Best Manual Espresso Maker in 2024: My Top 5 Picks

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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I’ve come to adore manual coffee grinders over the years, so I’ve decided it’s about time that I give manual espresso makers some more love too. More than any other coffee gadget, the best manual espresso maker for you depends a lot on what you’re buying it for.

I’ve come to adore manual coffee grinders over the years, so I’ve decided it’s about time that I give manual espresso makers some more love too. More than any other coffee gadget, the best manual espresso maker for you depends a lot on what you’re buying it for.

Some are intended for travel, meaning they are small and lightweight. Others are meant to be an alternative to a standard home espresso machine, so they are sturdy and stylish.

There’s a lot to dig into here, so I think it’s worth a dedicated review. Read on to learn more about manual espresso makers and discover the best one for you!

Best Manual Espresso Makers at a Glance

Here’s a quick look at the manual espresso makers I’ll be reviewing today.

1Product List Image

Clever design

Includes pressure gauge

Sturdy and durable

2Product List Image
Best Performing

ROK EspressoGC

High-quality build

Compact footprint

Makes great espresso

3Product List Image
Best for Travel

Wacaco Picopresso

Compact design

Easy to use

Professional results

4Product List Image

Beautiful design

Steam wand

Rugged construction

5Product List Image

Innovative design

Tamper included

Great value

What Is a Manual Espresso Maker?

The definition of a manual espresso maker is pretty self explanatory. Manual espresso makers generally don’t require electricity. Instead, they rely on muscle power to create espresso.

I suppose at this point I should be more specific about what espresso even is. Needless to say, espresso is a super concentrated coffee brew. The coffee to water ratio for espresso is often 1:2 or close to that. The prime ingredient is, of course, finely ground coffee beans. But sufficient pressure is the key to making authentic espresso.

An espresso machine forces hot water through a tightly packed puck of coffee grounds at 6 to 9 bars of pressure. This pressure encourages a high level of extraction, which brings out coffee oils and gasses.

True espresso will have a layer of crema on the top, which is essentially coffee oils and carbon dioxide. While crema isn’t the tastiest part of the espresso shot, it’s a sign that your extraction was likely successful.

With a manual espresso maker, you are creating this pressure with your arms. Often, the machine has a lever system and piston that forces water through the coffee bed to achieve 6 to 9 bars of pressure.

I’ll admit, manual espresso makers aren’t for everyone. They require more muscle power and skill than your standard home espresso machine.

In fact, it’s not as simple as just pushing down a lever; you need to press down at a consistent rate to achieve even extraction. What’s more, you’ll often need a kettle with a thermometer to make sure your water is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90 and 96 degrees Celsius).

Still, I think manual espresso makers are quite fun to play around with! I’d even consider using some of these choices as my daily brewing method. Keep reading to see why!

Choosing the Best Manual Espresso Maker: What to Consider

Your Budget

One of the most appealing aspects of manual espresso makers is their relative affordability compared to standard espresso machines and automatic coffee machines. Since they don’t have any electronics, they tend to be less costly.

Still, there is a wide range of prices in this category. A higher cost often – but not always – correlates with higher quality materials and a better performance. Fortunately, there are sufficient options for you to tailor your purchase to your budget and espresso needs.

I recognize that most people looking for a manual espresso maker prioritize budget and portability. So, most of my picks are small and pretty affordable, sitting in the $100-$300 range. However, I did throw in a premium option with a boiler that’s designed to look pretty on a kitchen counter.

Materials and Design

ROK Coffee Espresso Press Portafilter

By far the most common technical design of a manual espresso machine is a lever to create pressure. There are few exceptions to this design, one of which I’ll discuss later.

When you depress the lever, the piston forces water through the coffee bed in the portafilter. A shower screen helps distribute the water evenly across the portafilter. Then, coffee flows into your espresso cup.

This gravity-fed design is pretty standard, but the best espresso makers stand out thanks to high-quality materials and specific design details.

You’ll want to look out for espresso makers with stainless steel brewing chambers and portafilters, since their better heat retention will ensure a more even extraction.

On the other hand, if you’re getting a manual espresso maker for travel, stainless steel will be quite heavy. In this case, an espresso maker with a mix of plastic and metal would be a good fit.

However, if you’re looking for a powered espresso machine that has a manual lever, weight won’t be an issue.

