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 use in an Airbnb while on the roast; it’s important to find one that actually makes espresso. Between scalding hot water and high pressure, espresso makers require precise tolerances and careful engineering to function to produce a rich and cream-rich shot.
Portable espresso makers take these constraints….and add the additional 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 10 options below run the gamut from ‘ultralight’ to ‘modern-art’ and all produce reliable espresso in a matter of minutes. No 2 are the same, however, so which portable espresso machine will fit your needs? Let’s find out.
The NEO Flair Signature Espresso Maker
Yes; it’s a little larger than the others on this list, but hands down it makes the best quality on-the-go espresso at this size. If you can manage the extra space; the Flair will ensure you start every morning off with 10/10 espresso. What a life!
Interested in seeing the flair in action? Here’s Scott from our team putting it through the brewing test:
How To Choose the Right Portable Espresso gadget
|Handpresso Wild Hybrid||
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|Cavestoff Portable Espresso||
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|Makita DCM501Z Coffee Maker||
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|NEO Flair Signature Espresso Maker||
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|Mania-Concept Mini Coffee Machine||
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Don’t just purchase based on size or style. There are a few things you should understand about the portable espresso market (1):
How important is portability (and weight) for you?
When it comes to deciding on bringing a coffee brewer on your trip, weight may be the deciding factor if you’re highly mobile (i.e. a ‘digital nomad’). Nobody in their right mind would bring a traditional home espresso maker with them, but the portable options do vary greatly in weight too.
Watch Steven from Home Grounds review four portable espresso makers of various weights and sizes in this video:
While all of the espresso makers below 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 that make filter coffee (Not espresso)
Ultra Light (<340 grams)
If you intend on backpacking or hiking and waking up to a shot of espresso in a new location daily; 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 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. If you’re the type that will not sacrifice on quality, and travel a little more slowly, this is your weight class.
Does it take ground coffee, pods, or both?
The portable espresso machines shown below 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!
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 featured below are able to brew with ground coffee.
Some of the espresso makers listed here can also brew tea – but since brewing tea typically only requires hot water and a teabag, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Is it covered by warranty?
Espresso makers have a tough jobs. Nearly boiling water, hundreds of PSI, and lots of tiny sealing surfaces all working together. Sometimes they just give up. Wouldn’t you? 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 portable espresso makers in the following list come with at least a one year warranty, and the incredibly built 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.
Don’t forget; You’ll need a 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 aluminium 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 electrical 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!
Why not watch our video from below, to see what coffee making on the road looks like? We cover various brewing methods, guaranteed to please everyone.
The 10 Best Portable Espresso Makers for 2021
Let us take a look at the 10 best portable espresso makers:
Looking like a cross between a bicycle pump and something you’d find in the bottom drawer of a bedside table, the 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 ESE pods as well as ground beans. 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.
Read our Handpresso Wild Hybrid review.
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.”
Weight: 880 grams
- Works with: Ground beans and ESE pods
- 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!
If you’re looking for something sleek and modern that will look right at home next to the iPad on your office desk, you’re looking for the Cavestoff Portable Espresso Maker. At first glance, you probably wouldn’t even identify it as a coffee maker. But hidden inside that glossy white exterior is an impressive amount of technology.
It’s designed to operate with K-Cups, which makes sense for portability and convenience. But it also comes with a refillable filter basket, a far better option if quality coffee is your aim. Pack it full of your favourite ground beans, and you’ll get a nice strong brew that almost feels like true espresso.
The system runs on two AAA batteries, if you’re on the move, but I love that it has the option of USB power if you’re using it at work or in the car. Worrying about dead batteries or constantly shelling out more cash for replacements is no fun.
The Cavestoff Portable Espresso Maker is only 25 cm tall and 7.5 cm in diameter, just slightly larger than an average travel mug, so it fits nicely in a backpack or car cup holder. And at only 320 grams, it won’t weigh you down.
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.
Read our full Minipresso review.
The Cafflano Compresso is a cleverly designed device that harnesses the power of science to get true espresso from this tiny, portable brewer.
