There's nothing like a cup of freshly made, hot coffee, quickly made, just for you, right when you want it. Real coffee - not that nasty black sludge that is burning in the office kitchenette.
However, you can't always step out to your favorite barista.
Enter the single serve portable coffee maker.
Today's coffee aficionado has a smorgasbord of choices when looking for a device that will make that one perfect cup.
Depending on what type of coffee you prefer - from straight black coffee to multishot espresso - you have a myriad of choices to wade through to discover the gadget that will make the perfect cup for you.
Besides your preferred type of coffee, where you will be brewing your coffee will be a major consideration that affects the portable brewster you choose.
There are specific devices that suit a thru-hiker or overseas backpacking expedition, while there are other choices that are better for the beach goer or car camper.
In the detailed guide that follows, you'll explore ten very different units, from a compact electric coffee machine that makes a cup of regular joe to an espresso bullet with battery power you can take camping.
It's cliché, but, as you'll discover from the tested devices covered below, you'll find that while you generally get what you pay for, there are some excellent coffee makers available at a reasonable price suitable for those on the go who need maximum coffee portability.
With this complete guide to portable coffee makers you'll be armed with the all the information you need about how to choose a portable coffee maker, the answers to some commonly asked questions, and reviews of the best of the best portable coffee makers of 2020.
Comparison Chart 1: The Top Choices
AdirChef Grab N' Go Personal Coffee Maker
KOHIPRESS The Original Portable French Press Coffee Maker
Wacaco Minipresso GR Portable Espresso Machine
CISNO Automated Portable Espresso Machine
BLACK+DECKER Single Serve Coffeemaker
Best Portable Coffee Maker Reviews
1. AdirChef Grab N' Go Personal Coffee Maker
The AdirChef Grab 'n Go personal coffee maker is a lightweight, compact electric unit with a footprint that works for small kitchens, dorms, and the office.
It offers an escape from landfill-destined K cups since the nylon filter basket allows you to use the grounds you want, rather than being roped into a capsule or pod, which can be short on flavor.
The handsome stainless steel 15 oz. travel cup with its handy rubber grip is a radical improvement over the flimsy plastic cup formerly sold with this coffee maker, and its tapered shape fits most car cup holders. At this price, this eco-friendly space saver looks like a great idea, and the travel pack, sold separately, is adorable.
What's to like about the AdirChef Grab N' Go Personal Coffee Maker
What first attracted us to this coffee maker was the freedom from K cups, and of course the price.
The travel cup is nice and sturdy and keeps coffee pretty hot, and the rubber grip keeps you from dropping your cup. It's a small, light unit that won't take much space, and it has an automatic off button.
What's not to like about the AdirChef Grab N' Go Personal Coffee Maker
The AdirChef is a good product, but at this price, you may get a little less.
The nylon filter is fragile and may let a little sediment into your cup if you don't use a coarse grind.
Water temperature is not always optimal and some units drip too rapidly, making weaker coffee. The on/off button is less solidly constructed than more expensive models.
2. KOHIPRESS The Original Portable French Press Coffee Maker
The Kohipress is a medium priced manual french press that truly allows you to brew on the go. The elegant all in one design is really impressive, with a tough double wall stainless steel cup that doubles as an immersion container for your brew.
The genius of the Kohipress is that the plunger presses the grounds out of your coffee and totally isolates them, preventing bitterness. Also, because the brew time is about three minutes, acidity stays low.
You can walk down the street drinking freshly made french press coffee right out of the press, which doubles as an elegant, leakproof, insulated travel cup. And of course, you can use the Kohipress to brew looseleaf tea as well.
What's to like about the KOHIPRESS Portable French Press Coffee Maker
The Kohipress is what we call mobile brewing.
Because of its very nicely thought out design, you can brew better coffee anywhere you can get boiling water.
After three minutes, you depress the tough, BPA free plunger and screw it into the bottom of the chamber, isolating your grounds and completely stopping the extraction process. The filter is stainless steel.
What's not to like about the KOHIPRESS Portable French Press Coffee Maker
The drinking aperture is a little small if you drink your coffee fast.
Possibly more important is that the isolation chamber, where the grounds are isolated, is too large for the grounds needed to make 12 ounces of coffee. This means you waste a little coffee and the sloppy grounds are messier to clean.
3. Wacaco Minipresso GR Portable Espresso Machine
The Wacaco Minipresso GR is a very affordable cute little portable espresso bullet that can make up to one and a half espresso shots at a time.
