Drinking loses a solid chunk of its appeal when it’s tied to labor. Maybe you’ve never tried to make that cocktail your bartender recommends at home because you can’t be bothered to muddle fruit and use bitters, whatever that means; maybe you drink all your wine at the same temperature because you’d rather taste it right away than attempt to refine your palate.
These problems are minimal at best — solutions represent a few seconds’ worth of savings — but there are plenty of CES 2016 attendees trying to solve them. To hear these companies tell it, a smarter, more pleasurable drinking experience is just a button press away.
If you’re a beer drinker, PicoBrew’s Pico might be up your alley. It’s a little like a Keurig system for home brewing, albeit one without the widespread adoption or the serious environmental concerns. The brewer’s “PicoPaks” combine grains and hops of your choice, and you can mix and match grains and hops according to dozens of recipes available online. Once you’re ready to brew, you can manually tweak your beer’s body and bitterness using a dial before pumping it into a mini-keg. The whole process takes about two hours, and the resulting beer’s flavorful enough to satisfy any of your snobby friends. PicoBrew’s hoping to ship the unit this May, and you can preorder it for $599 on the company’s website
Somabar’s robotic home bartender is better suited for those of us who like to wind down with a little mixed liquor. The machine features six 750 mL chambers, each filled with a standard cocktail ingredient and outfitted with an electronic tag that connects it to a corresponding app. You can flip through 300 preprogrammed recipes and other people’s creations using the app, and it only takes a few taps before the Somabar is preparing your drink in front of you. The machine cleans itself between drinks in case you’re toggling between different cocktails; if you like the sound of machine-generated mixed drinks, you can preorder the Somabar on its website for $449.
This wouldn’t be an alcohol technology roundup without an option for oenophiles, and that’s where 10-Vins’ D-Vine machine comes in. It doesn’t produce wine from raw materials, but it takes vials of hand-picked French wine and spits them out at the optimal temperature and aeration by scanning RFID chips within the vials. The D-Vine can process both red and white wines, and it only takes about a minute to pour each variety. 10-Vins doesn’t have an American distributor yet, but it’s been selling the D-Vine in France for a few months. The company’s hoping to secure an American partner at this year’s CES.
In some respects, it feels like these products are appealing to lazy, casual drinkers rather than true connoisseurs. If you really love beer and cocktails, you’re not going to trust a machine to turn out product as good as what you can specially purchase or make yourself; if you’re serious about wine, you’ll take the time needed to create the right conditions for drinking it. But the combination of convenience and acceptable quality worked for Keurig and Sodastream in a pure, simple way, and these companies are all making a similar bet.