The Best Portable Espresso Makers In 2020: Backpacking & Camping

Don't sacrifice flavor on the trail. With these lightweight espresso makers you can have your espresso and drink it too.

The best portable espresso makers help you bring that liquid gold with you wherever the adventure takes you.

We don’t mean cowboy coffee, we mean real-thick as molasses-espresso!

In this article we focus on espresso makers for camping and backpacking based on weight, packability, durability, and taste quality of espresso produced.

Read our newest article for a more comprehensive guide to the best coffee makers for camping, compare the Pipamoka vs Nanopresso, find out how to make great cowboy coffee on the go, as well as some fantastic instant coffee options.

If you simply want the answers without all the background, here are our top picks and table of contents for easy navigation.

Best Portable Espresso Makers:

Table of Contents (click the titles to skip ahead):

Portable Espresso Makers For Adventurers

Whatever your level of espresso fanaticism, if you are an outdoor enthusiast or constant adventurer you can now have your espresso and drink it too. 

Don’t miss out on great coffee while camping, port-a-ledging, river tripping, base camping, or just living your best van life. 

We based our top picks on a combination of size, usability, and quality of espresso produced.

These portable espresso makers will blow your mind and your tastebuds without blowing up your wallet. 

Our all around favorite for both design and quality of espresso produced, is the Nanopresso by Wacaco.

Nanopresso by Wacaco

Nanopresso

Pros:
• Light & Packable
• Sleek self-contained design
• 18 bars of pressure
Barista Kit for an optional double shot
Cons:
• Mid-range price
• Replacement parts unavailable
• Reports of breakdown after long-term use
Dimensions: 156 x 71 x 62 mm/6.14 x 2.8 x 2.44 in
Weight: 336 g/0.76 lb
Capacity: 80 ml/2.70 oz.
Pressure: 18 bar/261 psi

Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker For Backpacking And Camping

Our editors pick from above, this portable espresso maker is the crema de la crema (get it?). 

The Nanopresso is far and away one of the most back-packable espresso makers out there. 

It is small (nano), light, and durable. 

nanopresso portable espresso maker product specifications

Nanopresso is made by a company called Wacaco. They also make the Minipresso, Nanopresso’s slightly larger predecessor coming in at about 7 inches in length versus about 6 inches for the nano. 

The Minipresso cannot be adapted for double shots with the Barista Kit like the Nano, however, the Minipresso actually makes a slightly better tasting espresso despite having a lower bar rating.

If you want regular coffee instead of espresso, Wacaco offers a completely self-contained screw mechanism coffee press called the Pipamoka that is similar to the Aeropress in function but is more of a self contained unit.

Still, the Nanopresso is their star performer. 

18 Bars of Pressure

When it comes to espresso, higher pressure generally (not always) means higher quality shots. The Nanopresso is capable of producing 18 bars of pressure per pull of espresso.

That is more pressure than many expensive home espresso machines can muster on their best days. 

Anyone who has owned an automatic home espresso machine knows the pressure quality can deteriorate dramatically overtime; making your espresso taste watery and weak. 

With the Nanopresso, pressure is created through a little pump lever that pops out the side of the main canister. 

This means pressure is based on your physical pumping instead of a mechanical pump that can wear out over time.

Situating the pressure lever on the side instead of the top (see Staresso) or as a hand pump (see Handpresso) allows you to grip the device while pumping. 

This makes it much easier to apply pressure while holding the entire canister in place over your mug. 

Pumping is simple, doesn’t take much effort at all, and coffee starts flowing almost immediately. 

Crema

Something the Nanopresso does better than any other backpacking espresso machine is creating incredible crema. 

Crema is the cream or hay colored foam layer on top of your espresso shot. It is a hallmark of high pressure and high-quality espresso. 

The Handpresso gets close but nowhere near the quality of the Nanopresso. 

Rock Solid & Stable

Another key factor that makes the Nanopresso the best portable espresso maker is its design. 

As seen in the photos, the entire setup packs into itself to make a short sleek cylinder about 6 inches in length. 

nanopresso by wacaco portable espresso maker components

Although the material on the Minipresso seems a litter tougher, both it and the Nanopresso are built to last. 

When you are camping or on the road, you don’t always have access to nice even tabletops where things sit perfectly flat. This can make pouring and pressing a challenge. 

With the Nanopresso you simply set the cup down and your hands are free to do the rest, no pushing or pressing against anything. 

If your hands are big enough you could even do it all with one hand while stirring the breakfast oatmeal. 

Here is our favorite coffee vlogger, Gadget Viper, walking you through it:

Double Espresso & Pods

The Nanopresso is also capable of making double shots. As far as we know, this is the only backpacking espresso maker that can do double shots. 

