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8 Best Portable Espresso Makers (Travel, Camping, Handheld, and More)

If you want to be able to enjoy a fresh shot of espresso wherever you are, it’s time to purchase a portable espresso maker.

Whether you’re a backpacker, an office worker, a road tripper, or a coffee nerd, our buyers’ guide will help you find exactly what you’re looking for. We’ve prepared a list of top eight picks to ensure that you get only the best.

How to Choose the Best Portable Espresso Maker

It’s difficult to declare one portable espresso maker the absolute best because it will vary with the needs of the user. Here are some important things to consider when looking for the best portable espresso maker for you.

Top Pick
Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker

Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker

Light and compact, with a carrying case included.
Up to 18 bars of pressure ensures rich espresso with thick crema.
Can use ground coffee or convenient ESE pods.

How portable do you need it to be?

When it comes to espresso makers, portable can mean a lot of things. So, think about where you plan to use yours. Are you looking to take it on a long hike or prop it on your office desk? Will you carry it regularly or just pack it up for the occasional trip?

Pay attention to things like size, weight, ease of assembly and disassembly. Also, the need for a power supply and/or kettle, and the inclusion of a carrying case when evaluating each machine. Some machines accommodate ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pods or capsules, which saves you carrying around pre-ground beans or a grinder.

Related: Best Espresso Machines Under $200

How are your espresso pulling skills?

A professional barista might train for years in the art of espresso. Certainly, most of us haven’t invested that kind of time. So, when you’re choosing between the best portable espresso makers in this list, keep ease of use in mind.

If you’re a pro and want a machine that lets you experiment with grind size, coffee quantity, pressure, and extraction time, consider a manual lever machine. If you just want a quick hit of caffeine on the go, look for an easy to use machine that can take Easy Serving Espresso pods or capsules.

Where will you use it?

Not all portable espresso makers are suitable for all situations. For instance, some of these espresso makers require a power supply, and most require a separate means of boiling water. Moreover, some are easily operated by hand, while others require a stable, flat surface.

best portable espresso maker review - the wacaco minipresso

Before you buy, think about where you’ll be brewing. In other words, think about what you can access in terms of power and heat. Just know that there’s a perfect travel espresso maker for you, whether you wish to use it in your car, office, or campfire.

Related: Best Espresso Machines Under $1000

What kind of espresso do you enjoy?

Your favorite espresso beverage should also play a role in your decision. Most portable hand espresso machines don’t have the option to froth milk. If you can’t imagine skipping your morning latte, make sure you seek out this feature.

Some machines only pull single shots, a concession that allows for a more compact design. If this doesn’t sound like enough to get your engine running, make sure to choose a travel espresso maker that offers a double shot.

Related: Best Espresso Machines Under $500

Never forget about taste

Last but not least, don’t forget to consider the quality of the espresso. Ideally, you want a shot that is hot enough, rich in flavor, but not too bitter, and with a thick crema. Experts agree that about 9 bars of pressure is optimal to deliver these results. (1)

A portable espresso machine you can use on a mountainside or at your office is great, but only if you’re also getting delicious espresso.

Each of our reviews contains a quality rating from 1 to 10. Look for the highest rating if taste and crema are priorities for you.

Buyer's Guide for Espresso Maker

The 8 Best Portable Espresso Makers in 2020

Portable espresso makers are getting more popular every day. They are a must-have gadget for every coffee geek. But they also meet everyone’s pocket. (2)

With the growing demand for portable smart kitchen appliances and the expanding working-class population base, the portable espresso machines market is witnessing sufficient traction. The increasing trend of social gatherings and outdoor activities is leveraging the demand for portable espresso machines.

The following eight picks prove that there is a niche for every outdoor espresso lover.