Of course, power is another design factor to consider. While most of my picks don’t plug in to an outlet, I did include one espresso maker with an electric boiler. If that’s your jam, I’ll give you a hint: look out for the La Pavoni Professional below.

Portability

Many manual espresso makers are portable in a sense, since they often don’t need to be plugged in. That said, a powered machine with a manual lever for pulling shots clearly wouldn’t fall into that category.

As far as non-powered espresso makers go, some are better suited for travel than others. 

The best portable espresso makers are lightweight, durable and easy to clean.

Some manufacturers will include a durable travel case with their espresso maker. Others will add volumetric markers on the water cylinder. That way, you can stick to the general coffee-to-water ratio if you are traveling without a coffee scale.

Incidentally, if you’re on the hunt for an espresso maker to take on the road, check out my guide to the best portable espresso maker.

Ease of Use

Almost by definition, a manual espresso maker is going to be a little tricky to use. After all, it requires more work than simply pressing a button and waiting thirty seconds for your shot to pull.

There’s definitely a learning curve to making espresso by hand. It goes without saying, then, that it’s nice when manual espresso makers aren’t harder to use than they have to be.

If you’re a newbie to the manual espresso maker world, you may want to look for models that include pressurized baskets. A single drainage hole increases pressure in the basket, encouraging an even extraction.

Flair Classic Setting Up

Pressurized baskets are also good for traveling, since they are pretty forgiving of pre-ground coffee and uneven brewing surfaces.

Of course, I don’t recommend using pre-ground coffee, but sometimes it’s more convenient if you’re backpacking or camping.

Even if you aren’t a newbie, an espresso maker with a pressure gauge will make it easier to tell if you are creating enough pressure. There’s also the design factor of good ergonomics, which makes it less strenuous on your muscles and joints to press the levers down.

Finally, I can’t forget to mention other coffee gear that will make it easier to brew quality espresso with a manual espresso maker.

Naturally, you’ll want a coffee grinder. If you’re planning on making ‘spro on the go, I’d recommend the 1Zpresso J Max. Some of these espresso makers come with a quality espresso tamper, but if yours doesn’t you’ll need to pick one up pronto.

For a coffee scale, I’d recommend a compact and durable model like the Timemore Black Mirror, which is great for travel and home use. You’ll also want a gooseneck kettle for most models, though a cheaper camping kettle like the GSI Outdoors Halulite would work fine for outdoor use.

Special Features

If you’re transitioning from a semi-automatic to a manual espresso maker, you may want to keep some of the fancy features you’re used to. On the flip side, some accessories just make manual brewing more manageable, especially when traveling.

A pressure gauge, for example, ensures that you’ll always know whether or not you’re brewing true espresso. It’ll also alert you to any extraction difficulties. Plus, a built-in cup is useful if you are on the go and don’t want to pack a separate cup.

Personally, I’m a fan of portafilter dosing funnels to make transferring coffee from the grinder a breeze. However, the included funnels aren’t always the best quality, so sometimes you’re better off without them.

Some manual espresso makers come with their own tamper, too. Regular Coffeeness readers will know that I’m generally disappointed with the tampers that come with espresso machines.

Fortunately, I’ve noticed that those included with manual espresso makers are often of pretty decent quality. Perhaps this is because they usually double as some other part in the espresso maker, thanks to compact and efficient designs.

The 5 Best Manual Espresso Makers

Keep an eye out for all those features and design factors I just mentioned as you peruse my picks for the best manual espresso maker. Most of these options are pretty budget-friendly, but there’s a fancy one in here that espresso fanatics may just drool over!

Flair Classic Espresso Maker With Pressure Kit

Flair Classic Overview

PROS

  • Included pressure gauge
  • Unique design
  • Stainless steel brewing cylinder

CONS

  • Not the most portable

I bet you’ll recognize this one! 

The Flair Classic Espresso Maker With Pressure Kit blew the coffee world away upon its initial release, and continues to impress today.

With its stainless steel brewing cylinder and aluminum base, the Flair’s $229.00 asking price is pretty reasonable for such a high quality espresso maker. Personally, I’m a fan of durable materials in a coffee maker – especially if I’m going to be forcing water through coffee grounds with the power of my own arms.

If you want to be positive that you’re making espresso and not just a super-concentrated cup of coffee, you’ll be happy to know that the Flair has a pressure gauge. It also comes with a drip tray and stainless steel tamper.