Cafflano’s innovation is to use a hydraulic compression system rather than the more common pneumatic air compression. This allows the pressure to remain upwards of 9 bars throughout the extraction process, just as in a standard espresso machine. For this, they’ve received several patents and numerous awards, including from the Specialty Coffee Association.
The Compresso is very portable. At under 200g, it’s among the lightest on our list. Much of this weight can be credited to the etched stainless steel filter, which is food-safe, durable, and easy to clean. And because you don’t need any extra filters, you’ll save money while doing the environment a favour!
The Compresso also makes cold espresso, which can be a real treat mid-hike on a hot summer’s day. Just add cold water to the chamber rather than hot, and let it work its magic.
Makita is known more for high-quality tools than for coffee makers, and true to form, this unique battery-powered brew would look right at home on a construction site. It keeps the distinct Makita aesthetic, but instead of drilling screws, it’s brewing coffee.
As compared with some of the ultralight options in this list, the Makita DCM501Z is pretty hefty. It’s designed to travel in your vehicle, not your pocket. But its size and casing make it very durable and allow you to brew larger coffees. A dedicated 240 mL cup is included, but standard size take-out cups are compatible as well. It can be used with either coffee pods or fresh ground beans.
The Makita operates with either a 12V or 18V battery, but be aware that the rechargeable batteries are sold separately, and it can only brew one or two cups per charge. With that in mind, I’d say this is more of a fun novelty or a gift for the tool enthusiast in your life than the way you’d want to brew on a daily basis.
Wacaco’s latest travel espresso maker (released in 2019), Pipamoka, is another irresistible delight from their production. This all-in-one coffee maker is entirely hand-operated; it brews up to 236 ml of coffee that you drink instantly after twisting the ring for vacuum-pressured coffee extraction.
Pipamoka is also a thermal cup that keeps your coffee hot for hours. Thus, it’s perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, long walks, or travelling. Additionally, its reusable stainless steel microfilter makes it environment friendly, which is always a big plus.
As with other Wacaco products, Pipamoka comes with additional equipment: a carrying bag, funnel, scoop, brush, warranty card, and instruction book.
Just make sure always to have a source of hot water when using it, and you’re ready to go.
The Staresso is one of the best known portable espresso makers, and for good reason. It even won a 2016 Red Dot design award, with the jury praising its compact design and fresh look.
It’s one of the smallest portable brewers, weighing only 300 g and measuring just 6.5 cm x 15.2 cm. In fact, it’s hardly bigger than an average coffee mug. But though it’s small, it’s mighty.
It can generate upwards of 15 bar of pressure, more than enough to make a proper flavourful espresso with a rich crema. And that pressure is generated by hand, so you don’t have to worry about batteries or a power supply. All you’ll need is a hot water source and some delicious ground beans. Or for an even more convenient on-the-go option, it’s compatible with Nespresso pods.
The Staresso is very durable, built from BPA-free plastic that’s plenty sturdy enough to survive being tossed in the bottom of a backpack. Even better, each one comes with a free carrying case.
The NEO 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 NEO 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.
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.
Watch Scott review it in detail here and you’ll see why we love it so much:
You can also read our Flair espresso review.
The Mania-Concept Mini Coffee Machine is super tiny, just 17 cm long and about 7 cm in diameter and weighing 360 g. Its compact form makes it easy to toss in a purse or backpack. Or at this size, you could easily carry it around in your pocket!
It’s a nice choice for a backpacking trip because it adds so little weight and doesn’t require a power supply. All you need is a campfire and a vessel for boiling water, and you’re minutes away from a delicious shot of coffee. It even comes with a tiny measuring scoop built right in. Unlike many of the others, it uses a piston on the side to extract espresso, a design many users find more friendly on the hands.
It’s one of the more affordable portable coffee makers, though this is partly due to its largely plastic construction, so it may be a bit less durable than those with more metal parts.
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!
- Hand powered portable espresso machine – Outdoors coffee maker. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wacaco.com/pages/nanopresso
- 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
- Espresso Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.coffeeresearch.org/espresso/definitions.htm