With the recent Homebrew Con and homebrewing Expo held in Portland, we were able to get hands-on time with some of the best new homebrewing equipment, tech and gadgets for the homebrewer. These are the latest must have equipment and technology for those seeking a professional level of control on their homebrews or just to step up their game. With homebrewing bigger than ever, more companies and startups are launching products to do things like monitor your beer gravity, pH, or temperature digitally from long distances or even to ferment your own hard cider using whole leftover apples.
Founded by two Norwegian buddies and successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2017, the PLAATO Airlock is one of the slicker devices out to the homebrew market. This is a wi-fi connected airlock that monitors your homebrews fermentation in real-time and can update you on the numbers to wherever your cell signal or wi-fi connected device is located. This includes a reading on your estimated specific gravity, live temperature readings to calculate the beers alcohol content. PLAATO is just about as easy to use as a regular airlock, you plug it into the bung or cap of your fermentation vessel just like a regular airlock and fill it with a liquid sanitizer or high proof alcohol and turn it on. You just need to download and setup the special app on your phone or tablet to get the readings in real time broadcast. The PLAATO airlock works by optically measuring the bubbles/gas released through the hydrometer to calculate the gravity and temperature without ever touching your beer, there are no parts that need to touch the inside of your carboy, an ideal setup for homebrewers concerned with sanitization and ease of use. Also, after your project is finished PLAATO returns a full report on the fermentation, from the changes in gravity to temperature fluctuations throughout the process. A great way to monitor the effects of different yeast, mashing techniques and temperatures effects on the fermentation.
PLAATO Airlock is available for $135 and comes with a USB cable for charging or downloading of data. https://www.plaato.io/buy
Alchema – Home Cidermaking
Try your hand at home cidermaking in this incredibly simple to use, all-in-one device that can turn your whole or discarded apple parts into hard cider. Many professional cidermakers don’t even process apples themselves, Alchema will process, juice and ferment the cider all in one countertop system. You can also use it to make mead, or a hybrid of the two. If your an advanced homebrewer you may be wondering how the apples are sanitized from the natural yeast often found on their skins. Alchema is equipped with a medical grade UV-C LED sanitizer that processes the whole apple parts you add to it and monitors the fermentation, updating your mobile device on the progress. Alchema was a successful kickstarter project and is now available for order through the companies website but is not yet mass produced. I predict this could be a major brand available in major retailers soon if they can figure out to mass produce it. Right now it’s an expensive, (but I think worth it) $499.99 on their website.
I always despised the typical, cheaply made plastic auto siphons with the quarter inch tubing that would often get kinked or even the inner plastic pump come slightly misformed in production. There is nothing worse than a bad siphon blowing air into your uncarbonated beer and oxidizing it before it’s even bottled or kegged. If you are still hand bottling or using a siphon to keg, the BrewSSSiphon may be the answer to your prayers.
BrewSSSiphon is billed as “the worlds’ first fully de-constructable, manually cleanable, and totally sanitizable silicone & stainless steel auto siphon.” It ain’t cheap but it’s worth it for high quality, fresh beer and ease of use. Get one at https://www.brewsssential.com/products/brewsssiphon
The next best thing to spending upwards of 1K on a homebrewing stainless steel conical fermenter is the Catalyst Fermentation System. This system makes it easy to collect and remove yeast or trub via a sanitized jar attached to the bottom of the cone shaped bottom. I love how easy this makes it to clean up your beer without a filter and save and repitch yeast slurry. The lid comes with a port to pitch the yeast and seal it with a bung and hydrometer. Through the same bottom port that you use to remove yeast or slurry you can hook on a bottling or kegging hose to package your homebrew without the use of any pumps and worry about sanitization or oxidation.
For anyone who likes aromatic hopped beer, whether it be a dry-hopped sour ale, farmhouse ale or double-triple IPA this 300 Micron Steel Mesh basket for a corny keg will make the process much easier. Now you can throw away your inefficient, unsanitary and limited repeat use cheese cloths or dry hopping bags. Not only is stainless steel equipment like this ideal for cleaning and sanitizing but the extremely fine holes will keep a clean beer from getting too much hop matter into it. You can also dry-hop directly in the keg for the finest hoppy aroma right from the keg and to your glass. Multiple sizes available $16.99 – $45.99 on amazon.com.
Similar to the previous product the PLAATO Airlock, Brew Perfect is also a Wifi Digital Hydrometer with temperature and gravity monitoring gadget that broadcasts it’s readings live to your mobile device. Unlike the PLAATO, Brew Perfect has more pieces and parts that actually do drop into your fermenter to monitor your wort. This could be good or bad, it does add another level of equipment to the process and parts that must be well kept and sanitized but the addition of a probe that enters your wort to monitor the temp is an extra level of control that’s appreciated. The Brew Perfect device monitors the fermentation activity by gauging the buoyancy of the torpedo that hangs down in the beer for a theoretically quite accurate digital report. $169.99 at https://www.brewperfect.com/order/
HALO Wireless Beer pH Meter
This is truly a gadget for the advanced homebrewer/winemaker/distiller/cidermaker for those really dedicated to dialing in their brews and have a few coin to spare. pH is something that most homebrewers don’t pay much attention to unless making a kettle sour, and even then I think it’s not often actually measured. Probrewers know the value of this sort of info to the beers flavor profile and affect on hops, malt and yeast flavor. The HALO pH meter is a laboratory grade measurement system that works with your smart phone or tablet. The specialized titanium body electrode has a high temeprature glass sensor to take readings from a mash, wort or even finished beer and transmit the readings directly to your Apple or Android device. The HALO also knows when it’s electrode needs cleaning or re-calibration. It’s very easy to use and can help take your home beverage making to the next level for $235 plus shipping at https://hannainst.com/halo-ph-electrode-for-beer-analysis-fc2142.html
I was moderately interested when PicoBrew launched their automated, computer controlled homebrewing device and slightly more so when they updated it to allow more customization of recipes with malt and hops. The new PicoStill is their coolest product yet, even though I am more of a beer guy than a spirits guy this home distilling system makes making your own whiskey, tequila or gin quite easy. But it’s even better, you can even distill essential oils yourself from herbs, spices, hops etc. The only catch is you need the regular PicoBrew setup before you can use a PicoStill. Luckily, the new advanced PicoBrew is also worth your money. More info at https://www.picobrew.com/Store/products/picostill.cshtml
SS BrewTech Glycol Chiller
Not for those without a few bucks to spare and a real commitment to the hobby. SS BrewTech makes super high end brewing equipment for the homebrewer and nano brewery. SS BrewTech has introduced a glycol chilling unit for the hardcore homebrewer that will maintain temps or allow you to crash up t the Ss Glycol Chiller, which will maintain lager temps and enable crash cooling for 4 vessels. Each kit includes a dedicated temperature controller, pump, and tubing, each vessel can be connected to the glycol chiller with its own independent loop. The parallel design of this set up offers the ability to ferment at ale temps in one vessel, and maintain precise serve or crash cooling temps in another vessel. The Glycol Chiller can also be paired with our line of Ss Brite Tanks to hold beer at serving temperatures. This system offers both flexibility and expandability for your home brewery. The only problem is the price tag and that this unit is meant to work with a SS BrewTech homebrewing system. $999 at https://www.ssbrewtech.com/products/glycol
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.