Will Tech Launch A New Generation of Craft Cider Brewers? Alchema Sure Hopes So
The company is making a machine which makes small batches of home cider using nothing else besides store bought fruit and a company-provided fermentation pack. Just this week, Alchema launched a new Kickstarter campaign allowing early backers to get in on the home cider maker - which is expected to ship in July of 2017 - for well below the anticipated $499 retail price.
Oscar Chang, the company's CEO, told me they've they first got the idea for a small batch home cider maker in May of 2014. It wasn't long before they submitted the concept to an IoT startup contest in their home country of Taiwan and won, catapulting Chang and his team on a frenzied two-year ride that included angel funding, acceptance into the HAX hardware accelerator in San Francisco, and a Kickstarter campaign that has already reached their $80 thousand funding target with 41 days to go.
The product itself is a Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connected device that makes up to 2.4L (roughly three wine bottles worth) of cider in one brewing session. It has internal air pressure and temperature sensors, and the company's software algorithm uses data from these sensors to monitor alcohol content of a batch.
While it's still early days, it's worth speculating about whether something as simple as a home cider maker could help widen the market for home brewers, much like PicoBrew and Brewie are trying to do with beer. Brewing a batch with the Alchema is much simpler than making beer, in large part because the ingredients (other than the fermentation pack) are things you can buy at the local grocery store. Once you buy $10 worth of fruit, you chop it up, add water and a fermentation pack and, in less than two weeks, you'll have some tasty home brewed cider.
Greater simplicity could help Alchema, but it, like home beer brewing, still has one big hurdle on the way to mass market adoption: fermentation. Fermentation, the process with which raw ingredients like fruit or grains turn into alcohol, just takes time. While PicoBrew and others are examining how to make fermentation faster, it's unlikely the instant gratification crowd will ever find home brewing as fast as they'd like.
All that said, we think there's a lot of room to grow in the home brew market. With approximately 1% of beer and cider consumed made at home, products like Alchema could help create a new generation of technology-enabled home brewers who like the idea of making alcohol at home.