We’re all becoming fusspots when it comes to espresso. That’s why so many of us pay our local favourite barista a drowsy hello every morning on the way to work. But what if we could retrieve a quality caffeine fix in two-three minutes every morning without having to leave the car. This is exactly what Handpresso believe is missing in our increasingly immediate consumer culture world, by designing the portable and compact Handpresso Auto E.S.E. espresso machine exclusively for the car.
The Handpresso Auto E.S.E. looks a lot like a small flask, with its cylindrical body, and therefore fits within our MINI Cooper cup holders, meaning it has a convenient place to live and heat up whilst driving. A novelty in the design that we markedly liked, was that the braided power cable cleverly wraps around the body for tidy storage and quick access.
No carry bag is supplied in the box, but these are available to purchase separately from Handpresso. This would suggest that Handpresso anticipate the appliance to last in its own right; and from our general day to day usage it has done just that. It’s substantial in weight for its dimensions at 907g and is coated in a soft but very strong and easy to clean plastic. It feels like the kind of product that is built to function daily, for a good decade or more.
Ease of Use
Complicated gadgets made for cars are point blank bad. Not only can they be distracting for the driver, but they are frustrating to use within a compact environment. So from the outset we were afraid that the Handpresso Auto E.S.E. would be messy and hard to use. Thankfully it’s not guilty of being messy; it can be excused the few spilt drips of espresso onto the car's carpet because we prematurely removed the cup - that was our fault! As we later realised, Handpresso have included a cloth in the box which is intended to be used to wipe the nozzle after every use.
When you know how, this compact espresso maker is extraordinarily simple to operate. What’s not simple were the supplied instructions, which are too drawn out and actually confuse the user. Nonetheless, we can explain how it works in not too many words. Unscrew the cap, fill the 53ml water reservoir (max capacity 53ml) which has 7 indicators that turn black one by one, to stop you overfilling it and as a means for you to adjust the quantity of water. Then insert an E.S.E. coffee pod, screw the lid back on, plug it into a (12v required) cigarette lighter and press the on button which will illuminate to tell you it has received power. You’ll hear the Handpresso’s inbuilt 16 bar pump pressurise for around 30 seconds, this will abruptly finish and then we found ourselves waiting for a further 2 minutes and 30 seconds for the appliance to heat the water. Visual feedback of the rising temperature is displayed via a helpful gauge on the front.
Three beeps follow to confirm it’s ready to extract espresso. So, with the Handpresso upside down and a press of the espresso button, extraction will immediately begin and last for roughly 15 seconds if filled with the maximum 53ml of water. A single press of the stop button will avoid any loose drips and a quick wipe of the nozzle will see the device fit for use again. All-in-all we were impressed with the speed; a total wait of 3 minutes is really respectable and would work well when on the road with family and friends. Although it is worth bearing in mind that if you plan on making espresso more than once a day, you’ll need to keep a bottle of water, a supply of E.S.E. pods, a few plastic cups and have somewhere to dispose of used pods.
Espresso Taste Test
Four identical E.S.E. sample Italian roast pods are supplied in the box, and we’ve experimented with a few other blends too. For what it’s worth, the extracted results aren't watery sludge with no definition and weak tones. In total contrast, the Handpresso Auto E.S.E. demonstrates noticeably layered espresso with a good top level of crema. Furthermore it’s flavoursome and served at drinking temperature. We would have appreciated it a notch warmer, however, as it forces the espresso to be consumed straight after extraction into the cup.
Not surprisingly, this £149 appliance doesn't quite reach the equivalent heights of quality or temperature that our £549 Sage Barista Express machine does, but the Handpresso Auto E.S.E. is a snippet of its size and power, at just 140 watts. So, for what it is, we rate it highly. Well worth noting is that retailers sell dozens of E.S.E. pod coffee variations in bulk and, if purchased in this way, per cup costs can work out at an extremely reasonable 14p, and average around 24p.
The final question comes down to whether the Handpresso Auto E.S.E. is necessary for your lifestyle? We know that it makes tasty rich espresso in under 3 minutes and that it has been designed for ease of use. Conversely it does have the single imperfection of extracting espresso which is not quite as hot as we’d like. On balance, if you’re looking to save money by not visiting your local barista everyday and also get to work more quickly, then this could be a practical product.