At PicoBrew, we’re proud of our many innovations – after all, we did create the world’s first automated brewing machine, the Zymatic, which we followed up with the world’s first automated countertop home brew appliance, Pico. But maybe the most innovative items we produce are our PicoPaks: our biodegradable hand-made ingredient kits, the casing of which is made from sugar cane husk pulp.

Our PicoPaks are created from award-winning recipes from our brewery partners all over the globe. And we also recently launched our Freestyle PicoPaks, which our brew-happy customers can create and customize based on their own specifications. But what are the origins of the PicoPak? How did PicoBrew’s founders come up with such an ingenious design? What does a chicken have to do with it? Let’s dive in to some burning questions!

Why did we decide to make the PicoPak ingredient kits biodegradable?

Simply, it’s because we care about the environment. Our overarching thought was this: In business, convenience is often at odds with the environment, but it really shouldn’t be. There’s no reason we have to make crazy plastic pods that will sit in the ocean years and years from now.

If a business is successful, it ends up producing a ton of stuff. If a slight change is made to Microsoft Windows, for example, that can affect the energy consumption of the United States. With the PicoPak, we did the math. So, we thought, what would happen if some reasonable number of people started brewing their own beer? And we thought, “Wow, that’s a lot!” So I don’t think we would have moved forward if we didn’t come up with a biodegradable option.

How did our engineers finally decide on sugar cane husk?

They looked at a few other materials, including wheat straw. In the end, though, we found out that sugar cane husk would work best – and was the stuff used by places like Whole Foods for their disposable diningware. So we visited some factories all over the world and landed on sugar cane husk and it’s worked out well.

Does sugar cane husk affect the flavor at all?

It doesn’t. It’s a totally neutral flavor. We did a ton of experiments – before we traveled the world trying to find a partner that could make these PicoPaks, our engineers cut up and pieced paper plates and things together to test out our idea. And the sugar cane pulp held up through the brew cycle without affecting the flavor of color. Of course, the last thing we at PicoBrew would want to do is affect the great, fresh craft beer with outside flavors.

What was the process like during those experiments?

A lot of stuff happened between that initial trial and where we are today. Our engineers called just about every pulp manufacturer in the world – it was really pretty challenging. The manufacturing of the PicoPaks requires very close cooperation with our vendors to make the parts. The PicoPaks are not like anything else done in the pulp industry – we pioneered a whole new process.

But, in the end, what are we most proud of? 

One of our original Pico customers sent us this photo of the spent grain and used PicoPak and one of her chickens eating the spent grain out of it. What’s a more indelible image than that?