You might not be able to take your favorite local barista everywhere you go to enjoy freshly brewed espresso consistently. However, finding the best portable espresso maker to brew a delicious coffee anytime is even better.
A travel espresso maker will put the power to have great coffee in your hands — often quite literally! You may be surprised that you can get perfect espresso coffee by using a hand-operated mini espresso machine, but you can take pride in what you will accomplish. So how do you choose a transportable espresso maker?
Things to consider when choosing a portable espresso maker
As you shop for the mini espresso machine, you need to consider how portable you want it to be. For example, a travel espresso machine that would work well on a camping trip will have different strengths than one that you would primarily use at your office.
What defines the best espresso maker for you depends on what other resources you have access to where you intend to use it. For example, many espresso machines are created assuming that you have access to an external heat source to get boiling water. If you don’t have a way to get hot water, this may narrow your search to self-heating electric espresso makers.
Size and weight
Some portable espresso makers are bigger than others. It may not be a big concern if you don’t have space constraints wherever you hope to take your coffee brewer.
For example, if you are traveling by car, you may not have to worry about packing light as you would traveling by airplane. Similarly, if your espresso maker is mainly intended for regular use in a specific location, like a dorm room or an office, or if you want to make a latte at home, you can prioritize other concerns like ease of use.
When the use you have in mind for your espresso machine involves an airplane carry-on bag or even a hiking backpack, you will want to prioritize having a small portable coffee maker. As a nice bonus, the smallest portable espresso machines tend to be among the more inexpensive models.
While you may need your espresso maker to be small enough to fit in your travel bag, don’t forget that you will also need to pack coffee to use with it.
Freshly ground coffee beans usually make the tastiest coffee, though a portable coffee grinder is just one more thing to keep track of if you are on the road. You may want to consider pre-ground coffee if you would like to pack your bag without the bulk of pods or a coffee grinder. However, buying a packaged bag of good quality ground coffee at the store becomes harder once you get hooked on the pleasure of high-quality espresso.
Fortunately, many portable espresso makers are compatible with capsules of coffee ground to the specifications of espresso, like Nespresso capsules. So if you already use a Nespresso coffee machine at home and don’t want to mess with ground coffee while you are out and about, the capsule-compatible manual espresso maker could be a great option.
If you plan to use pods with your espresso maker, make sure they are easy to acquire. Many coffee pod manufacturers, especially in the United States, are compatible with Nespresso capsules. In Europe, E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) pods might be more common, but they can be hard to find in the United States.
The downside of Nespresso capsules is that they are bulkier and more expensive than ground coffee. Their packaging also creates waste. E.S.E. pods are lighter and less wasteful than Nespresso capsules, though you may have to go to more trouble to find them. Generally, you cannot switch back and forth between Nespresso pods and E.S.E. pods, as a given coffee maker usually is compatible with one or the other.
An espresso machine must generate about 9 bars of pressure to brew espresso-style concentrated coffee with crema. Applying this pressure to the coffee grounds for 25 to 30 seconds usually achieves the best extraction possible.
Some small espresso machines can generate more than 9 bars of pressure. However, especially in cheaper espresso machines, some of this pressure is expended in other ways during the brewing process, so only about 9 bars of pressure make it to the coffee anyway.
That said, if a travel espresso maker claims to produce far more than 9 bars of pressure, that might still make it more likely for you to get some crema on your espresso.
If you are not concerned with whether you get actual espresso, you may want to consider alternatives like the AeroPress or Moka Pot. These brewing methods do not reach the bars of pressure necessary to qualify as espresso, but they produce intense espresso-like coffee. Even the best Moka Pots, such as the iconic Bialetti Moka Express, are cheaper than most espresso makers, and lesser-known brand alternatives can be very affordable. If you drink your coffee black and don’t mind it being less concentrated, you can try Chemex or Hario V60, which are fairly inexpensive coffee makers.
Golden crema on top of an espresso shot is integral to espresso. While it tells a lot about the roast level and freshness of your coffee beans, you can’t get it without the consistent high pressure of an espresso machine. Unfortunately, while being a compact coffee maker suitable for travel, an AeroPress cannot produce crema.
Electric espresso makers are better than manual ones as they consistently apply pressure to the coffee grounds. With a manual espresso maker, the pressure may vary. Inconsistent pressure can affect extraction timing, resulting in little to no crema.
Generally, better quality espresso makers produce more even extraction, so you may have to spend more money if you are determined to have crema. But, of course, freshly roasted beans improve your chances of getting crema, no matter what machine you use.
Quantity of shots
For those who like their coffee longer, it may be important to have a portable machine capable of producing more than one shot of espresso at a time. You might also want the ability to pull a double espresso if you are making espresso for more than one person at a time.
Many portable espresso makers can pull only one shot at a time, and two-shot capacity is not that common.
However, some one-shot espresso makers are compatible with an expansion tank sold separately, extending the capacity to two shots.
Ease of use
Most mini espresso makers, especially those operated by hand, do not require electricity. The downside of this is that you need to heat the water separately to pour it into the espresso machine.
