Current Retail: $64.90
336 g / 0.74 lb
156 x 71 x 62 mm / 6.14 x 2.8 x 2.44 in
80 ml / 2.70 fl oz
8 g / 0.28 oz
18 bar / 261 psi
Nanopresso, built-in espresso cup, filter basket, scoop, brush, multi-languages instruction book, warranty card
A hand-pumped espresso maker that is small and light enough to take along on weekenders, hut-to-hut trips, to base camp, and the like. Reliably delivers high quality espresso shots. Add-ons for double shots or using capsules.
- Real espresso on the go
- Light and compact enough to take along on day trips, weekenders, and hut trips
- Efficient use of coffee—8 grams per shot
- Double shot and capsule add-ins boost versatility
- Too heavy for extended trips
- Small parts to keep track of in some configurations
- Capsule coffee not as good
A couple years ago I shared a hut with a group of mostly younger skiers of several nationalities, including an Italian named Simone. In the morning he whipped out a classic aluminum Moka espresso pot with necessary accessories and proceeded to crank out his best brew for all takers, two demitasses at a time, with all the fiddling and waiting it takes to get the pot up to pressure and for the Goodness to bubble up to the top.
I still ski with Simone every now and then, and I’m kind of hoping that at some point we’ll share a hut again so I can return the favor and see what he thinks of my fancy new Nanopresso system. He’s an engineer, so he darn well ought to appreciate its smart design and solid build.
What it is
The Nanopresso is a compact and reasonably lightweight, hand-pump espresso maker that delivers single or (with the Barista kit add-on) double shots that can meet (depending as always on the bean and the barista) ISO standards for espresso, including the signature layer of crema (froth) on top. It is slightly lighter, more compact, and more versatile, but also pricier than, its predecessor, Wacaco’s Minipresso. A key difference is that it operates at up to 18 bar of pressure, well above the ISO minimum pressure of 9 bar, rather than a substandard 8 bar in the Minipresso (and possibly other, often cheaper handheld espresso systems out there).
Like a lot of other more or less gourmet coffee brewing methods, it’s a bit over the top for extended backpacking trips but could be a welcome partner (and conversation starter) at base camp and on weekenders, self-service hut-to-hut excursions, or car camping trips.
The Nanopresso comes in a nifty zippered carrying case, which I don’t really see as necessary and will likely leave at home. It won’t fit some of the alternative setups described below anyway. The core components are the hand pump, the nozzle assembly from which issues forth the Goodness, a filter basket that holds 8 g (ISO: 7 g) of your favorite grind, and a water tank that gets filled with hot water (should be 90 to 95˚ C, but since the water cools a little when you fill the tank, even when the tank is preheated, I just use boiling water). It also comes with a demitasse that fits over and helps insulate the water tank, a scoop for measuring out 8 g of coffee, and a little cleaning brush.
The add-on Barista kit expands capacity to 16 grams and 140 ml for making double shots, and includes three more filter baskets, two 16-gram and one 8-gram, with tight fitting lids so that you can pre-pack and carry coffee for 5 shots total, all in one self-contained package. I also bought the barista kit so that I could brew for two in one go.
Another add-on, the NS-Adapter, accommodates Nespresso-compatible capsules. In the spirit of rigorous reviewing, I decided to buy and try the NS adapter as well.
If you go ahead and buy All The Things as I did, you can mix and match components in various self-contained (i.e. all in one tidy cylinder) combinations depending on the needs of the moment or coming days or weeks. Here are some useful variations, with weights (to the extent that weight matters, since this is clearly a weight-luxury):
The pump (194 g) is the only constant in all these variations; the NS Adapter uses a different filter/nozzle. Originally I thought it would be smart to leave behind the demitasse (21 g) or double shot cup (36 g) to save a few grams, but now I think they add an insulating layer to the water tank and should help deliver a hotter cup, especially in colder conditions, and so have included one or the other in all the options in the table.
Theory and practice
Wacaco’s how to use video is a good way to see how the system works:
The illustrations and demo video show a two-handed pumping method, but big-handed folks like myself can pump one-handed with either the thumb or a couple fingers on the piston, although my hand does get fatigued when pumping a double shot (maybe Caldwell and Jorgensen could have used a Nanopresso to combine finger strength training and gastrointestinal inspiration up on the Dawn Wall—one-finger shots, anyone?).
The result is the real thing, a rich shot with little bitterness and a full head of crema. As at your favorite coffee bar this can be the basis for a galaxy of variations. My wife and I are fond of lattes in the morning, even while camping. I use a little whisk to foam the milk but may try to use a 500 ml thermos as a shaker on outdoor trips. If you have a sweet tooth you could also bring along your favorite flavored syrup and engineer a way to produce a double caramel macchiato. Some would call it sacrilege to dilute such a beautiful brew with a packet of Swiss Miss with mini-marshmallows, but who am I to say?
