If you are a big espresso or coffee lover and you either like to camp/travel a lot or are looking for a cheap and time efficient method of getting your caffeine fix in the morning on the way to work, you may want to consider a portable espresso maker.

Contrary to what many people believe, they are actually becoming so popular they are now quite affordable, easy to use, and easy to find. Here is nearly everything you could know about these convenient devices.

What is the best portable espresso maker? It is important that that the device is not too large, with a size not exceeding that of a thermos. Of course, you can get smaller models that are no more than 6 inches long, but they have a smaller capacity. A built-in pressure system ensures a high-pressured brew, which is not as strong as the standard machine can provide but still is better than having none at all. Then, you should consider how much time it takes for the machine to make an espresso. We believe that the STARESSO model fits these criteria best.

This guide will tell you about the TOP-5 best portable espresso makers, elaborating on their different types — manual and semi-automatic devices and the way they work. Find out what things you should consider before you buy a device and what are the advantages and disadvantages of using them. There is also a section covering recommendations about how to make delicious coffee and a FAQ section containing answers to the most frequently asked questions, such as about the model of espresso machine used by Starbucks.

What You Will Learn From This Guide:

How Do Portable Espresso Makers Work?

This can vary depending on the model, but most portable espresso makers operate by inserting some coffee grounds or beans, water, and other ingredients, brewing, and pressing it until it is ready to be served. Many of the more modern models use the coffee cups, like Keurig, instead of beans or grounds.

What Are the Types of Portable Espresso Makers?

Manual

Manual portable espresso makers are when you must do everything yourself, including the pressing. Most manual models will come with instructions since not every model is the same. They can also vary in size and price depending on the model.

Semi-automatic

Semi-automatic portable espresso maker is an electric device that have one or more functions that are powered by a battery or wire, usually a car or wall adapter. These functions can be warming the water, create pressure, and/or adjust the steam levels. These are usually more expensive than manual models, but not by much since they also have shorter lifespans.

What to Look for When Buying a Portable Espresso Maker

The size

This has less to do with how much you are going to brew and more to do with how much space you are willing to spare. Most of the portable models are about the size of a thermos, but quite a few are smaller or larger. The smaller models can be at least 6 inches long while the larger ones can get up to 12 inches or more.

The maintenance

If you are one of the many people who absolutely loathe hand washing dishes, then you may want to only search for a model that is dishwasher safe. Of course, dishwasher safe models are not popular since most of the portable models have special pieces or materials like a pressure system.

When in doubt, if there is no information on if the model is dishwasher safe, assume it is not. It's better to do that than buy a model, put it in the dishwasher, and then discover that it is in fact not.

The bars/PSI

If you are more particular about having a high pressured brew, some portable models have a built-in pressure system. Of course, it is usually not as strong as the standard machine, but many people still prefer even a little bit of pressure as opposed to none at all.

The average bars the portable models have is anywhere from around 6 to 20, and the PSI can range from around 100 to nearly 300. Generally, the higher the bar and/or PSI, the higher the price.

The time

The time it takes for the machine to make an espresso can vary on a few factors. If it does not have a heating function, it can usually take less than or around a minute.

If it does have a heater, then it usually takes an extra 1 to 12 minutes for the water to heat up depending on how warm the water was when it was filled.

The price

Depending on several factors, the price can be anywhere from around 40 to 160 dollars or more. Things that can affect the price are if it has a pressure system, the brand, size, and more.

TOP-5 Best Portable Espresso Coffee Makers

Below, you will find a portable espresso maker review featuring TOP-5 best products on the market at a price ranging from $50 to $160. There are both manual and electric models, and each item has its own benefits. Some models are surprisingly lightweight and easy-to-use, something that makes them the best options for camping and hiking. Others are very durable and long-lasting or include such features as a sensitive control.

WACACO Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker

WACACO Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker: photo

Only being a little over 6 inches long and weighing just under a pound, this portable espresso maker is one of the smallest models out right now and is available in black, red, yellow and orange. It is actually one of the few models that are available in different colors.

The pressure from this model comes from the manual hand pump that you would use 8 times to create enough pressure for the brew before dispensing. It can actually contain up to 18 bars of pressure, 261 PSI, without the use of a battery or power cord. It is all entirely manual.

