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Wacaco Nanopresso Review | Can you make great coffee outdoors?

Questioning if a good coffee and idyllic location are mutually exclusive? We were hoping not but set out to put the Nanopresso through its paces in this review for coffee-loving travellers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Nanopresso coffee press on grass with cup of coffee and picnic blanket

I believe my Twitter profile still reads something along the lines of ‘rarely leaves home without a camera or passes up a good cuppa’ which pretty much sums things up around here.  Gadgets and caffeine are on my daily essentials list. 

You can imagine I was pretty darn excited when I first laid eyes on the Nanopresso doing its thing in my IG feed, who knew such a thing even existed.  When my parcel turned up a few months ago it was quickly ripped from its packaging wiped down and put into service,  I mean a new gadget demands instant use right?

Two days later and it got it’s first real ‘outdoor’ outing to the Springbrook National Park.  It pretty much went instantly from fun new toy to ‘travel essential’ in the space of one long macchiato with this view.

Warringa Pool

Since then we’ve sort of become hiking buddies.  When you’re a foodie and coffee lover but also a nature enthusiast you can find your passions run at cross purposes.  We’ve found some fabulous cafes over the years in unexpected places but when you’re off the beaten track it’s quite likely that your much anticipated morning cuppa could be a let down if you leave it entirely up to chance. 

Now I will say at this point that while I do love a good coffee, I’m no coffee connoisseur.   I’ve never been a trained barista and I can’t sniff the beans and tell you what country they are from but as I only allow myself one coffee a day I want it to be the best I can possibly be.

For a long time, we’ve been ‘those people’ that pull out real cups and a thermos on a road trip, and yes there have been times when people stopped to look at our coffee plunger balanced on a rock although I choose to believe they were wishing they’d thought to pack one. 

We’ve been there too, a sachet seems so much less fuss but there’s not much joy in paper cups and freeze-dried coffee crystals is there?  While locations like Coomba Falls, the Lamington National Park and sunrise in Byron Bay will always be memorable they’re so much better when the coffee lives up to your expectations too.

What is the Nanopresso

The Nanopresso is the latest offering from Wacaco, a small, hand-held espresso press that can pump a staggering 18 bars of stable pressure, that’s more than most home espresso machines.  A quick check of Google shows I could spend over $1000 down here in Australia, give up a good chunk of bench space and still only get 15 bars.  Of course with a hand-held unit, stable pressure is going to depend on good technique but the specs are good.

Nanopresso coffee press sitting on mossy rock with fallen forest leaves behind

With the base unit weighing in at only 336 grams you can take your coffee kit with you almost anywhere.  To heat the water there are micro-burner solutions but with the fire risk here in Australia we take a thermos and that works well for us.  They have come a long way in their ability to retain an optimal temperature and you want to make coffee with water that is a few degrees below boiling point anyway so it works out perfectly.

The Nanopresso uses a pressurised portafilter and for most of us that’s great news, it means we can make a consistently great quality coffee, every time with no barista training and not stressing too much about the quality of our grind or needing portable scales to weigh the grounds.

If you’re a coffee enthusiast who takes as much pleasure from the process of creating the drink as savouring it and are 100% confident in your coffee grinding skills, you may consider that the pressurisation takes some of the personal accomplishment out of it and in that case you can disable it by removing a small silicon component.  For most of us who just love a good coffee though please don’t tinker with what works.

How to use the Nanopresso

Getting a really decent coffee out of your Nanopresso is easy but a little bit of focus on technique can take it up a notch from good to great.

Drawing an espresso with the Nanopresso next to rock pools in Springbrook National Park

Coffee making tips with the Nanopresso

  1. Warm the cup by swirling with hot water immediately before use
  2. Add the coffee and tamp lightly or replace the portafilter and filter basket with the NS capsule holder and insert a capsule of your choice.
  3. Unscrew the water tank and add hot water, pay attention to the minimum and maximum fill line marked inside to avoid burning yourself.
  4. Carefully reattach the water tank to avoid spilling and turn the Nanopresso over so that the outlet head faces down into your cup.
  5. Unlock the pump turning it anticlockwise to release then hold the press in both hands. You’re going to want to exert the most even and consistent pressure you can on the pump so find the most comfortable way to hold it. It’s suggested you begin with the palm of your hand over the pump but in my hands, it’s easier when I press with both thumbs.
  6. Push the pump 8 times to prime it, you’ll feel the resistance from the pressure, then continue at an even controlled rate until all the coffee is in the cup and no more comes out.
  7. Repeat as required

On a personal level, I was a bit concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to work the machine with a smooth enough pace and pressure to create a consistent result. I have small hands and I have autoimmune arthritis in my finger joints and wrist. I’m pleased to say that it hasn’t impacted the quest for a good cuppa. I can make us both a drink without a problem and if friends join us they are usually more than intrigued enough to take over and make their own.

What’s in the Nanopresso box & what accessories are we using?

Nanopresso machines and accessories laid out on concrete bench

Out of the box the Nanopresso is set up to make single espresso shots with fresh ground coffee. The components lock neatly together inside each other like a Babushka doll and it comes with a soft cloth drawstring bag.

While you can absolutely get good use from the Nanopresso right out of the box there are a few gadget additions that for me elevate it to the next level and make it even more convenient.

The first is the NS Adaptor.  This replaces the espresso filter basket with an insert that allows you to use your choice of coffee pods.  Now the purist might not approve but you can make a darn good coffee using pods if you store and use them correctly and for a mobile option you just can’t beat the convenience and easy cleanup. 

I’m currently using the Woolworths Strong, the dark roast intensity 10 tastes great, they are 100% fairtrade coffee and in independent Choice tests, they rated well about some big brand contenders.

A second optional extra that I’m loving is the Nanopresso L case.  The unit does come with a soft bag so this isn’t essential but it keeps everything together, protects it well in the bottom of the day pack and is big enough to fit the Nanopresso with the NS Adaptor fitted and a couple of pods or a second packed and sealed espresso filter basket.

The other accessory is what Wacaco call the Barista kit and this is mainly for the times when you are using fresh self-ground coffee and want a double hit. It includes a double-sized water tank and 2 double espresso baskets for the coffee grounds. One for now and one for a spare, or I guess you could share.

Final thoughts: Nanopresso Review

Nanopresso coffee press on rock beside stream in Springbrook National Park

I knew I loved the idea of the Nanopresso from first seeing it on Instagram but whether I would love it enough for it to become an essential part of our travel kit was always going to depend on whether it made enough of a difference to the quality of my daily coffee to justify carrying it. In honesty, it does.

We take a lot of road trips, days at the beach, hiking in the National Parks and are regularly out spotting native birds and wildlife. The handheld coffee press is ideal for those situations. I knew that the micro-burners used by many hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to heat water in Scandinavia and other cold climates weren’t going to be suitable here in Australia or the New Zealand bush but a small unbreakable thermos is working perfectly well.

It’s also very small and light, easily tucking into a corner of the luggage when we’re travelling and the Nespresso-sized pods are easy to pick up in most places even if we don’t want to carry them with us.

Are you comparing your options for coffee on the go? You might find our review of the Staresso Portable Espresso machine or this innovative pour-over coffee solution interesting.

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Making coffee with the Nanopresso beside a mossy rock in the forest
Making coffee with the Nanopresso at the rivers edge

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