BrewJacket, a Colorado-based company founded by alumni from Cornell University’s eLab accelerator program, has developed a product that is meeting the demands of those who brew beer at home. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised nearly $400,000 for a new invention called the BEERMKR, which it bills as an “all-in-one” craft beer brewing machine. Small enough to sit on a kitchen counter, the BEERMKR makes over a gallon—the equivalent of about a twelve-pack—of customized, commercial quality beer in one week’s time.
To use the BEERMKR, a user places their custom ingredients into a removable pouch, adds water, turns it on, and presses start. After twelve hours, users receive a notification via a mobile app instructing them to “pitch” (i.e. add) the yeast. Over the course of the next week, the machine ferments the beer, harnessing its patented CO2 monitoring systems to automatically regulate the temperature of the yeast. When the beer is ready, the user receives another notification to remove the pouch and place the beer in the fridge. After a final twenty-four hours, the beer is fully carbonated and is ready for drinking.
The founders believe the BEERMKR adds value in three ways: First, the easy-to-use pouch precludes the need to bottle or keg the beer; second, the company provides users with specially steamed hops, removing the need for the brewer to boil them in order to achieve the desired bitterness profile; third, the machine’s solid state control systems manage the fermentation process automatically, without the need for careful human monitoring; and finally, the mobile application provides an assortment of unique recipes that can be programmed directly into the BEERMKR.
BrewJacket’s three founders—Aaron Walls, MBA, ’14, Matthew Goff PhD Biomedical Engineering, ’15, and Evgeniy Tkachenko, a former researcher in Cornell’s Biomedical Mechanics Group—met at Cornell University and incorporated the company in 2013. The company generated more than a million dollars in revenue by initially targeting low volume commercial and hobbyist brewers as customers for its fermentation technology. The BEERMKR is the company’s first foray into the larger consumer market.
The founders agreed to use Kickstarter to fund the BEERMKR expansion—Walls noted that it is an excellent way to raise inexpensive capital, generate excitement about the product on social media, and get buy-in from interested customers—the kind of innovative business thinking that the company’s founders credit to their Cornell education and eLab experience.
“At Cornell, we were able to use the company as a test project in all of our classes and get incredible high-quality feedback from all of our classmates as well as professors,” Walls said. “It was like an extended incubator. We had incredible, engaged professors and mentors who challenged our thinking about the business and got us to the point where we could continue it on our own after graduating.
Walls also noted the important role the Cornell network has played in the company’s growth: “Cornell always wins with its strong network because of the comradery that comes from spending so much time in Ithaca together. It’s something that we appreciate and are strongly grateful for. Without Cornell the company wouldn’t exist.”
When asked about the future of the company, Walls surmises the BEERMKR’s success will only grow as users start experimenting with their own flavors.
“Out here in Colorado, we’ve got a lot of spruce trees, and as they grow their new needles, which are incredibly soft and aromatic, they get picked by the breweries and used to brew beer,” he said. “You get this incredibly sweet flavor that’s similar to hops, but it tastes and smells like you’re out in a high alpine forest.
“It’s so cool to be able to do this with beer from within your own house,” he continued. “Who wouldn’t want to try?”