three travel espresso makers

Portable Espresso Makers: The Coffee Chronicler’s Guide

We have compiled a list of the best portable espresso makers that you should purchase before your next vacation or camping trip.

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Asser Christensen

Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism

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Just a few years ago, the idea of a portable espresso maker seemed laughable – crafting a rich shot of espresso with a compact, travel-friendly device was just not possible.

However, in this era of unprecedented coffee innovation, several travel-friendly espresso machines have emerged.

I have tested numerous manual espresso makers over the years, and here I have chosen to showcase the top performers from my collection – as well as some more mediocre versions that are nonetheless still quite often recommended. Here you can see what I think about them.

Sidenote: I haven’t included countertop machines like the Flair 58, which, while exceptional, aren’t truly travel-friendly.


If money is no object, the Leverpresso Pro is an outstanding piece of kit. However, it is both a bit heavier and way more expensive than the other gadgets in this article.

So it’s probably not realistic for most people. Let’s take a look at some of the more accessible options.

hugh leverpresso pressure gauge
The Leverpresso Pro has a pressure gauge unlike the other models in this article

My top pick would go to either the Wacaco Picopresso or HUGH Leverpresso V4. Both are “legit” espresso makers that don’t rely on pressurized baskets. With either of these, you’ll be able to pull coffee shop-quality shots on the road. They are also both relatively “fun” to use – they give you the “barista tingles.”

However, a drawback for both devices is that durability for long-term use might be a concern. There are many happy Picopresso users out there, but also a fair share who end up having trouble with the pumping mechanism becoming leaky, so pressure cannot be maintained.

picopresso accessories
The Picopresso looks a bit messy when all the accessories are spread out like that, but everything fits neatly inside the case.

The Leverpresso V4 is so new that there aren’t many long-term user reviews; however, the V3 did have its fair share of issues.

The Cafflano Kompresso is the lightest of all these espresso makers, but long-term reliability can also be a challenge for this device. I used to really love this device, but overall it the ceiling seems to be higher of the two mentioned above.

cafflano kompresso mountain in the background
The Cafflano Kompresso was my first love in the world of manual espresso. It has accompanied me on several trips abroad.

Overall, it’s not surprising that most portable espresso devices are plagued by issues down the line. Manual espresso requires a lot of energy (and often bodyweight) to achieve high pressure, and if you have a machine that is constructed with plastic, there will be some failures now and then.

Flair Neo Flex is the least portable of these espresso makers, but it is absolutely small and light enough that you can take it around town. It’s an okay compromise between budget concerns, portability and something you can also just setup at home.

The Wacaco Nanopresso and Staresso SP-200 are not quite in the same league as the other espresso makers in this article. But if you don’t have a real espresso grinder, they are good options since both rely on pressurized portafilters that can use pre-ground coffee from the supermarket. Flair Neo Flex also comes with an extra basket that can use preground.


Wacaco Picopresso

picopresso espresso maker inside box

The Picopresso is a small, handheld espresso machine made by the Hong Kong-based manufacturer Wacaco, who’s also behind the Nanopresso mentioned in this article)

I recently tested the Wacaco Picopresso, a manual espresso maker that improves upon the company’s previous Nanopresso model. I was pleasantly surprised by the upgrades Wacaco has made, addressing many of the shortcomings of its predecessor.

The Picopresso features a more substantial build quality, with a sturdy and hefty body that feels durable and well-crafted. The most significant improvement is the use of a standard 51mm portafilter basket, replacing the Nanopresso’s small, pressurized plastic basket. This allows for a more authentic espresso-making experience and the ability to dose a full 18 grams of coffee for a proper double shot.

The Picopresso comes with several surprisingly thoughtfully designed accessories:

  • Custom-fitted tamper that stores inside the device for easy storage
  • Dosing funnel to avoid making a mess when loading ground coffee into the basket
  • WDT “puck rake” tool to improve grind distribution and get rid of any clumps
  • Protective neoprene case

These additions really show that Wacaco understands modern espresso geeks and their needs. Impressive work indeed!

Using the Picopresso is easy once you’ve wrapped your head around the process.

The side-mounted pressure arm is awkward at first, but it does generate sufficient pressure for proper extraction.

Due to the plastic construction the device is easy to preheat. There’s not much thermal mass to worry about.

I found the Picopresso to produce better and more consistent shots compared to the Cafflano Kompresso, another one of my favorites. The resulting espresso had a pleasant body and texture, and the device was more forgiving in terms of grind size.

Overall, the Wacaco Picopresso is a highly competent and portable manual espresso maker that offers excellent value.

The new Picopresso is superior to the Nanopresso in most ways though.

