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Travel Espresso Makers: These Portable brewers get you caffeinated on the go

Whether you’re looking for a portable espresso maker to take camping or to an AirBnB, it is important to find one that is going to work. Between scalding water and high pressure, espresso makers require precise tolerances and careful engineering to function well.

Portable espresso makers take these constraints and add the complexity of miniaturization. Make sure to start each morning of your vacation off with a shot of freshly brewed espresso instead of with frustration and under-extracted brown water!

The nine options below run the gamut from ‘ultra-light’ to ‘modern-art’ and all produce reliable espresso on the go. Read on to figure out which portable espresso machine fits your needs!

TOP PICK: The Flair Espresso Maker

flair travel espresso maker

It's a little larger than the others on this list, but it makes the best on-the-go espresso of all of them. If you can manage the extra space, the Flair will ensure you never drink bad coffee again!

How To Choose the Right Portable Espresso gadget

Weight

When it comes to deciding on bringing a coffee brewer on your trip, weight is usually the deciding factor. Nobody in their right mind would bring a home espresso maker with them, but in terms of portable ones, they range in weight.

While all of the espresso makers here are portable (in that they come with carrying cases, are durable, and compact), they vary considerably in weight. Some are light enough to reasonably bring along on a multi-day hike, while others are better suited to less weight dependent ventures like canoe camping or an airline’s checked luggage.

Related: Travel coffee makers (not espresso)

Ultra Light (180-340 grams)

If you intend on backpacking and waking up to shot of espresso then ultra light is the ideal option (unless you are a glutton for both espresso and punishment). Most backpackers tolerate instant coffee as an adequate substitute for the real thing, but we’re here to drink espresso, so let’s just assume that isn’t going to cut it.

The lightest portable espresso makers are in the 220-340 gram (8-12 ounce) range and if you pack well can easily be accommodated on a multi-day trek. Have more than one person coming along? Perfect, have them carry some of your gear and treat them to a shot of espresso each morning for their trouble.

Light (340-500 grams)

If you intend on taking your espresso maker everywhere except on multi-day hikes, then this weight will be perfect. At this weight, your espresso maker is light enough to toss in an overnight bag, a checked bag, or even a purse without encumbering you.

Portable (500+ grams)

Above half a kilogram, portability becomes a function of ease of use, packability, and durability more than weight. These units are best used when based out of a car, a camper, or brought to a vacation house.

a wacaco minipresso, one of the best portable travel espresso makers, with a mound of coffee beans on a white surface

What types of coffee can it brew?

The machines shown here variously brew coffee using ground coffee beans, ESE pods, and Nespresso pods. In my experience, ESE and Nespresso pods are the best choices for camping as they allow the easiest cleanup.

“Leave No Trace" - If you pack it in, pack it out. Coffee grounds might be biodegradable, but don’t leave them at your campsite!

However, the ability to use ground coffee is a considerable boon as pods are nearly impossible to find outside of major metropolitan areas. Getting to your campsite and realizing you forgot your pods can spell disaster if your espresso maker can’t handle ground coffee! All of the models below are able to use ground coffee beans.

Some of the espresso makers listed here can also brew tea - but since brewing tea typically only requires hot water and a tea bag, that capability hasn’t been highlighted.

Is it covered by warranty?

Espresso makers have a tough job. Nearly boiling water, hundreds of PSI, and lots of tiny sealing surfaces must all work together. A warranty brings peace of mind - letting you know that the company that made the gadget you plunked down the better part of a hundred bucks for has faith in its quality control and is willing to repair or replace any failed units.

All of the espresso makers in the following list come with at least a one-year warranty, and the incredibly overbuilt Flair Signature comes with a 5-year warranty. Typically, warranties do not cover O-rings, glass parts, or other wear surfaces, but if these parts fail they can usually be replaced without much effort or cost.

Heat Source

One thing that makes most of these espresso makers portable is that they are entirely manual coffee machines. This means that you provide all of the impetus to turn water into espresso. In most cases, this includes heating the water. Some of these espresso makers are indifferent to how you heat the water: microwave, stovetop, grill, whatever. Others, like the aluminum Bialetti Moka Express, can’t be used with a microwave or with induction stovetops.