There is always a little unused water left in the pump and the coffee grounds also absorb some, so that only 60-70 ml comes out the other end, only worth a couple swallows in cold weather (but the ISO standard is only 25 ml!). I like to use the 140 ml tank (83 g including cup vs. 51 g for the 80 ml with demitasse) to pump out a lungo, brewed with an espresso machine but with a greater volume of water, for a longer lasting albeit somewhat weaker cuppa.
I have been using an Aeropress to make espresso-like shots and lattes for years. The Nanopresso delivers a tastier but smaller shot using less than half as much coffee. Because the scoop inverts nicely on the filter basket, scooping and packing from, say, a baggie full of ground coffee can be done cleanly enough over a counter. Some grounds can stick to the bottom of the scoop after packing but can be scraped back into the basket as a last step before sealing it in.
Fresh grinding and then transferring just 8 g is a bit more finicky—I use a little plastic beaker and tap it in to the basket a few grams at a time. I’d be happy to do that in a hut or maybe over a flat stone, but in the confines of a tent or vestibule I’d be afraid of spillage or at least escapage (they say coffee keeps some people awake at night, how about a little ground coffee in the sleeping bag?).
When the job is done, the coffee grounds are tightly packed in the filter basket and can’t be tapped out easily. I find that I need to use the back end of a spoon to dig the puck out into the compost bucket. The filter basket and other parts can be rinsed with water. The manual suggests disassembling and cleaning the filter periodically, i.e. when you get back home.
A minor point still worth considering: the smaller parts, mainly filter baskets, lids, and scoop, risk getting misplaced or lost in some situations.
To capsule or not to capsule
That’s where the no fuss-no mess NS Adapter comes in. We have resisted buying a capsule system at home, where we don’t even use a plug-in coffee maker, instead preferring fresh grind and Aeropress (me) or pour over (my wife) brewing. We didn’t want another kitchen machine taking up counter space or to contribute used capsules to the waste stream, and I for one haven’t been all that impressed by the capsule brews that I have tried. But, just as we downgrade to instant coffee on long trips, it seemed to me that capsules might be less fussy alternative to making acceptable espresso in a tent or hut.
I bought a selection of capsules from a Norwegian supplier that offers whole beans from all over the world, including some lighter roasts from Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Papua New Guinea that I have come to prefer. On the capsule side there isn’t as much to choose from. I chose French roast, Espresso, and Lungo, the lightest roast they had.
The capsules weigh 6.5 g full and about 1 g empty, and so hold only about 5.5 g of ground coffee. All else being equal that means they deliver less than ¾ as much of a caffeine kick as the 8 g shots in the self-pack system. Judging from head feel, that sounds about right. A shot made from 8 g of fresh ground gives a surprising kick; not so much from a capsule brew.
When it comes to taste the Lungo capsules are OK, but there’s not much of the nuance I have come appreciate in some of my favorite bean. It would probably go down well enough in a tent or hut, but it might take two shots to get a proper start on the day. The darker roasts are not to my taste, but my wife’s impressions are similar, a bit short on both taste and kick.
A potential problem with capsules is they could get banged up if carried in a plastic bag in backpack, in which case they might not work so well. They should probably be carried in a rigid container or otherwise protected. Starbucks capsules come in stacks of 10 in a cardboard “square tube”; that might be good enough if packed with care. Gram for gram, the capsules also cost nearly twice as much as my preferred beans.
Fortunately, the Weekend for two option in the table offers a happy compromise: pre-packed filter baskets with tight-fitting lids that can be dropped right into the pump just like a capsule. I have it in mind to inquire about ordering extra 8-g baskets so that we can have his and hers coffee. I’ll try out the capsules on an outing or two or until they are used up, but will likely stick to the filter baskets and a choice grind in the future.
Look and feel
The Nanopresso base system comes in 7 solid color variants or, for a slight bump in price, with the pump printed with various decorative themes. Unfortunately, the Winter Ride model, which features a bearded skier and mountain scenery, became available in Norway only after I had ordered my Lava Red version. The Barista and NS kits are a staid gray.
I’m very impressed by the design and quality of the system. Everything fits tightly and works smoothly. I have seen some complaints about the Minipresso blowing its seals after use, but I have been cranking out two to three shots a day using various configurations for about three weeks, so far so good—very good, in fact.
I fully intend to bring the Nanopresso along, in one configuration or another, on this winter and spring’s base camp and hut-to-hut tours, and I’ll surely consider taking it on shorter backpacking trips, and maybe even for in-car brewing on the long drive to Jotunheimen or Sunnmøre. There are lighter options, right on down to instant coffee, but none that I know of deliver the flavor and jolt of real espresso. The Nanopresso does just that.
I have been making about 3 shots a day for about a month, at home and in a mountain hut. Haven't used it in a tent yet. Otherwise I have used a Moka pot and Aeropress over the years for making espresso (like) brews. Around camp I have used the venerable cowboy method, collapsible filters, the French press add-on to my MSR Windburner, and, yes, instant coffee to start my day .
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Too much at Norwegian prices; the basic Nanopresso runs $70-80 in the US.