All you need is an extra Barista Kit that comes in at a very affordable price. With this kit you also get a larger water reservoir. 

For the Minipresso you can get an add on kit with a larger reservoir and three extra espresso baskets that stack perfectly into the empty reservoir.

In this way, you can prepare your coffee ahead of time for multiple pulls on the go. 

The Nanopresso can also be modified to use Nespresso coffee pods.

If you want compatibility with many different types of pods, the Minipresso CA is your best choice.

Style

Tiny and versatile, the Nanopresso comes in a variety of colors from rugged to cute. 

nanopresso espresso maker for backpacking color options

Handpresso

An interesting and well thought out design that makes a decent shot of espresso, the Handpresso is a solid runner up for best portable espresso maker.

Handpresso

Pros:
• Durable
• Coffee pod adapter included
• Stylish design & styling
• 16 bars of pressure
• Pressure is held until manual dispensing
Cons:
• Slightly clunky
• Most expensive option
• Cannot stand up independently
• No option for double shot
Dimensions: 22 x 10 x 7 cm/8.6 x 3.9 x 2.7 in
Weight: 480 g/1.05 lb
Capacity: 50 ml/1.7 oz.
Pressure: 16 bar/232 psi

Handpresso Portable Expresso Maker For Camping - Crux Range

16 Bars of Pressure

Capable of reaching 16 bars of pressure, the Handpresso operates on a hand pump similar to those tiny cylindrical bicycle tire pumps that you clip to the frame of a bike. 

By no means is the pumping difficult, but the way it is set up makes it a bit awkward. 

You have to lay it down or hold it with one hand while you fill the reservoir then switch hands to put on the espresso basket and valve cover. 

Once pumped up however, the pressure is trapped until you hit the release valve, allowing for a hands-free pour similar to the Nanopresso. 

The pump features a built-in pressure meter so you can be sure you have reached the full 16 bars before releasing the valve and pulling your espresso shot. 

While the Handpresso does make a decent amount of crema, the actual espresso benneath was consistently a bit more watery than with the Nanopresso.

Single Espresso Only

The Handpresso does make a decent shot, but the volume is the lowest per shot out of the three listed (50 ml/1.7 oz.). Ideally this would mean stronger coffee.

But, keep in mind this also means more taking apart and reassembling to get the same amount of espresso as you would with a larger machine or something with a double shot option.

If you are not the type of person that like fiddling too much before you’re well caffeinated the Nanopresso or a stovetop like the Bialetti might be better choices.

Design & Packability

In terms of packability, the Handpresso is a bit more clunky. The design is cool to look at but can be cumbersome when trying to fit into an overloaded backpack. 

Since it is not a self-contained design like the other two machines listed, all the moving parts are left somewhat exposed when not in use. Forcing you to be more careful with how you store it. 

The materials feel solid and its doubful any of the critical components would break easily, but it is still not the most packable portable espresso machine.

Carrying cases are available but this just takes up more space in your pack or travel bag.

This is ok for home use, but on the road or on the trail you want something a little more rugged, adaptable, and easy to deal with. 

Style

Designed in France, the Handpresso has that signature sleek European look and feel. 

It is a solid piece of equipment with quality craftsmanship overall and comes in a few stylish colors that look like they would fit nicely in an Ikea showroom. 

Here’s Gadget Viper again showing you how it’s done with the Handpresso:

Overall the Handpresso is a quality option that will make decent espresso both in the kitchen and on the mountain top.

Visit their website or find one here.

Staresso  

Staresso Portable Espresso Maker
  • Dimensions: 24.4 x 7.1 x 7.1 cm/9.6 x 2.8 x 2.8 in
  • Weight: 1120 g/2.4 lb
  • Capacity: 50 ml/1.7 oz.
  • Pressure: 16 bar/232 psi

The Staresso brings a fusion in design of both the Nanopresso and the Handpresso. 

With a top pump and stacked cylinder design, the Staresso looks good and works ok for home but is lacking when it comes to ruggedness and portability. 

In all honesty, this was our least favorite portable espresso maker but it is an inexpensive option that looks good on the counter so we felt compelled to include it.

The materials feel a bit flimsy and the espresso consistently comes out watery.

There are plenty of good reviews of this machine out there but our experience with the Staresso didn’t reflect that.

As far as backpacking or camping goes, this espresso maker would only be suitable for glamping or hi-end vanlife excursions.

15-20 Bars of Pressure

There are conflicting stats available as to how much pressure this little portable espresso machine can produce. And, the manufacturer website is not super transparent either. 

However, in testing it does create some crema, meaning the pressure is probably at least 15 bars, but as stated above, the coffee comes out watery.

Design & Packability

Approximately 9 inches in length, the Staresso is a bit longer than the Nanopresso and similar in diameter. 

