Enjoying a smooth espresso is one of life’s little pleasures, but while there’s a wide array of static coffee machines available for your home, when you’re out and about you’re more likely to need to head to the nearest coffee shop for that much-needed espresso. Unless you have a portable hand-pump coffee maker with you, that is.
Wacaco has specialized in creating portable coffee makers that use hand-pump power – rather than batteries or mains power – since 2013, after the brand’s founder was left disappointed by an espresso shot he purchased in a hotel. The Picopress is the firm’s latest release, and is its smallest and most compact portable espresso maker to date.
The Wacaco Picopress is aimed at coffee enthusiasts, and is one of the best coffee makers we’ve tested. Not only does it feature a 2-inch / 5.2cm double basket, which is the same size as that found on espresso machines, it can also take up to 18g of ground coffee, meaning it can make double espressos.
All you need is coffee grounds and boiling water to create smooth espresso. The Picopress also has a portafilter that can be used naked (without the spout), which helps to ensure a crema – the hazelnut-colored froth that sits on top of your coffee once it’s been brewed – that completely covers the top of the coffee.
For those who find themselves switching between working locations throughout the day, or if you regularly take weekends away, this is a handy unit to have tucked in your bag.
Wacaco Picopress price and availability
- List price: $129.90 / £109.90 / AU$189.90
The Wacaco Picopress will set you back $129.90 / £109.90 / AU$189.90, and is available globally from Wacaco’s site as well as Amazon.
Wacaco also offers the Nanopresso, which has a smaller basket and subsequently holds just 8g of coffee, requiring an add-on to make double espresso. It’s priced at $69.90 / £58.90 / AU$109.90
- Compact design
- 18-bar pressure
- Makes double espressos
The Picopress really is a portable coffee maker, measuring just 4.17 x 3.07 x 2.8 inches / 10.6 x 7.8 x 7.1cm (h x w x d) and weighing 0.77lb / 350g. As such, it’s no chore to slip this into your bag each day. It’s smaller and more compact than Wacaco’s previous hand-pump espresso maker, the Nanopresso.
All of the accessories that come with the unit, including a coffee-grind scoop, a distribution tool, and metal tamper to help create a perfect coffee puck (the name for the disc of compacted coffee grounds), and a brush for cleaning the coffee maker sit neatly inside the appliance. The Picopress even comes with a carry case to protect the coffee maker when it’s in your bag.
The Picopress doesn’t require batteries to brew your espresso. Instead, it features a piston, which can be pumped by hand to create 18 bars of pressure to force the hot water through the coffee grounds. It comes with a standard 2-inch / 5.2cm double basket, similar to those found on mains-powered espresso machines. It can hold 18g of coffee, and also features a 2.7fl oz / 80ml water tank, so you can brew a double espresso no matter where you are – as long as you have access to boiling water and a cup.
The main unit is made from plastic, but the portafilter, basket, and the tamper are all made from aluminum. As a result, the whole appliance feels extremely durable, and it comes with a two-year warranty too.
- Produces smooth espresso
- Portafilter can be used naked
- Can’t be used with coffee pods
Using the Picopress is time-consuming, especially since Wacaco recommends freshly grinding beans for each use. That said, following use of the coffee maker each day for a week, we became much faster at creating a smooth coffee puck and assembling the coffee maker ready to start hand-pumping an espresso.
Wacaco suggests you pump boiling water through the espresso maker and into your cup before brewing your espresso; including this step resulted in it taking 90 seconds to brew a shot of espresso. While this may seem long in comparison to powered espresso makers – the Breville Bambino Plus takes just 21 seconds, for example – it’s certainly worth the wait.
The coffee was wonderfully smooth, with an intense flavor. Thanks to the ability to use the portafilter naked, where the spout is removed so the bottom of the basket is exposed, the coffee also had a complete crema on top. When we added sugar and gave the drink a stir, the crema formed again, which is exactly as we’d hoped.
How fast you pump the Picopress affects the level of pressure created: the more quickly you pump, the higher the pressure. However, if you pump too quickly and the pressure becomes too high, a safety valve will open, sending the water back into the tank. This will result in the flow of coffee reducing, or potentially even stopping, so you’ll need to use the Picopress several times to find the right speed at which to pump.
Unlike the Nanopresso, the Picopress doesn’t come with an add-on kit that allows the use of single-serve coffee capsules, such as those that would be used in a Nespresso machine.
If we’re being really picky, we were disappointed by the lack of a maximum mark in the water tank – so if you’re a stickler for the rules, you’ll need a set of scales to ensure you get the perfect espresso every time.
Should I buy the Wacaco Picopress?
Buy it if…
You want coffee on-the-go
If you want a smooth, intense espresso on-the-go, without having to enter a coffee shop, the Picopress delivers.
You’re a coffee enthusiast
Grinding your own beans, understanding the level of espresso you need, and being able to use the portafilter naked – these are all a must when using the Picopress and that will be music to the ears of coffee aficionados.
You’re tight on space
Mains-powered espresso machines can be bulky, but the Picopress is super-compact, and even comes with a handy case that keeps all the added extras together. This makes it a great alternative coffee maker for those who are tight on space.
Don’t buy it if…
You prefer coffee pods
Wacaco’s previous hand-pump espresso maker, the Nanopresso, comes with an add-on kit that means it can make coffee from single-serve capsules, such as those that fit a Nespresso machine. Currently, there are no plans to release a similar add-on for the Picopress coffee maker.
You’re short of time
Using the Picopress isn’t a quick process, especially when you factor in cleaning, drying, and reassembling the various components. If you’re short on time in the morning, this isn’t the best coffee maker for your start-the-day cup of joe.
You like coffee with milk
If you’re a fan of lattes, cappuccinos or other coffee-based drinks that require foamy milk, then the Picopress won’t cater to your needs.
First reviewed: August 2021