Stuff We Swear By: This Is the Best Espresso Machine for Small Spaces

The Wirsh 15 Bar more than earns its spot on my countertop

February 22, 2023 11:40 am
The Wirsh 15 Bar Espresso Maker on an abstract background
Getty Images / InsideHook

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There’s nothing like a small kitchen to make you carefully assess and weigh every kitchen purchase. Each item in limited cabinet and drawer real estate must pull its weight to make it worth the storage space. As a former coffee shop staffer and a lover of caffeine, I’ve spent years eyeballing fancy at-home espresso machines, dreaming of the day I’d have a kitchen large enough to accommodate one. I’m still in my small kitchen, but I’ve found the machine. With a compact footprint of 5 inches in width and 12.2 inches in depth, the Wirsh 15 Bar Espresso Maker more than earns its keep.

The machine pulls 15 bars of pressure using a surprisingly heavy and sturdy 2-in-1 portafilter (choose from single or double-shot), and the high-power steam wand creates a legitimate frothing vortex when I steam milk for a latte or cappuccino. (Sometimes I’ll just steam some milk with vanilla extract in the evenings as a treat.) The little machine’s 1450W instant thermo-block heating system heats wickedly fast, and can also heat water for tea or Americanos. I was a skeptic of the $140 price, until I got the machine home and put it to use… then it quickly became my preferred coffee machine.

How I use it:

It’s hard to beat the boost of a strong espresso shot after my 5 AM workouts. The machine takes less than a minute to warm up, so I grind a fresh round of espresso beans (medium-roast can make for a mellower cup if you don’t like strong or bitter espresso) and tamp them gently into the portafilter. The lights on top blink while the machine is warming, going solid once things are warm and ready. I’ve found it’s best to give it an extra minute to warm, otherwise the water can be a bit lukewarm. Two minutes of preheating (enough to warm my cup) and everything is toasty hot.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the single-shot portafilter (there are selection buttons for each), though it’s there if you want less caffeine. Snugly twist the portafilter into the machine, check to make sure water is in the reservoir, and then I simply push the button on top. While my shot pulls, I’ll get breakfast cooking, and by the time I’ve broken eggs into a skillet, a genuine little cup of espresso—complete with crema—is waiting for me.

Anyone who spends time in the kitchen knows it’s the little things that make the difference, and the ability to easily grab a shot of espresso at home has both saved me money (hello, expensive cafes) and helped scratch that creative “I need to make something in the kitchen” itch. On busy afternoons I’ll sometimes pull two more shots, adding them into a bit of steamed milk for latte, or dropping a bit of milk into the espresso for macchiato. The perfect afternoon pick-me up.

Why I swear by it:

It’s the little features that really make the Wirsh 15 Bar stand out. The heft of the portafilter, which feels like the ones I used as a barista in a shop. The cup warmer on the lid of the machine (I like to turn my cups upside-down to tap the heat). The 42-ounce water reservoir comes away easily and has a carry handle, making filling quick and easy. Larger mugs, including many of my travel mugs fit into the machine thanks to the removable drop tray, which easily slides away.

The machine pulls surprisingly good espresso shots, especially once you find the right tamping pressure. The Wirsh is designed to start pulling shots using a low-pressure pre-infusion, with small amounts of water flowing over the tamped grounds. The process produces richly-flavored espresso, even when using medium-roast beans.

The aesthetics are sleek and classic; the stainless exterior of the machine blends nicely into my tiny kitchen space, and the cheerful LEDS lights along the front indicate when the machine’s various modes are working is a mood-booster. All in all, the Wirsh 15 Bar Espresso Maker is a steal for a sub-$150 espresso machine, and I can foresee it being my go-to coffee maker for many caffeinated days to come.


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