5 min read
Author: Tim Messenger
As an avid outdoor lover and coffee enthusiast, nothing beats pausing on the trail in a beautiful spot and going through the rituals of manually brewing a good cup of coffee. I tend to lean towards filter brews on the trails, with my goto’s being the Delter and the Aeropress. The Aeropress is awesome for a nice full immersion brew, while the Delter excels at a more pour-over style of cup. There’s something almost therapeutic or meditative about taking the time to stop, craft a delicious coffee, and soak in nature in the middle of a hike or mountain bike ride.
While both these devices make a sensational cup of filter coffee and are very well suited to outdoor brewing, the Aeropress’s claims of making “espresso-style” coffee are somewhat lost on me. Even with Fellow Products’ Prismo attachment, I’ve yet to extract anything close to the rich, liquid gold that a good espresso shot delivers.
The Nanopresso steps up to the espresso plate nicely. The newest generation of handheld espresso makers from Wacaco, it follows their earlier release; the Minipresso. I purchased my first Minipresso a number of years ago and had nothing but trouble with it. While the coffee quality was fine, the piston used to manually build up pressure in the system kept locking up and needed physically pulled out after each pump rather than the spring returning it. I thought I had ground too fine, perhaps, and broken something internally by putting too much pressure on the mechanics inside, but the replacement unit that Wacaco sent out did exactly the same thing after only a couple uses with a much coarser grind. I’ve had a few people mention the same issue to me from these earlier models. An inherent problem in the initial design maybe?
All this seems to be resolved in the Nanopresso. I’ve been using the yellow Nanopresso Patrol series now for some time and had no issues whatsoever. In fact, I’ve been so happy with the results that I binned my home espresso machine and now solely use the Nanopresso. (to be fair, though, my home machine was rubbish and leaked more water from the seals than actually made it into the cup…)
Now I’m sure that if you pull shots all day on a Strada AV, the Nanopresso won’t hold a candle to the quality you’re used to. But keep in mind the market and purpose this unit is designed for; espresso on the go, ease of use, with minimal fuss. This device ticks all those boxes.
At its most simple, the device is made up of 3 main components; a “grouphead” that houses the mechanism for building up pressure, a vessel for holding preheated water attaches to one end of this, while the “portafilter” holding the coffee attaches to the other. Ground coffee is loaded into a basket and this is inserted into what becomes your portafilter. A spring loaded pump is then used to build up pressure and draw water into the grouphead and through the portafilter.
The Nanopresso comes standard with a 8g basket. At a 2:1 ratio this only produces a 16g shot which during a day hiking on the trails is disheartening and leaves you wanting more. Thankfully, Wacaco has also released a Barista Kit compatible with their Nanopresso. This kit comes with an expansion ring (the Double Espresso Adaptor) that spaces out the portafilter to allow for a 16g basket, and also includes a larger water reservoir (140ml I think) allowing for multiple shots without refilling. One of the nicest features of the Barista Kit is the extra baskets that also come with caps. This allows you to pregrind at home, fill and cap the baskets meaning grinder and coffee bag can be left at home! A purist can cringe away at pre-grinding, but when you’re travelling light and conscious of space in your pack, the less you carry the better.
So for portability and ease of use, you can’t go wrong. But what’s the cup quality like? As stated, you will never be able to compare this to a multi-$K machine, and nor should you try. I’m no espresso expert by a long shot, but I know what I like and don’t like. The consensus is that the Nanopresso tends to under-extract, mainly due to heat loss. I would agree that it’s easy to do, but I’ve also over-compensated and over-extracted many a shot too. There is enough room to play with grind adjustment and extraction time (you’re in control of how fast you pull a shot) to find a range that suits your tastes. I find I am less likely to mind slight sourness in a shot than I am the telltale over-extracted tastes; so for me, this device works fine.
While a thermos of hot water works well for filter coffee outdoors, espresso needs water right off the boil. Heat loss is your biggest enemy outside, so having the ability to boil water on the trail is key. I use the Jetboil for its portability and insulated vessel for maximum heat retention.
Prefilling multiple baskets eliminated the need to rinse them between shots. This saves time, helps retain heat, and also conserves water which can be a critical component when hiking with rations. Cleaning the device is easy, but best done with running water.
Overall, the Nanopress is ideal for space-conscious hikers looking for that hit on the trails. While not comparable to other home-use machines, it delivers a delicious shot that is as absolutely good as can be expected when there are no coffee shops for miles. Which is all part of the joy of outdoor brewing.
“Tim Messenger is a specialty coffee enthusiast, avid hiker, mountain biker, and fly-fisher based in the hills east of Melbourne. His business, Bike Hike Brew, designs & produces Custom Aeropresses and facilitates the Wilderness Brewing Sessions.
The Wilderness Brewing Sessions are about creating space to explore specialty coffee in the great outdoors. Brewing workshops are incorporated into hikes and rides in stunning locations around Victoria. They’re about generating community and sharing experiences; a space to learn and connect.
Custom Aeropress designs and the Wilderness Brewing Sessions can be found at www.bikehikebrew.com”
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