In fact, it’s one of my current favorite among all the portable devices on this list.

If you want to know more about this cool gadget, then check out my review/video here.

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Flair Neo Flex

The Flair Neo Flex is the most affordable offering from Flair.

This device comes equipped with the essential components needed to produce quality espresso shots, including both pressurized and regular baskets, the latter of which can be converted into a bottomless portafilter.

One of the standout features of the Neo Flex is its plastic stand, a departure from the typical metal frames found on other Flair models. It’s a bit more flimsy feeling, but on the other hand it makes the device lightweight enough to be very portable.

The shots are actually really solid, and pretty much identical to the Flair Classic, which also uses the same brew head.

Using the Neo Flex is a straightforward process: preheat the cylinder, grind and dose the coffee (slightly less than usual due to the small basket), distribute evenly, tamp, add the dispersion screen, and pull the shot.

The Neo Flex’s affordability is its primary selling point, making it one of the most accessible options for a manual espresso maker that both feels at home on a countertop or in a duffel bag.

But there are a few head-scratchers with this device. That pressure release valve seems like Flair’s way of saying, “We don’t really trust this plastic frame under pressure.” Despite its low cost, it can produce shots on par with the well-regarded Flair Classic. Additionally, the Neo Flex’s lightweight and easily disassembled design makes it more portable than other Flair models.

However, the Neo Flex has some puzzling design choices, such as the inability to officially use a pressure gauge, possibly to differentiate it from the Classic and avoid cannibalizing sales. While the plastic frame has demonstrated durability in testing, it may not instill the same confidence as the metal frames found on other Flair models.

Overall, the Flair Neo Flex represents an excellent value proposition for those seeking an affordable daily-use manual espresso maker. With a good grinder, it can produce delicious shots.

And even with a lesser grinder, it serves as an accessible entry point into the world of espresso, since it also has the option to “go pressurized” (aka beginner mode).

I have previously tested the Flair Classic and Pro espresso makers and I actually don’t think there’s a big difference in taste between these devices.

It’s a great tool once you get your head around the slightly unusual workflow of a manual lever espresso machine.

Flair shop amazon

Leverpresso V4

The Leverpresso V4 is a manual espresso maker that builds upon the success (and failures) of its predecessor, the Leverpresso V3.

Having used the Leverpresso Pro for an extended period and being thoroughly impressed by its performance, I was eager to get my hands on the V4 when HUGH sent it to me a couple of months ago for review.

At first glance, the V4 appears to be quite similar to the Pro model, with a few notable differences.

One of the most significant changes is the absence of a pressure gauge, which might be a bit disappointing but also understandable given the price point.

However, once you’ve developed the muscle memory for pulling shots, the lack of a gauge becomes less of an issue. While the V4 doesn’t come with an IMS basket, it does include another high-quality 51 mm basket that performs well enough.

The V4 doesn’t have a metal body like its big brother. Instead it utilizes a high-impact plastic material that should theoretically allow you to achieve the same high pressures. This is a significant improvement over the V3 model, which was plagued by reviews of cracking due to excessive force. During my daily use of the V4, I’ve found it to be sturdy enough. But of course, we have to wait for long term reviews before I can say anything definitive.

One of the standout features of the Leverpresso design is the two-lever extraction method, which is similar to that of the Cafelat Robot. Pressing down on the levers feels smooth and comfortable, making it one of the easiest and most user-friendly levers in this article.

However, it’s important to note that you’ll still need to exert a considerable amount of force to achieve the desired pressure.

While the V4 offers excellent value for its price, there are a couple of areas where improvements could be made. The included plastic tamper feels a bit lackluster and doesn’t provide the most satisfying fit. I’d like to see Leverpresso include a higher-quality tamper that better complements the overall design and functionality of the device – perhaps something like what Wacaco is offering with the Picopresso.

On the other hand, aftermarket 51 mm tampers are easy to find, due to how common the size is.

The rubber caps meant to insulate the brew chamber also seem a bit like an afterthought and can obstruct your view when filling the chamber with water. I’ve found that it’s often easier to forego using these caps altogether.

Despite these minor drawbacks, the Leverpresso V4 is an impressive manual espresso maker that delivers excellent performance at a competitive price point.

For the espresso purist, who also want to travel relatively lightweight, I’d say this is a great compromise!


Cafflano Kompresso (Hand Carry Coffee Maker)

cafflano kompresso grey background

The Cafflano Kompresso is a cheap espresso maker that is also extremely portable, weighing in at less than 200 grams.

Having owned the Cafflano Kompresso for several years, I’ve had ample opportunity to test its capabilities and quirks. Unlike the Wacaco Nanopresso and Staresso SP200, the Kompresso doesn’t rely on a pressurized basket, instead using a naked portafilter that allows for a more authentic espresso-brewing experience.

