Manual espresso making can produce decent results. However, there are often limits to important factors, including ease of use, size and weight, and the quality of the drinks they brew compared to premium espresso machines.
The Wacaco Picopresso is an upgrade of the popular Nanopresso, and the company is not shy about its espresso-making capabilities, claiming it can brew authentic cafe-quality espresso.
But can a portable espresso maker that fits in your hand, costing a fraction of a premium espresso machine, really be that good? And how does the Picopresso fare in areas like convenience and portability? This hands-on review aims to find out.
Wacaco Picopresso Portable Espresso Machine Review
Wacaco Picopresso Summary
Things we like:
- Outstanding portability with ultra-compact design
- 20g capacity for a standard double shot espresso
- Straightforward workflow with thoughtful accessories
- Impressive espresso quality that is comparable with an expensive espresso machine
- Solid and premium design
Consider Before Buying:
- Require a coffee grinder that can grind for espresso
Design And Build Quality
Your first impression of the Wacaco Picopresso is likely to be its size – it’s incredibly compact. In fact, this cylindrical flask-like brewer fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. Once you have it there, you’ll notice it feels sturdy, particularly compared to the device’s predecessor. Meanwhile, you’ll be struck by the machine’s contemporary aesthetic and smart black finish.
The outer casing is TPV- a durable, vulcanized rubber. Meanwhile, the filter basket, piston shaft, and shower screen are stainless steel. There are silicone seals, an aluminum portafilter, and a dosing funnel. Meanwhile, only a few elements, including the lid, are plastic. The crafting quality is outstanding.
Its dimensions are just 4.1in x 3.0in x 2.7in, but it’s lightweight, too, at 0.7lbs (350g) – only a tad heavier than the Nanopresso. In other words, this is a machine built for taking with you on the move. If you are a home brewer, this definitely won’t take up any space on your kitchen counter like other heavy countertop espresso makers.
The capacity of the wide commercial coffee basket can hold 16-20g of ultra-fine grind for a standard double-shot espresso. This is amazing as a portable handheld espresso maker, not many of its rivals offer this capacity.
The Picopresso has several useful accessories and parts – some visible as you unbox, some inside the device.
There’s an EVA hard protective case with a strong zipper and a soft interior. This is perfect if you’re taking your Picopresso outdoors, offering even more protection to an already durable machine. Also in the box is a branded dosing funnel for the basket. Next, there’s an upgraded tamper with a robust steel base. This is a significant improvement on the Nanopresso, whose tamper is the base of a plastic scoop. Lastly, there’s a tiny WDT tool to break up your grinds for a cleaner extraction.
You might think that’s all there is, but unscrew the top of the machine, and you’ll find a cleaning brush. Meanwhile, the base also unscrews, revealing the basket, 52mm naked portafilter, and shower screen with an attached rubber gasket and a collapsible scoop. Finally, on the side is the hand-powered piston.
These elements are all useful and streamline the brewing process. For example, the funnel ring helps prevent a mess while dosing grounds to the basket. Meanwhile, the tamper ensures even, flat results every time. The WDT distribution tool is perfect for breaking up clumps of grounds for a more even extraction, and the basket holds enough espresso grind for a standard double espresso. Finally, the brush is excellent for removing any coffee specks.
Ease Of Use
When coffee lovers think of manual espresso machines, they often believe they involve too much effort. Thankfully, that doesn’t apply to the Wacaco Picopresso.
We’ve tested many portable espresso machines. However, the Picopresso’s thoughtful design and valuable accessories make operating it easy.
Most portable espresso machines have a smaller basket, making a bit messy when you add your grounds. Meanwhile, they often don’t have a standalone tamper, leaving you to make do with the bottom of a plastic spoon.
In contrast, the Picopresso has a separate tamper, a 52mm double shot filter basket, a funnel ring to help avoid mess, and a dedicated tool for distributing your grounds. There’s also a knurling grip around the portafilter that makes it easier to unscrew.
Overall, this leaves the workflow of the Picopresso not just far more straightforward than you’d imagine but downright enjoyable.
