Wacaco Picopresso Review
I’ll say this upfront: the Wacaco Picopresso is one of my favourite new pieces of coffee gear this year. It’s a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Nanopresso, in brewing capacity and build quality. With the portable Picopresso, you can create authentic cafe-quality espresso in the comfort of your home – or anywhere else!
This review digs into what you can expect from the new Wacaco Picopresso, how it compares to the Nanopresso, and why I think it’s well worth the extra cost.
Summary: The Wacaco Picopresso
- Portable espresso maker that brews cafe-quality espresso
- Capable of a true double shot with an 18 g filter basket
- Simple to use with no maintenance needs
Before long, I was extracting deliciously creamy shots with ample golden crema. It is a little fiddly to begin with, but once you have a good workflow, it really doesn’t take that long.– Customer
The Full Wacaco Picopresso Review
Wacaco is known for clever on-the-go devices for brewing coffee and pulling espresso. The Picopresso is the brand’s newest portable espresso maker, released in 2021 (1). It follows in the footsteps of the Minipresso and the Nanopresso but vastly improves on these older models.
Keep reading to learn about the Wacaco Picopresso and why this groundbreaking espresso maker has quickly gained such popularity among coffee experts. Or sit back and watch Home Ground’s own Steven Holm offer a brewing demonstration and review in this video:
Ease of Use – 3.5/5
Most newcomers to espresso are surprised to learn that the best machines are often the hardest to use. Quality espresso is a craft, and the best espresso machines are ones that provide a lot of variables to tinker with. It’s up to you, the barista, to dial in those variables – grind, dose, tamp, brew temperature – on your quest for the perfect espresso shot (2). This is true of handheld espresso makers and more traditional machines.
Want an easy but mediocre espresso? Get a Nespresso and some coffee pods. Want an outstanding espresso? Get a manual espresso maker like the Picopresso, and get to work.
The Picopresso is no more difficult to use than any manual espresso maker. I was worried its compact design would require a unique workflow, but my fears were unfounded. The brewing process is the same as using a Flair or Cafelat Robot.
There is a learning curve, but the steps will feel like second nature after a week or two.
For best results, start by preheating the brewing chamber. This is quickly done by filling it with boiling water and letting it sit. After a minute or two, pump the hot water into your espresso cup to pre-heat it. From there, the workflow continues as with any espresso machine through the following steps:
- Weigh and grind your coffee and add the coffee grounds to the filter basket.
- Distribute and tamp the ground coffee using the included tools.
- Assemble the brewing chamber and add hot water.
- Pump 8 times, then wait 10 seconds for pre-infusion.
- Continue pumping for about 30 seconds until extraction is complete.
Pressure is generated using the same patented piston design as the other Wacaco espresso makers. It’s a clever solution to the problem of generating sufficient pressure by hand in a small device. Pumping is relatively easy, even if your hands aren’t especially strong, though I have a few little nitpicks worth mentioning.
If you put the Nanopresso and Picopresso side by side, you’ll notice that the latter is more compact. However, the Nanopresso is the more slender of the two. If you have small hands, it can be hard to hold and pump the chubbier Picopresso. At home, I found it easier to use both hands, but this might be impractical in a camping scenario without a countertop.
A common user complaint about the Picopresso is that the outside of the brewing chamber gets quite hot, especially when pre-heating and brewing several shots. The solution is straightforward, but it will cost you. Wacaco sells a stylish set of heat-resistant imitation leather sleeves – one black and one brown – for an extra $20. Or you can turn to Etsy or another online marketplace for third-party sellers offering similar solutions.
The Picopresso does not include an espresso cup, which was one of the nicer aspects of the all-in-one Nanopresso and Minipresso. This makes the Picopresso more compact and probably saves on costs, but unless you want to pump espresso directly into your waiting mouth (Home Grounds does not advise this), don’t forget to pack a mug when travelling with this portable espresso device.
Brew Capacity – 4.5/5
When the Picopresso was first announced, I thought it was another example of the brand trending to even smaller espresso makers. But the Picopresso is not just Wacaco’s most compact model; it’s also the most professionally oriented. This is truly a specialty coffee espresso machine in a small package, which is why it won a Red Dot Design Award in 2022 (3).