If finding some way to heat the water is a problem there are a few options that will take care of that step for you - but they will require access to an electric socket.

These espresso makers work best when they have been preheated. Just like your home espresso maker, a cold machine will result in tepid and unpleasant espresso!

The 9 Best Portable Espresso Makers for 2019

Lets take a look at the 8 best portable hand espresso makers..

1. Handpresso Wild Hybrid - The Workhorse

"Best for those with minimal space but want to make multiple travel coffees every day"

Handpresso Hybrid

Specifications:

  • Weight: 480 grams
  • works with: Ground coffee and ESE pods
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Heat Source: Requires external heat source

Looking like a cross between a bicycle pump and something you’d find in the bottom drawer of a bedside table, the Handpresso Wild Hybrid certainly doesn’t look like an espresso maker. But, appearances can be deceiving: this hand-powered machine delivers reliable espresso time after time. While not perhaps light enough to justify bringing along on a multi-day hike, it is easy to throw into luggage. The body of the unit is metal and it feels like you could use it as a hammer in a pinch (note: do not use as a hammer).

The “Hybrid” designation of this unit lets you know that it is capable of brewing from ESE pods as well as ground coffee. If you only need one or the other, cheaper models are available.

Unique amongst the collection of portable espresso makers shown here is that this unit is pressurized first and then filled with water. This makes the process of brewing into espresso cups particularly easy since you don’t have to pump the machine and aim simultaneously.

I have personally used this unit every day for 4 months, averaging 5 or 6 shots of espresso per day, in addition to bringing it on countless other trips. I’ve made espresso with it from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Mojave Desert and it still works like new.

PROS

  • Built to last
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight

CONS

  • Awkwardly shaped
  • Pricey

2. Handpresso Auto - Best Self-heating Espresso Maker

"Best choice for RV's, trailers or boats that don't have the space for a regular espresso machine"

Handpresso Auto

Specifications:

  • Weight: 880 grams
  • Works with: Ground coffee and ESE pods
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Heat Source: Built-in heat source. Requires 12-volt power source, or wall socket with 120v to 12v transformer

The Handpresso Auto is the only 12-volt powered model in this list, making it perfect for long car or RV trips. This unit is essentially a tiny countertop unit, heating and pressurizing the water. While larger and heavier than the Handpresso Wild Hybrid, the Handpresso Auto’s requirement of 12-volt power means you probably weren’t planning on taking this unit on any long hikes!

PROS

  • Does not require access to hot water
  • Good for those with low hand dexterity/strength
  • Portable

CONS

  • Pricey
  • Requires 12volt power or an adaptor

3. Wacaco Nanopresso - Most Customizable Portable Espresso Machine

"Best for hiking - its very small and the espresso it makes is OK"

Wacaco Nanopresso

Specifications:

  • Weight: 336 grams
  • Works with: Ground coffee and Nespresso pods
  • Warranty Length: 1 year
  • Heat Source: Requires external heat source

The Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker offers a degree of customization not seen in any of the other espresso makers here. The optional Barista Kit comes with multiple sizes of filter basket and water tanks.

With these additional accessories, the Nanopresso is capable of brewing single shots of espresso, double espresso, long shots of espresso, and any permutation in between. Compared to the Wacaco Minipresso, the Nanopresso requires less physical effort to use, meaning that even if you’ve got limited hand strength or dexterity you can still make delicious espresso on the go. (1)

PROS

  • Super compact
  • Ultra Lightweight
  • Optional Large Water Tank
  • Customizable
  • Easy to use

CONS

  • A little more expensive than the slightly larger/heavier Wacaco Minipresso

"Best budget hand espresso maker. Good for testing the waters of hand espresso makers."

Wacaco Minipresso

Specifications:

  • Weight: 360 grams
  • Works with: Ground coffee or Nespresso pods
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Heat Source: Requires external heat source

The Wacaco Minipresso, while not quite as impressive as its younger brother the Nanopresso, is still a rugged machine that delivers delicious espresso. If you’re on a budget but absolutely demand proper espresso, this machine will meet your needs.

