Whether you’re planning a one-day hiking trip or a weekend getaway, one thing that scares every coffee aficionado is staying somewhere without any access to your daily cup of caffeinated happiness.
While there are 35,616 coffee shops in the United States, there are still places where you might not be able to order your caffeine fix and it would be useful if you could make the espresso yourself.
At a Glance: Best Portable Espresso Maker
Luckily, you don’t have to bring your big 10kg espresso machine on your next camping trip. There are many portable options available that would easily fit into your overnight bag.
If you’re just as serious about coffee as we are, you’ll know that it is important that the portable machine can make an actual espresso, not just a hot under-extracted disappointment.
What are the best portable espresso makers? How do you use them? And how do you choose one that’s best for your caffeine needs?
We’ll cover all of these topics in this article.
Quick Summary: Best Portable Espresso Maker
|Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker||Check on Amazon →|
|Wacaco Minipresso GR||Check on Amazon →|
|Handpresso Coffee Machine||Check on Amazon →|
|Handpresso Auto Premium Set||Check on Amazon →|
|Flair Signature Espresso Maker||Check on Amazon →|
|De'Longhi EN85B Nespresso Mini Espresso||Check on Amazon →|
|Aicok Portable Espresso Machine||Check on Amazon →|
|Bialetti 06800 Express Moka Pot||Check on Amazon →|
|De'Longhi EMK6 Italian Espresso||Check on Amazon →|
|AeroPress Coffee And Espresso Maker||Check on Amazon →|
Coffee vs Espresso
The crucial fact that is important to establish is that you’re not just after coffee, you’re after an espresso. And while every espresso is coffee, not every coffee is an espresso.
The main difference between the two is that espresso is a highly concentrated beverage made under high pressure forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee grounds. It is typically extracted within 30 seconds and requires a minimum pressure of 9 bars.
The concentration and the fresh fine grind releases oils and creates crema which results in a full-bodied and well-rounded beverage. The brewed coffee is done using a longer extraction and a paper filter, which strains the natural oils and makes the coffee more acidic.
Espresso is often seen as the quickest way to get your caffeine boost because it tastes stronger and more intense because of its high concentration. However, brewed coffee actually contains more caffeine, around 70-140mg compared to 59mg found in espresso.
Espresso Machine History
The origins of coffee brewing go back as far as the 9th century in Africa where the coffee was discovered. The rest of the world took a while to catch up, with Europe discovering it 800 years later and the United States jumping on board in the 18th century.
As the coffee enthusiasm grew bigger and bigger, the first coffee houses were established. These caused a stir. They acted as the intellectual centers and created controversy and even protests.
Throughout the years, people kept developing coffee brewing methods. Italy is the birthplace of the first espresso machine created by Angelo Moriondo which was then improved by Luigi Bezzera at the end of the 19th century. Then it was further developed by Giovanni Achille Gaggia in 1938, who used higher pressure that created crema, which is unique to espresso.
The times when it seemed shocking to be asking for 2 dollars for your morning caffeine fix are long gone and now many of us can’t imagine our lives without it. That’s why it’s great that there are so many portable espresso makers on the market today.
What are our best picks and how do they differ in price, portability, and ease of use?
10 Best Portable Espresso Makers
Nanopresso from Wacaco surprises. Being very compact, lightweight (only 336g!), and ultra-portable, the espresso made by this bad boy is of exceptional quality. Compatible with both ground coffee or pods, 80ml water tank, and being able to utilize 18 bar pressure, it makes for a great addition to your travel kit. Or the office.
While it’s lightweight, the structure of the coffee maker feels solid and it comes in a range of different exciting colors. It is one of the more expensive options but the coffee quality and the ease of use make it one of the best portable espresso makers from the list.
Nanopresso’s older cousin, the Minipresso, can be seen as a bit of a downgrade, but it offers great value. Being a little bit heavier than Nanopresso, at 360g, it is still very portable. They also both require externally heated water for use.
When comparing the two further, the Wacaco Minipresso has a smaller 50ml water tank, applies 8 bar pressure, and is only compatible with one brewing method, using ground coffee. It might feel slightly cumbersome and not the use is not as seamless but it is still durable, produces an intense espresso with good crema, and is cheaper than the Nano.
