We find ourselves more and more with a need for espresso but nowhere to get it but a Starbucks, if at all. We also aspire to great espresso, but the savings account hasn't quite caught up to our caffeine fueled dreams. Enter the portable espresso maker. While pulling a shot from these machines probably won't give you the beautiful cremá you'd see from a countertop maker, they work well while camping, at the office or in a pinch. Most require another heating implement for the water, but a fire, electric kettle, microwave or stove top can help you in this department. Handpresso ($97.99) This little guy uses an expensive version of a bike pump to generate the pressure you use to force the water through the grounds. You pump the Handpresso until the temperature gauge is in the green, fill the reservoir with hot water, insert a pod and then use the pressure you built up to make the espresso. The only downside to this maker is that the HandPresso uses only E.S.E.-style espresso pods. We'd rather use our own grinds, but if you don't mind the pre-made pods than this is a great low fuss option. 2. Mypressi ($149) The Mypressi is similar to the Handpresso, but instead of you generating the pressure a pod of compressed air is held in the ball that brews your espresso. Cleaning is simple and disassembly equally so. We like that this one can use your own grinds as well as the E.S.E. pods, but the need to buy compressed air is a little annoying. Certainly we'd rather have to buy the air than used pre-ground pods, but if you don't need the convenience of these, the other options are a little more fringe but a little more user controlled. 3. Bialetti ($19.95-139) When we wrote an article a little while ago about making coffee many people mentioned the Bialettis as a great way to get espresso. While definitions of espresso vary (some purists describe "real" espresso as only that made with 9 bars of pressure), this is an effective, less expensive way to make either espresso or really strong coffee depending on your definition. They also do better over time, similar to a wok.
4. Pocket Sized Espresso Maker (about $30) This is a pretty incredible Instructable that approaches both the design process as well as the instructions for creation. You end up with a little self contained espresso maker that uses an alcohol to stove to achieve its heat requirements. We like how designer/creator urant set himself so clear rules including containing the whole brewing process, sourcing the parts locally and proper safety. The final product isn't beautiful in the way an iPad is, but still pretty in a steam punk kind of way. And while this isn't for everybody considering the skills required, it's also the most comprehensive mini espresso maker we've seen. 5. Hack a day Espresso Maker (about $30) This home made machine from Hack A Day editor Jason Striegel uses a caulk gun to generate the proper pressure to force the hot water through the grounds. It's a creative, Taco-Bell-like solution to an expensive problem and appears to work well enough. It also takes a bit less skill to make than the copper Pocket Sized one above. The only issue we can see, and Striegel mentions it, is the amount of pressure you're generating in that PVC pipe. You'll need to be careful, but hey, a jolt is why you're doing this anyway right?