Uniterra Nomad

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.

#1: Post by BruceWayne »

I was surfing YouTube to learn more about making espresso, and I stumbled on this review from Brian Quan for the Uniterra Nomad:
When I visited their site everything was on sale, so I figured what the heck, I can get a cheap, blue plastic espresso machine for ~$270 with tax and shipping. It arrived this evening.

I'm still a little shocked at this point, tbh.

I unpacked it. A blue, plastic box that looks like a kids toy. There was a note attached to the tray stating they test each machine with water, so the basket might be a little damp. There was a 49mm tamper. Since I saw Brian's review, I took the tray apart and removed the pressure valve, and put it back together.

OK, time to make espresso. I weighed out 14g of decaf beans, ground them up, and carefully transferred them into the basket. I assume Pavoni sized tools would help here. Evened the bed out by tapping the sides of the tray and tamped. The tamper is slightly too small for the basket as there was a thin layer of coffee on the inside of the basket, but, otherwise, it looked good.

Boiled some water and poured a bit in to swirl around the reservoir. (Some water splashed on my hand from the lever mechanism when I tilted it toward me, so didn't swirl too vigorously after that) Filled up the reservoir with boiling water. Locked in the basket and stuck a shot cup under the spout.

Pulled the shot, or is it see-sawed? Since I'd seen a few videos where one guy severely channeled his shot and another guy spilled coffee all over his table, I did a 10 pump preinfusion. Waited a few seconds and went at it to get the pressure up. Espresso started coming out fairly quickly. It also got to 8 bar pretty easily. Once it reached that pressure, the resistance from the lever made it hard to keep pumping freely, but it also made it easier to maintain at ~8 bar. Meanwhile, a stream of espresso was pouring into my shot cup. I didn't have a scale under the cup, so the shot ended up going a little long.

Now the shocking part, that lungo was the best tasting shot I've pulled with that coffee so far. It was thin and didn't have the texture I like because I pulled something close to a 40g shot with 14g, but it tasted fine and had a nice layer of crema. I'm slightly appalled.

Why does no one here talk about this machine? I'm posting a new thread because the old one died seven years ago. Is it because it looks like a toy? Is it the seesaw lever or the removable pressure valve?

I'll see if I can post pictures the next time I use it.


#2: Post by megamixman »

definitely an interesting machine. I'm a bit wary of the plastic and hot water combo. At least in the US, we don't have good standards around what kind of plastic is allowed when near hot water, resulting in pretty bad leached plastic flavors in things like common drip coffee machines.

Also would be curious if someone with a Robot or Flair has tried it. I love my flair because of the visceral feeling of the lever. I don't even look at the pressure gauge. I just feel the pressure coming back from the puck and watch the coffee coming out.

I doubt any reasonable human with normals hands could see-saw fast enough to make the water-hammer start that is characteristic of a true Londinium shot, but who knows.

BruceWayne (original poster)

#3: Post by BruceWayne (original poster) »

Well, it's not that US standards are terrible, just that most of our plastic these days comes from a place that doesn't enforce standards, and our government isn't enforcing them on imported stuff. :(

So, the box says made in Taiwan, and since I'm about to spend quite a bit of money on a grinder made in Taiwan, I trust their standards more than what I'm likely to find in the avg. dept. store here. :?

My biggest concern after a brief inspection of the machine is that the manometer doesn't have a face piece, so the needle is exposed. It's inset, but I wouldn't want to pack this in a container full of anything that might bend or hit the needle.

I'm definitely going to use this to learn more about how pressure profiles affect the shot. I think it'll be easy to have decent pressure control with a little practice. You get good feedback in the seesaw lever, independent from the manometer. At 8 bar, there was quite a bit of resistance vs. when I was initially pumping.

I'm still really shocked that I made espresso with no issues on the first shot. Except for Brian Quan, the other YouTube videos I saw were using the pressure valve, so I thought it might be harder to get espresso out of the Nomad, but proper grind and puck prep was all it took.

P.S. The channeled puck I mentioned earlier was from a photo in the previous Nomad thread here, not a YouTube video.


#4: Post by lloito »

Thanks for reviving this topic! I've been looking for an opportunity to experiment with pressure and flow profiles and the Nomad seems like a low price point to be able to do both. At least that's my hypothesis and it justified my decision on pulling the trigger for one. I'll report back once I get to play with it.

BruceWayne (original poster)

#5: Post by BruceWayne (original poster) »

I hope you got at least one extra basket. I ended up removing the fines filter they have in the basket carrier to keep from clogging the TCV, since I've never used the pressurization valve. They did give me instructions on how to access and remove the manometer, since I'm thinking of trying to use my SEP, but I haven't gotten around to finding an adapter, and am not sure I want to rip it apart, tbh.


#6: Post by roggerdavid »

I have had mine for 5 months and have 3 cartridges for fast work flow. I have not used this without the valve yet but I will try soon since I now have a J-max grinder. I have never had a bad dark roast shot of espresso but light roast is a different beast and have not had any luck. For a fast no fuss shot this thing is a beast.

BruceWayne (original poster)

#7: Post by BruceWayne (original poster) »

If you've been using a coarser grind with the TCV for light roasts, it makes sense that they didn't turn out well. As long as I use a grind appropriate for espresso and tamp the puck well, I haven't had any problems getting sufficient pressure to extract good espresso.


#8: Post by lloito »

Received my unit today with an extra basket and removed TCV from both of them. Used a grind that I had dialed in for 17g Strada basket which is on the fine side. Bonavita kettle at 210F. Ran some water to preheat, dumped the reservoir and refilled for the first shot. Loaded 13gr, pre-infused at 2 bar for approx 8 sec, ramped up for the shot but did not get past 6 bar and ended up pulling too long trying to get to 8-9bar. First shot was tasty but watery. Second shot, same grind same temp water, loaded 14 gr, pre-infused, pulled and it got to 8-9 bars very easily. I guess managing headspace is part of the learning curve. Second shot had good body, nice layer of crema and tasted great! Coffee was Cordillera de Fuego Térmico med roast from Northside Coffee. I'm impressed with the quality of the shot that this thing can deliver, excited to continue experimenting.

Other Notes:
-Workflow was awkward and messy, need to figure things out.
-Could not fit shot glass and scale under spout which was expected, can be easily fixed by using a thick cutting board to raise the unit.
-Cleaning was a bit more involved but it was also expected, difficult to dry all the nooks and crannies of the basket holder so had to leave them to air dry.
-Not sure how I feel about the filter disk under the basket, might consider removing later since it's purpose appears to be to protect the TCV from clogging.
-Definetly need a funnel to not make a mess while loading and WDT'ing.
-Included Tamper is ok, does not fit snug in the basket. Could be upgraded later but not necessary to do so now.

BruceWayne (original poster)

#9: Post by BruceWayne (original poster) »

Yeah, you need a funnel, otherwise grounds get all over the tray. I picked up a 49 mm funnel from Amazon. The machine really needs to be elevated to use it with a scale.


#10: Post by LewBK »

Not sure why one would favor this over a Robot, Aram, Flair, Portaspresso, or Kazak Rota, all of which are made of sturdier metal parts with less chemical plastic leaching into your coffee.