Picopresso is a useful product for a mobile target group that appreciates authentic espresso on the go.
What makes the Picopresso professional level? Two big improvements.
Most portable espresso makers – the Nanopresso included – use a pressurized filter basket, which is more forgiving. You can still make pretty good espresso without the correct grind size or an uneven tamp. But you can never make a truly incredible espresso. The Picopresso uses a non-pressurized stainless steel filter basket like a high-end machine (4).
As I said, the non-pressurized wide commercial coffee basket is less forgiving. You will need to pair it with a quality espresso grinder that can produce an ultra-fine grind, and you will need to learn how to prepare an espresso puck for extraction properly. But with a bit of practice, there is no limit to how delicious your espresso will be.
The other thing that sets the Picopresso apart from the competition is that it can pull a proper double shot of espresso. The 52 mm-diameter stainless steel filter basket supports a dose of 18 g, rarely seen in portable espresso machines. The Nanopresso has a recommended dose of 8 g, and the countertop Flair Classic holds 12 to 16 g.
With the 18 g capacity, proper filter basket, pre-infusion option, and the ability to achieve up to 18 bars of pump pressure, the Picopresso has everything you need to make top-quality espresso – all in a tiny package at an approachable price (5).
The Picopresso is the perfect affordable entry point into the world of serious espresso. With it, you can learn all the skills needed to dial in great espresso shots. You can play with grind size, distribution, tamping, dose, pre-infusion, and extraction time just as with a more expensive machine. The naked portafilter even gives real-time feedback on coffee puck prep by making channelling obvious.
One thing it is missing is a pressure gauge. Knowledge is power, and knowing your pre-infusion and extraction pressure makes it easier to pull delicious creamy espresso shots with rich crema consistently. A built-in pressure gauge would necessarily add bulk and cost, so it might be nice to see it as an optional add-on.
A Note on Travel and Camping
You’re probably wondering if the Picopresso is even helpful as a portable coffee maker. You don’t want to waste time dialling in the perfect espresso shot on your backcountry camping trip. I’m here to reassure you that the Picopresso is very versatile. You can make amazing espresso if you’re at home and want to get nerdy. But if you’re deep in the woods and just want a quick double shot before you hit the trails, you can put in a fraction of the effort and still make very good espresso.
Build Quality – 4.5/5
The build quality is another aspect of the Picopresso that has been significantly upgraded from older models. While the Minipresso and Nanopresso were mostly plastic, the Picopresso is mostly metal, though it still weighs only 350 g.
Measuring 10.6 x 7.8 x 7.1 cm, the Picopresso brewing system consists of four main parts:
- the brew chamber, equipped with the hand-powered piston
- the filter basket
- the portafilter
- and the shower head screen
There is also a lid to cap it off, which is useful if you want to toss it in a backpack still wet.
All of these parts are made from robust materials. The outer casing is a heavy-duty rubber. The filter basket, piston shaft, and shower screen are stainless steel. The portafilter and dosing funnel ring are aluminium, and the seals are silicone. The few plastic components, like the lid, are low-use and never come in contact with boiling water.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
There are pros and cons to cleaning manual espresso makers versus automatic machines. While automatic machines usually have cleaning cycles programmed, all the bits and pieces of the Picopresso need to be cleaned by hand after every use. Luckily, that’s not as arduous as it sounds, and you won’t have to pay for expensive cleaning solutions like traditional espresso machines.
To clean the Picopresso, wait for it to cool and disassemble the brew group. In my experience, the puck of ground coffee is always dry, so it knocks easily out of the filter basket into the garbage (or, better yet, the compost). The brewing chamber and portafilter stay clean during extraction, so they need no more than a water rinse. Then rinse and wipe down the filter basket and shower screen. Once every week or two, depending on use, I’ll wash these two parts more thoroughly in warm, soapy water and check for any clogged ground coffee. That’s all there is to it.
Regarding maintenance, the Picopresso is far more convenient than an automatic espresso machine. There is no descaling. There are no electronics that can fail. There is no plumbing that can leak. In fact, there is no maintenance at all! Stick to the cleaning regimen above, and you’ll get years of use from your Picopresso, with the first two years backed by Wacaco’s warranty.
