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I first learned about Wacaco when James Hoffmann, a well-known coffee YouTuber, world-class barista and owner of London’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters, reviewed the brand’s Nanopresso ($69.90) for his channel. His perception of the travel coffee brewer wasn’t great — in his eyes, it had many shortcomings — but I was intrigued enough by the concept to pay close attention to the brand and follow what it was up to.
The concept of the Nanopresso, and all of Wacaco’s coffee brewers for that matter, is fairly simple. It’s a self-contained “espresso” brewer designed to go virtually anywhere. Simply put ground coffee in one end, hot water in the other, and use the hand pump to build nine bars of pressure in the machine and pour your espresso. By Hoffmann’s calculations though, the main issue with the Nanopresso was that it couldn’t hold enough ground coffee to make true espresso — it could only hold 6-7 grams of coffee versus the 18-20 grams of coffee typically used for brewing double shots.
So when I saw that Wacaco had released a new brewer aimed squarely at espresso enthusiasts and those who require high-quality coffee while on the go, I was curious to see whether or not the new design solved Hoffmann’s criticisms.
The new brewer is called the Picopresso ($129.90), and on paper, it certainly looks the business. It’s fitted with a bottomless portafilter and no pressurized basket, just as you would see used on high-end espresso machines from the likes of La Marzocco and Victoria Arduino. It has a robust construction, comes with a host of accessories including a carrying case and most importantly, it has an 18g ground capacity perfect for the requisite morning double shot.
Out of the box, the Picopresso delivers on the promises made in its marketing materials and then some. In addition to the easily noticeable premium build quality that’s a nice upgrade over the Nanopresso, the Picopresso also offers a standard 52mm diameter portafilter basket, which offers more surface area when brewing.
As much as I would like to say that the Picopresso is simple to use, I did have to read the instructions — even as an espresso enthusiast. There are a handful of parts that all nest neatly together for travel, but require getting used to where they all go and how they fit together. Dialing in the grind and brewing technique for the Picopresso takes some time in order to get good results as well, but that’s the point. Wacaco designed this machine specifically for enthusiasts that enjoy the process, experimentation and, frankly, the frustration that comes with brewing the perfect shot of espresso.
To get the best out of the Picopresso, you really need to weigh your coffee in and liquid out when brewing. That allows you to dial the grind size and dose to get as close to the traditional 1:2 ratio of coffee to brewed espresso as possible. Don’t expect to simply toss in some pre-ground coffee and let it rip.
To test the machine, I used Ruby Coffee Roasters Creamery Blend with the same grind setting that I typically use on my Breville Barista Touch. Things needed some dialing in from there, but in short order, I had a shot that was just as good as those I pour every morning from the Breville.
Am I ready to ditch my Barista Touch? Definitely not. The convenience of turning on the machine and within a couple of minutes having a cafe-grade shot of espresso is not something I’m willing to give up in exchange for a bit more counter space. But if you live in a small apartment, the Picopresso could be an incredible option. It’s leaps and bounds cheaper than a countertop machine, and tucks neatly into its carry case and then into a drawer.
The Picopresso also makes the ideal cornerstone of a travel coffee kit. Nobody’s parents drink good coffee — it’s just a fact. The Picopresso is perfect for bringing home on the holidays to help get you through and allow you to forego the pods and instant coffee you dread. If you’re looking for an on-the-go espresso solution, this is it.
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