Recently, a UK television advert, for a well-known coffee brand, depicts a Barista walking miles to bring a fresh Espresso to a customer. If only there really was a way to have fresh Espresso when away from the coffee shop.
Living where I do, I have easy access to countryside walks and although a flask of coffees is always welcome, there are times when I would prefer an Espresso. The same applies when driving, travelling or on holiday – many cafes serve OK Americano, but struggle to hit the spot with Espresso.
I wondered if there was a way to make Espresso when away from home – ideally good Espresso made with an Espresso machine? I thought I couldn’t take an Espresso machine with me – but I was wrong!
Enter the Handpresso Portable Espresso Machine – which makes Espresso without a power socket. It uses hand-pumped air pressure instead of an electric pump. I wanted to try this for myself, so the kind people at Handpresso sent me a machine to test – the “Handpresso Wild”.
Let me say up-front that, although I liked the concept behind the machine’s function, I was sceptical. That’s because I like good, well made, Espresso and thought this machine might just be a novelty. For the second time – I was wrong. This machine makes very good Espresso, easily and without fuss or mess.
How does it work?
You can think of this machine as a combination of an Espresso filter holder and a bicycle pump. To use the machine, simply pump it to its full pressure (16 bar), add hot water plus an ESE pod (or you can use straight ground coffee) and it will brew an Espresso – without power – as if by magic. The 16 bar of compressed air forces the water through the coffee just like a powered Espresso machine.
Cleaning the machine is just as simple. If you are using ESE pods, simply remove the pod! If you are using ground coffee, remove and discard the grinds, and rinse.
So, instead of taking a flask of coffee when you go out – you take a flask of hot water plus the Handpresso machine and some ESE pods, and enjoy Espresso anywhere.
And I do mean anywhere! I tested this machine at home, and for the simple joy of having a freshly-made Espresso whenever I wanted, I also took it with me on a walk outside. Watch the video to see!
What came in the box?
This portable Espresso machine came with holders each for ESE pods and ground coffee, an instruction book, a spare O-ring seal, and some sample ESE pods. The product is well packaged and well presented.
Construction and build quality
I was very impressed by the build quality of this machine. It is solidly made and very robust. All of the components have a solid, quality feel; and the markings on the machine are clear and well thought-out.
Although you can buy optional carry cases for this machine, I would be happy to transport this machine without further protection. It weighs less than 500g, so carrying it is no burden.
And the instructions book is well-written and straightforward to follow.
Use with ESE pods
Given a choice, I would only use ESE pods with this machine. With ground coffee, you are left with the usual fuss and mess of used, wet, grinds. Using ESE pods makes it more convenient, simple and mess-free – and the use of ESE pods fits with the portability and convenience of this machine.
Use your preferred ESE pods and you will be fine.
Use with ground coffee
As I said above, the machine is supplied with a mesh filter to hold ground coffee; you just swap the ESE holder for the mesh filter. Apart from the usual mess of wet grinds from an Espresso machine, the filter wasn’t as easy to fill and tamp as the Espresso machine in my kitchen. Partly because it doesn’t come with a suitable spoon or tamper, and partly because the filter is smaller that an Espresso machine filter, so a little more fiddly. Handpresso sell a tamper for €25, but personally I would prefer a combined spoon/tamper in the box.
I suspect that the majority of coffee will be brewed with ESE pods, but having the flexibility of using ground coffee is very handy and welcome.
The instructions are also clear: to use finely ground coffee suitable for Espresso. I tried coarser grinds but it didn’t work as well, so use a fine Espresso grind as recommended.
The machine is hand-pumped to 16 bar, and there is a nifty pressure gauge, built-in, to show you when that pressure has been reached. I though it would be hard work to get to 16 bar (which is 235 PSI!), but it wasn’t. I counted 32-34 pumps to reach that pressure. When making the coffee, the pressure drops as you would expect, and you can also stop short of the full brew time if you wanted a shorter drink (like a Ristretto).
The pump handle locks in the closed position with a twist.
At the end of the day, taste is the important factor. I tested with Lavazza Rossa beans (ground finely) and with ESE pods. The nice crema demonstrates proper pressure brewing. The machine produced very good Espresso that I would be happy to drink at any time.
At last – a way to have fresh Espresso anywhere!
Yes, this machine makes Espresso. But as you have a flask of hot water, you could make sort of a Lungo or a “short Americano”.
This machine is versatile and elegant, and works well. It is well designed and manufactured, and makes good Espresso. For me, it delivers on the goal of having a fresh Espresso anywhere. Its non-electric operation is also kind to the environment.
It makes it possible to have fresh Espresso when travelling, on holiday, in the office, when enjoying the countryside, on the beach, in the garden, and even in the kitchen.
Well done Handpresso!
At the time of writing, this machine costs €99 (around £75)
Options and more information
Handpresso offers a range of accessories for this machine, and other machine variants including a 12V version for use in the car. Visit their website for more information.
Our overall rating
We really like this machine, and think that Espresso fans would find this a handy gadget to own.