The Wirsh espresso machine can make coffees to rival models which cost twenty times its price. Slim, sleek, and excellent value, this is perfect for those shopping on a budget.
Makes good coffee
Lots of premium features
Portafilter feels a little cheap
Shots are on the weak side
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Before I tested the Wirsh Espresso Machine, I was convinced that most models under $500 were hiding some diabolically bad mechanics inside. Now I've been proven wrong.
As a trained barista, I've used espresso machines which are twenty times the price of this, if not more. That's why I was almost baffled by how brilliant this model is. The Wirsh boasts all the premium features of machines ten – even twenty times – its price, with a useful pressure gauge, heat-protected steam wand, and cup warmer on top. Aside from a few plastic finishes and a little less weight, it's hard to tell the difference between the Wirsh and one of the best espresso machines on the market.
As with any machine, there are quirks that you'll need to accept before fully embracing the Wirsh, but if you're new to espresso machines, short on space, or on a tight budget, I would strongly recommend this model.
|Dimensions||12.5" x 6.5" x 11.9"|
|Water tank capacity||2.6 fl oz|
The unboxing process was everything that I expected from a less expensive model. There was a fair amount of plastic and polystyrene, which isn't great for the environment. However, it does mean that the Wirsh arrived in pristine condition.
Whilst this isn't flush with extras, it does have a few small accessories. It doesn't have a stainless steel milk jug, which is always frustrating if you want to start making coffee straight away, but you can buy one for less than $10 at Walmart, for example. However, this comes with a useful tamper that doubles up as a scoop.
For the cost of this machine, it feels pretty premium. There are some places where this feels like a $150 machine. It's light and easy to knock off balance if you're locking the portafilter in with a lot of force. The portafilter is the most cheap feeling part of the machine: it's light and plastic, rather than weighty.
Who would it suit?
As a compact, relatively inexpensive model, I'd recommend this to lots of people. It can pull a good, deep shot of coffee and froth milk expertly. There are also nice touches, such as the cup warmer and full steam wand rotation.
If you have a compact kitchen or you're shopping on a budget, I would recommend considering this machine. It's also useful for beginners, because you follow all the standard processes for extracting coffee, without the high stakes of an expensive espresso machine.
What is it like to use?
I was incredibly impressed with this petite machine. Even though I've been spoilt by testing espresso machines over twenty times the price of this one, I still really enjoyed the Wirsh and made some good coffee in it, too. It's straightforward to use and hard to make mistakes.
There are plenty of premium features, such as a cup warmer and grippy feet on the base to keep the machine stable. Overall, it feels a little cheap, because it's so light. However, there are more expensive machines (such as the TikTok-famous Casabrews 5700 Pro) which struggle with the same issue.
Before making any coffee, I filled the water tank up to the max line. These are clear markers to guide you and the reservoir has plenty of capacity; I think it could last for about ten coffees before needing to refill. I would love Wirsh to add a handle to the water reservoir, because that would make this even easier to fill up. At the moment, holding it by its sides is fine.
Once I had filled up the reservoir, I turned the machine on. Some models can take up to ten minutes to heat up and get to the perfect pressure. I started a timer, thinking it would take twenty minutes, but within 20 seconds it was ready to go.
Test 1: Espresso
When it came to making espressos, I was seriously impressed with this small machine. I used pre-ground coffee, since this doesn’t have a grinder and scooped it into the portafilter. Their scooper will give the portafilter 10g of coffee, which is 8g short of what I would recommend. However, even with the deepest basket, 18g would be too much to fit in. Having less coffee grounds won’t affect the coffee too much, but it will make the flavors lighter and less intense.
Once the coffee was in the portafilter and tamped with the useful scoop-tamper, I locked the portafilter into the brew head. I had to brace the coffee machine with a hand on top, because it did lift off from the countertop the first time I tested it. However, as the machine warmed up, I didn't have to keep holding it in place.
The first shot took ten seconds of vibrating and shaking before I got any coffee out. Because this is a light machine, if you have a delicate cup, it’s likely to rattle off. My espresso moved about a centimetre back into the machine, so I had to bring them forward again. This didn’t happen on other tests, so I think it’s just when you use the machine for the first time.
