5 Best Portable Espresso Makers (2021)
The Flair is the least portable of the devices reviewed here. It fits in a case about the size of a laptop about 2 inches thick, but it’s heavy. However, it looks great on a kitchen counter between trips. What you lose in portability is more than offset by the quality of the espresso.
The Flair Signature is easy to use. You can see the process in the company’s very helpful video guide on brewing. It’s also built like a reservoir, and cleaning is simply a matter of emptying the espresso and rinsing the portafilter.
Experimentation with different grinds is necessary to obtain the ideal extraction. Of course, the fresher the coffee, the better the results. That said, you can even get great results with pre-ground espressos like Medaglia D’Oro.
Flair offers two other models: the Classic and the Signature Pro. The main differences are the size and materials of the brew heads. If you’re willing to forgo stainless steel, the classic works the same and should produce the same results. The The classic costs $ 165 on Amazon. The Signature Pro goes for $ 325 and is a step forward in build quality.
Best for the cooker
9Barista ($ 385)
I’ve reviewed a lot of gadgets over the years, but few, if any, have been as incredibly ingenious as the 9Barista. It’s the only stovetop espresso machine I know of that actually hits 9 bars, the amount of pressure you need for a real espresso.
The designer is a jet engineer and his background is reflected in the internals. The dual chamber design traps boiling water until the pressure reaches 9 bar. At this point, a relief valve opens and the water rises in a coil, which cools it slightly, before being pushed into the ground espresso and finally into the cup. The results, once you’ve done a good job, are delicious. It produces a clean and smooth extraction with a nice bit of cream.
Portable is expandable here – the 9Barista is very well made, but it weighs over three pounds. For a small apartment with limited kitchen counter space or for those RV trips you have planned, this is perfect.
The main drawback, besides the price, is that you will have to wait for it to cool before opening it to prepare a second shot. At least you can grind and brew your coffee while you wait, which saves you time. I found that with a little cool water to speed things up, I could prepare shots with just a few minutes in between. And yes, it’s expensive, but considering the quality of the build and the materials involved, it doesn’t sound outrageous.
The most unusual
Uniterra Nomade ($ 300)