Q&A With Bill Mitchell, CEO of PicoBrew

Today we're starting a new Q&A series here at Smart Kitchen Notes. Once or twice a week over the next few months, we'll be sharing insights from one of our speakers about the opportunities and challenges the industry faces while also hearing a little about how they got started. Today's Q&A is from Bill Mitchell, CEO of PicoBrew, a maker of home beer brewing appliances. You can read more about Bill here.

Bill Mitchell, CEO of PicoBrew

What problem is your company trying to solve that current kitchen or food industry technology doesn’t?

Mitchell: PicoBrew’s mission is to get the world brewing!   We believe there’s no reason that brewing your own fresh craft beer should be any different than cooking a great gourmet meal in your kitchen….it’s just a matter of having the right equipment!

Tell us about an important ‘origin story’ moment in creating your product or founding the company.

Mitchell: In 2010 my brother Jim and I were home-brewers who had each cobbled together our own home-brewing systems.  When comparing beer recipes one day we realized that the reason we disagreed about what constituted a great beer recipe is that we both has such poor process control and hence precision and repeatability that we were comparing different beers.   We said:  “we’ve gotta solve this problem!   It should be possible to create a beer-making appliance compact enough for the kitchen that creates precise repeatable results --- it should be like cooking with the aid of great appliances”
What’s the most exciting aspect about the fusion of technology and kitchen for you?

Mitchell: Beer-brewing is the ultimate fusion of cooking and chemistry, and with the tools we’ve produced at PicoBrew you’re using an advanced scientific instrument to produce a beverage that you cherish and is its own reward…what could be better than that?
What is the biggest potential pitfall do you believe the smart kitchen industry need to avoid to realize its potential?
Mitchell: Technology may tend to clump into islands – will your coffee maker talk to your smart refrigerator, and will that talk to your pico-brewer?   And do they need to?   Companies producing these separate devices will only adopt integrating technologies if they gain some market advantage from doing so.   So we believe core scenarios involving the smart home and multiple appliances are necessary to drive common protocols and integration.   We don’t believe the common platform for all appliances every really emerges, but rather, demand-driven scenarios overlaying technologies invented to address specific integration scenarios emerge as essentially the kitchen meta-platform.

What do you think will be the biggest change technology will bring to the kitchen and foodtech space over the next 10 years?
Mitchell: Smart appliances make it possible for non-experts to achieve great results.   20 years ago I used to have to be a decently skilled barista to pull a great espresso from the home espresso machines of the era.  Now I just get consistent, predictable great results from my super-automatic espresso maker.  The same will be the case for great craft beer when PicoBrew’s next product goes mainstream.    Precise, repeatable results produced by relative novices is the revolution. Nobody should have to eat poorly prepared food or drink bad beer!

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