The first espressos I extracted were surprisingly good. They ranged between about 1.05 oz and 1.35 oz, so weaker than I would have liked, but the crema was excellent and all the flavours were well extracted. The notes of milk chocolate and hazelnut really shone through.
Test 2: Americano
Adding hot water to my short was really easy. If the steam setting isn’t selected, the steam wand will dispense a thin stream of hot water. I’ve seen this type of hot water dispense before before and it often causes splashes of coffee inside the cup. However, the pressure is perfect in the Wirsh, because although the jet was strong, it did not create any mess. The only downside of this pressure is that it takes about 12 seconds to fill a cup with 10.5 oz of hot water, which is significantly longer than other machines.
The water was hot, but not boiling, so, once I had added my espresso to the hot water, it was a faultless Americano. I would use a double shot to get strength into your coffee, because it is weaker than normal, but that’s no bad thing if you’re new to speciality coffee and espresso machines.
Test 3: Cappuccino
Like any premium machine, this steam wand has a useful rubber guard to prevent you from burning your hand. It also has an impressive 360 degrees of rotation, making it easy to slot any cup underneath. The simple wand makes it very easy to steam milk if you’re a beginner. However, if you want to become an expert at milk frothing, you'll need to practice how you texture milk. I tested the wand with both dairy and oat milk with little complaint. If I closed my eyes, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between this and more expensive models like the Bambino Plus.
When I added milk to my espresso shots, the cappuccinos were smooth and sweet. The milk helped to enhance the delicate chocolatey notes of my coffee and, even though it was weaker than I would like it to be, it was a success.
Cleaning, storage, and maintenance
The clean down process was very straightforward. The drip tray lifts nearly out of the machine and the rest of the pipes only needed a run-through with hot water before it was finished. This comes with some useful cleaning tools for the steam wand, so if you ever forget to clean it out straight after use, the pin will do the job for you.
This clever machine will also switch off after 25 minutes of inaction. If you live in a busy home, you’re careful with electricity, or simply forgetful, you’ll be grateful for this feature – I certainly was.
How does it rate online?
There aren't lots of reviews for this online, but on Amazon, the Wirsh boasts 4.4 stars overall. The reoccurring word in every review is 'value'. Lots of people were extremely pleased with what the Wirsh delivers. Almost everyone complemented it as easy to use with intuitive controls. I even saw a review of this written by a barista who was impressed with the pressure and controls.
The little criticisms that I found centered around quality. The portafiler is lighter than a more premium option, making it feel slightly cheap. Some people wanted a more obtuse steam wand angle, but I wouldn't change this. It has 360 degrees of rotation and is easy to adjust to suit different coffee makers.
How does it compare?
This looks a lot like Breville machine, so I thought it was best to compare it to Breville's Bambino. Overall, the Bambino feels more premium. It's more robust, heavy, and yet, to look at, there's very little difference between the two machines. The Wirsh is a little smaller, but only slightly. At over three times the price, I would expect the Bambino to feel more robust than the Wirsh.
Neither machine has an integrated grinder, but they're brilliant for basics. The Bambino is excellent at extracting the full flavors from coffee, so each shot packs a punch. Wirsh's machine made a weaker shot, but still managed to extract the flavors really well. When it came to milk frothing, there was very little difference between the two machines. You'll need to refine your barista skills to make the most of this machine, but they're very similar.
As a machine for beginners, I would be tempted to start with the Wirsh. It's less of an investment, but still makes delicious coffee. If I had to choose one to last me for five or ten years, I'd opt for the Breville. The build is better, but I would be tempted to take my chances with the Wirsh.
Should you buy it?
If this is your first espresso machine in a small home or apartment, this is an excellent investment. It's hard to believe that an espresso machine this good costs close to $150. Using the word 'bargain' detracts from how wonderful this is. I thought it was an excellent machine with some incredibly well considered features too. As a coffee snob, I was pleasantly surprised.
How we test
At Homes & Gardens, we take our coffee tests seriously. Laura, a trained barista, took the Wirsh to our test kitchen, where she tested it alongside other espresso machines. She made notes on the whole process, from unboxing and cleaning up to the all-important taste test. If there's a special feature, we'll let you know about it and if a machine makes claims, we always test them so you know whether they're genuinely good or just a gimmick. If you'd like to find out more, we have a dedicated page for how we test coffee makers.
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Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.
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