Updated: Dec 12, 2019
I'm an addict. I have to admit here in public before I can write this review. My drug of choice? Caffeine. I just can't function properly without that first morning coffee. Which is not to say I'm a coffee expert, at all. I can tell a decent cup from a terrible one but that's about my limit.
Until recently my backpacking coffee solution was the good old Thermos-style flask filled at home before setting out. It fueled my need but hardly satisfied my tastebuds. Bearable but barely. And only any use on single day hikes.
Even worse was my camping solution for my morning coffee. Dare I even say it? Instant. Really. Sorry. I'm told there are some good instant coffee solutions out there but I'm yet to try one I felt was genuinely enjoyable. Feel free to suggest solutions.
To be completely honest, I hadn't even thought about improving this situation. I had simply accepted that being 'away from it all' included being away from good coffee. Somehow my gear radar had not detected the massive range of portable coffee brewing solutions I've now discovered is out there.
What changed? An inspired gift choice from my parents - the Wacaco Minipresso NS (original version). I was genuinely surprised and pleased when I opened it. Seems Dad had seen it reviewed on a TV show and decided to venture on to the interwebs to buy one for me. Thanks Dad!
So, over a year of use in different situations and I think I'm fairly well placed to review it. Let's be clear - I'm not evaluating the quality of the brew, rather the functionality of a gadget that allows me to have coffee of the quality I enjoy at home, wherever I go.
This version of the Minipresso, labelled NS, uses capsules compatible with the Nespresso system. Choose your flavour or variety of preference, just like you do with your home Nespresso machine, and you'll get the same coffee on the trail, campsite, mountaintop or anywhere else your adventures take you. I've even used it in hotel rooms with hot water from the supplied hotel kettle to make better coffee than the instant they usually offer in their 'tea and coffee making facilities'.
The capsule design is very, very smart-looking indeed. Matte black finishes with soft touch grip sections make this feel like a really high quality product and mine has had a fair amount of handling but shows barely any sign of being anything less than new. A soft, thin, lightweight pouch is provided for protection and keeping the parts together. It isn't waterproof - more on that later. Note: a hard case is available to purchase separately and will undoubtedly do a better job of protecting the Minipresso but I really haven't felt the need to buy it.
Operation is really very easy. Remove the top cap, which doubles as a small cup - this is designed to make short, espresso style coffees, not fancy milk-frothed lattes or cappuccinos - and unscrew the capsule container. Insert capsule and replace. At the other end, remove the water reservoir, fill with hot water and replace (this machine does NOT heat up the water). It's worth noting that the reservoir is not insulated and can't be used to take pre-filled hot water so you'll need to carry a flask separately on day trips. (I believe Wacaco offer a solution but this is sold separately).
Once your portable Nespresso machine is prepped, twist the central dial which pops out on the end of a pump handle. No plug socket required here - simply hand pump to build up pressure and (provided you keep the capsule end pointed down above your cup) you'll have a hot, smooth espresso in a few moments. I've found the pump action to be smooth and easy, though it's easier to apply the required pressure whilst keeping the device steady over the cup if using two hands, so a flat surface is required for the cup. According to Wacaco, the Minipresso can produce up to 8 bars of pressure, which creates a nice little frothy layer on top (I'm told that's called 'crema'). Ultimately, it's a tasty cup of coffee which satisfies my humble tastes, in exactly the manner as the Nespresso machine sitting on my kitchen counter.
Easy to use and tasty coffee? Yes. A must have for coffee lovers who enjoy adventurous journeys? Well, it's not perfect. I'd like the cup and water reservoir to both be just a touch bigger. Wacaco state the water tank is 70ml but at least a third of that seems to stay inside the Nespresso capsule or in the internals of the machine (again, more on that later). This means I get about 40ml of espresso. It's enough to enjoy and more would probably go cold too quickly in the non-insulated cup, which is another improvement I'd like to see. However, I often find myself making a second or even using a bit more water through the same capsule to feel I've drunk as much as I'm used to from my home machine. Again, Wacaco offer a solution in the shape of a larger water tank and second cup but this is also sold separately.
Whilst we're looking at improvements, there's the leaking. Try as I might, I can't get the cup/cap to stay on securely. It clipped on loosely when I first got it but quickly stopped staying in place. This isn't really a problem as the supplied pouch keeps everything together and in place. However, if the cup screwed on as a proper lid then I wouldn't have to worry about leaking in my pack. It's easy to remove the water tank and shake out the last drops and its just as easy to remove the Nespresso (or compatible) capsule but it's not so easy to pump out every last drop of water or remove the nozzle from the capsule holder to actually get the insides properly dry. As the included pouch is not watertight, this leaves me worrying about leaking inside my pack. I'd like to be able to leave the capsule in there; they are wet and messy after use in any machine and the Leave No Trace principles we follow at AJ Spain leave us in no doubt about taking them off the trail with us - preferably recycling them where possible. I really wish I could just screw the cap on and carry on my hike worry free - leaving cleaning and drying until I'm home or in camp that evening. There's a little cleaning brush included so you can remove any grinds from the (clearly labelled) sharp cutters in the capsule holder but it's best to rinse the Minipresso with plenty of clean water and dry it thoroughly before stowing.
Vital statistics for the packing conscious traveller? At just 175mm (6.89in) long and weighing 350 grams (0.78lbs), it's easy to carry on a day hike and well worth taking on longer trips. Just remember the capsules need to be carried in and carried out. For the true coffee connoisseur there's also the Minipresso GR which allows you to use your own blend of grinds instead of Nespresso capsules. Another version, the Minipresso CA is compatible with the Caffitaly capsule system. All retail on the EU version of the Wacaco website for 45.90 euros. Their website also features some great videos of their gadgets in use in impressive locations.
Would I recommend the Wacaco Minipresso? Yes, definitely. Have I tried competitor products? No. What do we like or otherwise? Here's a summary:
- small, light and packable
- smart design and feels durable
- easy to use
- makes good coffee fast
- cap doesn't stay on
- can leak if your bag if not thoroughly dried
- water tank and cup could be a little larger
- cup not insulated
Wacaco seem to now be promoting the newer Nanopresso which they say is an improvement in many ways - it's slightly smaller, slightly lighter, pumps at a much higher pressure (18 bars) for, apparently, less effort (15%) and has some sort of thermal fins on the cup. I'd love to it out and update you all on whether it's worth the extra 14 euros over the original version... Wacaco, are you listening?
In the meantime, if you enjoy good coffee on the trail, or any other kind of travels, the Wacaco Minipresso NS, whilst not perfect, should be on your packing list. I will certainly be taking it on our GR20 DofE Challenge to help me tackle Europe's toughest hike next year - unless Wacaco send me a Nanopresso to try...
Thanks for reading.
Note: This page contains my own thoughts and opinions on a product privately purchased and paid for. I have received nothing from Wacaco or their retail partners and get no money for you taking your time to read this review. However, the links included here to the Wacaco official website are affiliate links so, if you are considering purchasing any Wacaco product - the Minipresso, Nanopresso or any accessories - please do use one of our links as we will receive a small share of the price which will help fund the costs of keeping this blog running. Thank you!