1. The Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker – Best Overall

Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker

Specifications

  • Type: Manual – pumping
  • Size: 14 x 2.8 x 2.44 inches
  • Weight: 11.8 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee, ESE pods
  • Drink Quality: 8

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The Wacaco Nanopresso tops our list because it has something for everyone. It’s exceptionally compact and light and includes a nice carrying case and a built-in plastic cup. You’ll just need to supply coffee and hot water. As an upgrade to the earlier model, Wacaco Minipresso GR, Nanopresso is well made and durable. Therefore, it’s also an excellent value. As a bonus, its attractive design comes in several fun colors.

Although it adds a bit to upfront cost, purchasing the separate pod adaptor means you can use the Nanopresso with Easy Serving Espresso pods and ground coffee beans. A convenient option for espresso drinkers on the go.

After conducting several tests at home and in the woods, I realized that Nanopresso would now become one of my favorite pieces of camp kitchen gear. The coffee I made with this portable espresso machine was amazing – rich and tasty with nice creamy foam on top.

Nanopresso can pull either a double or single shot, in a matter of a few minutes. Thus, its advertised 18 bars of pressure, that you generate by hand pump, is more than enough to create great espresso and rich crema without the need for a power supply. It’s interior is pressurized similar to a double-walled filter, meaning even beginners can achieve premium results.

2. Handpresso Wild Hybrid – Best Handheld

Handpresso HPWILDHYBRIDGREY Wild Hybrid Espresso Machine

Specifications:

  • Type: Manual – pumping
  • Size: 8.5 x 2.8 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 16.9 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee, ESE pods
  • Drink Quality: 7

See on Amazon

The Handpresso Wild Hybrid is so portable you could probably toss it in your back pocket as you head out for a hike. Still, unlike some others on this list, with Handpresso Hybrid a mug is not included. This is certainly something to take into account when evaluating size and weight. However, what is available for this product is a sold-separately carrying case.

The Handpresso Wild Hybrid is intuitive to operate, and there’s no need for electricity. In short, the bicycle-style pump is easy on the hands, and the built-in pressure gauge has a simple red-to-green system to let you know when you’ve pumped enough. It generates 16 bars, which is more than enough for a smooth espresso and thick crema.

Finally, be aware that the Handpresso Wild Hybrid only fits up to 7 g of ground beans, meaning you can only pull one cup of coffee, and not a particularly strong one at that. Its base model does include an adaptor for ESE (AKA Easy Serving Espresso) pods, an added value if you prefer these to grounds.

3. Handpresso Hybrid Auto – Best for Drivers

Handpresso Hybrid Auto Set

Specifications:

  • Type: Auto – lighter socket
  • Size: 8.3 x 3.7 x 10.2
  • Weight: 31.0 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee, ESE pods
  • Drink Quality: 7

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The Handpresso Auto is unique on this list as it is the only one that contains a power supply. Therefore, it’s also the only one that requires no manual effort from you. It plugs into the 12V socket in your car and fits nicely in a standard cup holder, making it a great option for road trips or commutes. Just don’t brew while driving!

The Handpresso Auto is a bit more expensive than other handheld models. But, it’s the easiest to operate and doesn’t even require a separate way to heat water. Just plug it in, wait two or three minutes for it to tell you it’s hot, and then brew. Handpresos Auto is compatible with both ground coffee beans and ESE pods, and the pods are a great option to keep your car clean. The resulting coffee is good quality: nice and hot, richly flavored, and with a thick crema.

One thing of note is this device won’t operate with purified water; the sensor won’t recognize it. Although many experts claim that low-mineral-content water makes tastier coffee (3), in this context, the difference will be insignificant.

4. The Barsetto Tripresso – Keeps Coffee Warmest

Portable Coffee Maker Barsetto Espresso Coffee Machine

Specifications:

  • Type: Manual – press
  • Size: 2.8 x 2.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Weight: 20.4 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee, Capsules
  • Drink Quality: 8

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The Barsetto Tripresso is easy to use. Furthermore, it makes great coffee and is small and light enough to go anywhere. Still, it’s biggest selling feature might actually be its built-in cup. Unlike any other travel espresso maker where a plastic cup is tacked on as an afterthought, the Tripresso brews directly into a functional double-walled glass mug. It keeps your coffee toasty warm and is large enough to accommodate the addition of milk or water.