Although the dimensions are almost identical to the Nanopresso, the Staresso is a much heavier (almost 2x the weight) and bulkier option. Making it less than ideal for weight-sensitive adventures.

As you can see in the photos, the bottom cup is actually a tiny espresso cup inside a container, making for a somewhat redundant design while adding unnecessary weight. 

The pump mechanism is easy to depress. But, since the force is straight down you need a flat surface to place the machine on as you pump the pressure valve. 

Overall the construction feels a little flimsy and not necessarily ideal for backpacking or car camping. 

The Staresso might be great for an apartment or glamping but as a packable backcountry espresso maker it falls short. 

As far as comparisons go, the Staresso may be good for home use but beyond that opt for another option.

In the battle of Staresso vs. Handpresso, or Staresso vs. Nanopresso; the Handpresso and Nanopresso are clear winners.

Our favorite coffee-guy, Gadget Viper, seems to agree:

Bialetti Moka Express

Now, all the portable espresso makers we listed above are really cool. They are small and packable and they make a decent espresso. 

However, all these gadgets will break eventually. That’s just the nature of a gadget. 

If you want a backpacking espresso machine that is simple to use, will literally never let you down, and will stand up to the elements over and over, get yourself a stovetop espresso maker like the Bialetti Moka Express.

Bialetti Moka Express

Pros:
• Least expensive option
• Durable
• Lightweight
• Easy set up & clean up
• Available in a multitude of sizes & colors
Cons:
• Not a ‘true’ espresso

Bialettie Moka Express For Backpacking - Crux Range

Espresso or Coffee?

While they are referred to as espresso makers, these little workhorses don’t technically make espresso. 

What you get is a bold cup of coffee somewhere between an espresso and a drip coffee. 

For anyone who doesn’t know, stovetop espresso makers are those metal hourglass looking kettles used in just about every country outside North America for making coffee. 

Often referred to by their trademark name, the Moka Pot was invented in the 1930s by Alfonso Bialetti. 

It works on a simple pressure system that generates about 1.5 bars of pressure. 

This is nowhere near the pressure you get with the pump operated machines above and you for sure don’t get the crema associated with quality espresso. 

What you do get is a consistently good cup of coffee without the fuss. 

How They Work

As mentioned, Moka Pots work on pressure. 

There is a lower chamber where you put the water. Next, you drop in the coffee basket, then screw on the top chamber. Place it on a flame and let it boil. That’s it. 

As the water heats up and expands it is forced up and through the coffee to the chamber above. 

how a bialetti moka pot portable espresso maker works

Why Stovetop Espresso Makers Are The Best For Backpacking And Adventure

The beauty of the stovetop espresso maker is in its simplicity. 

There is really only one part of these machines that can fail. The small rubber gasket between the two chambers.

stovetop espresso maker gasket seal replacement
questcoffee.com

It usually takes a lot of use before these fail and they can be found on Amazon or your local store for a few dollars.

Moka pots are almost always made out of metal, making them near indestructible. 

The weakest point in their design is the handle and this part isn’t even necessary. 

In fact, the backpacking stovetop espresso maker we use has no handle. We broke it off after accidentally melting it.

Without the handle it’s actually much easier to stow away in a loaded pack. Just make sure you have an old sock or bandana or something to use as an oven mitt. 

1-Step Coffee & Cleanup 

With any backcountry coffee, except gel shots or instant, you need a stove to boil hot water. 

Using some of the portable espresso makers above adds extra steps. 

With the stovetop Moka Express, you simply put it together and place the pot directly over the flame. 

To clean or make another pot all you have to do is unscrew the top, empty the grounds and refill. 

Size

An added bonus of the stovetop espresso maker is its size. 

Portable stovetop espresso makers are available in cute little 1 cup units up to 14 cups. 

They come in a variety of colors and styles from whimsical to rugged.  

Affordability

Stovetop espresso makers are also the most affordable option, averaging approximately $27 for a 3 cup pot.  

Summary

Whether you are looking for a high tech backcountry espresso machine or a workhorse portable espresso machine we’ve got you covered.

For the highest quality espresso check out the Nanopresso or the Handpresso.

If you want an all arounder without the frills, get a stovetop espresso maker like the classic Bialetti Moka Express.

Sometimes getting the perfect cup of espresso or coffee while on the move can be challenging. Not anymore.

Get your portable espresso machine and start your next adventure with a buzz.

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The activities described herein can be dangerous and possess inherent risk. The content provided is not intended as an expert opinion or advice. Seek proper instruction or appropriate medical advice from qualified professionals to learn the necessary skills to participate in any of the activities or regimes described herein. See Disclosure & Disclaimer for more info.

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