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Have you ever woken up just a few minutes too late to prepare your morning cup of coffee and wished you could do it on the way to work? Maybe you’re planning a trip someplace that has no electricity and no espresso machines. Maybe you just like the convenience of being able to make coffee no matter where you go. If any of these sound like you, the French engineers from Handpresso have something special to offer.
They’ve crafted two products, the Handpresso Wild Hybrid, and the Handpresso Auto, both of which make for versatile travel companions that every coffee lover will appreciate. They don’t cost as much as many alternatives on the market, and the quality of espresso they produce has resulted in them being featured on several prominent outlets. These include Wired, Business Insider, Condé Nast Traveller, and others. Their sleek, robust designs make them a worthy addition to the modern lineup of portable coffee makers, and in this article, we’ll take an extensive look into what these machines have to offer. We’ll review their pros and cons, describe how to use them, compare how they hold up to competition, and much more.
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Handpresso Wild Hybrid
The Build and Parts
Handpresso launched this device in January 2008 as their first foray into the portable coffee maker market, and ten years later, its still one of the best options out there. The product itself looks like a baton with a round protrusion at one end. The approximate dimensions of the Handpresso Wild Hybrid are 8.5 x 4 x 2.75 inches. Its weight comes in at around a pound (or 480 grams). The metal body and jet black color lend the device an air of elegance and sophistication. The lack of too many plastic parts also ensures that it can survive a fall or two.
Being a manual coffee maker, the bottom handle extends to form a pump to build up pressure for the brew. An indicator at the opposite end reflects this pressure in bars. You’ll notice a green patch at the right end of the spectrum, indicating the threshold of 16 bars that the machine can generate. Ordinarily, an espresso requires only 9 bars of pressure for extraction, which produces a shot in about 30 seconds. Though the pressure depends on a lot of factors, the 16 cap helps prepare the coffee in a shorter span of time.
The water chamber protruding from the top side can store about 50 ml of water. This is enough to produce a single cup of espresso, but in the event that you find yourself with the company, you’ll be forced to make multiple batches. This isn’t necessarily easy since the pumping can get tiring soon, but you don’t need to worry about it if you intend to be the only user.
A special feature of this machine is that it supports both, pre-ground coffee as well as E.S.E (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. Most alternatives force you to choose between builds that only support one of these, but the Wild Hybrid’s versatility is a big plus-point. The Handpresso comes with two types of filters depending on your choice, and a cover that screws on.
Making an Espresso with the Handpresso
Preparing a shot of espresso with this device is an easy and quick process. But only after an initial round of trial error that’s going to result in some splatter. There are some common mistakes one can avoid to prevent spillages, wasted coffee, and a stained set of clothes. The unit comes with a fairly detailed set of instructions to help you with that, but for those on the fence, we’ll describe how simple it is to make a shot with this device. For best results, use freshly roasted and ground coffee that is machine ready, like Illys.
- Step 1: Pour some warm water into the portafilter. It is advisable to preheat the container before usage, but you can skip it depending on how much time you have. You’ll also notice indicator lines marking the optimal water level on the inner surface.
- Step 2: Use the appropriate filter depending on whether you’re using ground coffee or ESE pods. Insert and twist to ensure they’re locked into place.
- Step 3: Add the required amount of coffee. Use the pump handle as a tamp to even out the grounds before you screw the lid on.
- Step 4: Pump the Handpresso until you see the gauge cross into the green patch. You can also pump the device before starting the process of brewing, but bear in mind that the pressure will drop steadily over time. Either way, ensure that the trigger button is uplifted before you start pumping. Failing to do this will result in the water and coffee leaking out.
- Step 5: Press the trigger button. If you pumped the Handpresso right at the beginning, wait for at least 5 seconds after sealing the lid before pressing and releasing the pressure you built up. Give the machine a few seconds to do its thing, and you’ll have a fresh shot of espresso waiting to be consumed.
