A manual espresso machine allows you to fully control the brewing process. Our experts have found the best picks and are sharing them with you.
To choose the best manual espresso machine, you must know exactly what you mean by that term.
Perhaps you are looking for a semi-automatic espresso machine that regulates water temperature and pressure but depends on you to grind and tamp coffee beans and control extraction time. If so, you can find good options in our article on the best rated espresso machines.
But if you want complete control over the entire brewing process, this article is for you. We have compiled a list of manual espresso machines that can brew quality espresso, sometimes without needing electricity. With these machines, you do everything by hand—even the extraction pressure depends on you.
There are portable and lever manual espresso machines. Both types operate similarly and are easy to use.
If this is what you are looking for, then let's get to the reviews.
Flair Espresso MakerThis manual espresso maker combines quality espresso with an attractive design. Key Features
|View Latest Price →|
STARESSOEnjoy a real espresso in the office or while camping or traveling. Key Features
|View Latest Price →|
La Pavoni PC-16Espresso, double espresso, cappuccino, or latte—one machine for everything. With this machine, you can become a professional barista for your family. Key Features
|View Latest Price →|
Wacaco NanopressoThis espresso machine will become a bright accessory in your home and on the go. Choose your favorite design from many options. Key Features
|View Latest Price →|
CONQUECOCharge it in the car and then brew your favorite espresso, even where there is no access to hot water. Key Features
|View Latest Price →|
The Best Manual Espresso Machines Of 2021
- Flair Espresso Maker - Best Manual Espresso Machine
- STARESSO - Best for Travel
- La Pavoni PC-16 - Best Lever Espresso Machine
- Wacaco Nanopresso - Best Design
- CONQUECO - Best for Car Use
How to Choose a Manual Espresso Machine
If you don't mind putting in some effort, manual espresso machines are a great way to brew the perfect espresso. However, the quality of your brew also depends on the quality of the machine, so it's important to consider the factors mentioned below.
The capacity of the water tank dictates the amount of espresso you will be able to extract at one time. If you one of the many people who need more than one or two cups per day, it is wise to buy a lever espresso machine that comes with a high-capacity water reservoir.
The main function of a manual espresso maker is the ability to prepare espresso outside the home. To be able to take it with you, the espresso machine must be light and compact. Choose one that fits easily into your bag or backpack or comes with a carrying case.
Commonly referred to as bar pressure, this is basically a measure of atmospheric pressure. One bar of pressure is equivalent to the amount of natural pressure at sea level, so nine bars is nine times the pressure at sea level.
A common myth is that the higher number of bars, the better the espresso, but this is not always the case. Even though there are some machines that can generate a higher amount of pressure, some users can get a great café-quality espresso even with the nine bars.
If you’re just starting out, it is best to start off with lower pressure to see how things work out and to get some practice. In most cases, a manual machine that generates between seven to nine bars of pressure is a good choice.
The best manual espresso machines can be made from plastic or metal—mostly stainless steel. Regardless of which material espresso machine you choose, make sure that it is durable and can withstand the elements.
Plastic models weigh less, which gives them an advantage for travel. If you plan to regularly take your espresso maker with you to work or school, on hikes, or while traveling, these espresso machines will be more convenient. However, a metal device will last longer.
There are two types of manual espresso machines: pump and lever.
In a pump machine, a piston moves up and down to create pressure. Most often, you press a button several times to move the piston.
In a lever espresso machine, you raise and lower a handle to move the lever. The lever moves downward with a certain force and speed to push hot water through the ground coffee in the portafilter. The more force you apply, the more pressure you create to extract the coffee.
Most portable espresso machines come with a pump rather than a lever. Lever espresso machines are best suited for home use, while models with a pump are convenient to take with you on the road.
To brew an espresso, you will need hot water. Manual espresso makers powered by electricity generate heat when connected to an outlet; other manual espresso makers require you to use pre-heated water.
A manual espresso machine is most often purchased for use outside the home. There are special accessories to make brewing espresso on the go more convenient.
You can purchase a double espresso attachment to brew more espresso, or a capsule adapter if you don't want to mess with ground coffee. These accessories expand the capabilities of the coffee maker.
Pressure gauges allow you to brew your espresso more precisely. You will be able to see the pressure under which your espresso is extracting.
Some models come with carrying cases that protect against damage. Separately, you can buy covers with special compartments to hold capsules or espresso cups.
You can also find special coffee mats that are convenient to use for tamping and preparing coffee and drying coffee maker parts.
If your manual espresso machine does not come with a tamp or a measuring spoon, you can easily purchase these separately.
Detailed List of the Best Manual Espresso Machines
1. Flair Espresso Maker - Best Manual Espresso Machine
The Flair Espresso Maker is ideal for home use. It prepares good shots of espresso with thick crema. You won't have to spend more than 45 seconds to get a delicious coffee.
Its unusual design will make the Flair a point of attraction for guests. You can order it in one of four colors: black, white, chrome, and black-and-red.
The Flair manual espresso maker can even be used by an untrained home barista. It's easy to operate and you don't even need electricity. Just add 60 ml of hot water and 18 grams of coffee, press the lever, and your shot of espresso is ready.
