So when Malt Mechanics contacted us regarding their new Kickstarter campaign it was an instant yes from the judges.
The three minds behind the project, Nick Jones, Emma Boyd and Sam Burton – all Auckland-based industrial designers (otherwise known as Indemic) and self-confessed home brew geeks – have developed a professional grade home brew fermenter with food-grade plastic with stainless steel fittings at a home-enthusiast price point.
The group have turned to Kickstarter to finance the manufacturing of the units and are offering all the usual rewards, as well as something called ‘The Malt Mechanics Undies Promise’.
Curiosity piqued, Idealog called Malt Mechanic Nick Jones to find out more.
Idealog: Let’s start at the bottom. What’s The Malt Mechanics Undies Promise?
Jones: For most Kickstarter basic rewards, you’re usually offered a hat or the t-shirt, or something. We just thought we’d turn that on its head and do something a bit cheeky. Excuse the pun.
So what’s the Malt Mechanics angle? What’s the gap in the market you’re looking to address?
Brewers are often penny pinchers, so there is a gap there for a fully featured fermenter with professional level components at this price point. That doesn’t really exist yet.
Where did the new design come from?
There was a brewer here in New Zealand who had been toiling away on his own design. I watched his project progress – on local home brew internet forums – and saw that it had stagnated. I contacted him, he couldn’t take it any further, probably just because he didn’t have the necessary qualifications, but there was a lot of interest on forums for what he was doing.
The sticking point for us was that he was designing it for himself – he wasn’t adding features other people wanted – and he wasn’t from a design background, so the first step was resolving those details, fixing the lid, fixing the unrefined valves. Just addressing those details.
Images: Fermenter component breakdown
Was it easy working from a design that was already half-complete?
Actually, in hindsight I probably wouldn’t purchase [a half-finished] design again, but then again, if we hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t be here. It wasn’t a very linear process at all, but, I guess, it never is.
Did you do much market research during this refinement phase?
Well in 2014 we did a small production run – 20 units – to get us to the next step and to gauge brewers’ interest. We really wanted that feedback, rather than speculating on what people wanted. I mean you can read all the forums you want, but you really need to get that feedback from people using it.
And what did those users say?
The overarching feedback was requesting professional grade sanitary fittings. Our market is very much the beer geeky guys, not really the entry level ones, but, actually, this unit, because it’s such a low price point, can be a gateway for them.
And why did you choose Kickstarter?
For us it’s really a marketing option – it gives us a lot of exposure. And we’ve completed the tooling and proven the product, so there’s no real risk for funders. If we get funded we can just push ‘go’ and start manufacturing.
Launched yesterday, the Malt Mechanics Kickstarter campaign is sitting just under $5k with a full thirty days to go. To find out more go here.