Finally, the sleek design of the Italian-made Tripresso was inspired by the Tower of Pisa. But don’t worry, it stands up straight. It’s well-manufactured and built to last. The hand-powered pump system operates smoothly and can be used one-handed. Plus, it also comes with an adaptor for use with coffee capsules.

5. Staresso – Best for Variety

Staresso

Specifications:

  • Type: Manual – press
  • Size: 2.8 x 2.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Weight: 16.1 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee, Capsules
  • Drink Quality: 6

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If you can’t bear the thought of missing your morning latte, even when you’re out of town, or on a camping trip, the Staresso Portable Espresso Maker is the machine for you. Firstly, thanks to a handy froth enhancing adaptor, this portable espresso machine is the only one that froths milk, as well as pulls the espresso. Secondly, Staresso also works with capsules, for even greater variety.

The Staresso looks and feels high quality. It even comes with a stylish little glass cup. The same hand pumping system is used for both extracting coffee and foaming milk. Moreover, it’s quick and easy to use, and equally easy to clean up. You just need a means of heating water, and milk if you plan on frothing any.

One critical thing to remember: preheat all the parts of this machine with hot water before using it. Although this is true of every espresso maker, it’s especially true with Staresso, because your coffee will cool as you froth the milk.

6. Flair Signature Espresso Maker – Best for Espresso Geeks

Flair Signature Espresso Maker

Specifications:

  • Type: Manual – pressure
  • Size: 12 x 6 x 10 inches
  • Weight: 112.8 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee
  • Drink Quality: 9

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The Flair Signature makes great espresso. And, not just great for a portable machine, but great in any context. Therefore, it’s one of the best manual lever espresso machines. It achieves the 9 bars required for a perfect shot, and it can pull either double or single shots.

If you’re into the craft of espresso and love experimenting with grind size, the quantity of grounds, extraction time, and pressure, this is the machine for you. It comes with a pressure gauge to ensure consistent results, and you can even use it for pressure profiling.

The Flair Signature was designed by and for espresso lovers.

The Flair is a bit more expensive than others on the list. Also, as the heaviest, it’s a bit less portable. Think of it as a beautiful countertop machine that could come with you on vacation. Moreover, its well-machined stainless steel and aluminum parts assemble and disassemble easily, plus, it comes with a handy suitcase in which to transport them. You probably won’t be bringing this on your backpacking trip, but it would be a great addition to your office or RV.

7. UniTerra Nomad Espresso Machine – Best Espresso Quality

UniTerra Nomad Espresso Machine

Specifications:

  • Type: Manual – pressure
  • Size: 6.7 x 6.7 x 5.9 inches
  • Weight: 38.8 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee
  • Drink Quality: 10

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Although UniTerra Nomad is the most expensive machine on this list, it makes hands-down the best espresso. So, if the quality is your primary concern, this is your machine. Its espresso is as good or better than some of the best espresso machines in the market.  The Nomad’s built-in pressure gauge provides constant feedback so that you can extract perfectly every time. Moreover, it easily reaches 9 bars, and the included filter basket accommodates up to 17 g of coffee, which is necessary for a good, strong double shot of espresso.

A unique feature of the Nomad is its patented True Crema Valve (TCV). This mechanism, similar to a pressurized filter basket, helps you consistently achieve a beautiful thick crema. In the context of a portable machine, where you might be more inclined to use pre-ground coffee for convenience, this is a smart addition. And if you think that sounds like cheating, don’t worry; it’s removable.