Brewing does not take much time: The brewing group heats up quickly because the machine has a minimalist design.
Despite the simplicity of the design, you get a classic, 40ml espresso shot with crema. This is thanks to the lever pressure, which can reach 6 to 10 bars.
If you want more control, choose the Pressure Kit that comes with a customized pressure gauge. You will be able to see the level of pressure that you create during brewing.
The Flair Espresso Maker is very compact and portable. It measures just 12 x 6 x 10 inches and weighs just 4.9 pounds when fully assembled. It will be an excellent travel companion because it includes a carrying case that protects it from scratches and damage during transport.
This manual espresso maker features a solid base, stand, and lever. The whole structure is made of die-cast aluminum and stainless steel. The proof of its reliability is the impressive 5-year manufacturer warranty against any defects.
The removable infuser makes the Flair espresso maker easy to clean. Remove the brew head and other parts, then rinse them under clean water—no descaling required. This means you won't brew bad coffee due to poor maintenance.
2. STARESSO - Best for Travel
Take this espresso maker, the winner of many design awards, on the road and brew shots of espresso whenever you want. The STARESSSO Portable Espresso Machine is compatible with both ground coffee and Nespresso pods.
This portable espresso machine comes with almost all the bells and whistles to brew a perfect cup each time. The STARESSO espresso machine features a compact, lightweight footprint, making it easy to take with you on the go.
Even with its portable design, this manual espresso machine can hold up to 80 ml of water and 0.53 ounces of ground coffee, so you will never run out of a cup when you need one. It is compatible with most Nespresso pods and ground coffee from other best coffee brands and is extremely easy to use.
This espresso machine boasts an improved patented pump system that provides between 15 and 20 bars of pressure and does not use any electricity. The espresso maker is constructed from BPA-free material, so it's safe to use, and features a coffee chamber and pressure pump made from high-quality stainless steel.
The espresso maker has a see-through window so you can get a clear view of each shot as it brews. Plus, the machine is easy to clean by simply disassembling the parts and rinsing them under clean water. The STARESSO is backed by a 2-year warranty against any manufacture defects and comes with around-the-clock customer service support.
3. La Pavoni PC-16 - Best Lever Espresso Machine
Do you dream of making coffee at home? Brew high-quality espresso with this authentic Italian espresso machine.
The design of the La Pavoni PC-16 manual lever espresso machine is definitely worth a look. The machine is made of chrome-plated brass and the base is made of stainless steel. This robust design is built to last.
The manual lever machine heats up in 5 minutes, so you don't have to wait long to prepare a cup of espresso in the morning.
The spacious 38oz boiler allows you to brew 16 2oz espressos in a row. The water level indicator is conveniently located on the side of the PC-16 so you will always know when it is time to refill the boiler.
Thanks to the lever control system, you can adjust the rate at which water flows through the portafilter. The internal thermostat and pressure gauge allow easy control of pressure during brewing.
The La Pavoni Pc-16 has an excellent steam wand for making cappuccinos. If you want to learn all the ins and outs of making this drink, then steam and froth the milk by hand. Otherwise, use an automatic nozzle that creates dense foam for you.
The steam wand is suitable for all hot drinks. Treat yourself and your family to any espresso-and-milk drink, or even hot chocolate.
This espresso maker requires electricity.
4. Wacaco Nanopresso - Best Design
Wacaco offers manual espresso machines in a wide range of colors and designs, plus optional accessories to expand your coffee-brewing options.
The Wacaco Nanopresso is another hit in the manual espresso maker market. The portable design measures 7.44 x 3.39 x 3.19 inches and weighs just 0.74 pounds. The water tank holds 2.7 ounces.
French artist and designer SteF has created a special line in soft, seasonal colors. Lovers of beauty will not be able to pass by without purchasing. If you want a manual espresso maker that both brews coffee anywhere and is a stylish accessory, you will definitely appreciate the design of the Wacaco Nanopresso.
This manual espresso maker does not need electricity or batteries to run. All you need is coffee and hot water to enjoy a shot of espresso when at work or school or when traveling.
With your hands, you can build up to 18 bars of pressure. Use a finely ground coffee and a strong tamp for a thick crema.
Cleaning your Wacaco Nanopresso takes just a few seconds. The portafilter can be easily disassembled so you can more deeply clean each component.
An EVA cover is included to prevent damage to the manual espresso maker during transport. This material is lightweight, neutralizes shock well, and is good at handling temperature extremes, direct sunlight, and moisture. The case weighs just 0.165 pounds.
There are a wide variety of accessories for this manual espresso maker.
You can purchase the Barista set, which allows you to prepare a double espresso of up to 120 ml. Other options are a Nespresso capsule adapter or a versatile coffee mat for tamping, drying, and brewing.
These accessories make brewing espresso on the go even easier and more convenient.
5. CONQUECO - Best for Car Use
The CONQUECO Portable Espresso Maker can brew 3 espressos using cool water or 200 shots of hot water on one battery charge. You can even charge this espresso maker using a 12v car charger.
