Get a Perfect Cup Every Time With These Portable Coffee Makers
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A portable coffee maker ensures a great cup ’o joe is always close at hand, whether you’re commuting, camping, or traveling for vacation. They’re compact, lightweight, and relatively easy to clean, plus most don’t require batteries or an outlet to operate.
These days, designs are a step beyond the basic electric kettle pour-over or mini stainless steel percolator. There are French presses that double as travel mugs, handheld espresso makers that work like manual small espresso machines, and even all-in-one grind, brew, and sip options with components that store inside insulated tumblers.
To find the best portable coffee makers, we looked to our staff for their favorites and put them to the test. Read on for our recommendations, plus the most important things to consider before shopping.
Best Portable Espresso and Coffee Makers
What to Consider
Coffee vs. Espresso
The main difference between coffee and espresso is in the brewing process. Coffee is infused, whereas espresso is extracted under pressure, upwards of nine bars (about 130 psi).
Most of the portable coffee makers we write about brew roughly a single cup of coffee. If you prefer to down a double-shot of espresso and get on with your day, we’ve also included our favorite portable espresso makers to use with grounds or capsules.
Our top pick, the Aeropress Go, requires manual pressure for brewing, but it falls below the amount required for true espresso extraction. That said, one of the reasons it's our top pick is because its design allows for versatility to make espresso-like coffee if you adjust the grounds-t0-water ratio.
Using freshly ground beans is the best way to get a rich, full-bodied cup of joe. If you don’t have time to grind and go, consider an all-in-one portable coffee maker and grinder, like Cafflano's travel mug grinder/pour-over combo, which we recommend below.
Several of the other portable coffee makers we cover, such as the Espro French press and our favorite portable espresso maker, Wacaco’s Picopresso, are easy to load up with grounds and brew when you arrive at your destination.
With the exception of the Makita cordless coffee maker, which we recommend specifically for bringing to job sites, a portable coffee maker should be compact and lightweight, especially if you’re also hauling a laptop or camping gear in your bag. We list dimensions and weight, among other specs, for every model below.
Easy cleanup is important while you’re on the road. As such, it’s something we prioritized while developing our list of recommendations. To some extent, ease of cleanup depends on the type of portable coffee maker you choose.
For example, recycling an espresso capsule or composting a paper filter with coffee grounds takes less time than, say, cleaning a French press. Most of the portable coffee makers we write about have components that are top-rack dishwasher-safe, so you can give it a thorough clean when you get home.
How We Selected
Several of our staff editors own portable coffee and espresso makers and use them regularly, and we pooled those models to try them out. To make sure we didn’t miss any stellar options we haven’t tried, we then researched models from major brands that covered a range of brewing methods, and considered reviews of those models from other expert sources, including Wired, and popular coffee blogs like Bean Ground and Coffee Affection. We evaluated each portable coffee maker we write about for coffee taste and temperature, the size and weight of components, ease of cleanup, and overall design of portability.
Go Portable Travel Coffee Maker
While there’s a slight learning curve to achieving your perfect brew, you have to try pretty hard to make a bad cup of coffee using the Aeropress Go.
The compact and lightweight portable coffee maker wins our top spot for straightforward design and ease of use, with a reasonable price tag to match. With some experimentation and practice, it’s also versatile for making different styles of coffee.
There are two ways to brew. The standard method is similar to a French press—pour water, stir grounds, and press. For a stronger cup, flip it upside-down to use the inverted method, favored by our deputy editor, Zoë Hannah, who snapped this photo of her Aeropress Go. She uses it while camping and at home when a caffeine craving strikes.
All of the components pack inside the cup and there’s a soft, grippy lid that keeps everything together inside your backpack. Everything is top-rack dishwasher-safe, too.
The one drawback is that the small container for paper filters doesn’t close well, and they can slide out. That’s why we recommend the brand's reusable metal filter that’s made to fit.
Ultralight Travel French Press
Anyone who’s a fan of the French press should zero in on Espro’s superb Ultralight Travel French Press. Our team’s associate editor Tom Price says that it “genuinely [makes] one of the smoothest cups of French press coffee I have ever had” after using it for several months and toting it around in his backpack.
He attributes that smoothness to the press’s double mesh filter, which keeps the sludge out of his mug and prevents the brew from being too bitter. He also appreciates the double-wall insulation that maintains the coffee’s temperature hours after pressing.
All the components are top-rack dishwasher-safe, though you may want to give it a good rinse first to get coffee grounds out of the filter.
The lightweight and portable coffee maker is 16 ounces and comes in eight colors, as well as a brushed stainless steel. There’s no carrying case, but the looped lid can easily be hooked onto the side of a backpack with a carabiner.
Picopresso Portable Espresso Maker
When I travel, I can’t do without good morning coffee at my immediate disposal. Years ago, I’d hoard Illy instant coffee sticks from flights (still unavailable in the U.S.!) just in case I couldn’t get my hands on a decent cup.
These days, there are plenty of portable coffee makers, but fewer options for espresso, which is why I was excited to try Wacaco’s top-of-the-line Picopresso Portable Espresso Maker.
Right out of the box, the Picopresso felt like a high-end camera lens in hand—definitely more espresso machine than maker.
There are about a dozen components, though they're clearly labeled in the manual. That really helped during the brewing process and with getting it back in the zippered carrying case for storage.
I wasn’t sure I’d have the hand strength to generate pressure required for extraction, which can reach a maximum of 18 bars (the equivalent of 261 psi) on the Picopresso. Not so. The pop-out piston operated smoothly and with minimal effort.
Some other portable coffee makers we cover are designed with an integrated cup, which the Picopresso doesn’t have. While it would be a nice extra, it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker.
If you can swing the price, the Picopresso makes an exceptionally good shot of espresso. If you prefer the convenience of a capsule for espresso, scroll down to our review of Wacaco's Minipresso NS2.
All-in-One Portable Coffee Maker
Freshly ground coffee beans are essential if you’re serious about coffee, but carrying around a grinder to use with your portable coffee maker is impractical.
We appreciate this option from Cafflano with a built-in adjustable grinder featuring a clever foldaway handle. There’s also a reusable stainless-steel microfilter nestled inside and a hole in the cover to slowly pour water over the grounds.
There’s nothing more required to fill the 16-ounce double-walled tumbler with java, though it lacks a sipping lid, which is definitely a drawback.
Minipresso NS2 Portable Espresso Machine
You can’t beat the convenience of a capsule espresso maker, especially if portability is a priority. Wacaco’s Minipresso NS2 is a relative newcomer in the brand’s lineup, compatible with original Nespresso capsules.
The portable espresso maker is only five inches long and weighs a mere 10 ounces. Just like the Picopresso we recommend, it can reach 18 bars of pressure (the equivalent of 261 psi) and has the same 2.7-ounce capacity.
There’s also a similar pop-out piston for manual extraction. But unlike the Picopresso, there’s an integrated cup that screws off on the bottom.
Cordless Coffee Maker
We didn’t get our hands on this cordless portable coffee maker, but since it’s from Popular Mechanics reader favorite, Makita, we’d be remiss not to bring it to your attention.
When we wrote about job site coffee makers a few years back, an earlier model won Editors’ Choice, and the improvements made to this updated model are considerable.
For starters, it has a top handle and removable water tank under the lid, along with a permanent filter and an auto-turn-off if the water is too low to make a cup. Best of all, it’s compatible with Makita’s 12-volt max CXT and 18-volt LXT rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, sold separately.
Depending on which you use, it brews a short five-ounce cup in five minutes or enough to fill a 16-ounce travel mug. The stainless-steel mug shown in the photo is included.
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