It's manual and weighs less than a pound, so it's a great solution to your espresso jones on camping trips.
Its all-in-one design is modern and slick, and it packs very well. All you have to do is add grounds, pour in boiling water, close it up and pump away until hot espresso pours into the cup below.
The reasonable price alone makes it easy to throw in your backpack, and think how much further you can hike on all that rocket fuel.
What's to like about the Wacaco Minipresso GR Portable Espresso Machine
The Wacaco Minipresso is attractively compact, pretty efficiently put together, and works well for occasional use.
The price is nice, and it fits right in your cup holder or the bottle holder on your backpack.
While the espresso won't be quite as strong as what you would get from a regular espresso machine, it's a respectable pull with a decent amount of crema.
What's not to like about the Wacaco Minipresso GR Portable Espresso Machine
The Wacaco is really not designed for frequent or heavy use. It's meant for one person to get one espresso in a location where that is pretty amazing.
Cleanup is pretty messy as the chambers don't empty completely, and the nozzle is complicated to take apart for cleaning, so it clogs, which could be hard on the seals.
4. CISNO Automated Portable Espresso Machine
This is a slightly higher end single serve portable espresso maker that uses a 12V lithium battery.
Because this is a product that you would likely use camping or on a plane, the act that you can use either room temperature or hot water is exciting.
Its bullet shape packs well (looks like an Alexa unit), although the 2.2 lbs might be a deterrent to all but the most caffeine addicted backpackers.
The CISNO Automated Portable Espresso machine uses Nespresso pods and ReCaps, and heats water to 194 F and use 15 bars of pressure.
It comes with a car charger, and they sell an extra rechargeable battery to use while charging the other battery.
What's to like about the CISNO Automated Portable Espresso Machine
If you are someone who just has to have an espresso while in the car or on a plane, this is a pretty cool gadget.
The 12V lithium battery can make 3 shots of espresso from room temperature water per charge, with decent crema.
It's adds some consequential weight for long hikes or backpacking, but the weight is wouldn't be a detrimental consideration for car camping. And it looks cool.
What's not to like about the CISNO Automated Portable Espresso Machine
Depending on how many shots you need, if you need to use the water heating feature, it's going to take a while, like 8-10 minutes per shot.
And really, the battery water heating feature is what makes the espresso maker an interesting option amongst all the others.
If you don't want to use Nespresso pods, you'll have to order the refillable capsule separately, and Nespresso compatible pods have to be pre-pierced .
5. BLACK+DECKER Single Serve Coffeemaker
The Black+Decker Single Serve coffeemaker is a no-bells-or-whistles, compact personal unit that's fine for small apartments, offices, or dorms. What attracted us to this unit is that Black+Decker is a respectable company, and you can pick this up for twenty dollars.
With 16 inches clearance, it will fit under most countertops, and it has a short cord that doesn't get in your way. It comes with a dishwasher safe 16 oz. plastic travel mug that will fit most car cup holders, and a flat-bottomed reusable stainless steel filter basket.
Depending on how much water and coffee or tea you put it, it makes 1-2 cups. It can be used with medium to coarse grounds, or you can use a soft pod or a #2 filter for easier cleanup.
What's to like about the BLACK+DECKER Single Serve Coffeemaker
This is a very affordable, basic unit that will make a decent cup of coffee. Like all cheaper units, it may or may not continue to do so, but if it doesn't work, unlike a unit from some company you never heard of, B+D will replace it. T
he heavy plastic travel mug will keep your coffee warm for up to an hour.
What's not to like about the BLACK+DECKER Single Serve Coffeemaker
The on button doesn't go back off until the unit has run through a cycle.
This can be disconcerting if the button gets pressed by accident, and if you grab the plastic mug before it's finished dripping, you better have another cup handy to catch the drips.
It's not programmable, and the filter basket is not that fine so you might have to use a paper filter.
Comparison Chart 2: The Best of the Rest
6. Barsetto Tripresso Portable Espresso Maker
The Barsetto Tripresso Portable Espresso Maker is an affordable to mid-priced portable manual espresso maker that offers a lot more quality than you would expect.
It uses 15 bars of pressure, and has a micropore filter for smoother taste and an excellent twin-walled insulated cup. It works with either a capsule or grounds. The seal is leakproof, and at less than 2 pounds and 8.7 inches in height, it's really compact; almost camp-worthy.
It's priced in the middle of the lower-range portable espresso machines.
The Barsetto remains affordable for anybody who insists on espresso with access to boiling water.