The CONQUECO fits in your car's drink holder or in the bottle pocket of your backpack. It weighs 1.94 pounds and measures 12.1 x 6.3 x 4.8 inches.
You can use both cool and hot water for brewing. If you use cool water, the espresso machine automatically heats the water to the right temperature. There is enough battery charge to prepare 3 espressos. If you fill with hot water, you can brew up to 200 shots.
This espresso maker heats the water to the desired temperature in 8-12 minutes. When using hot water, a shot of espresso brews in 5 seconds.
Prepare 45 ml of delicious espresso on the go, at work, while camping, or while traveling. The 15-bar pump allows you to reveal the delicate taste and aroma of coffee.
This espresso maker only works with Nespresso Original Line capsules and L'OR capsules, which are specially designed and tested. Other capsules cannot be used.
The machine even has an automatic cleaning cycle. Press the switch button for 5 seconds to flush the internal group.
The set includes a special charger for recharging in the car, plus a separate charger so you can charge from a regular outlet. The battery fully charges in 2.5 hours. The espresso maker cannot be used while charging.
Manual vs Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
These two types of espresso machines are often confused, but they is not the same thing at all.
When using a manual espresso machine, you create the necessary pressure for making coffee. You also control the entire brewing process, from grind size to extraction time.
Semi-automatic machines maintain an optimal balance between human and mechanical control. Water is supplied to the group automatically and the pressure is set by the machine, but you control grinding, tamping, and extraction time.
Manual machines, unlike semi-automatic machines, can work without electricity. They are a great choice when you need to prepare espresso outside the home.
Manual vs Automatic Espresso Machines
Manual coffee makers feature a more traditional design, in that they do not come with any fancy automated features. They use a lever or pump to force water through the coffee-packed portafilter. They also allow you to control of the amount of water you want in each shot, which is how you ultimately perfect your cup of espresso.
Automatic coffee makers are great too, but they come with preprogrammed buttons to make the coffee. Some best automatic espresso machines can take care of the entire espresso-making process, from burr-grinding the beans, to brewing, to frothing the milk. So if you must have that wake-up shot of espresso or cappuccino in the morning but don’t want to take the time—or don't have the time—to brew it manually, an automatic espresso machine is worth checking out.
Manual Espresso Machine Pros and Cons
One of the biggest benefits of a manual espresso machine is the high-quality brew it yields. And your espresso will only get better once you use the right beans and perfect the brewing process. This is one of the biggest reasons why you don’t see automatic coffee machines in high-end coffee shops. Another big benefit of a using a manual espresso machine is the fun involved in the process of brewing the coffee yourself rather than simply pressing a few buttons to brew an espresso or cappuccino.
Manual espresso machines generally feature a much sleeker, yet still classic, design, so they're more visually appealing. They not only let you brew a great cup of cappuccino, but also make you look good while doing so.
One downside, as mentioned earlier, is that manual espresso machines require a bit of effort to brew a cup or two. Further, they may take a bit longer to set up and heat the water, so they may not be an ideal choice for people with busy mornings. However, if you want to ensure you leave home with a mouthwatering, indulgent cup of espresso and are a willing to put in the hard work, then manual espresso machines are hard to beat.
How Does a Manual Espresso Machine Work?
These espresso machines allow you to take control and be an integral part of the entire brewing process. Once you have the hot water ready, you need to remove the portafilter from the manual espresso machine, load the filter basket with the coffee pod or ground beans, and reinstall the filter. Next you have to raise and lower the handle (or press a button) to build pressure that will force the water through the ground coffee.
What is a manual espresso machine?
Manual espresso machines are a simplified alternative to electric espresso machines. They are able to brew excellent espresso while saving energy. The most important feature is that you have complete control over the process of making espresso, including how much pressure is used. Manual espresso machines can be portable or lever-based, but they work the same way.
How does a manual espresso machine work?
These espresso machines allow you to take control and be part of the entire brewing process. They use hot water that has been heated in an integrated boiler or heated on the stove or in a kettle and then poured into the espresso machine. Once you have the hot water ready, you need to remove the portafilter from the manual espresso machine, load the filter basket with coffee grounds, and reinstall the filter. Then you have to raise and lower the handle, or press the button, to build pressure and force the water through the ground coffee.
Are lever espresso machines better than regular espresso machines?
Lever espresso machines look attractive. They're not very common anymore and, of course, are not suitable for a busy coffee house, but if you want to make steampunk coffee, then this is the espresso machine for you. Lever coffee machines require physical effort and an understanding of how to control brewing variables. Such complete human control can be exciting, but can also lead to instability in taste.
Is it worth buying a manual espresso machine for home use?
Buying a home espresso machine, whether manual or automatic, offers many benefits. The biggest perk of owning a home espresso machine is the cost savings, especially compared to buying cappuccinos and other espresso drinks at a café. And the cost savings are even higher if you are one of the many people who crave more than one cup of coffee per day.
- Understanding the Three Varieties of Espresso Makers – Beverage Factory
- Art of making espresso lies in following the rules – Reuters