While most portable espresso machines use a pressurized basket, ensuring grind size isn’t essential. This specialty coffee espresso machine refuses to sacrifice shot quality while keeping the compact size. It uses a regular filter basket. Therefore, you’ll need to dial in to achieve the perfect super-fine coffee grounds for your shots. Because of this, a good grinder – as well as some barista skills – is advisable. Since it is a portable coffee maker, we picked a hand grinder, the 1Zpresso JX-Pro to grind for the testing.
How To Use The Wacaco Picopresso?
As you’d expect with a manual espresso machine, there are several steps to brewing espresso. Let’s take a closer look.
Step One: Preheat The Machine
This step is optional. However, because the device doesn’t preheat your water, it’s a good idea to pour in boiling water before you brew to ensure the hottest possible espresso. Then, unscrew the top, pour in your boiling water, reseal the machine and set it aside. Or pull a shot with hot water only to pre-heat the shower head and filter basket.
Step Two: Grind Your Beans
You’ll need to dial in for the ideal super-fine grind size suitable for espresso. If you’re familiar with other espresso machines, aim for a similar size. If you’re not, there is a trick for tweaking to ensure you achieve the correct size. We’ll address that in the final step.
Step Three: Distribute And Tamp
Remove the portafilter and snap the magnetic funnel onto the basket. Next, add your grounds and distribute them evenly with the WDT tool. Press the tamper onto the funnel. Because the tamper is a dedicated standalone accessory, it fits perfectly, allowing an even tamp every time.
Step Four: Assemble The Brew Unit
Remove the funnel and the tamper and attach the screen. Next, pump all the hot water used to preheat the machine from the water chamber and assemble the portafilter. You can use the naked basket directly for better observing the extraction process or apply the portafilter head to avoid spillage.
Step Five: Fill Water
Add your freshly boiled water to the tank and reseal it. Twist to release the piston.
Step Six: Begin Pumping
Begin pumping at a rate of around one pump a second. After approximately 8-12 pumps, coffee should begin appearing. Then, let it sit for around 10 seconds to pre-infuse the coffee.
At this point, you can work out whether your grind size is the correct size. If it takes many more pumps before the coffee liquid appears from the basket, the grind is too fine. Conversely, if it takes fewer pumps, the grind is too coarse. Keep in mind that there should be some – but not excessive – resistance even at the correct grind size. Adjust your grind setting if needed.
After pre-infusion, keep pumping at a stable pace and let the espresso fall into the cup. Stop pressing when you reach a full double shot volume. (18 grams of grounds yield 36 grams of liquid.)
Put the brew chamber on the portafilter cover to keep the table tidy and clean.
The big question is, can the Wacaco Picopresso live up to its claim to make cafe-quality espresso akin to a high-end machine? Incredibly, the answer is “yes.”
The espresso it produces has wonderful clarity and dense flavors thanks to the standard double shot dosage, regular filter basket, and adequate brewing pressure. The crema on the espresso is rich, thick, and as authentic as you’d expect from an expensive high-end machine. Meanwhile, you got stunning aromas, while the texture is creamy with good viscosity. Finally, the espresso tastes delectable and will also work well as the base for a milky coffee drink like latter, cappuccino, or flat white.
The one drawback is the espresso temperature. Even with preheating, it will only be around 110F. However, this doesn’t impact the extraction and won’t be an issue if you don’t need very hot espresso.
Overall, the delicious creamy espresso this compact machine produces compares favorably with machines that, in some cases, cost hundreds of dollars.
Cleaning And Maintenance
Cleaning the Picopresso is straightforward. First, remove the sections at the top and base of the machine and wipe everything, or use the brush to remove any debris. The puck should be easily knocked out from the basket and come out in one piece. Then wipe off any remaining coffee particles and rinse under water. Finally, pump out the excess water from the water tank.
If you do this each time you use the machine, you’ll increase its longevity, meaning it should serve you well for years. However, there’s a two-year warranty for peace of mind if there is an issue.
Value For Money
The Wacaco Picopresso costs more than many other portable espresso machines, including the brand’s older models. However, that extra expense is worth it for the thoughtfully designed, capable machine that pulls authentic espresso.
This is mainly because the Picopresso doesn’t rely on a small pressurized basket, unlike most portable machines. Therefore, if you’re an espresso connoisseur with the expertise and experience to pull a great espresso shot, or if you’re happy to learn and don’t want to spend a lot of money on an espresso machine, it’s an excellent option.