The trade-off is that the Kompresso requires a much finer grind size, similar to what you’d use in a traditional espresso machine. This means pre-ground coffee is usually not an option; a high-quality manual or electric grinder capable of producing fine, consistent particles is a must.

Using the Kompresso involves a bit of a learning curve, as the workflow differs from standard espresso machines. Dosing the coffee into the larger 13-14g basket, placing the dispersion screen, and screwing on the portafilter snugly (but not too tightly!) takes some practice. The piston-style pressure mechanism, activated by simultaneously pressing down with your palms and pulling up with your fingers, also requires a bit of finesse.

However, once you’ve dialed in the grind size and mastered the technique, the Kompresso is capable of producing excellent espresso. The naked portafilter allows for a more even extraction, and the larger dose yields a richer, more flavorful shot. In my experience, the Kompresso can achieve a TDS of around 12% and an extraction yield between 20%, putting it firmly in the realm of “real” espresso.

Portability is another area where the Kompresso shines. It’s smaller and lighter than all the other gadgets in this article, making it the most travel-friendly of the bunch.

The main drawback of the Kompresso is its learning curve and the need for a capable grinder. It’s not as user-friendly or forgiving as the pressurized options, and dialing in the perfect shot takes time and effort.

It’s also not the sturdiest thing and you will exert a lot of pressure using this device. While I don’t have any worries about the plastic construction, it’s more the gaskets and small screens that could get damaged easily.

So overall, I highly recommend the Cafflano Kompresso. However, it’s best suited for those with a bit more espresso experience and access to a good grinder, rather than casual users looking for a quick and easy cup on the go.

Check out my full review of the Cafflano Kompresso for more.

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LeverPresso Pro Portable espresso Maker

leverpresso hugh travelcase white background

When I first unboxed the Leverpresso Pro, I was genuinely impressed by the attention to detail in both the packaging and the device itself. HUGH, the South Korean company behind this product, has created a sleek and minimalist design that immediately conveys a sense of quality and refinement.

While HUGH may not be the most well-known brand in the world of espresso, they’ve been steadily making a name for themselves with their Leverpresso V4 and its earlier iterations. The Pro version takes things to the next level, with its all-metal construction, integrated pressure gauge, and professional-grade 51 mm IMS basket.

One of the standout features of the Leverpresso Pro is its walnut cracker-style dual-lever system, which is reminiscent of the popular Cafelat Robot. I find that this design makes it easier and more comfortable to apply consistent pressure, especially when compared to single-lever devices.

Unlike, the Robot however, this machine is available to use with either a built in travel-friendly cup OR a metal stand. The cup is more portable but won’t allow you to use a scale, since you apply a lot of force directly on top of the whole espresso maker.

HUGH also offers a range of premium accessories for the Leverpresso Pro, including a combined tamper/leveler and a heavy-duty funnel. While these add-ons come at an extra cost, they’re well worth considering if you want to get the most out of your device.

Of course, no coffee maker is without its drawbacks, and the Leverpresso Pro is no exception. The stand, which is useful for a home setting, can be a bit limiting in terms of the cups and scales it accommodates. Additionally, the solid steel body requires some preheating, particularly for lighter roasts, which may be a slight inconvenience for some users.

When it comes to performance, the Leverpresso Pro holds its own against more well-known manual espresso makers like the Cafelat Robot and the Flair Pro 2. It offers comparable build quality and design, but unfortunately also comes with a similar price tag.

Where the Leverpresso Pro really shines, however, is in its portability. It weighs just under 1 kilo, so it’s actually something you can bring on an airplane if you want.

Its lightweight and streamlined design, combined with the included travel case, make it an excellent choice for coffee lovers who want to enjoy high-quality espresso on the go.

Check out my full review here.

Hugh Shop


staresso on marble background

The Staresso SP-200 is a small but capable espresso maker, weighing in at just 0.88 pounds.

Like many other travel espresso machines, it also uses a pressurized basket, but you can still get pretty high extractions and nice shots with crema.

(In case you didn’t know it, true espresso geeks are not big fans of pressurized baskets, since they tend to mute flavors and give you a weaker extraction level compared to the real deal).

While the Staresso’s packaging and instructions isn’t nearly as polished as the other brand’s in this test, I found the device itself to be well-designed and user-friendly.

One of the key advantages of the Staresso over the Nanopresso is the top-mounted pump, which feels much more natural and ergonomic to use. The sturdy base and real glass cup also add to the overall user experience, providing a more stable brewing platform and a nicer drinking vessel than the Nanopresso’s plastic cup.