Barsetto sells a matching thermos separately. That, including attractive Italian design, and a 12 mos warranty, makes it an tempting option to choose for your caffeine needs.
What's to like about the Barsetto Tripresso Portable Espresso Maker
Italian design! The look of this coffee maker get points for style.
The build is solid, with a heavier, smoother piston than similar products. It includes a pod adapter with a wicked sharp cutter for Nespresso pods, and a gorgeous cup.
The cup is large enough to make whatever coffee drink you want in it, and it's twin-walled for insulation.
When you use your own grounds, use the heavy little filter with micropores and a perforated rubber lid. It taps out as a solid puck after 5 minutes.
If you're just having one shot, you'll want to preheat the unit, otherwise your espresso will be tepid.
When you are on the road, that will use up your hot water. Barsetto also advocates only 7 grams of grounds per shot, which just doesn't do it for us--10 is delicious.
You can't get enough grounds in the this espresso maker to make a double shot in one go.
7. CHULUX Single Serve Coffee Maker Brewer
The CHULUX Single Serve Coffee Maker is a mid-range single serve K cup coffee machine suitable for small apartments, campers, dorms, van life, RV, or your office desk (think personal brew machine).
The footprint is 7.5 x 4.3 inches, and we love that it comes in several bright colors. The 12 oz. reservoir and drip tray are removable, and the one-touch on/off button is the only control.
One thing we liked about this easy to transport coffee maker, the CHULUX allows you to use any brand of K cup you like. Moreover it takes both 1 and 2 ounces K cups.
It brews a cup in less than 3 minutes, and we measured a temperature reading of 174F.
You can remove the drip tray to use a larger mug. The machine does not come with a mug included.
What's to alike about the CHULUX Single Serve Coffee Maker Brewer
The CHULUX would be great for van life with its small footprint, choice of colors, and ease of K cup use.
It's made of BPA free plastic, and the reservoir is removable for easy cleaning and filling.
You use your own mug instead of some plastic monstrosity, and you can fit a larger mug in by removing the drip tray.
What's not to alike about the CHULUX Single Serve Coffee Maker Brewer
While the CHULUX is twice as expensive as the very similar Black+Decker (see above), it's only slightly better built and it only uses K cups.
Like the B+D, it has no bells and whistles, although it does have a better on button.
To note: many of the larger travel mugs didn't fit under the coffee dispenser, even when we removed the drip tray.
8. Keurig K-Mini Plus Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker
The Keurig K-Mini Plus Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker is a single serve K cup machine that is on the high side for comparable products, with a few more features and a little more style.
It's Keurig's slimmest model yet, with a 4.5 by 11.3 inches footprint that includes a storage container for K cups. It will also take the refillable K cup.
The removable reservoir makes refills easier, and it includes a strong button if you are in the mood for a bolder brew.
It has cord storage, auto-shutoff, and our favorite, a deep drip tray for accidents; the tallest cup it will take is 7 inches. The K-Mini Plus comes in both black and red.
What's to like about the Keurig K-Mini Plus Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker
After trying the B+D and the CHULUX single serve coffee makers, the Keurig feels a little more generous; a little less economy-class.
It is more stylish than the B+D and has more bells and whistles:
- the strong button (which is also nice for herbal teas)
- the deeper drip reservoir
- the countertop clearing K cup storage in the back
What's not to like about the Keurig K-Mini Plus Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker
The Keurig K-Mini Plus isn't that much fancier than other similar coffee makers that cost half as much or less.
The deep drip reservoir means you don't really need a grab-a-cup feature, and they put in a strong button, so why not put in a timer?
9. Presto MyJo Single Cup Coffee Maker
The Presto MyJo Single Cup Coffee Maker caught our interest with its lightweight and space saving design, and with the lowest price of any of the manual portable coffee makers that we looked at.
The MyJo is a great camping pack-along.
It weighs only 12 ounces and measures only 4.1 x 4.1 x 9 inches.
The Presto uses K cups or refillable K cups, and the reservoir can be microwaved or uses boiling water.
A manual rubber reservoir pushes the boiling water through the grounds and into your coffee cup.
What's to like about the Presto MyJo Single Cup Coffee Maker
The Presto MyJo screams camping--it even looks a bit like a camping lantern.
The coffee maker is small, cheerful, lightweight, and makes a decent cup of coffee.
You can use the included refillable K-cup, or use any Keurig compatible K cup.
The price is also obviously a selling point; it costs less than a pound of good Sumatra.
What's not to like about the Presto MyJo Single Cup Coffee Maker
The MyJo is lightweight plastic and obviously a bit fragile.
