Is there a bad time for an espresso? Fans of the popular coffee drink will say no, every time is a great time for an espresso. Unfortunately, lugging a full-sized espresso machine around with you isn’t possible or practical.
The Handpresso is a portable espresso maker designed for adventurers who want to explore the world – and have an espresso ready no matter where they go. But is this unique contraption perfectly portable, or will the quality of the drink make you wish you’d stayed home?
Today, we’re taking a deep dive into the pros, cons, and everything else you need to know about the Handspresso. Is this the travel companion of your dreams? Read on to find out:
Things to Consider Before Buying a Handspresso
If you’re an espresso fan, you probably see an espresso machine every day, either on your kitchen counter or at your favorite coffee joint. These sleek, shiny pieces of Italian hardware are often hard to miss.
Admittedly, some of the larger models are designed with style in mind, but even the most basic machine is similar in size to a microwave. How can it shrink down to a portable product that’s worth using?
Let’s be clear. The Handspresso isn’t quite on par with the bigger machines. It doesn’t have special features or fancy extras. You won’t be able to finetune every aspect of your espresso, and the taste of the drink won’t be as rich or full as what you can make at home or buy in a store. So, who is the Handspresso made for?
It’s best for the espresso drinker on the go. It’s ideal for camping trips, long car rides, subway rides, and other journeys into locations where a true espresso machine isn’t practical or possible to bring along.
You have to be willing to make some concessions in regard to taste. Also, as we’ll get into later, you do need to supply your own hot water. However, as long as you maintain the right expectations about the quality of the espresso, the Handspresso has a lot to offer.
We’ve covered a variety of ways to Make an Espresso without an Espresso Machine. While the Handspresso isn’t the only method of making an espresso without a full machine, it’s one of the most unique. Let’s take a closer look at how:
A Brief Product Overview of the Handspresso
The Handspresso is lightweight, portable, and durable. In terms of construction, it packs a lot of quality into a small package. In fact, it’s one of the most compact espresso makers on the market — if not the most compact, period.
Here’s a look at the details:
- Product Specs: 8.5 by 3 by 4 inches
- Product Weight: 11 pounds
Can you hold it in one hand and make an espresso? Probably not. You’ll need both hands to operate it. However, it’s incredibly easy to carry around. You should have no problems fitting it into most standard-sized:
- Laptop bags
- Car trunks
- Camping packs
The Handspresso has a thin, cylindrical design that looks like a bicycle pump, only sleeker. The operation is simple. You pump the device, by hand, to create 16 bars of pressure.
Once it’s fully “pumped up,” you press the infusion button to shoot a stream of hot water through the grounds. Voila! An instant shot of espresso is ready. Operation is simple and straightforward; you should have no problems at all.
Things We Like
- Compact size is easy to take just about anywhere
- Durable construction means it can withstand an occasional knock or bang
- Operation is simple, low-tech, and reliable
- Espresso is surprisingly high-quality and tasty for a compact machine
Room for Improvement
- You must supply your own hot water, which isn’t always possible
- The shot created is smaller than a standard espresso shot
- You can’t vary the strength of the espresso, and it can end up fairly weak
Features & Benefits
Here’s a closer look at the major features found in this machine:
True Espresso Taste
In order to understand why the Handpresso is so interesting, let’s first take a quick look at what makes an espresso an espresso.
The difference between an espresso and any other type of coffee drink is the pressure at which the hot water is forced through the coffee grind.
If making espresso had a theme song, that tune would be Under Pressure by Queen. Because to make an espresso, the water must pass through the grinds at a pressure of nine bars, which is about 130 pounds of pressure per square inch. To put that into context, it’s nine times the atmospheric pressure you feel every day here on Earth and about twice the pressure in the average car tire.
As long as you generate the appropriate water pressure through the ground beans, you’re making espresso. While high-end machines have all sorts of customization options and fancy features, at their heart, their main job is to shoot the water through the grind at the appropriate pressure.
To that end, never let some coffee snob tell you that the Handpresso doesn’t make “true” espresso. It absolutely does. You’re not getting some type of imitation. It’s made the same basic way as every other espresso since the invention of the original machine back in 1884.
Ease of Use
If you’re camping in the woods or riding in a subway to work, you don’t want to mess around with an espresso maker that’s complicated to use. So, how easy is the Handpresso to operate? Note that we’re not looking at how easy it is to use at home. Instead, we want to know how easy it is to use in a moving vehicle, wet weather, and other real-world conditions.
We’re pleased to report that the Handpresso is intuitive and simple to operate almost anywhere. In fact, it’s ease-of-use is one of its finest features. Basically, it requires four steps:
1. Pump It Up!
First, you build up the pressure by pumping it up. The Handpresso works very much like a standard bicycle pump. Using two hands, you pump the device about 30 times.
You need to build up 16 bars of pressure. Don’t worry; you don’t have to guess. The Handpresso has a built-in gauge with a designated Green Zone that lets you know what the correct pressure is reached.
