer turned me into a beer-making master in just 9 days

This smart home brewer turned me into a beer-making master in just 9 days
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For the past few weeks, I’ve morphed a section of my kitchen into a mini bar and brewery after devoting some countertop real estate to the Igulu F1 smart beer brewer.

As the name suggests, this neat, barrel-shaped appliance is a smart home device designed especially for brewing beer at home – or wine, or cider, or kombucha, if you’re not after something alcoholic. What’s more, you can insert a compatible keg into the machine to instantly serve pints when you don’t want to wait for a batch of your own brew to be ready.

If you do make your own beer, this smart device promises to take out all the hassle. It can automatically alter its temperature from 35°F-86°F (2°C-30°C) to best suit the needs of your brew. Thanks to an automatic pressure management system, if the Igulu F1 brewer detects the fermentation process is building up too much pressure it can release some to return to a safe value. This should prevent your system from exploding; something that can occur if you aren’t careful when brewing with a manual kit.

To see if brewing beer at home is really as easy as Igulu suggests I thought I’d give the F1 a whirl for myself, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results. So much so that I’m already brewing my second batch.

My beer brewing redemption arc

I have exceptionally limited experience in the art of beer brewing. I helped my dad with a couple of beer-in-a-bag kits when I was a teenager (the results tasted like day-old urine) and while my biotech master’s did briefly mention beer brewing, the only thing I remember from that lecture is auto-brewery syndrome – a condition where your body effectively becomes a brewery; you eat carbs and then errant gut microbes produce alcohol inside you. If I contract that then something will have gone seriously wrong.

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It’s not out of the question: I worked in a pub one summer while I was home from university and I was never asked to work there again, so you can guess how that went.

The Igulu brewer next to bags with beer ingredients in

Here are the three beer kits currently available through Igulu (Image credit: Igulu)

To help me get started on a more successful brewing adventure, Igulu sent me three of its bag brew kits. If you’re an inexperienced brewer like me these are an excellent place to start. Like an alcoholic Hello Fresh delivery, they come with pre-portioned ingredients and instructions. 

What’s more, when you’ve followed the recipe and added all the ingredients to the F1’s removable keg, you simply place it back in the machine’s tank and then tap an included RFID chip to a spot on the machine’s logo. This starts a preprogrammed brewing process that does everything for you – manipulating the pressure and temperature to the beer’s precise needs, getting as cold as 35°F and as hot as 86°F (2°C and 30°C).

After waiting the nine days the machine said my beer would take (and then letting the concoction cool) I was finally able to drink some. I eagerly invited some family over to have a taste as well, and I think my dad summed up the result best: “It tastes like a beer.” 

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Even if it’s not the biggest compliment I’ll take that as mission accomplished.

Flying close to disaster

The only thing I’d criticize about Igulu’s beer brewing machine is that the instructions aren’t always 100% clear.

For example, the instructions on the back of the beer bag I used gave me precise details on when and how to add all the ingredients inside, except for one of them. I then had to do a fair amount of online research until I found a video explaining what I should do to avoid disaster.

Additionally, while the main machine’s instruction manual is comprehensive it’s not laid out in the best way. It jumps around between different stages of the brewing process and the end result was I didn’t fully grasp what I should be doing at times, so I made a few avoidable (but thankfully minor) mistakes.

I also had issues getting the Igulu app set up on my phone. However, I never needed to use it so I can’t overly complain about this aspect.

Someone pulling a pint from the Igulu F1 brewer

I forgot to take a picture of the beer before I drank it all, so here’s a stock image (Image credit: Igulu)

Should you buy the Igulu F1?

Despite my issues, I think the Igulu F1 brewer is delightful. Even though I didn’t put that much effort into drinking the beer I’d brewed – that importantly tasted good – it came with the sweet taste of accomplishment. Saying that I also like that it can double as a keg cooler for those occasions when I want to pull a cold pint for myself or a guest but I don’t want to wait over a week for a batch to finish brewing.

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However, at its considerable $699 / £555 asking price, I’d liken it to a high-end espresso machine in terms of the people who should consider buying it.

If you drink beer regularly and want to try making your own then it might be worth picking up this gadget. That’s especially true if you don’t have the time in your busy schedule to operate a more manual beer-brewing system, or if you’re concerned with the brewing risks that the Igulu F1’s safety features help to mitigate.

If this isn’t you then you might be better served by regular beer from the store, or waiting for Igulu to release a more affordable model – though there’s no word on when or even if that’ll happen.

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