An espresso machine will deliver a tasty, intense shot, but high-quality machines are expensive and bulky. If you’re not an extreme coffee snob, consider buying a portable espresso maker if you want a more affordable option to brew strong coffee. Learning the differences between handpresso and minipresso will help you know what machine you need.
Both types of these machines brew robust and delicious espresso shots. They’re easy to use regardless of your location. If you travel or camp, you’ll want to invest in one of the products on this list.
When you’re shopping for a portable espresso maker, you need to consider your options. The differences between handpresso and minipresso are minor but significantly impact your usage.
Who It’s For
Handpresso and minipresso machines are for anyone who wants to brew a shot of espresso without waiting in coffee shop lines. They’re also more affordable than buying a professional-grade espresso machine for your kitchen.
Since they’re portable, they’re also much smaller. You don’t need to give up any counter space for a handpresso or minipresso. They’re easy to use, clean, and store away out of sight.
If you travel and want to make sure you’ll always have a great cup of coffee, buying a portable espresso machine gives you that guarantee. Whether you’re staying in an Airbnb or a tent with all of your camping gear on a cold morning, you’ll be able to brew a strong shot of espresso.
What to Look For
Factors to look for when you’re debating handpresso vs. minipresso include portability, ease of use, the type of coffee the machine can brew, and its heat source.
Portability doesn’t mean that every machine is lightweight. Some are ultra-light, while others are heavier.
Ultra-light options weigh less than 340 grams and are ideal for hikers. You can carry it in your backpack without adding unnecessary weight.
Light portable espresso machines weigh less than 500 grams. They’re suitable for regular camping trips, but you wouldn’t want to carry them in your pack day after day.
Portable machines weigh more than 500 grams. They’re still suitable for traveling, but you’ll want to leave them at your campsite, in your car or RV, or at the vacation house.
Ease of Use
If you’ve ever brewed espresso, you might know that pulling the perfect shot isn’t always a sure thing. Therefore, you want to choose a portable espresso machine that’s relatively easy to use. You don’t want to struggle with the device while you’re trying to get your fix.
Most machines are hand-powered, so you manually pump a piston. This pumping builds pressure inside the machine to brew the shot. It takes 40-50 pumps to get a shot.
Some machines let you pump to build up to max pressure before adding the water and compatible ground coffee to the filter basket, making the process a bit easier.
Some machines have a pressure gauge that lets you know when you hit the required pressure to pull a shot. You’ll still have a learning curve in terms of finding out the best type of finely-ground espresso coffee beans to use in the machine, as well as how long it takes to brew.
Type of Coffee
Many machines use different types of coffee. Some might use coffee grounds, while others use brand-specific pods. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy. You don’t want to be on the road and realize you don’t have the correct type of coffee for your portable coffee maker. That will ruin your coffee experience very quickly.
Ground coffee is, of course, the most versatile. You can grind beans before traveling or pick up a bag on the road. If your machine uses pods, you’ll have to pack enough for the trip.
When making espresso, you need a heat source. If you’re staying at vacation homes, you don’t have to worry much about your options. However, if you’re camping and hiking, you need to consider how you’ll heat the water to brew espresso.
A few machines need hot water regardless of how you heat it. You heat others on a stovetop or over a fire. Some have their own heating element, but you’ll need to plug them into an outlet. The ones we’ve reviewed need hot water added. Ensure you know what you’re buying so you don’t get stuck drinking lukewarm, weak espresso.
When you’re debating handpresso vs. minipresso, two models come to the top of the list: Handpresso Wild Hybrid and Wacaco Minipresso.
Handpresso Wild Hybrid
This portable espresso maker looks like a small bicycle pump and feels more expensive than it is. It’s made of metal and matte black plastic and comes in three parts: the body, cap, and coffee basket.
This specialty coffee machine’s construction makes it heavier than the Wacaco Minipresso, though. It weighs just over a pound, which is fine if you’re using it in the kitchen, but less than ideal for multi-day hikes and camping trips.
You have a little leeway regarding the type of coffee the Handpresso Wild Hybrid uses. You can use coffee grounds and tamp them with the end of the pump handle or use Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods.
Be careful when you’re using this machine. Keep your eye on the attractive pressure gauge to avoid going into the red zone. You only need to pump pressure into the water chamber until you hit 16 bars, and then the espresso starts flowing.
Things We Like
- Durable yet the lightweight metal body
- Uses coffee grounds or ESE pods
- Easy to clean
Things We Don’t like
- More expensive than the Wacaco Minipresso
- Heavier than other portable machines
The Wacaco Minipresso GR is the best choice for portability since it weighs less than a pound. Several parts double up for convenience, such as the cap also working as an espresso cup.
You can also use the coffee scoop to tamp down the grounds. Keep in mind that the Wacaco only uses coffee grounds, not any pod type.
Be careful when attaching the hot water compartment. Ensure it is in place and tight before pumping.
There’s no pressure gauge on this machine. After about ten pumps, aim it towards your coffee cup because espresso starts coming out. You’ll get a full shot after about 50 pumps; keep count, so you have an idea of when it’s done.
After you’ve brewed your shot, the pump piston lever locks into place, maintaining the device’s shape. Check out our full review of this minipresso machine for more information.
Things We Like
- Richer espresso taste than other models
- Less expensive than the Handpresso Wild Hybrid
- It comes with a coffee scoop, tamps, and espresso cup
Things We Don’t like
- No gauge to ensure you’ve built enough pressure
If you’re looking for a portable espresso maker that makes the richest shot, you won’t regret buying the Wacaco Minipresso. This machine is also the most portable choice and perfect for camping since it weighs less than a pound.
However, it has multiple parts, so make sure you keep up with everything when you take it outdoors.
The Handpresso Wild Hybrid is easier to use than the Wacaco machine. We love the pressure gauge, so you know when you’re ready to pour your shot. Since it’s a little heavier, this option is better for traveling when you have a home base that isn’t a tent.
All three machines on this list are great choices at a reasonable price if you’re looking for an alternative to your favorite coffee shop or an expensive countertop machine. The tastes will be slightly different than you’re used to, but they’re all going to deliver a strong morning caffeine buzz.