What do hipsters with disposal income like? Avocado on toast, artisan coffee, and craft beer, as the saying goes. You can kind of see the logic, buried deep, in LG’s new capsule-based craft beer brewing machine, but the South Koreans have got the math horribly wrong on this one.
The LG HomeBrew will be shown at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. Essentially, it looks like a Nespresso machine for craft beer. Pop in a capsule and out comes a lovely American IPA, or Czech Pilsner or English Stout, or something like that.
It uses an optimized fermentation algorithm and features a "convenient self-cleaning feature". It has already won the CES Innovation Award and there is even a companion app which lets you check the status of your brew anytime, anywhere.
Song Dae-hyun, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solution Company, said about the new product: “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barrier to entry and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”
So, is it going to work? And what exactly is this market LG is talking about?
Coffee hipsters don’t drink Nespresso
I can imagine the brainstorming session now. Bosses at LG throwing ideas around a room. “So we know that they like coffee and beer, and they have beards and little woolen hats, but we need something to tie this all together… Nespresso, anyone, while we work it out….?” And viola! The idea was born.
Except for one big problem. Artisan coffee fans do not drink Nespresso. They drink filter, or espresso, or pour over, or Aeropress. They want to know where the beans are sourced from, where they’re roasted. At home, they grind them themselves and painstakingly weigh out the volume of water for the perfect ratio. Trust me, I know, I am one of these mugs.
Convenience is nothing to do with modern coffee culture. And the same is true of craft beer. Enthusiasts revel in the story, the processes, the time and effort and love and care and all the rest of it that goes into creating the perfect 330ml of ale. You will not catch this audience with a plastic pod of instant IPA.
Can it even capture a mainstream audience?
So if the craft beer nerds are a lost cause, then this product must be for a more mainstream audience, then. Let’s go back to that Dae-hyun quote to work it out: LG talks about “beer lovers”, and a “barrier to entry”. In a sense, I can kind of see the logic here. HomeBrewing is a long, slow process so simplify it. But the barrier to entry for ‘beer lovers’ is incredibly low. A bottle of beer bought from a store - opened and poured into a glass at home - is a system that is pretty difficult to improve on, in terms of convenience.
Then there is the question about how long the brewing process takes. LG says you are going to be waiting around for this for around two weeks, depending on the style of beer. That seems too slow to capture a casual audience. In Europe, brewing beer for special occasions such as parties and weddings is quite popular, but for this purpose, the time investment and labor required is part of the reason to do it in the first place. The fact that LG’s machine only makes five liters at a time, makes it a product more suited for personal consumption than for a party.
The LG HomeBrew sits in an awkward middle ground that is unlikely to appeal to either homebrew enthusiasts or masters of convenience who’d rather just pick up a six-pack from the shop.
What do you think about the LG HomeBrew? Does it appeal to you? Let us know.