Unfortunately, it's not the best choice for everyday use. We wish it was more durable because we really like the design.
It's also a dicey fitting the rubber pumper onto what is essentially a plastic cup full of hot water.
The rubber valve is sometimes not cut open, so you may have to slit it yourself.
10. Espro Travel Coffee Press
The Espro Travel Coffee Press is a midrange portable 12 oz. French press with a sleek design that looks like a handsome travel mug. It's full of great ideas, so we decided to include it in our list.
The Espro has a double filter basket that is 9 times finer than the average French press, which gets rid of any grounds in your coffee, or loose leaves in your tea.
You can also put a paper filter in between the two filters to take out any bitter oils for a pour over flavor.
The press system is supposed to stop extraction when you depress the plunger so that the beverage stays at the perfect flavor.
The twin-walled stainless steel cup keeps your drink hot for hours and the top quality lid prevents leaks when it's upside down in your bag.
What's to like about the Espro Travel Coffee Press
The team that thought this portable coffee press up had some great ideas.
The Espro makes a delicious cup of coffee, without a hint of sludge.
The paper filter between the basket filters makes a very smooth tasting coffee, and you can use finer grinds when using an extra fileter.
The spillproof lid is bulletproof.
The press looks great and comes in different colors and finishes.
What's not to like about the Espro Travel Coffee Press
Occasionally there is something wrong with the gasket rubber.
After a few weeks, the plunger starts getting a lot harder to depress, and the top gets harder to unscrew. And no, we didn't wash it in the dishwasher.
This is something they need to fix because it's a great product. It's also a little inconvenient that the spill proof lid is not the one you drink through.
Portable Coffee Maker Buyer's Guide
It's mind-boggling how many kinds of coffee makers there are today, let alone how many coffee drinks people absolutely have to have, right now, right here!
In this guide, we looked at compact or portable coffee makers and espresso makers, both manual and electric. We even have some battery operated machines.
We broke this down into basic features that are important to all the different types of coffee machines we reviewed.
Features of a Portable Coffee Maker
1. Size and Weight
You're reading about portable, single serve coffee makers, so size is probably an issue for you, whether you are buying for a small apartment, dorm, office, or camper, RV, van life, or you are looking for something highly packable to take on the road.
Single serve electric coffee makers should be less than 5 inches wide, 8 inches deep, and short enough to fit under your cabinets or in you pack. Measure and check dimensions before you buy.
Portable manual french presses tend to use an all-in-one design, and should not be much larger than the travel mug style cup it is made in.
Espresso makers are more machine than drink since the coffee is so concentrated, but since they are a favorite of travelers, they should be as light as possible, which is difficult, given the pressure needed to make a decent shot.
Manufacturers seem to be compromising at around 2 pounds, which is too much for most backpackers.
Battery powered espresso makers add the weight of the battery and charger, but have cute little carrying cases and any number of equally cute accessories. People that focused on their caffeine fix probably don't mind the extra weight.
2. K cups vs. Nespresso vs. Your Choice of Grounds
Humanity is divided into K cup coffee drinkers and non-K cup coffee drinkers.
K cups are convenient and offer many different flavors. You pop them in and throw them away. Some coffee lovers say that this is not environmentally friendly and that K cups don't give as much flavor, especially if you are using freshly ground coffee. Ditto for Nespresso cups.
For these people, there are lots of options. There are K cup compatible machines that have filter basket adapters or fit reusable K cups.
3. Water Temperature
For optimal coffee flavor, water temperature should be around 195 F.
Good coffee makers have sensors to monitor the water temperature, but many do not, and water temperature and release are usually the first to go on a cheap unit.
If you are not a K cup person, or you are an espresso person, you need to think about filters.
Metal filters with micropores or very fine screen are important because they are reusable but still keep out sediment. If your filter isn't fine enough, use unbleached paper filters. Another solution is to use a coarser grind.
Espresso filters are heavy metal cups with tiny drain holes or micropores on the bottom.
These hold the grounds while 15 bars of pressure drives the hot water through the filter.
Traditionally, for cleanup, we left it out for about five minutes and then tapped out a puck-like disc of grounds. Today we have pods and capsules, like K cups or Nespresso pods for espresso.
5. To Mug or Not to Mug?
Some single-use coffee makers now save money and weight by letting you use your own coffee cup, rather than the fragile and useless tiny carafe.
The coffee makers that provde you a cup tend to make it a nice insulated travel mug, leakproof for throwing in a briefcase or purse, and sized to fit car cup holders.
