How to achieve best espresso with Handpresso portable

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?

#1: Post by entropy4money »

Hi all,

I've owned a handpresso for more than a year. Which I used on an off. As many of you here, I am quite picky with my espresso, and the handpresso brew generally didn't cut it for me. I tried brewing so many different ways, played around with the variables, but could not get a good espresso out of it. It would either be way too strong and thick, or extremely watery. A few times I managed to get a great shot, but I could not repeat it. However, the fact that real espresso happened sometimes proved that the machine had the capabilities of brewing a great shot. I can say now, I have learned, and found a recipe for amazing espresso out of the handpresso; I have achieved a espresso that you would not believe comes from a portable device. And now, I share my tips and tricks with you.

What you would need:

1) Handpresso
2) Intense "portafilter" (optional)
3) Hot water
4) Conical grinder
5) Electric pump, or manual, espresso machine - the real thing (optional)
6) Good quality coffee
7) 0.1 gr scale

Here's the recipe for success:

1) DO NOT follow the instructions from the handpresso manufacturer. It will often result on a very watery pseudo-espresso drink.
2) Dial in your perfect cup of espresso on your espresso machine. Get the right grind, right dose for a double shot. This step is optional, but it would help you find the right grind setting for your handpresso. Make sure to measure the amount of coffee you are grinding for a double shot with your scale. If you don't have a espresso machine, you would have to skip this step and find the right grind with the handpresso which can be painful.
3) Grind half the amount of coffee you dialed in for your double shot. For example, if you ground 20gr for your electric machine, grind 10gr for your handpresso. Forget about the 7gr suggested, it is just too little coffee.
4) Put 1/3 of the ground coffee in the handpresso's basket, tamp it with the back of the handpresso. Put another 1/3 and tamp again. Put the remaining 1/3 and tamp. This step is a little hard, because it is not easy to fill the basket with 9~10gr of coffee, but you will get really good and quick with practice.
5) Heat up some water (very hot), warm up your espresso cup and your handpresso's reservoir. Make sure to warm up the "intense portafilter" as well. You can also use the regular portafilter, but I have often achieved better results with the intense portafilter.
6) Fill up your handpresso's water reservoir with hot water (not as hot as step 5), put the basket with the ground coffee in your handpresso. Place your empty cup on the gram scale and zero it.
7) Turn your handpresso upside down, as if you are going to brew, and let the hot water soak the coffee for 5~10 seconds.
8) Release the pressure, brew your cup.
9) If everything is good, you will see the pressure drop very quickly to 8~12 bars where it should remain stable. This is crucial. At this point coffee will most likely drip instead of flowing naturally like it does on your electric espresso machine. This is normal.
10) Forget about the time variable, the handpresso just doesn't work like the espresso machines you are used to. The air pressure reservoir is too small, and this will result on longer extraction time. Pay attention to the gram scale, and only stop the brewing when you achieve your desired amount of espresso. I usually go for about 1.8*(amount of ground coffee). So if I have 10gr of ground coffee, I go for 18gr of espresso. It will take some time, and it should be more than 30 seconds, but no more than 1 minute.
11) You're done!

Logic behind the method:

The handpresso has the capabilities to achieve the necessary amount of pressure to create espresso. However, it works by storing that amount of pressure and then releasing it. The pressure reservoir; amount of pressure energy, the handpresso can store, is very tiny. Having very little energy stored to produce a shot of espresso makes things quite difficult. People try to obtain espresso using the same techniques they use in electric espresso machines. This is why a lot of people complain about the pressure dropping to fast, and then having a very watery drink, or a pseudo-espresso with very light crema (under-extracted). What my method proposes is for you to think outside the box and work with the tool you have, with the main goal being maintaining high pressure along the brewing process. This is why it is important that you notice the pressure stops from dropping and espresso slowly drips out of the handpresso.

Cons of this method:

The only problem here is that water stays in contact with the coffee for too long during the brewing process, and there is nothing you can do about this. However, espresso should still taste great and it shouldn't taste over-extracted. You will achieve great results.

Pros of this method:

You will achieve real espresso. Espresso you can make virtually anywhere, camping, office, road, hotel, etc... Below, a picture of a double shot I made today on my handpresso (2 runs, 2 baskets).

Notice the dark and nice looking crema with complex colors, as well as the thick and dark body. This is a single origin (ethiopian) lightish roast.


1) Espresso is dripping way too slow: this might not be a problem really. Let it drip, and once you achieve the right amount of espresso, try it. If it tastes overextracted then it is a problem. But you would be surprised by how long it can take to make an awesome shot out of the handpresso compared to a semi-automatic espresso machine. If the espresso doesn't taste good, then:

a) Try using the regular espresso portafilter instead.
b) Try loading less coffee, but do not go below 8.5 grams. The handpresso is very sensitive, a 0.1 gram difference will affect your brewing. So if you are doing say 10gr, try 9.8 or 9.5 depending how slow it is. Go with small steps. I have found 10gr to be sort of the magic number for the handpresso.
c) If you go as low as 8.5 grams and it is still too slow, I recommend changing the grind settings (grind coarser). The handpresso tends to not like too fine grind.

2) Espresso dripping too fast - light crema - watery espresso: Like this --> ... -black.jpg
a) Increase the dose, but do not go above 11 grams. It is almost impossible to load more than 11 grams inside the basket. Again small increments, if you are at say 9.0 grams, try 9.5.
b) If you get to 11 grams and it is still too weak/fast/no crema/light crema/ then change the grinder settings (finer).

3) I get a great looking espresso but it tastes terrible:
a) Play around with the grind settings and extraction volume. Some beans will taste better on the ristretto side, others on the lungo side.
b) You can try to play around with the temperature of the water (I have not gone into this territory with my handpresso).
c) Some beans will be friendlier to the handpresso than others. Try coffee from a different roaster.

4) I am getting no crema at all, or I am getting too little crema: It is true that crema is not everything, and some beans will produce more crema than others. Also, crema tends to be bitter, and doesn't taste good all the time. However, I do believe strongly that achieving crema is necessary. No crema no espresso. Also, the color of the crema tells a lot about your extraction.

a) Check out item 2. Problems with no crema are often related to not enough pressure, which means you have to either grind finer or increase the dose.
b) If your extraction is slow, and everything seems alright but still no crema, try a different bean. Your bean could be stale.

If you understand the logic, and practice a bit. I promise you won't be disappointed. I have 3 baskets, which I fill in the morning before a hiking trip using my method. It takes me about 3 minutes to fill the three of them, and I always have great espresso on the outdoors.

entropy4money (original poster)

#2: Post by entropy4money (original poster) »

Since I posted a picture of a double shot, here's a picture of a single shot I achieved today with the handpresso:

I did this using the same technique, I've been achieving constantly amazing results. This by far has been the best espresso I've gotten out of the handpresso in terms of taste. It was incredibly good, and I could not believe came out of a handpresso.

I used a full city roast, single origin (Papua new guinea), washed, beans from a local roaster. They were roasted 6 days ago.

10 gr of ground beans.
18.6 gr extracted.

Notice from the crema I went I little beyond blonding. I usually don't go past blonding, but for this particular bean I found that going a little beyond blonding does it for me. I dial through taste mostly, so I don't pay too much attention to rules of thumb. I pull mostly espresso, ristretto, or in between. But I have gotten beans that happen to be delicious on the lungo side, and even further (swiss crema).


#3: Post by gadgetviper »

Awesome guide, looking forward to trying it out for myself


#4: Post by cafeaffe »

Very comprehensive guide! For steps 5 and 6, have you measured the actual water temperature you preheat to and also the temperature as you're filling the reservoir?