Review | Testing The Handpresso Pump Black Manual Espresso Maker

Coffee enthusiast Paul Evans gives his coffee-stained verdict on a portable espresso maker

The ultimate off-grid coffee maker is fiddly to operate, but delivers excellent results. Like many things in life, it is best enjoyed alone.

What Is It?

Hand pump espresso maker. You pump it by hand, it makes espresso.

Why Is It?

Coz, coffee. On the road, off the grid, up a mountain, on a boat.

How Much Is It?

99 Euros, my good man.

The Taste Test

With our end goal being taste, let’s work back from there; the Handpresso makes truly excellent coffee. This little weighty (480g) hand-held gadget makes legit, better-than-kitchen-worktop espresso machine espresso. I became indoctrinated in Handpresso on a trimaran sailboat, cruising down the North Sea coast of Holland this autumn. The coffee I produced with it at sea was every bit as good as that which we drunk at the very finest cafés in The Hague when stormbound. And they were pretty fucking good.

Looks… looks like a burger logo, doesn’t it? || Photo via Handpresso

A Word on Pressure

Pressure, like coffee itself, is vital to our very existence. But just the right amount is crucial. Different folk have differing views on pressure, and react to it differently. When Mercury and Bowie laid down their separate vocals for Under Pressure in Montreux, it is alleged that The Thin White Duke cheated by listening in on Freddie’s. Hmmm.

“Pressure… is vital to our very existence”

“There’s no such thing as pressure,” legendary photographer Ted Grambeau once told me, referring to mental aspect of elite sporting performance, “mentally at least.” Hmmmmmm.

“You need at least 16 bar of pressure to make espresso” said Captain Peter of the aforementioned sailing vessel, whilst explaining the functioning of the Handpresso. Turns out Peter has PhDs in both maths and physics, so we’ll assume his testimony is reliable.

Ya thirsty? || Photo via Handpresso


Fill the pump with hot water, place the coffee pod on top, close the lid and then pump. The Handpresso has a little dial (manometer) so you know when you hit 16 bar, which takes a certain amount of vigour. Say 20 seconds of violent sprint pumping, or 40 seconds of moderate to vigorous, with a flourish of ever-quickening strokes at the end. When you do reach those sweet, sweet 16 bars, you feel great.


It’s pretty fiddly until you get the hang of it. You need to spend a good few minutes diligently filling the little pods with ground coffee first and tamping down hard, and I mean really hard, with your thumb. Don’t tamp enough/properly, and your coffee will be shit. Peter, who not only scrutinised my knot tying, steering, winding of winches and reading of Windy app was similarly unimpressed with my nascent Handpresso efforts, mainly down to tamping shortfallings.

It all felt a bit oppressive at first, but very gratifying once I won him over, by the fourth or fifth attempt. “There you go,” I said handing him the cup, very nearly adding, “Dad.”

“The name’s Pump, Handpresso Coffee Pump” || Photo via Handpresso

It’s a Bit of a Performance
Ideally you want to warm it up with a bit of hot water first, akin to your Nan warming the teapot. Then release, refill with water, put the pod in. Pump, brew. Open, repeat the entire process. Drink. All that, assuming you’ve made up your two pods in advance, probably takes 4-5 mins. If you include boiling the water (while simultaneously making up the pods) then that’s 8-10 mins of non-stop work. It takes me under two seconds to drain the resulting delicious coffee.

Whether or not you’re prepared to make that trade off, probably says much about you and your value system.

“I flirted with the idea of bludgeoning him to death with the Handpresso”

The reason you’ll need to do two shots is that the shots are tiny, more like half shots. If there are two of you, you’ll therefore need four runs of the Handpresso, which can feel a lot like three too many.

A little button is deployed depending on whether you’re pumping or brewing, pushed in one way to pump, the other to release. I guarantee at some point you’ll forget to close it again, start to pump, and spray hot water and coffee grinds everywhere. At one such point, Capt Peter put his head down the companionway and asked somewhat abruptly, ‘How’s my coffee coming along, then?’ I flirted with the idea of bludgeoning him to death with the Handpresso, it being the ideal weight and size. But only briefly.

Pump up the coffee-flavoured volume || Photo via Handpresso


If you like coffee merely as a flavour side note in a cup of mainly hot milk (or in other words, you take your coffee like I did when I was 7) it’s probably not worth bothering with.

Life, I mean.

Just have a glass of hot milk, and instead spend the 99 euros you saved buying this on wet wipes that you can ask an adult to wipe your bum with.

“How’s my coffee coming along, then?”

Versus other Analog Espresso Tech

In comparison with a Moka pot, there is no comparison. There are no known cases of Moka ever making good coffee, they just burn it. I’m not saying if you use a Moka pot you’re an asshole, but I’m not not saying it, either.

The Aeropress is much, much lighter, and much easier to use. But the resulting drink is not espresso, despite the maker’s claims, by any stretch. It’s highly-drinkable, and I love and cherish my Aeropress. But it ain’t espresso.

Ski, coffee, ski, coffee, ski some more, coffee some more. Rinse, and repeat || Photo: Mattias Fredriksson


The Handpresso makes excellent coffee. It’s ideally deployed by a lone wolf, due to the size of the shot produced. If you want a communal Java, you’re much better off going with a strong AF cafetiere brew, in my opinion.

And if you are boarded by pirates or set upon by other hostiles, or merely feel like you’re taking too much heat from your commanding officer, you can always use it as a truncheon.

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