Price – 4/5
The Picopresso may seem expensive for a portable espresso machine, but don’t be fooled by its small size. This little espresso machine is the most affordable way to make cafe-quality espresso at home. None of the cheaper portable options can compete with its espresso quality. Its closest competitors in terms of workflow and quality are probably the Flair Classic, Cafelat Robot, or Rok Presso, all of which are pricier.
The array of included accessories adds more value to the Picopresso. This isn’t so much an espresso machine as a full espresso-making kit.
All you need to bring to the party is boiling water, coffee, and a mug. Along with the brewer, you get a metal palm tamper, a dosing funnel, a small distribution tool, a collapsible coffee scoop, and a cleaning brush – all of which fit neatly inside the brewer for transport. You also get a solid carrying case for an added layer of protection when you toss the Picopresso in your backpack.
The Picopresso currently retails for about $129.90, while the Nanopresso is closer to $100. At first glance, that seems like a big disparity. But if you want the Nanopresso to match the Picopresso in capacity, you need to add the $32 Barista Kit for a basket that can hold a double espresso. And if you plan to travel with the Nanopresso, you should probably also spring for the $30 carrying case. All of a sudden, the better value of the Picopresso is obvious.
- Non-pressurized filter basket that supports an 18 g dose
- Very compact and portable
- Low price for high-quality espresso
- Straightforward workflow
- No cup included
- Pumping mechanism can be cumbersome
- Exterior can get hot during brewing
Don’t Buy the Wacaco Picopresso If…
You have a tight budget: The Picopresso is the most affordable way to make cafe-quality espresso at home. But if you’re willing to settle for decent espresso, read our detailed review of the Wacaco Minipresso. This portable espresso maker doesn’t quite match the Picopresso in quality, but at less than half the price, it’s still great value.
You don’t travel often: If your main goal is great espresso at home, with only occasional travel, consider the Flair Classic lever espresso machine. The long lever makes extraction easy, and the build quality is second to none. It’s much larger than the Picopresso, but it disassembles easily and packs into an included custom carrying case when you want to hit the road.
You don’t have a good grinder: If you don’t have access to a good espresso grinder, an espresso machine with a small pressurized basket will be more forgiving even when your espresso grind size is off. The Nanopresso coupled with the Barista Kit for higher capacity will fit the bill, as will the entry-level Flair Neo. Both of these have a price point similar to the Picopresso.
You prefer drinking coffee to espresso: If you enjoy drip coffee, there are tons of wonderful on-the-go options, and they’re generally more affordable than espresso makers. For example, read our full review of the Wacaco Cuppamoka for a clever all-in-one pour over brewing set-up. Or stick with the travel classics like an AeroPress or a Moka pot for a reliably delicious cup (6).
The Picopresso is the most affordable way to make true espresso at home, with dense flavours, stunning aromas, and a thick crema. This fact is often buried in its marketing as a portable espresso machine suitable for use anywhere. But really, its incredibly compact and durable design is just icing on the cake.
As with any manual espresso making, you’ll face a little bit of a learning curve. But If you want great-tasting espresso on a budget, the Picopresso is an excellent choice for your kitchen counter or camping set-up.
- Bryman, H. (2021, June 28). Wacaco’s New Picopresso Keeps Espresso at Hand and Home. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2021/06/28/wacacos-new-picopresso-keeps-espresso-at-hand-and-home/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 14). A Guide to Dialling in Espresso. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/a-guide-to-dialling-in-espresso/
- Red Dot Design Awards. (2022). Picopresso. Retrieved from https://www.red-dot.org/project/picopresso-56156
- Stamp, J. (2012, June 19). The Long History of the Espresso Machine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-long-history-of-the-espresso-machine-126012814/
- McKeon Aloe, R. (2021, September 14). Pre-Infusion for Espresso. Retrieved from https://towardsdatascience.com/pre-infusion-for-espresso-dab5185b8094
- Varghese, D. & Arpaia, A. (2020, February 25). Why We Love the AeroPress Coffee Maker. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/aeropress-coffee-maker/