These are nice touches, and make it obvious that the manufacturer is serious about good espresso. I can assure you that I pulled balanced espresso shots with thick crema when I tested this espresso maker. In fact, the espresso was so tasty that I could recommend this for daily use, as long as you don’t mind a morning workout.

As far as its portability, the Flair advertises itself as travel-ready, and even comes with a carry case. However, I don’t consider it the best portable espresso maker because of the large surface area of the base. What’s more, there are lots of bits and pieces that could get lost along the way.

If you’re traveling to a hotel or someone else’s house, sure; the Flair will be great. But I wouldn’t recommend bringing it camping unless you have a table to set it up on. Even then, a more lightweight espresso maker with fewer pieces would likely be a better fit.

See Also: Flair Espresso Maker Review 2024

ROK EspressoGC

ROK Espressogc Main

PROS

  • Durable design
  • Compact footprint
  • Stainless steel parts

CONS

  • No pressure gauge
  • Not great for camping

The ROK EspressoGC is a little weird looking, to be sure, but try to look past that. That said, some of you more sci-fi oriented folks may actually like the design.

The ROK’s steel and aluminum body is very sturdy, which is important for a manual espresso maker. After all, I wouldn’t want to press too hard and spill espresso all over the place!

Speaking of spilling coffee, the drip tray is a nice touch. It’ll keep drips off the counter, and serve as a resting spot for your espresso cup while you brew.

As far as accessories go, the 50-millimeter portafilter feels premium and professional. Beyond that, the other included accessories aren’t of the best quality.

The clip-on double adapter for splitting shots is plastic and looks cheap. What’s more, the included tamper is also plastic, so I’d recommend buying a new one. Finally, the ROK doesn’t have a pressure gauge, which makes it feel a little less premium.

Despite its subpar accessories, this espresso maker makes quality espresso. And that’s what really matters here, right?

Plus, costing only $229.00, the ROK is a fraction of the cost of a standard espresso machine. Further, it can easily achieve the espresso-worthy 5-10 bars of pressure.

This means the espresso it brews is genuinely good, with a thick, complex crema. That is, as long as you do everything right!

Like I mentioned, there’s a learning curve to manually pulling shots, and it’s the same deal with the ROK. You likely won’t get it perfect on the first try, but that’s all part of the fun!

See Also: ROK Espresso Maker Review 2024

Wacaco Picopresso

Wacaco Picopresso

PROS

  • Small footprint
  • Stainless steel parts
  • Double shot capacity

CONS

  • Lots of small parts
  • Hard to clean

You may be familiar with this brand if you’ve read my guide to the best camping coffee maker. The Wacaco Picopresso is the smaller yet more professional version of the Nanopresso.

The Picopresso is super compact and durable, making it ideal for the rugged backcountry camper.

That said, it’s definitely fiddly and includes lots of small parts. I’d only recommend this manual espresso maker to a backpacker who is also experienced in the art and science of espresso brewing.

The nice thing about this espresso maker is that it knows its audience. The Picopresso comes with a dosing funnel, a distribution tool, a metal tamper and a brush. And while at home you may have these espresso accessories scattered across your coffee bar, the Picopresso has space to pack them all neatly inside.

Oh, and did I mention you get all this – plus cafe-worthy espresso – for only $129.90?!

The only necessary accessory it doesn’t include is an espresso cup, though you can easily pack your own.

The Picopresso is the only espresso maker on my list without a lever. Instead, you press directly on the piston to create pressure in the 52-millimeter stainless steel portafilter basket. I reckon this process will require a bit of exertion, but campers are likely used to that, anyway. If you’re extra strong you can achieve up to 18 bars of pressure with the pumping system, more than twice what’s required for espresso.

The 2.7-ounce (80-milliliter) water tank capacity means you can pull (or press?) a double shot with this thing. I don’t know about you, but a creamy double shot is exactly what I want after spending a cold night in a tent.

Related: Wacaco Nanopresso Review 2024

La Pavoni Professional

La Pavoni Professional

PROS

  • Built-in boiler
  • Steam wand
  • Pressure gauge
  • Beautiful and durable design

CONS

  • Quite pricey
  • Not portable

Don’t let this manual espresso maker fool you; the La Pavoni PC-16 Professional is anything but simple. In fact, I count it as one of the best prosumer espresso machines on the market.

