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Former Microsoftie in AUTOMATIC BEER MAKER funding plea

Ex-Redmond bloke and brother want $150k to perfect effort-free homebrew gadget

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A pair of boozy ex-Microsoft employees have embarked on a mission to bring homebrewing to the masses with a machine that supposedly makes brewing a beer as easy as making an espresso.

Bill Mitchell and his brother Jim launched the Picobrew Zymatic on Kickstarter, where it has quickly racked up orders. The project began on 30 September and has already raised $94,875 from 130 backers, almost two-thirds of the way to its goal of $150,000.

The pair wrote: "Why can't we brew beer at home as easily as we can make a loaf of bread with a bread-maker, or a shot of espresso with an automatic espresso machine? Making quality beer this easily: that was the dream 3 years ago, and we're proud to announce that after thousands of man hours of R&D, we've made that dream a reality."

Bill spent more than 18 years as an Redmond executive working on smartphones, wearable computing and PDAs, while Jim spent the last 20 years building food processing plants in California.

The brothers have a family history of culinary innovation. Their grandfather is Dr William Mitchell, inventor of such famous foodstuffs as Pop Rocks and Tang, which might sound like legal highs but are intensely sugary treats. Tang, a powdered drink, was even taken aboard a NASA space flight, while many of us will remember the first time we felt popping candy erupt on our tongues.

To build their brewing machine, the pair used an off-the-shelf Arduino-based controller as well as off-the-shelf pumps, relays, valves and a custom heating loop. However, they hit an impasse when it came to designing a custom motherboard, until they accidentally (drunkenly?) bumped into another former Microsoftie called Avi Geiger, who gave them a hand.

The resulting machine claims to brew beer at the press of a button. Just load grains, put hops into little compartments and then get brewing. Easy, right?

"Home beer brewing takes entirely too much time, is too imprecise, and frankly, when you account for all of the clean-up, is not all that fun," added the team. "We wanted to make the creation of high-quality beer brewing simple, amp up the art, and tone down the tedium."

We'll have to wait and see whether this homebrewing kit turns out to be an XP corker or a Vista damp squib. (Vulture Central's backroom gremlins welcome more terrible MS/beer puns in the comments) ®

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