The best travel mugs are twin-walled like a thermos and stainless steel for durability and food safety.
Look under the lid for hard-to-clean areas that could become unsanitary.
6. Company Reputation
Finally, consider the manufacturer. Have you heard of this company? Will they be likely to honor your purchase if the machine breaks down, cracks or beocomes otherwise defective?
Sometimes there is a warranty, but it's hard to reach the customer service desk on the other side of the world. A big company that you are familiar with is more likely to replace a defective unit.
We hope this helps you to choose the perfect coffee maker. Just remember what you actually need the machine for, and check weight and dimensions before buying. Don't overspend, don't cheap out, and pick up some good coffee on the way home.
Portable Coffee Maker FAQs
1. How do I choose a portable coffee maker?
First, what do you want it for?
Your office? Get an electric single serve coffee maker.
A camping trip? Try the ultra-light Presto MyJo, or one of the compact manual espresso makers, unless you're backpacking.
The car? Use the French press at home and bring it along or try one of the battery powered units that boils water.
Second, what's your coffee choice? Are you a coffee snob or a K cupper? Do you start to twitch if you don't get your espresso shot on time?
This will help you to choose between the many products available, from a Keurig K-Mini electric single serve to a Presto MyJo manual coffee maker.
2. What to consider when buying a portable coffee maker?
Which machine will work best for your needs? Are you buying this for your child at college? Your office cubicle?
Will it hold up? There's no point in buying a cheap machine that you'll end up throwing in the garbage can.
Is this a machine that suits your lifestyle? Are you a gearhead coffee freak who doesn't mind working with a complex, delicate machine to get that perfect amount of crema on your espresso shot, or are you a busy mom who would rather smack in a K cup and be done with it?
Will this manufacturer stand behind the product if it is defective? Will you be able to speak to them if there's a problem?
3. How to use a portable coffee maker?
Each coffee maker should come with instructions to follow, but here are some general tips:
- Run a batch of water through the machine and throw it away before making your first cup of coffee.
- Measure water by the fill line in the reservoir. Never overfill, and don't under fill until you see how the strength of the brew comes out.
- Use coarser coffee for filter baskets, or line with an unbleached paper filter. Use the size recommended by the manufacturer or cut a larger one to size.
- Use compatible pods and K cups or capsules according to the manufacturer's instructions.
4. How to clean a portable coffee maker?
First, check your manufacturer's instructions. The no brainer is to not get any water in electrical or electronic areas. If you accidentally do, drain it thoroughly and let it dry completely bone dry before plugging it in again.
For daily cleaning, wash dishwasher safe parts in the dishwasher, wipe clean other parts with a damp soapy cloth, and dry.
Once a month you need to clean the lime and other deposits off your coffeemaker.
Mix equal parts of cheap white vinegar and water, and run it through the machine as if you were making a cup of coffee, then run another batch with clean water.
The vinegar should react with the lime deposits and clean off coffee stains in your cup. If not, scrub the cup with a non-abrasive pad. Never use abrasives on your portable coffee maker.
5. What's the best portable coffee maker for camping?
The best portable coffee maker for camping depends on what kind of camping you do. If you are car camping and can carry a lot of stuff and run an inverter, the sky's the limit.
But if you are doing real camping, with tents and backpacks, the Presto MyJo is the best. It's lightweight, compact, manual, and ridiculously cheap. The MyJo costs less than a pound of gourmet coffee, so if it breaks, you won't be out a lot of money.
The MyJo fits over your coffee cup, saving space. Just pour hot water from the campfire kettle into the reservoir, carefully fit the rubber press over it, and push the water through the grounds. It works with single serve packs and refillable K cups.
It's hard to pick just one best portable coffee maker when all the options are so different.
There are so many great coffee makers out there. The Barsetto Tripresso is a beautiful machine. However, we picked the Kohipress Original French Press Coffee Maker because espresso is so specialized and the Kohlipress is perfect for more people.
It's versatile. If you are camping, it's light, manual, and offers a great brew. If you are looking for a small footprint, it's the size of a tall travel mug and fits in a cupholder. You can make superior coffee anywhere you can get boiling water, including an airplane.
It's very well made and designed.
From the tough, BPA free plastic plunger, to the sleek twin walled cup that keeps your coffee warm forever and doubles as an immersion chamber, to the isolation chamber that isolates the bitter grounds from your drink, the build is great.
Last, the price is great, and the company stands by its product. When you are looking for a great all-around portable coffee maker, we recommend the Kohipress.