- Step 6 (optional): You could add some more water to turn the brew into an Americano.
What We Liked
- Easy to clean.
- It’s light weight.
- It’s portable.
What We Didn’t Like
- Never uses Pods.
- Too hard to pump up the pressure.
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This is Handpresso’s second portable espresso maker, and it’s similar to the Wild Hybrid in many ways. It can generate 16 bars of pressure, it lets you brew both pre-ground coffee as well as ESE pods, and it also produces 50 ml of espresso per round. However, one key difference, as the name suggests, is that you don’t need to manually pump the device to build up pressure. However, you’ll need to connect the device to your car power adapter. As such, the machine is specifically aimed at those who are going to be using the product on their daily commute or can afford to slip into their car during a break at work. If you’re looking to take one an adventure to a remote area, this one simply won’t work without the electricity.
The Handpresso Auto looks like an enlarged capsule with flattened ends, and 2 pounds of weight lend its considerable sturdiness. The power cable that goes into the car cigarette lighter is wrapped around through the middle of the device. It stretches to 28 inches in length, and the plug comfortably snaps onto a chamber in the backside.
Making an espresso using the Handpresso is fairly similar to the way you’d make one in the Wild Hybrid. The only difference here is that the water chamber has been shifted to the top of this machine. Simply pour the required amount of water, place the coffee powder/pods above and screw the lid on. Wait for about 2 minutes, and the Handpresso Auto beeps thrice to indicate that your espresso is ready. Overturn the Auto and have a cup waiting to catch the coffee that drips once you press the release button. The lack of manual pumping minimizes the risk of spillage.
Perhaps the only concern one might have here is the price of the product. At approximately $200 (€150), it’s almost double the cost of a Wild Hybrid, with far less portability. Having said that, the Handpresso Auto is aimed at a fairly specific group of individuals, and if you’re someone who could use the time spent on the daily Starbucks trip, this is a great choice to consider. The shot of espresso is on par with its predecessor, so you’ve assured an enriching shot every time. But the Wild Hybrid is more of an all-rounder, costs less, and if you don’t mind doing some pumping every time you want an espresso, close your eyes and go for that one.
What We Liked
- The machine is well built.
- Makes strong brew.
- Sold at an affordable price.
What We Didn’t Like
- Poor packaging.
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Handpresso Auto Capsule
Handpresso now offers a third device, called the Handpresso Auto Capsule, and it has much more in common with the Handpresso Auto than the Wild Hybrid. The Auto and Auto Capsule look quite similar, although the pressure gauge has been removed in the latest product. The Auto Capsule can generate 19 bars of pressure, 3 more than both of its predecessors. Preparation time remains an average of about 2 minutes, with the 12/24V cigarette lighter plug serving as the main source of electricity.
However, one radical difference here is that the Auto Capsule exclusively supports only Nespresso capsules. No pre-ground coffee, or ESE pods. Though the Nespresso capsules are an upgrade over ESE due to the easier availability of the former, the lack of support for ground coffee might be a dealbreaker for some.
The French makers espresso machine at Handpresso have built an impressive line of portable espresso makers since their genesis in April 2006. Of these, the Handpresso Wild Hybrid is the truly ‘wild’ one, meaning you can take it anywhere you go, and as long as you have coffee and warm water, you’re guaranteed a steaming fresh shot every time. The Wild Hybrid also stands out due to its support for both, pre-ground coffee as well as NSE pods when most of its competition only offers one of the two. The Handpresso Auto is another portable device geared towards everyday office-goers, without the hassle of manual pumping. Like the Wild Hybrid, the Auto supports both ways of brewing coffee as well. The former is available for approximately $100, though you can get it for as less as $80. The official website has a nuanced range of colors and combinations on offer. The Auto starts at around $200.
What We Liked
- Easy to clean.
- Great Build Quality.
What We Didn’t Like
- Zero reliability.
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