Brewing with the Staresso is a straightforward process: fill the small basket with around 8 grams of ground coffee, insert it into the portafilter, screw it onto the main brew chamber, add water, attach the pump, and start pressing. The resulting espresso had a pretty foamy crema. The taste was slightly fuller than the Nanopresso’s.

Objectively, the Staresso produced a higher extraction yield (around 17.6%) compared to the Nanopresso, though still lower than what I’d expect from a traditional espresso machine. Like the Nanopresso, the Staresso relies on a pressurized basket, limiting its potential for truly top-notch espresso.

However, the Staresso has one unique feature that sets it apart: the ability to use Nespresso capsules without any additional accessories. This is a handy option for those who want the convenience of pre-packed doses and the assurance of a decent cup without the fuss of grinding and dosing.

Normally, I’m not a big fan of capsules, but what struck me was how easy it actually is to pop one into the Staressso and just start pumping. You literally just need some hot water and then you can get some pretty decent coffee on the road.

If you’re travelling and don’t want to carry a grinder, this is a very convenient way to get an acceptable level of coffee.

By the way, you can see me test the device in this YouTube video if you want to see how to operate the device.

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Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker

nanopresso wacaco with marble background

A few years ago I had the chance to test out the Wacaco Nanopresso, a compact and stylish portable espresso maker, over an extended period of time. The first thing that struck me about the Nanopresso was its sleek design and clear, easy-to-follow instructions. Wacaco has done an excellent job with the branding and overall user experience.

Weighing in at 336 grams (less than 1 pound), this is one of the smallest portable espresso machines that you will come across.

Using the Nanopresso is fairly straightforward. You fill the small basket with about 8 grams of ground coffee, place it in the brew chamber, and screw on the portafilter. Then, you fill the separate water tank, attach it to the main body, and start pumping the side-mounted button to build pressure.

After a few pumps, the espresso begins to flow out. I was a bit surprised by the thick, crema the Nanopresso produced, especially considering its compact size. However, the taste of the espresso was a bit underwhelming – mild and round, but lacking the strength and intensity I expect from a true espresso shot. The coffee also tasted slightly cold, suggesting that preheating the device might help improve the results.

Upon measuring the extraction with a refractometer, I found that the Nanopresso yielded a shot with a TDS of around 6.65% and an extraction yield of only 13.7%. This indicates a very underextracted espresso, likely due to the limitations of the pressurized basket, which requires a coarser grind.

Espresso enthusiasts typically avoid pressurized baskets because they can dull the flavors and result in a less potent extraction than what you’d get from traditional methods.

This device will make shots with some crema. However, it’s essential to remember that this espresso maker uses a pressurized basket, so even though the crema is nice looking, the extraction is not quite as high as some of its rivals.

While it’s possible to modify the Nanopresso for non-pressurized brewing, I found the process awkward and ultimately not worth the effort. The side-mounted pump is less ergonomic than a top-mounted one when trying to generate the higher pressure needed for finer grinds.

Overall, the Wacaco Nanopresso is a beautifully designed and easy-to-use portable espresso maker that produces impressively creamy shots. However, the actual quality and strength of the espresso leaves something to be desired, particularly for those accustomed to specialty coffee standards. It’s a decent option for those prioritizing portability and convenience over ultimate flavor quality.

Overall, this gadget is a bit disappointing compared to the much better Picopresso from the same brand.

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How I Tested

As a full-time coffee equipment reviewer, I have the unique opportunity to dedicate all of my time to testing and evaluating the latest gear in the industry.

Unlike freelance writers or magazine staff who cover a wide range of topics and only have a superficial understanding of espresso and the coffee space, my singular focus allows me to stay up-to-date with the most recent developments and engage in in-depth discussions and developments within the coffee community.

That also means that I can test coffee equipment with expensive and advanced tools such as refractometers, giving you a much more nuanced understanding than what you see in the legacy media.

When it comes to the manual espresso makers featured in this article, my testing process has been ongoing and comprehensive. Some of these devices were initially compared side-by-side for a series of YouTube videos, where I had the chance to assess their performance, ease of use, and overall quality. Since then, I’ve continued to expand my collection, adding new and noteworthy manual espresso makers to my roster of tested equipment.

It’s important to note that every espresso maker included in this article has been battle-tested extensively by me, so this also gives you a more realistic picture of how the equipment performs over a longer duration of time.

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Asser Christensen

Hello, and welcome! I'm the editor & founder of this site.
I have been a coffee geek since I started home roasting more than a decade ago. Since then, coffee has taken me on countless adventures: From ancient coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia to the volcanos of Sumatra.
My background is in journalism, and today I'm also a licensed Q Grader under the Coffee Quality Institute.