The pumping action is a bit stiffer than its competitors, but the underlying mechanism is durable and easy to clean. The one major downside is you’ll have to select whether you want to brew from coffee grounds or from Nespresso pods before you buy - there are separate models for each brewing method.

PROS

  • Compact
  • Durable
  • Lightweight

CONS

  • Slightly cumbersome
  • Limited to a single brew type

"Best choice when you're staying in hotel rooms, AirBNB’s, and you have a little more space in your luggage"

DeLonghi Moka Pot

Specifications:

  • Weight: ~1100 grams
  • Works with: Ground coffee
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Heat Source: Built-in heat source. Requires wall socket or DC to AC power inverter

Making espresso doesn’t get easier than this. Add water to the base, allow it to preheat briefly, then add your grounds to brew chamber and let it do its thing.

"Traditionally brewed Moka pots result in burnt, ashy brews. To make sure this doesn’t happen to your coffee, heat the water beforehand. Using room temperature or cold water will leave the coffee grounds on a hot metal surface for too long." - Perfect Daily Grind

Not ready to drink it right away? No problem, the DeLonghi has a keep warm feature that’ll keep your coffee hot for 30 minutes. Unlike many of the other options here, this coffee machine is able to serve multiple people (or one person in desperate need of caffeination) without having to brew separate batches.

While Moka pots don’t technically deliver espresso, they do make dark, dense, and delicious espresso-like coffee. In order to qualify as espresso, the ground coffee must be extracted at 9 bars of pressure while Moka pots are only able to generate about 2 bars of pressure. (4)

PROS

  • Super easy to use
  • Does not require access to hot water
  • Good for groups
  • Portable

CONS

  • Requires electricity
  • Bulky

6. Bialetti Moka Express 3 Cup - The Bulletproof Original

"If you want to be able to brew yourself espresso coffee on a grill, over a fire, or on a stovetop the Bialetti Moka Express is a nearly indestructible choice."

Bialetti Moka Express

Specifications:

  • Weight: ~450 grams
  • Works with: Ground coffee
  • Warranty: 2 year
  • Heat Source: Requires external heat source. Not compatible with induction burners or microwaves.

The original Bialetti Moka Express coffee machine was invented in 1933 and the design is virtually unchanged to this day. The reason things haven’t changed is that this quality espresso coffee maker is exceptionally robust, makes great coffee, and can be used almost anywhere.

From the early 1950s to the present day, Bialetti has manufactured over 200 million coffee makers. - Bialetti

Unlike some of its peers, the Moka Express must be heated directly over your heat source.

If you want a more portable option, the Moka Express comes in a 1-cup size, although the pot itself is not significantly smaller for its reduced capacity. Similarly, the Moka Express has larger sizes available if you are interested in serving larger groups (or you just really need motivation).

PROS

  • Durable
  • Good for groups
  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Classic

CONS

  • Not suitable for use with induction burners or microwaves

7. Staresso SP-200 - Best for Milk Drinks

"Best choice if you want to make foamed-milk based beverages like cappuccinos and macchiatos while on the move"

Staresso

Specifications:

  • Weight: 440 grams
  • Works with: Ground coffee and Nespresso pods (Note: In order to use Nespresso pods the user must poke holes in the pods manually.)
  • Heat Source: Requires external heat source
  • Warranty: 2 year

If you are looking to drink your espresso by its lonesome, then other espresso makers on this list will probably be a better choice. However, if your morning pick-me-up involves foamed milk, then the Staresso Portable Espresso Machine is your only portable option that brews espresso and foams milk. An added perk to the Staresso is that if you are traveling light you won’t need to bring a cup as one is built into the machine.

When you’re done, cleanup is a breeze and involves a simple rinsing with warm water. Cleanup is slightly more involved if you find yourself making milk-based beverages, but the company recommends using an alcohol and water solution to ensure a complete rinse.

Some people have noticed that the pumping action of the Staresso is more difficult than other pump-style machines like the Wacaco Nanopresso and Minipresso, so if you have limited hand strength or dexterity you may want to consider foregoing this particular model. The difficulty in pumping seems to increase over time, leading some to doubt its long-term reliability, but the 2-year manufacturer's warranty offers some peace of mind.

