I have been happily using a pod espresso coffee maker for the past two years. The constraints of being stuck with one brand of coffee was starting to annoy me. I’d tried opening empty pods and stuffing in my own coffee grounds, but it was too much effort and far too messy. So began the search for an additional espresso coffee maker.

Being somewhat stuck for space in my tiny kitchen, I really didn’t want another large coffee maker taking up valuable table top space. So when I read about the Handpresso Wild hand pump espresso maker, it looked like I’d found the ideal solution.

About the Handpresso

The Handpresso Wild is a hand held espresso coffee maker which is small enough to be stored away in a drawer when you’ve finished using it. This also makes it useful for taking away on holiday or to places where you may find it difficult making a good cup of coffee. It doesn’t need electricity to operate. Instead you pump the handle which builds up the internal pressure to 16 bars, which should produce a decent espresso.

The Handpresso, which incidentally, won a Product Design Award in 2008, comes in two varieties. One takes ese pods and the other takes your own brand of coffee grounds. There is little price difference between the two. It’s reasonably light to hold, weighing in at 1.16 lb (530 g). Although the machine doesn’t require electricity to operate, you do need to boil some water, which in many cases will probably mean boiling a kettle using electricity.

Making the espresso

Before you start making your espresso, you must first pump up the machine to the right pressure. There is a little indicator dial with a needle on the front which shows you how close you are to reaching full pressure. Once the needle hits the green mark you stop pumping. Whatever happens you mustn’t reach the red mark or dire consequences may occur!

Once that’s done, you fill up the 7g (.24 oz.) dome pod with your coffee grounds. The instructions recommend trying out various types of coffee grounds and amounts until you find your perfect brew. Then you fill up the dome with hot water. This doesn’t hold much, only 50 ml, which is about right for a regular espresso. Then you pop the dome pod back in, screw on the filter lid, push the button, and out comes your espresso.

How well does it work?

Making your espresso just the way you like it will probably take a few attempts. After reading the instructions warning of the perils of using excess coffee grounds, I worried I’d end up with coffee resembling treacle. Instead it was more akin to dishwater and had to be thrown away. Ever since, I’ve crammed in as much coffee as possible into the pod. Tamping it down isn’t easy either as the pod is so small. However, I find using a muddler (for cocktails) fits perfectly and works well.

The hardest part for me is the actual pumping. It starts off quite easy, but as you near the final few pumps, it requires a lot of effort and upper arm strength. I think anyone with arthritic hands or without much upper body strength would not find this easy. It takes me around 50 pumps to reach the maximum pressure.

When the coffee is forced through the filter, it does come out quite quickly, around five seconds, which I think is probably too fast to obtain the best flavor. However, it does finish off with a nice hissing sound, just like a real espresso machine. It produces a small amount of crema, even though it’s quite thin and doesn’t last long. The resulting espresso is decent enough and makes an acceptable cup of coffee. Not as good as a regular pod machine, but at least you are free to pick and choose your coffee grounds.

For those who prefer a stronger coffee, the Handpresso does have an intense filter which can be purchased separately. But at around $29, it’s not cheap.

After using an ese pod espresso machine for the past two years, using the Handpresso has made me realize just why I moved over to using ese pods. Making espresso from grounds is messy, fiddly and takes much longer. Then there’s all the emptying out and cleaning when you’ve finished. But it does produce an acceptable espresso which is useful for those who are tied to one brand of coffee with their pod machine.

Overall, the Handpresso is a good standby for making the occasional single cup of espresso. However, it’s too time consuming to make any more than one cup at a time. It would be ideal to take on holiday as it takes up little space, and when it’s not in use, it can be hidden neatly away in a drawer. It’s a clever gadget that does what it says on the box. However, it’s probably not ideal for making multiple cups of coffee every day.