Handpresso WILD HYBRID
This portable espresso maker is heavier (480g), pricy, and doesn’t look like a coffee maker at all. It looks more like a bicycle pump. Which could be your vibe on your mountain adventure. It’s easy to use and build to last.
The Wild Hybrid is hand-powered but it generates 16 bar pressure making espresso that tastes exceptional. It is compatible with ESE pods, and when the ground coffee is used, it produces a cafe-quality cup. It also requires external heat for water and the weird shape makes it a portable espresso maker that luggage-sized rather than backpack-friendly.
The “non-hybrid” models are cheaper but compatible with either ground coffee or pods, rather than both options.
The Handpresso Auto has taken the term “coffee on the go” to the next level. With this portable espresso maker, you can make your caffeine fix in your car since it plugs into a cigarette lighter. Just don’t do it while driving.
It provides a streamlined process that heats, pressurizes, and dispenses the espresso within two minutes. All in one go! With 16 bar pressure, 2 minutes process, and compatibility with both pods and ground coffee, this is a perfect companion for the road.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, compared to the other options, it is very expensive and not so long-lasting.
Flair Signature Espresso Maker
Flair is one of the heavier options from the list, weighing 3kg. The design doesn’t remind you of an espresso machine but looks like taken from a museum exhibition. Indeed, brewing your coffee with Flair is an art form, not a push-button solution.
It is a true manual lever espresso maker with a pressure of 6 to 10 bars. It allows you to have full control over the brewing, including the grind, tamping, pressure, water temperature, and extraction time. And you know that the more control allows for a better shot.
It is durable and made from solid materials like aluminum and stainless steel, so it’s built to survive any bumpy journey. When using this brewer, you’ll need an external heat source and ground coffee beans. It also comes in a range of colors and produces a high-quality cup, but it’s the higher price tag that might make you think twice.
Nespresso De’Longhi EN85B Mini Espresso Machine
This Mini Nespresso machine is the smallest single-serve espresso maker. At 2kg, it is much heavier than some of the other alternatives but promises a cup of barista-style coffee. Even though it’s not that small, it is built with modern sleek lines which make it fit easily into your suitcase.
The extraction pressure is impressive 19 bars and while it can reach the ideal temperature within 30 seconds, it is still energy-saving and switches off after 9 minutes of being idle. It’s easy to use, quick, compatible with Nespresso capsules, and quite inexpensive too.
It would provide a great option for when you have a little more space in your luggage and don’t want to risk caffeine deprivation on your holidays.
Aicok Portable Espresso Machine
Aicok espresso machine is one of the heavier portable machines weighing over 1kg. However, it still manages to be quite compact and portable. The main advantages are the one-button easy-to-use operation and the pressure of 15-20 bars. However, it is only compatible with capsules, and not the coffee grounds.
It also provides two options for brewing. When using cold water, your espresso will be ready in 8 minutes and if using hot water, you’ll have your caffeine fix instantly. This makes it versatile for both cases when you have access to hot water and when you’re at the peak of the mountain with no such luxury.
Bialetti Moka Express
Moka is one of the most common portable brewing methods that is utilized all over the world. With this brewer, you get a classic Italian coffee experience. It is popular because it is less demanding, cheap, and basically indestructible.
It is only compatible with ground coffee and while, with a little bit of practice, your cup tastes excellent, technically, it’s not an espresso since it doesn’t use high enough pressure.
While it only weighs 450g and is portable, you need to remember that it requires an external heat source and doesn’t work with an induction stove. But if you’re brewing by the campfire, that’s not a big deal, right?
DELONGHI Electric Moka
DeLonghi has taken the classic Moka coffee maker to the next level with this Electric Moka machine. While this one is heavier (1100g) and needs more space, it still remains portable. It is easy to use, quick, and budget-friendly.
Similarly to the classic Moka brewer, it can only produce 2 bars of pressure and therefore isn’t technically an espresso maker. Using ground coffee and built-in heat, it serves multiple people and can keep the coffee warm for 30 minutes.
Even though Aeropress doesn’t technically qualify as a portable espresso maker, we still decided to include it on the list. Weighing only 184g, its compact design, and versatility, it is one of the most popular options for making coffee on-the-go.
Even though it doesn’t produce 9 bar pressure, it can still produce espresso-like coffee. If brewed correctly, with a rapid plunge, finely ground coffee, the coffee is balanced and tasty. However, it is still not as intense and without much crema.