As we mentioned earlier, the Picopresso brew emblematic creamy shots with rich crema. For drink quality alone, this is remarkable given the price. On those terms, it represents incredible value for money.
Wacaco Picopresso Vs Wacaco Nanopresso
The Wacaco Picopresso’s predecessor is the Nanopresso (review), and there are some key differences between the two.
- Water Capacity: 80ml
- Ground Capacity: 8g (single shot)
- Filter Basket: Pressurized
- More color options
- NS adaptor is available for the Nanopresso
- Nanopresso Barista Kit is available for larger water chamber and ground capcity
Firstly, they’re different sizes. While both are portable, the Nanopresso is a couple of inches taller but a touch thinner than the newer model.
Meanwhile, even though the two devices hold the same volume of water (80ml), the grounds capacity of the Nanopresso is less than half the Picopresso. Unfortunately, that means that you can only expect single espresso shots from the older model. Nevertheless, you can purchase an additional Nanopresso Barista Kit to get around this issue.
Perhaps the most significant difference is that the Nanopresso uses a pressurized portafilter. This means that even if your grinds are on the coarse side, it will still brew decent espresso. Therefore, it’s a good choice if you’re new to espresso brewing.
Nevertheless, that pressurized portafilter is also the reason that the espresso the Nanopresso produces won’t be as good as the Picopresso.
On the plus side, though, you can also purchase the NS adaptor for the Nanopresso, making it compatible with Nespresso capsules.
Finally, the Nanopresso is less expensive than the Picopresso. However, if you want to brew double shots, the cost of the Barista Kit to do this will significantly reduce those savings.
Ultimately, the choice between the two likely comes down to your barista skills, whether you also want to make Nespresso, and whether you have a decent espresso grinder and require the best possible espresso on the go.
Wacaco Picopresso Vs Other Portable Espresso Makers
The Flair Neo is a beginner-friendly lever espresso machine in a similar price range as the Picopresso. It uses a pressurized basket that ensures that you’ll get decent espresso regardless of your grind size.
Nevertheless, if portability is the most important element for you, it isn’t the best choice as it’s larger than the Picopresso, standing 14in tall. Meanwhile, it’s heavier too, weighing 5lbs (2.2kg). You can purchase a separate case to make portability easier, but if you’re looking for a machine for outdoor pursuits, in particular, it may be too bulky.
Also, despite its extra size, the Flair only has the same grind capacity as the Picopresso, so it won’t make larger batches either.
The Flair Neo uses a lever to pull espresso, making it quite different in appearance from the Picopresso. Meanwhile, the shape is also less conducive to traveling with.
The espresso quality is excellent. However, the Flair Neo is as close to a static kitchen machine as a portable one.
Check out our Flair Neo review for more details.
The Staresso Mirage is slightly less expensive than the Picopresso. Standing 8.5in tall, the machine is still lightweight at just 1.5lb, making it easy to carry with you.
The standout feature of the Mirage is its design. You pump it vertically rather than from the side, which is easier than the Picopresso. Meanwhile, it has a slightly larger ground capacity than the Picopresso at 22g for double shot of espresso.
The Mirage’s 53mm pressurized double filter basket offers plenty of room for error in grind size, making it a solid beginner-friendly option.
However, a pressurized filter basket produces thick crema by forcing the coffee from a tiny hole in the filter basket. This adds the necessary extra resistance that is supposed to be produced by the coffee puck, making it more forgiving on the ground coffee. The trade-off is the quality of the shot, which is considered inferior to the naked basket used in Wacaco Picopresso.
Check our hands-on review of the Staresso Pro espresso maker.
We love the Nanopresso, and Wacaco has done a ground-breaking espresso maker again with the Picopresso. The coffee this little device produces is simply beautiful, while the well-thought-out design and excellent accessories make using the machine a pleasure.
It’s compact and light, so it’s suitable for popping in your backpack or suitcase for enjoying incredible great coffee on the go. Meanwhile, it’s made of robust materials, offering peace of mind in rigorous outdoor pursuits.
Getting the best espresso from the machine requires perfecting pulling technique and a decent grinder is important, too. However, if you’re not a complete beginner, this is one portable espresso machine that is well worth considering.