True, for a whopping $1,203.85, this espresso maker better be next level. But I promise: it truly is a high quality machine.

This espresso maker requires electricity to heat the boiler. You know what that means: no gooseneck kettle required. And I’ve got even better news: there’s a steam wand!

In other words, this espresso maker is pretty much like any other espresso machine. Except, of course, you’ll be pulling shots by hand. And I will say that La Pavoni machines can be quite tricky to master. Still, if you weren’t interested in manually brewing, you wouldn’t be reading this!

The La Pavoni Professional has a gorgeous polished stainless steel build, and a pretty small footprint. That said, I wouldn’t call this espresso maker portable by any means. Unless you feel like traveling with a 14 pound (6.3 kilogram) machine and a portable generator, I’d choose a different model.

The stainless steel portafilter is high quality, and the pressure gauge ensures you can monitor your shots for channeling. Then again, I wouldn’t expect anything less from such a highly respected brand.

Pretty much the only part of this espresso maker that isn’t premium is the plastic tamper it comes with. Naturally, you’ll want to match the quality of the espresso maker by purchasing a stainless steel tamper.

Oh, and don’t forget to buy an espresso grinder, too. This baby deserves the best!

See Also: La Pavoni Professional Review 2024

Hugh Leverpresso

Hugh Leverpresso Main

PROS

  • Included tamper
  • Portable
  • Easy to clean
  • Double shot capacity

CONS

  • Dosing funnel not included
  • Primarily plastic

Have you ever wanted your manual espresso maker to look like a lantern? How about a tiny spaceship?

Well you’re in luck! Behold the Hugh Leverpresso.

Though I do think the Leverpresso is cool, I’ll lead with the biggest qualm I have with this manual espresso maker: many of the parts are plastic.

However, I’ll concede that this is common for portable coffee gear. Plus, plastic certainly helps keep the costs down. I mean, for only $110.00, I’d say the Hugh Leverpresso is a pretty good deal.

Anyway, at least it’s made of BPA-free Tritan plastic, which is food-safe and UV-resistant.

The Leverpresso also has a stainless steel and aluminum body, which means it’s pretty dang durable. Plus, if you’d like some extra protection, you can buy the compatible Hugh travel case.

Clocking in at 20 ounces (580 grams), it’s clear that this manual espresso maker is great for travel. What’s more, the 51-millimeter pressurized portafilter basket will compensate for any brewing inconsistencies and there are no tiny bits and pieces to clean.

However, this thing is also good enough to be a daily espresso maker. Along with the pressurized basket, it comes with a 51-millimeter non-pressurized basket for discerning espresso aficionados. Incidentally, these baskets can hold about 19 grams of coffee. Paired with the 4 ounce (120 milliliter) water cylinder, this means you can successfully pull a double shot of espresso!

Speaking of, I can’t forget to touch on the Leverpresso’s functional performance. While there is no pressure gauge, a variable pressure system enables you to create consistent pressure when pressing on the lever.

Oh, and there’s also limited pre-infusion control, which is necessary to ensure balanced, evenly extracted shots.

The Leverpresso isn’t the flashiest manual espresso maker, but it certainly gets the job done!

Decision Time

If you’ve made it this far and still haven’t decided on the best manual espresso maker for you, I’ll give you a helping hand.

If you want to pull shots manually but like the build and convenience of a powered espresso machine, the La Pavoni Professional is the way to go. I’ll admit that I already have this machine and I adore it, so I’m not an unbiased judge. But it really is top-of-the-line for a seasoned home barista.

The Flair is a close second. Its affordability is a huge plus, but I am truly impressed with its performance, too.

A regular backpacker will obviously adore the Wacaco Picopresso for its portability, and it makes great espresso, to boot. Still, the Hugh Leverpresso is just as portable and is a little more stylish.

The ROK EspressoGC isn’t the best for camping, but if you’re traveling in an RV or something similar it may become your favorite travel buddy. It’ll also work in a modern home kitchen, so it’s pretty versatile, too.

Hmm, I guess my verdict is that all of my picks are the best. Can you tell that I really like these espresso makers?

In the end, you can’t go wrong with any of my picks. After all, the end result will be another fun way to brew espresso!

Do you have any tips for manual espresso makers? Which model is your favorite? Let me know below in the comments!

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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