If you plan to use your espresso maker in a place where you do have reliable access to electricity, like an office or dorm room, you may want to pick a self-heating electric model that can heat the water for you. That way, you won’t have to have a separate appliance for that.
An electric portable espresso maker may also be best for you if you have a disability or medical condition affecting your hands, as the manual operation of non-electric models can be hard on your hands.
However, if you are going on a camping trip with your portable espresso machine, you probably don’t want an electric model. Boiling water over a campfire may therefore be necessary.
You probably would not want to bring a lever espresso maker on a mountain hiking trip. Though it does not require electricity, you need a solid table to set the bulky machine down, which may not be available in the wild.
Portable espresso machines are generally cheaper than those intended to stay grounded in the kitchen. If you just want an espresso maker at an affordable price, you might consider a portable model whether or not you plan to take it on the road.
However, portable espresso machines are generally more expensive than other small coffee makers, starting at over $50. So if you are on the fence about whether you want to make espressos or just great coffee and price is an important decisive factor, the best coffee maker for you might not be one that makes espresso.
Some of the lowest-priced portable espresso makers are operated by hand rather than electric, but more elegant manual options can also get pricey.
If you know you won’t use coffee capsules or make two shots of espresso at a time, you can get a relatively affordable mini espresso maker that meets your needs.
However, the price can add up if you start buying the accessories that some brands sell separately to let your mini espresso machine use Nespresso capsules or have a bigger water tank. Consider this as you compare the espresso makers on this list.
A nice thing about these portable espresso makers is that they don’t require paper filters like drip coffee makers. Instead, they typically have a built-in metal filter basket where you add ground coffee. Therefore, you don’t have to consider filters as an ongoing cost. However, if you plan to use Nespresso or similar coffee capsules with your mini espresso maker, you may want to be aware of that cost, especially if that is new to you.
Best Portable Espresso Makers 2023
The best portable espresso makers of 2023 include both hand-operated and electric models. Some work with coffee capsules, such as Nespresso, while others do not. There are strong options at various price points, so you should be able to find one that meets your needs.
Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker
The Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker is an excellent gadget for travel situations where you might not have consistent access to electricity. Its tiny size is another reason to take it on the road. Wacaco Nanopresso is easy to pack at just over six inches long and weighs three-quarters of a pound.
Nanopresso can generate up to 18 bars of pressure, which is more than most handheld espresso makers can achieve, even though it requires less force to pump. As a result, it helps to produce better crema.
The Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker can use Nespresso capsules with an adapter sold separately. A different adapter also sold separately, allows the Nanopresso to use Nescafé Dolce Gusto capsules.
While the Nanopresso’s usual capacity is one espresso shot, you can modify it with the Nanopresso Barista Kit, which is sold separately and gives it the capacity to make two shots.
- No battery/electricity needed
- Produces dense crema layer
- Available in fun colors
- Compact size
- Easy to clean
- Double shot add-on available
- You need hot water to make espresso
- Only finely ground coffee produces crema
- Requires adapter for Nespresso capsules
Conqueco Portable Espresso Maker
The Conqueco Portable Espresso Maker is electric, but it also has a battery that you can charge. You can make up to three cups of espresso with a fully charged battery while away from electricity. In addition, Conqueco comes with a car charger that sits neatly in your car’s cup holder and a home charger.
A significant advantage of the Conqueco Portable Espresso Maker is that it can heat water. While using the machine with cold water will take longer than using the device with hot water, having the self-heating option is very convenient, especially when you can’t heat the water separately. It may, however, drain battery power more than just brewing an espresso shot.
This espresso maker is compatible with Nespresso pods, though Conqueco advises against using pods by other manufacturers that claim to be compatible with Nespresso. It generates up to 15 bars of pressure and makes one shot of espresso at a time.
An interesting thing about Conqueco is its self-cleaning function, where you pour water in and clean itself. In fact, you are not supposed to clean it any other way.
- Heats water
- No hand pumping required
- Compatible with Nespresso pods
- Has self-cleaning function
- Chargeable battery
- Produces only one shot at a time
- Can not be used while charging
- Some Nespresso-style pods may not work
Staresso Portable Espresso Machine
The Staresso Portable Espresso Maker is cheaper than some of its competitors. Also, you can get more than the competitors offer for your money, as it can make 3 ounces (100 ml) of espresso on its own, without any additional parts being sold separately.
The Staresso stands out from the competition with its high pressure. It can generate 15 to 20 bars, which helps to create golden espresso crema. In addition, the pump can double as a milk frother to make your latte at home even better.
Like some of the other manual espresso makers, the Staresso does not require electricity, but it does not heat water on its own either. Therefore, you must have a source of boiling water.
The Staresso is compatible with Nespresso capsules and your favorite ground coffee. However, some users find the Staresso challenging to clean. Also, it has a glass cup that can break, so taking it on a rough camping trip may put it at risk.
