The Handpresso Review – Is it perfect or just portable?
What will you do if after a long day in the outdoors the coffee runs dry? Will all hope be lost?
Worry not, adventurer: the Handpresso Wild Hybrid is here. And it just might fulfil your desire for reasonably priced, portable espresso.
Keep reading for our in-depth Handpresso review, and you’ll know if this portable espresso machine is right for you.
The Handpresso Wild Hybrid ‘In A Nutshell’
If you can’t live without the hope of espresso resting squarely in your back pocket, Handpresso’s series of portable espresso makers were developed specifically with you in mind.
The Wild Hybrid is one of the most lightweight and compact espresso makers on the market, thus living up to its name in portability.
This device looks and acts much like a bicycle pump – simply pump to 16 bars of pressure (this will be indicated by the “green zone” on the attached gauge) to generate pressure, and press the infusion button to force hot water through the espresso grounds (1).
Be aware that it produces a smaller shot than traditional espresso makers, so it’s best suited for personal use. The quality of the shot contends with more expensive products in its category, but there are cheaper (and consequently less reliable) alternatives for more frugal folk.
What holds this machine back is its low flexibility in brew strength and the additional cost of buying gear to heat up your water.
Hypnotized By Handpresso? Here Are A Few Things To Consider Before Buying
It’s pretty safe to say that anyone reading this review has portability on their mind. Well, check that off the list, because this machine delivers.
The Handpresso does most of the work for espresso on-the-go, and when your espresso is ready, you’re only a quick clean-up away from being back in business.
Portable espresso machines generally use either grounds or pods to make your espresso.
However, the Wild Hybrid allows the use of both pre-ground coffee and ESE pods in its Handpresso dome pod, giving you some versatility in how you want to make your drink.
It should be noted that the Handpresso Wild Hybrid does not produce high-strength espresso shots, especially when using pre-ground beans. As convenient as it is to make espresso wherever you go, the quality of the shot will undoubtedly take a hit.
So while the Handpresso Wild Hybrid can dish out a decent shot, a coffee snob will definitely be able to taste a difference.
Also, make sure you’re ready for a change to your brewing routine. With the Handpresso pump, you will need to use some elbow grease to pump enough pressure in order to brew, and you will have to boil your water separately. This process is not for everyone.
Those who love brewing shots on a traditional espresso machine as much as they love drinking them should keep in mind that they may be missing out on some of that satisfaction with this Handpresso.
PRO TIP: If you’re looking for something more traditional, we suggest browsing this guide to find the best budget espresso machine
By now you may be wanting to see the Wild Hybrid in action.
Is The Buzz Real, Or Is That Just The Caffeine Talking? – The Handpresso Wild Hybrid Review
Let’s see what really makes the Wild Hybrid worth your time. This is an innovative machine with extreme portability, and the brewing process can be a breeze once you get the hang of it. There’s also a cheap price tag, so anticipate some bang for your buck.
But, nothing’s perfect, and the Handpresso does have its flaws. So if you decide you’re looking for something else, don’t worry. We’ll include alternative portable espresso makers; after all, you’re here to become an expert and make the right choice for you!
(Don’t worry, Handpresso, we’ll try and be gentle.)
- Easy clean-up
- Espresso anywhere
- Boiling water can be inconvenient
- Incapable of commercial-quality espresso shots
- Missing that traditional feel
- Rare design malfunction
Ease of Use – 4.5/5
Imagine your favorite place in the world. Now, imagine it with a travel cup of fresh espresso in your hand. Whatever you’re envisioning, it can probably become a reality with the Wild Hybrid. This is a mini espresso maker weighing in at 1.6 pounds with dimensions of 11 x 6 x 5 inches. Yes, you read that right. It’s an incredibly lightweight design that can fit in a purse or handbag with no problem.
If only I had known this was a way to make coffee on my camping trips back in the day, I’d have finished those hikes a lot faster.
Brewing Capability – 3/5
My first time handling an espresso maker was a disaster. My boss just handed me a cup, sat back, and laughed as the steamer made me a fool.
With the Wild Hybrid, this won’t be a concern, as the most dangerous part is simply pouring the hot water in (I hope we can all handle that).
PRO TIP: If you want a similar result to what you get out of an electrically-powered machine, grind your coffee beans slightly finer than you normally would.
I do have to mention an infrequent design flaw has been reported, which causes hot water to leak out of the bottom. Yeeowch! Thankfully, this is a very rare occurrence.
One recurring criticism of the Handpresso: the espresso strength isn’t quite comparable to an electric espresso machine, though the optional “intenso” filter (2), which has fewer holes in the basket, brews a slightly more bold cup. Espresso geeks will understand why: the filter basket only holds 7g of espresso, and the water chamber holds 50ml. If you’re a lover of 2:1 or 3:1 espresso extractions, this is likely to taste a little… beige (3).