This particular model works with 8 grams of ground coffee every time, but it can also work with a Nespresso k-cup and possibly other brands depending on the physical size and shape of the cup.

However, some say that those only work well with the adapter that is sold separately, and it is not guaranteed that the adapter will work with every k-cup. Also, the model does not come with the carrying case that is shown in the pictures. That too is sold separately.

Pros Cons
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Very lightweight and compact
  • Excellent for camping and travel
  • Needs several cleaning cycles to be fully cleaned

WACACO Nanopresso: Check the current price

Staresso Portable Espresso Maker 

Staresso Portable Espresso Maker: photo

This portable espresso maker for capsule coffee and ground coffee is one of the more popular models that are out right now. It is available in 2 colors, black and white, and in the newer generation, the 3rd gen. This item is a little bit bigger than the last model, being just over 8 inches long and just over 1 pound.

Like many other models, this one can make a variety of different type of coffee from iced to a cappuccino and more. Because it is bigger than the last model, it also holds more water and coffee, being able to use up to 80 ml of water and 10 grams of coffee grounds in a single brew.

This is also one of the few models out there that is dishwasher safe and is completely free of BPA. Because of this, this model can be one of the easiest to clean and keep clean.

Being another completely manual model, in just 6 simple steps, you can have your coffee ready and highly pressurized with the maximum capacity of 20 bars of pressure. This one can use k-cups or easy pods too as long as they are the kind that is made from a paper-like material, not the common hard plastic since there is nothing in the device to puncture the plastic.

Pros Cons
  • One of the more popular products
  • High quality and durable plastic
  • Sensitive controls that can be used by even kids and the elderly
  • Occasionally leaks
  • Does require a good amount of pumping

STARESSO: Check the current price

Wacaco Minipresso GR, Portable Espresso Machine 

Wacaco Minipresso: photo

The most affordable model on this list, this espresso maker is just slightly longer and heavier than the first product being 6.89 inches long and weighing 0.8 pounds. Unlike the first product, it is only available in black.

This model has a semi-automatic piston that helps control the amount of coffee that is extracted. For the rest of the time, it is completely manual, like the others, and is pressured by manually pumping it several times before dispensing the brew. Its maximum pressure is 8 bars, 116 PSI, which is one of the lowest on and off this list.

One of the biggest issues with this model is that it is not that durable and starts to leak after several months. However, with the 3 or 4-year additional protection plan, replacements are less difficult and time-consuming. There is also a 30-day satisfaction guarantee for refunds and replacements, too.

This model does not support any type of k-cup or easy cup without the additional attachment, which is sold separately. This is because it is the mini and the tank is smaller and less adaptive than the first product.

Pros Cons
  • One of the more popular models
  • One of the most affordable products
  • Long lasting and durable
  • Cleaning can take a while
  • Pumping can be difficult at first

Wacaco Minipresso: Check the current price

Aicok Portable Espresso Maker With Water Heater 

Aicok Portable Espresso Maker With Water Heater: photo

Another semi-automatic model, this portable espresso machine can either be plugged into a wall outlet or a car adapter to heat up the water before brewing or keep it warm for long periods before brewing. Like the other semi-automatic model, the maximum 15 bars of pressure comes from the manual hand pump.

This model is actually one of the biggest portable ones available right now, being nearly 10 inches tall and weighing nearly 2 pounds. Whether it is because of its size, functions, or brand, it is also one of the most expensive models right now and one of the less popular ones.

Like many of the other models, this one has a self-cleaning function that just involves running it with nothing but water, but must usually be done at least 2 times to ensure it is cleaned properly. It can also use ground coffee or the k-cups and/or easy cups too. Although, some people say that the k-cups are a little more awkward to use with it on account of the hard plastic, if you pre-puncture the cup carefully before inserting, it still works well.

Coming with an 18-month quality guarantee, this model also has optional, additional protection plans that last for 3 or 4 years.

Pros Cons
  • Brews quickly and quietly
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Simple controls
  • Is one of the more expensive models
  • Is less popular

Aicok: Check the current price

Flair Manual Press Espresso Maker

Flair Manual Press Espresso Maker: photo

The only portable espresso maker that is not pod-shaped like the others on this list, this model is also one of the most expensive but is still quite popular. It is entirely manual and, as the name suggests, is mainly a press.