PROS

  • Able to foam milk
  • Lightweight
  • Includes cup
  • Easy to clean

CONS

  • Requires a fair amount of strength to use
  • Questionable long-term durability

8. Flair Signature Espresso Maker - Most Likely to Be Mistaken for Modern Art

"Makes the best quality travel espresso on this list"

Flair Espresso Maker

Specifications:

  • Weight: 3.2 kilograms
  • Works with: Ground coffee
  • Warranty: 5 year
  • Heat Source: Requires external heat source

The Flair Signature Espresso Maker looks less like a kitchen gadget and more like something you’d see on a plinth in an art museum (particularly in chrome!). While this is the heaviest espresso maker by far in this list, the Flair actually packs into a relatively compact travel case that makes it great for bringing out to the lake house, visiting the in-laws, or even car camping trips.

The Flair is a true manual coffee machine and offers you complete control over your shot: grind, tamp, water temperature, pressure, and timing.

With lever machines, the barista is in control. If a certain coffee needs a longer pre-infusion or extracts more flavor with a distinct pressure profile, it is easy to do this. They allow creativity and experimentation. - Perfect Daily Grind

Like many of the offerings on this list the Flair does not require any electricity to operate but will require you to have some means of heating your water. The Flair has an optional pressure gauge for those who are scientifically minded, but it is entirely possible to pull great shots without it.

PROS

  • Beautiful
  • Virtually indestructible
  • Portable
  • Heavy

CONS

  • Not suitable for use with induction burners or microwaves

Nomad Espresso Maker

Specifications:

  • Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Works with: Ground coffee
  • Heat Source: Requires external heat source

The Nomad is another take on the portable coffee maker. It has a unique and eye-catching design, with bold geometric lines. It is expertly engineered, containing everything you need to brew a cup of espresso. It doesn’t require electricity and produces pressure levels of 8-10 bars, the same as any full-size machine.

As a special feature, the Nomad has a built-in “True Crema Valve” or TCV. This enables the device to produce an excellent cup of espresso without tamping. It also makes the brewing process more forgiving, meaning you can get a balanced cup even from older or less evenly ground beans - useful on the go.

On the downside, the complicated construction means the Nomad is difficult to clean. If you want to brew several shots of espresso, you might need spare filter sets. It’s also on the expensive side, rivaling some full-size machines in price.

WHAT ELSE YOU’LL NEED: Spare filter sets, in case you don’t have running water and want to use it repeatedly.

PROS

  • Well-designed, with high brewing pressure
  • Special valve makes it easy to brew consistent espresso
  • Doesn’t require any electricity

CONS

  • Difficult to clean on the go
  • Expensive
  • Too small to fit larger mugs below it

THE VERDICT

Finding the right portable espresso machine might be the difference between starting your day on the trail or vacation off with a cup of espresso or starting it off with frustration and a mess. Any of the above espresso makers will serve you well - although the right choice for you will depend on where you want to bring it. 

If you want the best quality coffee - go for the Flair espresso maker. For a combination of quality and portability however: The Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker will serve you well.

Now all you need is a bag of espresso beans like these, a few tips on how to extract espresso - and you're good to go!


References

  1. Hand powered portable espresso machine - Outdoors coffee maker. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wacaco.com/pages/nanopresso 
  2. How much does the AeroPress weigh? (2019, February 9) Retrieved from https://aeropress.com/faq/how-much-does-the-aeropress-weigh/
  3. Prinsloo, M. (2019, March 18). The History of The AeroPress, From Concept to Championships. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2019/03/the-history-of-the-aeropress-from-concept-to-championships/
  4. Kilbride, D. (2018, June 21). How Does Pressure Affect Espresso Quality? Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/pressure-espresso-quality/ 
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Scott
 

Hi, I'm Scott, and I've traveled extensively through North America and Europe, exploring food and drink pairings around the world. My Love of coffee began during my teen years when a friend's family introduced me to the glories of the classic Italian Moka pot. That technology got me through too many early-morning final exams in college and eventually led to a manual espresso machine after graduation.