Espresso extraction is much more ‘front loaded,’ meaning a disproportionate amount (>50%) of coffee solids are removed in the first few seconds of an extraction– and, that early extraction happens at a very low temperature, perhaps around 70° c.
One tip to improve extraction: heat up everything in advance, from the water chamber to the portafilter (without coffee, of course) and the cup. A great extraction with any espresso maker requires everything to be hot, as the coffee-water ratio causes the temperature to drop significantly.
Cooler brew temperatures typically result in sour, thin, and underextracted espresso. When you consider that the proportion of coffee to water is so much different from something like a drip pot, it’s critical to heat everything in your espresso machine, especially a portable.
Build Quality – 3/5
All that compact functionality comes with a bit of a price, and we don’t mean money. It’s not as durable as the Moka Express, which can last for a really long time. Simply put, a device as beautifully portable and miniaturized as the Handpresso has to make tradeoffs in durability and longevity. This explains our points deduction here.
Long-term customers report two primary areas where the Handpresso’s longevity is at risk: the O-rings, and the pressure buttons.
The O-rings tend to loosen, then split or become damaged when fitting the portafilter cover. Handpresso thoughtfully includes a spare O-ring, and they’re also available as replacement parts. The risk, of course, is that you might find yourself in the middle of nowhere and suddenly the O-ring self-destructs. Note to self: pack a spare.
The pressure buttons are a more serious issue, as they are how you control the extraction. Once the pressure button fails, you have no way of releasing the pressure to extract your shot. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often or early; failure reports suggest the buttons last for three to six years.
Until (or unless) this happens, though, Handpresso owners tend to love their “bicycle pumps.” Many simply order a second (or a third) after the buttons give out.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
Anyone who has spent time on a traditional espresso machine knows this: they’re a pain to clean.
A lot of us espresso addicts have very busy schedules and need to save every extra minute we can. With the Wild Hybrid, after your espresso is ready, the only waste is your ground coffee or ESE pod. Just toss that in the trash, give the brew chamber a quick rinse, and be on your way. Voila!
Other maintenance tasks include keeping an eye on the O-ring in the portafilter fitting. This is the device responsible for sealing the 16-bar pressure that the pump generates. These are easy to replace: just pull the old one out and slip the new one in.
One final maintenance tip: Handpresso recommends putting a drop or two of cooking oil on the shaft of the pump, to make sure it glides when you’re pressurizing the chamber before brewing. This also oils the internal O-rings, which helps keep them working properly (4). Compared to descaling an electric espresso machine, this is a piece of cake (which would go great with some espresso… sorry).
Value for Money – 4.5/5
With a lot of other portable espresso options priced over $200 (such as the Flair, which we reviewed in detail here), it’s a relief to see a cheaper price tag on the Wild Hybrid. For travelers on a budget, this could be the optimal way to bring espresso to your fingertips without having to break the bank.
Remember, though (especially campers): you will need gear to heat up your water on the go. If you’re a true camping and coffee connoisseur, I’d suggest buying a camping kettle and heating up your water over a fire and make some nice pour over coffee. This option can be limiting, however. We’re also big fans of the Jet Boil, a device originally meant for backpackers, which takes up very little space and weighs next to nothing.
Anyone looking to invest some extra moolah can head over to the Cauldryn Fyre Boiling Battery Mug. Equip this with your Handpresso gear and there’s almost no limit to where you can make a fresh shot.
Don’t Buy The Handpresso If…
You don’t like the bicycle pump feel – If manually pumping out your espresso doesn’t appeal, the Minipresso GR espresso maker operates with a button instead. It is quiet, easy to clean and use, and makes a decent shot for a portable machine, but it offers less versatility in brewing than the Handpresso.
Read our Minipresso review here.
You’re on a tight budget – If you’re looking to save money, the inexpensive Aerobie AeroPress is a great alternative. This coffee maker provides a good, strong shot of something very much like espresso, a rarity for low-cost portable machines. Though you should be prepared for a bit more cleaning and maintenance.
You want to make cold brew – Unique among portable espresso machines, the Staresso provides the option to make cold brew, a great feature on a hot day. Just bear in mind that this portable espresso machine contender takes more pumping effort to make an average-sized espresso shot, so you might not want to make cold brew for a crowd.
The Wild Hybrid’s appeal lies in mobility and design. It’s a low-maintenance machine that gets the job done quickly while dishing out an acceptable espresso shot.
This would be a great option for a frugal traveler, an over-scheduled worker, and even those who want to save some counter space.
- Handpresso Wild Hybrid Espresso Maker. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJvFgGrp6_A
- Handpresso with Intenso Filter. (n.d.). Seattle Coffee Gear. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/LMRrwdtwqMY
- Scott Rao. (2017, February 26). Roasting for Espresso vs. Filter. Retrieved from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/roasting-for-espresso-vs-filter
- Pump Service & Repair Instructions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://handpresso.co.uk/pages/service-repair-instructions