To use it, you simply insert the grounds and filter, pour water at the right temperature, and then press. It requires no batteries, no plugs, and no buttons. It is just a simple lever used to hand press your espresso that supports pressure from 6 to 10 bars. The container can hold between 13 and 18 grams of coffee grounds for every brew.

Because it is made out of stainless steel and is less closed off than the other models, it is one of the easiest models to clean and comes with a 5-year warranty, too.

Also available to come with a tamper and/or an extra brewing head, these extra tools can improve the quality of the brew and allow you to make more than one cup in a row. The bundles also come with a carrying case that holds the 7-pound press safely and securely while transporting it.

Because it is more of a press, it is not recommended to use k-cups or easy pods with them at all since they might cause damage to the machine.

Pros Cons
  • Is easily compressible for transportation
  • Is easy to clean
  • This portable espresso maker boils water rapidly
  • Is one of the most expensive models

Flair: Check the current price

Comparison Chart of Effectiveness of Portable Espresso Makers

Product Features

WACACO Nanopresso

Weight: 1.05 pounds
Simple and easy to use
Very lightweight and compact
Excellent for camping and travel

Effectiveness: 9

STARESSO

Weight: 14.1 ounces
One of the popular products
High quality and durable plastic
Sensitive controls

Effectiveness: 10

Wacaco Minipresso

Weight: 15.5 ounces
One of the more popular models
One of the most affordable products
Long lasting and durable

Effectiveness: 8

Aicok

Weight: 3.1 pounds
Brews quickly and quietly
One-button operation design
Simple controls

Effectiveness: 10

Flair

Weight: 5 pounds
Is easily compressible for transportation
Is easy to clean
Requires no waiting for it to boil water

Effectiveness: 10

FAQs

Which portable espresso maker is the best?
Out of all of the models above, the best is possibly the STARESSO machine for the amount of pressure it can support, the ease of use, and because it is still one of the more portable models while being able to make more coffee than other models.

What espresso machine does Starbucks use?
Starbucks uses the Mastrena High Performance Espresso Machine. It was developed and made in Weggis, Switzerland and are sold for over 17 thousand dollars each, and yes, that is US currency.

Unfortunately for many coffee enthusiasts, the espresso makers are only available to Starbucks stores exclusively and not the general public.

Can a portable espresso machine make a regular coffee?
Most of the time, yes. The steps may be slightly different, but as long as you are preparing the coffee the correct way, using either cups, grounds, or beans, with the machine, then it should still brew any coffee.

What are the features of a portable espresso maker for cars?
Many of these machines have car adapters that plug directly into the device and either keep the water and/or the coffee warmer longer. Some can run off of the adapter to pressurize automatically instead of manually.

Can a portable espresso maker explode?
There are very few reviews and reports of portable espresso makers exploding. This is because they simply can't contain that much pressure, whether it is manual or automatic. There are far more reports of a model leaking when the machine is starting to pressurize because of poor sealing or a leak. This prevents them from gaining pressure that would make them explode.

Pros & Cons of Using These Products

They can be extremely convenient for anyone wanting a cup of coffee when camping, at work, on the road, or anywhere they can not get access to a coffee maker or store. They only take a few minutes to work and are usually quick and easy to clean, too.

On the other hand, they can be quite expensive, have a short lifespan, and be easily misplaced because of their size. Not to mention that they can easily break when dropped, a common accident to happen when camping/hiking or traveling with it often.

Tips to Make Delicious Espresso

Some people say that the taste is not quite the same as a regular espresso or coffee. Sometimes, a few simple and quick changes can make all of the difference.

First, run any grinds/beans, or even the contents of a prepackaged cup, through a grinder several times to ensure that it is super fine. Then, make sure the water is as hot as possible since the preferred temperature for brewing is at or above 160 degrees.

If you are getting a semi-automatic model, having one that has a capacity of around 15 bars will produce a higher quality brew. Ones that have less than 10 are adequate, but not preferred. The higher the bar and PSI, the higher the quality.

That is what you should look for in a portable espresso maker, 5 of the best models currently available, some common questions people have, and the good and the bad that comes with them. Remember, not every model will produce the same espresso, but with a little experimenting and sticking to the tips listed above, you can find the perfect blend.