Happy hour, at home and with just few taps on your phone
Concocting a nifty cocktail or tasty beer at home is about to get a lot easier–though it will require a hefty investment.
Two startups have recently kicked off separate crowdsourced fundraising campaigns to make Wi-Fi connected alcoholic-beverage appliances.
Somabar, one of the proposed devices, lets users whip up 300 drinks, with what looks like a juicer. The other, Brewie, lets people brew up batches of ale at home in what resembles a mini stainless steel fridge.
Both companies are hoping to tap rising interest in smart appliances, everything from thermostats to door locks to crock pots that are wirelessly connected to the Internet. That market generated about $7.8 billion in sales last year and is projected to swell to more than $15 billion next year, according to data from Statista.
Unlike traditional appliances, connected cocktail makers and beer brewing kits can be controlled using a smartphone. Someone sitting in the office can press a few buttons and have a margarita ready for them when they get home, for example. Connected devices can also helps cut down on costs for appliance makers, at least in theory. Instead of developing new software, manufacturers can rely, at least in part, on the software already available in smartphones.
Somabar is already more than halfway to its $50,000 fundraising goal on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site. Advance orders are $399, roughly $300 less than the price Somabar plans to charge after the campaign is completed. CEO and co-founder Dylan Purcell-Lowe told Fortune the company expects to double its fundraising goal.
Somabar isn’t the first automated cocktail maker, although it is certainly cheaper than other alternatives. For example, Monsieur, which also connects to Wi-Fi, costs $4,000. Meanwhile, the Margaritaville Mixed Drink Maker costs only $300, but can make just 48 drinks.
Purcell-Lowe said Somabar wanted to keep costs low, so the company decided against using a digital control screen like some other appliance makers. All it takes is five seconds after pressing a button on an app to have a cocktail ready to drink. Up to six liquid ingredients can be used along with one flavor, like bitters for example. So nearly all popular drinks like a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Negroni can be made with the device (alas, the Long Island Iced Tea is excluded because it is too complicated for the machine to make with its seven liquid ingredients).
Somabar is angling to cash in on the cocktail craze of recent years in swanky bars and hotels. But Purcell-Lowe says people can feel intimidated by the process to make complicated drinks.
“We don’t expect our machine to get as big as the at-home espresso market, but we are hoping and believe there is enough interest in having the ability to make advanced recipes at home,” Purcell-Lowe said.
While it may seem far-fetched to imagine a Wi-Fi-connected cocktail maker taking up room in an already crowded kitchen, observers say more connected devices will reach consumers’ homes. Research firm Gartner has estimated that a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices and appliances by 2022. Nick Jones, a Gartner analyst, expects a wide rage of appliances will become “smart” in the sense of “gaining some level of sensing and intelligence” with the ability to communicate wirelessly with smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
But sales of established home appliances for making beverages are stagnating. SodaStream (SODA), which makes soda machines that produce carbonated drinks, recently warned investors it hasn’t won over enough new U.S. customers. Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR), which makes coffee makers, reported a slight dip in brewer and accessory sales last year.
And neither of those devices are nearly as expensive as at-home beer brewing system Brewie, which costs $1,499. The company has raised about $37,000 on Indiegogo, another crowdfunding site, with two more months to reach its $100,000 goal.
The appliance’s price is steep. But Brewie’s founders argue that the fully automated process will make it easier for people to tackle the complex and sometimes intimidating process of brewing at home. The founders also say the device can be cost-effective: a glass of Brewie-made beer costs about 25 cents (but you’d have to brew a lot of beer to offset the appliance’s initial sticker shock).
Brewie takes about five to six hours to cook and then up to two weeks for the fermenting process before the beer is ready to drink. Brewie has about 200 set recipes like a German pilsner or a Belgian pale ale. Buyers of the device also get ingredients for four different beer styles.
Marcel Pal, co-founder of Brewie, said early customers were either individuals or companies that want to have “corporate beer” in their office for events like a happy hour. He said he hoped that the appliance could also be popular with some small restaurants and pubs, though he admitted that it might be not be the right fit for larger bars that sell booze by the barrel.
For people with connected drink makers at home, the temptation may be to have a martini or beer on tap when ever they reach for their phone. The challenge will be to resist, even knowing a delicious bourbon Old Fashioned is just a few button presses away.