There are a few tricks you can try to maximize crema when brewing with Aeropress. Using the inverted method, freshly and finely ground coffee, the metal filter, and water that doesn’t exceed 204F, the result is pretty impressive.
Not to mention that you can use it at home when you feel like a filter coffee and you can even make a cold brew with it too.
How to Choose? The Main Deciding Factors
Even though all of the espresso makers are portable, some are more portable than others. The great variance in weight can make a lot of difference.
Three main categories differentiating the espresso maker’s portability are:
- Ultralight < 340g
These are the most portable options that can fit in any overnight bag and are ideal for one-day trips. These are great companions for hiking and trekking ensuring that you won’t run out of caffeine juice just before the mountain peak.
- Light 340-500g
These espresso makers are still very light and easy to travel with. They are ideal for overnight stays and a few-day-trips. They would fit in a piece of checked luggage or a weekend bag.
- Portable >500g
These are the largest option but they are still portable, even though packing them might be a little bit challenging. But if you have quite a lot of space in your checked suitcase, then they are great too.
Compatibility is one of the things that differentiates the portable espresso machines. Some are only compatible with ground coffee, others can be only used with pods and capsules, and a few are compatible with both methods.
The choice boils down to what you prefer and what your priorities are. While pods make lower quality espressos, they are easy to transport without the possibility of creating a mess in your luggage.
In contrast, using freshly ground coffee when making espresso produces better quality but can be a hassle when it comes to the cleanup while also being more challenging to transport than the pods.
Most of these portable espresso makers require you to heat the water separately. Some of the espresso makers can do the job for you, but for these, you’re going to need an electric socket.
That’s why it’s important to consider the environment that you plan to use the portable espresso machine in. If you plan on utilizing this little gadget on your outdoor adventurous trips such as hiking or camping, you shouldn’t choose the one that requires an electric socket to avoid future problems.
Apart from the portability of your espresso maker, the other components that you need to consider, if convenience is your deciding factor, are the shape, the maker’s pumping procedure, and how many shots it can produce at the same time.
If you plan to take your coffee gadget to trips with your group of friends or family and they are the same caffeine fiends as you are, making each coffee separately would cause a lot of hassle, and maybe cause fights over who’s next in line. And nobody needs that on a holiday.
Now it’s when the real coffee connoisseurs come in. If you’re one of them, it is possible that all the other factors apart from the espresso quality go out of the window when deciding on which is the best portable espresso maker for you.
In the case that this is your main deciding factor, you might go for the portable coffee machine that uses ground coffee rather than the pods, the one that creates the richest crema and utilizes the highest pressure. On the other hand, you might compromise on portability or convenience.
Of course, let’s not forget, the price can also be a big deciding factor. Depending on your budget, you might choose the option that is most straightforward and requires the least amount of investment.
At the same time, if the frequency of use for your portable espresso maker is going to be quite low, you might settle for the cheaper option. While if you’re going away every weekend and you want your trips to be accompanied by a delicious cup of coffee, it makes sense to invest in it more.
Each portable espresso maker has its own strengths and the choice depends on what factors are the main priority for you. Which one is the best one from the list?
The best portable espresso makers, in our opinion, are Wacaco Minipresso or Nanopresso since they provide great quality espresso and a lot of convenience and portability. If you’re not discouraged by their not-so-easy-to-pack designs, our favorites are the Handpresso Wild Hybrid and Flair Signature Espresso Maker which are not built as compactly but their coffee is exceptional.
Can I Make Espresso Without an Espresso Maker?
If you don’t feel like investing in a machine, you can still make espresso-like beverages without the espresso maker. The most popular options are Moka, Aeropress, or a French press.
Can I Make Normal Coffee With an Espresso Maker?
Can I Use Filter Coffee In My Espresso Machine?
No. Making espresso requires finely ground coffee beans. This ensures proper crema and a concentrated beverage. Therefore, if you use filter ground coffee in your espresso machine, the water will flow through the coffee grinds too quickly, producing an under-extracted and watery shot.
Your Preferences Matter Most
Your preferences and priorities are the key deciding factors when picking a portable espresso maker. We can give you advice and pointers, but it’s important that you decide what you will be using your portable espresso machine for and whether you want to get all geeky and buy the option that will make the finest espresso, or you’ll just settle for whatever will keep your coffee addiction at bay.
We won’t judge.
Just as long as you,