2. Add Hot Water
Next, you add hot water. Unfortunately, the device doesn’t have any capability of warming water. You’ll have to supply your own. A thermos-insulated bottle, camping stove, or similar equipment is needed.
The fact you have to supply your own hot water is our least favorite aspect of the Handpresso. But we’ll cover that in additional detail later on. For now, just assume you have hot water at the ready (and we’ll give you some tips).
If you have hot water, adding it to the Handpresso is simple. The unit has a large opening so you can pour the water without splashing it all over your hands, even if you’re pouring in windy or bouncy conditions.
Note: By “hot water,” the manufacturer refers to water that is 95 degrees Celsius.
3. Add the Grind
Now you add the coffee. The Handpresso takes either ground coffee or ESE espresso pods. ESE pods are also known as stiff pods.
Handpresso doesn’t have any special proprietary pod sizes. You can use any ESE pods that you like. However, Senseo pods won’t fit.
ESE pods are tamped, which means only water with a pressure of 16-bars can pass through. It’s specifically designed to create that signature espresso cream.
4. Make the Espresso
Finally, press the Infusion button to activate the machine and release the pressure. A powerful stream of hot water shoots through the grind to deliver a shot of espresso.
The Infusion process takes less than a minute. In fact, if you’re quick about adding water and grind, the entire process from start to finish takes just a minute or two.
As you’ve likely noticed, we’ve referred to the Handpresso as similar to a bicycle pump in both function and size. However, it’s a fairly significant departure in looks. Surprisingly, the Handpresso has a sleek, sophisticated style that looks, well, pretty cool.
While the style hardly matters if you’re alone in the woods, it can make a difference in your comfort level when using the product in public, such as on the subway or in a park. Fortunately, the device is eye-catching in a good way.
Plus, it’s durable. It’s made from BPA-free plastic and stainless steel. With no electronic components, it doesn’t have any sensitive parts that can break easily. We’re not saying you can throw the Handpresso around with wild abandon, but it’ll likely survive an accidental drop or two.
The Handpresso is both versatile and not versatile. Here’s what we mean by that.
It’s versatile in the sense that you can use any ESE pod or coffee grind you wish. If you have a local barista with a blend you can’t live without, then you can take it with you and use it in your Handpresso. No matter what type of espresso you love, you can almost certainly use it with this machine.
However, it’s also not versatile in the sense that it only makes espresso. Technically, you can add hot water to your shot, to make a more traditional cup of coffee (called a Long Black or Americano.)
But let’s be honest. You don’t particularly need a special portable device to brew a normal cup of coffee when camping. Neither for city living, where a cup of coffee is available for sale on practically every street corner.
Ultimately, it’s designed for espresso on-the-go, and not for making any other type of coffee drinks.
A single shot of espresso is about one liquid ounce. Generally, making one shot of liquid requires about seven grams of grounds.
Of course, there’s some wiggle room there. Weighing espresso shots is a relatively new phenomenon. Historically, baristas simply eyeballed it.
However, if you’re looking for a full shot of espresso, similar to what you’d get from a larger machine, the Handpresso doesn’t quite deliver. It’s close but still smaller enough to be noticeable.
While that’s not a huge deal, it does reinforce a key idea about the Handpresso. It’s a one-person machine. You’re not making a variety of drinks with it. It delivers quality espresso, but not much of it at once.
As we mentioned above, the machine is compact, lightweight, and durable. Those are certainly the top three traits you want when selecting any type of portable appliance. As a standalone unit, it’s easily one of the most portable coffee makers of any kind.
However, there is an issue you should know about. The machine doesn’t heat water. You have to supply your own water with a temperature of 95-degree Celcius. If you’re camping, you can boil water on a campfire. Otherwise, you’ll need an insulated thermos or other access to hot water.
It’s not an insurmountable problem in either the city or the country. However, you do want to keep in mind that making your own espresso on-the-go might require you to carry two items: a Handpresso, and a water bottle of some kind.
Let’s be clear here: You’re not going to use the Handpresso and then decide to throw away your home espresso maker. It’s not a substitute for a high-end espresso machine.
That said, as a portable espresso maker, there’s a lot to like here. It’s easy to use, durable, and portable.
Who will likely love the Handpresso? Three groups stand out: Campers, commuters, and frequent travelers. You can easily make a high-quality drink around the campfire, on the bus, in a hotel room, and other places where a traditional machine won’t fit.
Of course, a portable espresso maker isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a larger model for use at home, check out Best Automatic Espresso Machine for our top recommendations. What they lack in portability, they make up for with features and adjustability.
However, if you’re looking for a portable espresso machine, the Handpresso is one of our favorites. While you have to make some sacrifices, especially in shot size, the machine delivers a hot, fresh, and delicious espresso. No matter where you are, it’s time for espresso!
Handpresso Review: A Closer Look at Espresso On the Go
Espressos are the greatest pick-me-ups for a busy day, but what's even better is an espresso maker on the go. Check out our review of the Handpresso.
Product In-Stock: InStock