At 1.1 kg, the UniTerra Nomad isn’t exactly something to toss in your purse. But, for a road trip, campsite, office desk, or campus dorm room, it’s an excellent option. At least, for a truly delicious coffee.

8. AeroPress – Best Camping Espresso Maker

AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker with Tote Bag

Specifications:

  • Type: Manual – pressure
  • Size: 5.1 x 5.1 x 11 inches
  • Weight: 6.4 oz
  • Goes With: Ground coffee
  • Drink Quality: 4

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The AeroPress is a longstanding favorite among travelers. It’s the lightest by far, and its simple plastic construction is nearly indestructible. You can toss this camping coffee machine at the bottom of your backpack and hike all day. You won’t feel weighed down, and it won’t be damaged.

But, notice how I said “coffee machine” and not “espresso machine”. Though Air Presso markets itself as an espresso maker, this isn’t entirely true. Its pressure maxes out around 0.7 bars (4), nowhere near what is needed to achieve a true espresso with a rich crema. What it does make is a very strong shot of coffee, suitable to be diluted with hot water or milk into your favorite beverage. If anything else, that strong cup of coffee is undeniably delicious. Therefore, the AeroPress is highly popular. Have a look at our Aeropress Coffee Maker review for more information.

The Verdict

Our all-around winner is the Wacaco Nanopresso. Indeed, the best portable espresso machine for you depends on your particular needs. But, this little feat of engineering packs the perfect balance of functionality, durability, and high-quality espresso into one neat small package. Plus, all at a price that won’t break the bank. Pick one up today, whether you wish to go to the office or the mountains, and you won’t be disappointed.

Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker

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FAQs

The difference between a portable espresso maker and a portable coffee maker is in the way coffee is made. To be classified as an espresso, water must be forced through ground coffee at 8 to 10 bars, and crema should make up at least 10% of the beverage (5). While not all portable espresso makers will necessarily meet this strict Italian definition, they come pretty close.
Other travel coffee makers have no such requirements and the resulting beverage won’t have a crema. Good examples would be pour-over devices or French presses. The Aeropress, which uses lower pressure, is a bit of a hybrid.

Operating an espresso machine without electricity isn’t new. With the first steam-driven espresso machine patented in 1884 (6), before electricity was commonplace, it’s actually a bit of a throwback.

The two main ways to achieve the high pressure needed for an espresso without electricity are a hand pump or a lever press. In the former, the operator uses a pump to build up enough tension to force water through the grounds. In a lever system, the barista pushes down on a lever to force water through the ground coffee. This takes a bit of muscle but allows optimum control over extraction.

Some consider a thick, rich crema the hallmark of a good espresso, and many factors contribute to its quality. To optimize it, you want to use freshly roasted beans that are ground and tamped just the right amount, and you want to ensure you have an espresso machine that can produce 9 bars.

ESE stands for Easy Serving Espresso. These pods, similar to coffee capsules, were developed by Italian coffee company Illy so that baristas could produce consistently good espresso with less training. Essentially, they take much of the guesswork out of good espresso, though coffee connoisseurs will suggest that they never produce great espresso. They’re a convenient option for travelers as they are easy to toss in a bag and mess-free.

References
  1. Kilbride, D. (2018, June 21). How Does Pressure Affect Espresso Quality? Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/pressure-espresso-quality/
  2. Portable Espresso Machines Market Forecast, Trend Analysis, & Competition Tracking – Global Review 2019 to 2029. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.factmr.com/report/3876/portable-espresso-machines-market
  3. Water for Home Espresso. (2019, June 24). Retrieved from https://home.lamarzoccousa.com/water-for-home-espresso/
  4. AeroPress FAQs: Everything you ever wanted to know about it. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aeropress.co.uk/pages/faqs
  5. Espresso Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.coffeeresearch.org/espresso/definitions.htm
  6. Stamp, J. (2012, June 19). The Long History of the Espresso Machine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-long-history-of-the-espresso-machine-126012814/
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