By Mike Elgan, Houzz
Anyone can make beer and wine. In fact, people have been brewing beer for at least 7,000 years and making wine for even longer.
In the ancient world, beer and wine were daily beverages for aristocrats and indispensable components of religious ceremonies. Before the industrial revolution, both were routinely made in European homes and monasteries.
Centuries and millennia ago, the process of fermenting grain and grapes was done without any of the things considered necessary today — without isolated yeast, sterilization, thermometers or even the knowledge that yeast and other fermenting microorganisms existed.
All that was required was a lot of patience, practice, knowledge and luck.
Since industrialization, it has become possible to totally control every aspect of production, often using computer controls and a variety of sensors that tell the beer- or wine-makers about temperature, acidity, sugar levels and other useful information.
As a result, our standards for beer and wine safety, purity, variety and quality have gone way up.
An underground enthusiast community of home-brew fans and, in recent years, home wine-making nerds, has sprung up. Their methods tend to lie somewhere between the computer-controlled, high-tech methods of the major industrial producers and the European monks who relied on their hard-won skill, magic mixing spoons and plenty of prayer.
In recent years, a tiny new category of products has emerged that lets you run a very high-tech brewery or winery in your home.
The WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery is the most high-tech, industrial-quality home brewery you can buy. It comes with step-by-step instructions, which require easy sterilization, pouring water, malt concentrate, yeast and other ingredients into a big tank, then setting a few dials. At the end of a week, cold beer comes out of the built-in tap. It makes six gallons of beer per batch.
It’s all very easy, but the WilliamsWarn system does a lot of hard work. The system is computer-controlled, but the home brewer just deals with the simple dials and knobs on the top.
To make a specific type of beer, you buy a specific ingredient kit from WilliamsWarn, and it comes with the ingredients and instructions. You can also customize with special hops or yeasts from the company’s online catalog.
For starters, single-tank brewing requires the injection of a clarification agent under pressure from CO2, which drives the sediment into a small tank at the bottom of the main tank.
After you remove the sediment tank, refrigeration and pressure systems keep the beer cold and bubbly for the duration.
For a less high-tech, less convenient, less expensive but still pretty industrial alternative, try the Synergy Brewing Systems home brewery.
The Synergy Brew is a 15-gallon, three-tank, two-tier system with two 155,000 BTU propane burners, a mash tun with a false bottom, a brew kettle and a hot liquor tank. It’s really no different from a well-provisioned home-brew system like home brewers have been putting together for a long time. The difference is that Synergy provides just about everything you need in a single, racked system.
The key benefit of Synergy is that you can brew beer from grain, rather than from pre-made malt syrup extracts.
The WinePod is billed as the world’s first personal winery, the first automated teaching winery and the most advanced winemaking system in the world.
The company launched to great fanfare in 2007 and shut down when the recession hit a year later. But on July 17, the company announced its return with a new, improved product.
The WinePod comes with teaching software called the WineCoach, which gives step-by-step instructions to the winemaker. Some of the lessons are triggered by the WinePod’s brix sensor. (Brix is a measure of the sugar content in wine.)
You start with grapes — the WinePod crushes them appropriately for the style of wine being made, manages the temperature and monitors the sugar content throughout the process.
The products’ makers say you can keep the WinePod in your kitchen, if you want to.
If you’ve ever thought about expressing your passion for great beer or wine by making it yourself — but have been put off by the complexity or messiness — it’s time to reconsider. These new products make running your own home brewery or winery easier, cleaner and much more elegant.