Editors' note, March 8, 2018: The PicoStill is now shipping to backers. The piece has been updated accordingly.
Whatever you do, don't use the new PicoBrew PicoStill to distill liquor -- at least in the US. It's illegal to distill your own spirits at home without a special license, but it's legal to own the PicoStill and use it legally to distill hop oils or water. You'll also be able to get started soon -- the PicoStill is now shipping to customers who preordered the attachment on Kickstarter.
Tech company PicoBrew has made a name for itself with beer brewing robots like the Zymatic, the Pico S and the Pico C. The PicoStill attachment works with any of PicoBrew's automatic brewers. The attachment itself sits on top of the Pico's keg and creates a vacuum seal. You can fill the keg with clean water for extracting hop oils, then attach it to the Pico using the machine's hoses.
The PicoStill attachment was originally offered as part of the Pico C's Kickstarter campaign. While PicoBrew is fulfilling those preorders, the company is offering the PicoStill at a discount for $250. It'll retail for $350. Head to the company's site to check out the details.
By using the PicoStill to extract hop oils, you can simplify a more advanced stage of the brewing process -- called dry hopping -- by extracting just the hop flavors you're looking for and putting those in your beer. Thus, the PicoStill is another step on PicoBrew's quest to make brewing easier.
It also could be an interesting departure from beer for the company -- but again, distilling liquor at home is illegal in the US. Professional distilleries with the proper licensing, however, could make small batches of a number of different liquors with the PicoStill as a way of pilot testing a new recipe.
The Pico heats up a separate container of water and runs that through a coil within the keg. The coil heats your clean water, and the vacuumed container allows it to boil at a low temperature. Once it boils, the vapors run through the hops, extracting the oils, before cooling through another coil and condensing back into a liquid in a separate container. As a safety feature, the machine will automatically shut off if the vacuum seal is broken.
Once you have the PicoStill in hand, PicoBrew won't record or police what you're making, which won't matter, because you'll only be using the PicoStill for the completely legal purpose of extracting hop oils.