To start with, I want to address one of the most frequent criticisms I see with this machine: it takes all of the craft out of brewing, and doesn't teach you anything about the process. I'm going to wholeheartedly disagree with this. I compare the Picos to my slow cooker. The difference between the recipes I put in the slow cooker and when I cook stovetop are miniscule, just sometimes I really do not have the smallest desire to monitor what I'm making as it cooks, and frankly that's my least favorite part of cooking. I like playing with ingredients and proportions, and honestly I love cleaning less junk. The Pico is perfect for all of that.
The short of it is that the machine delivers exactly as promised: you insert the pack and water, you press go, out comes your wort. Cool however you prefer, pitch your yeast, and ferment. The provided decal to monitor fermentation temperature has worked well for me to keep my beer in range during the process and seems reasonably accurate to my thermometer readings as well. Racking is, again, absolute cake, and cask conditioning is no problem.
The quality of beer I've produced so far has been exactly what I expected. It tastes good and fresh, I've had no off flavors, and the batch size is absolutely perfect for our consumption at home. To boot, if you buy two packs at once, shipping is free, so the pricing does not work out badly at all! I've read some horror stories on the homebrew forums on off flavors that crop up during fermentation, but from my experience alone I can't say I've had this happen. Of course, in the few steps you do need to be involved in (sanitizing, temperature monitoring for pitching and fermentation, even crashing) there is a lot of room for user error if you don't pay attention. But being that I wanted my first solo home brews to be perfect, I was probably overzealous in these stages, and mine turned out without a hitch.
My second beer was a custom pack that I designed on my own, which is my absolute dream. No painstaking measurements, no traveling to multiple stores to find the ingredients I want, just write it up and it shows up at your door. Here's the kicker though. If you want it to taste how you want, you still have to learn how styles work, how fermentation temperature can affect the other flavors you may want (I, for example, had to fine tune my temperature for some ester production that I actually needed to occur), and you better be careful with those hands on steps I mentioned above. Still as easy as advertised in regards to the process of brewing itself, but now I got to put my flair into it. Best part? Still mostly hands off, right down to the clean-up.
The machine definitely could use some add-ons, which is where my one star knock down comes from. If you don't want to rack into the mini keg, the machine won't help you out. I would love to see an update to the current program and a bottle-filler add-on to the fermentation keg that allows me to bottle as well. I know that this is about fresh brew, but sometimes storing and transporting a bottle is just plain easier. I would also love to see an option for a "re-usable" pico pack, or a filter insert that allows you to put your own grain and hops into the machine. Pico's selection of ingredients is very satisfying for now, and since I first joined their website they have already added more options, so I am not so much worried about variety, but proportions for custom packs are somewhat limiting. The smallest proportion of barley allowed by their production right now is still mountains more than I need to attempt to clone one of my favorite beers from afar, Four Peak's Kilt Lifter. Plus, as people get more and more into brewing with these machines, I think a lot of folks like myself may really want to get into the nitty gritty of measuring themselves, and I am hopeful that this will eventually be added on by the time I'm adventurous enough to want this.
In summary, she performs as advertised. It's easy to use, easy to clean, and makes good quality beer if you put in your part of the work. Maybe some new things could be added down the line to make it even better, but for now I'm absolutely thrilled to have gotten in on the product.