- No electricity needed
- Can make 3oz of espresso
- Rich & thick crema
- Can make milk foam
- Compatible with Nespresso capsules
- Requires hot water
- Fragile glass cup
- Cleaning can be tedious
Moocoo Portable Espresso Machine
The Moocoo Portable Espresso Machine is powered by hand and does not require electricity or batteries. While it can reach 20 bars of pressure, it boasts a pumping mechanism easier on the user’s hands than some of its competitors. There is also a non-slip grip for your hand to hold as you pump.
The Moocoo is made of durable plastic, and it is dishwasher-safe. Being easy to clean gives it an edge over some competitors.
The Moocoo works with either Nespresso pods or ground coffee. While the manufacturer claims it has a two-shot capacity, some users find it closer to one shot.
The aesthetics of the Moocoo Portable Espresso Machine leave a bit to be desired. They don’t go for the sleek modern look some competitors do. However, its versatility and ease of use more than compensate for that.
- No battery nor electricity needed
- Capable of reaching 20 bar pressure
- Makes perfect crema
- Compatible with ground coffee and capsules
- Built-in milk frother
- Dual-wall coffee mug
- Requires hot water
- It may fail piercing coffee capsules
- Coffee can be not hot enough if the device is not preheated
Flair Signature Espresso Maker
The Flair Signature Espresso Maker is an attractive kitchen gadget, even if you don’t want to take it on the road. A simple lever press can generate six to ten bars of pressure and make a single espresso shot. You must pull down the lever once instead of repeatedly pumping, which may be easier on your hands than on the other manual espresso machines.
While Flair Signature does not require electricity, and you can take it on the road, it is bulkier than other portable espresso machines. However, it disassembles to fit inside the carrying case it comes with. The brewing head can also be removed for easy cleaning.
The manufacturer recommends using fresh coffee beans ground with a burr grinder. So if you are a Nespresso capsule fan, this espresso machine may not be your best option.
- Impressive design
- Completely detachable brewing head for easy cleaning
- Comes with a padded carrying case
- Good for home and travel use
- Makes only one shot of espresso at a time
- Requires freshly ground coffee
Handpresso Wild Hybrid
The Handpresso Wild Hybrid is a portable espresso maker that can handle rugged outdoor use. Its slender and compact aluminum body makes it easy to pack wherever you go. Adding to its bike pump-like appearance, it has a visible gauge showing you where you are on your way to pumping 16 bars of pressure.
The Handpresso is compatible with E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) coffee pods if you prefer pods over ground coffee. Remember that these differ from Nespresso coffee capsules, so keep an eye for them as you shop for your coffee supplies. In general, E.S.E. pods are harder to find in stores in the United States than Nespresso pods, but you can always order them online.
The Handpresso can also be used with ground coffee. Either way, its output is one shot of espresso.
- Compact design
- Visible pressure gauge
- Rugged enough to handle outdoors
- No electricity needed
- Easy maintenance with virtually no cleanup
- Makes only one shot of espresso at a time
- E.S.E. pods can be hard to find
- Not compatible with Nespresso capsules
Wacaco Minipresso GR
The Wacaco Minipresso GR is a compact way to brew a single shot of espresso on the go. It weighs just over three-quarters of a pound and measures just under seven inches long.
Like other manual portable espresso makers, the Wacaco Minipresso GR does not require electricity. However, you have to have an external heat source to boil water.
Its average pressure is only 8 bars, lower than some competing products. It is also not compatible with Nespresso pods. However, it is more affordable than most competitor portable espresso makers.
Also, if you want to make two espresso shots at a time or one long shot, Wacaco sells the water tank attachment separately. It screws onto the Minipresso GR and lets you make espresso lungo.
- Compact design
- No battery/electricity need
- Great for traveling & outdoor use
- Double shot add-on available
- Only 8 bar pressure
- Does not heat up water
- It can be hard to pump
Staresso Pro (Mirage) Portable Espresso Maker
Staresso Pro is a coffee aficionado’s portable espresso maker with a futuristic rocket design that produces rich golden crema. This machine can make two espresso shots in less than one minute.
When making espresso with Staresso Pro, you need a stable surface as you press it with the top of your palm using your body strength. It may sound laborious, but it actually requires much less effort than the coffee makers you use only palm strength to extract the coffee.
The non-slip silicone pad at the bottom ensures the coffee maker stays in place while extracting your coffee.
As with many other manual espresso makers, you must add boiling water to make a shot of espresso with the Staresso Pro. However, you can use cold water to get a beverage similar to a cold with this device.
- Two-shot capacity
- Produces rich crema
- Requires no electricity
- Compact design with detachable bracket
- Supports hot & iced water to brew
- Requires stable surface
- Lots of parts to clean
If you’ve been dreaming of an affordable espresso machine that can produce a strong shot of coffee that will wake you up wherever you are, a portable espresso maker will do just that. You can take it to the office, on a camping trip, or to the beach and enjoy your caffeine fix.
That said, freshly ground beans are a must to make espressos similar to those from your favorite coffee shop. Regardless of the espresso maker, get a conical burr grinder to take your coffee brewing experience to a new level.