In this in-depth Staresso Mini review you’ll find out all I’ve learned about yhis genius, portable espresso maker. It’s a sterling little gadget that may just save your caffeine-addicted life. Oh, and as well as ground coffee, you can use it with Nespresso pods too, which is more than I can say for any full-size espresso machine I can think of.
Some people might reasonably assume that a portable espresso maker is nothing more than a pointless gimmick, but let me put you straight. Firstly, if you’re an espresso aficionado like moi, no other form of coffee will do except, at a pinch, French press (if it doesn’t have a head of crema on top, it’s just not coffee). It’s become so important that these days I turn down all offers of a coffee when visiting people, just in case it isn’t espresso. If other visitors are having coffee and it turns out to be espresso, I use my polite stock phrase: ‘actually, I think I might have a coffee after all, if that’s okay?’.
I used to get by with filtered coffee as a last resort because that’s all most hotels and guesthouses seemed to have. That was until I had two horrifying experiences – one was filtered coffee so weak it tasted like Thames water while the other was from the bottom of the jug and tasted like Thames mud. From that day on, I swore never to leave home for even one night without the best espresso machine possible. And clearly, a portable such as the Staresso Mini is just that little bit more convenient for suitcase transport then a Sage The Bambino Plus.
The great thing about manually-operated espresso pumps like the Staresso Mini is that they’re small and light enough to take camping, to the office, to your grandmother who still insists on instant coffee, guest houses, ill-equipped Air BnBs and cheap hotels. All you need is access to some boiled water which isn’t that hard to find.
In all cases, you simply fill a chamber with hot water, tamp some ground coffee into a small container – or pop in a Nespresso pod if you prefer – and hit the piston, baby. What comes out is a remarkable sight – a black stream of liquid gold with a bona fide crema on top. Just like a real espresso or Nespresso machine!
Mind, the Staresso Mini isn’t the only portable espresso product on the shelves. There’s also the Handpresso (the first portable to my knowledge) and the similarly excellent Wacaco Minipresso. However, the Staresso Mini is a relative newbie in town – and my current favourite – so that’s the one we’re looking at here. Pound for pound and inch for inch, it's one of the best coffee makers of any kind that you can buy.
Staresso Mini price and availability
In the UK, Staresso Mini is available at Amazon for £65. In Europe it's €55 from Crema. In the USA, it can be had from Amazon for $65, and finally in Australia Staresso will be 160 of your Australian dollars, please.
Alternatively, our price widgets at top and bottom should show the best current price near you.
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Staresso Mini review: Design and features
At just 15.2cm x 6cm and 300g, the Red Dot award-winning Staresso Mini is roughly the same size and weight as a soft drinks can. It comprises a larger-than-average 110ml water chamber with a screw-in piston, a small circular portafilter for around 10g of finely ground coffee or a Nespresso pod, and an integral rubber-coated steel drinking cup. It also comes with a zipped carry case and a cleaning cloth.
The larger ‘standard’ model also features a milk frother attachment but it’s not really worth using unless you’re able to warm the milk somehow.
Don’t for one minute think that a portable product like this couldn’t possibly create as good an espresso as an electric machine. Given that espresso relies on simple water pressure, it makes no difference whether that water is put under pressure by an electric pump or by hand. This model produces 20 bars of pressure which is actually more than is required to produce genuine espresso with a healthy looking crema.
The key thing to remember when using any portable espresso maker is to preheat the water chamber and cup with boiled water or, by the time you’ve assembled all the parts and started pumping, the coffee will be lukewarm, and you don’t want that.
To use the Staresso Mini, simply fill the chamber with boiled water (by the time you’ve extracted the coffee, the water temperature will have dropped a few degrees), load the portafilter with your favourite blend or, for extra convenience and less mess, pop in a Nespresso pod. Now screw it all together, twist the silver cap to release the piston and pump the piston about ten times until the espresso is fully dispensed.
The Staresso Mini also comes with a plastic sleeve that keeps the main unit steady while pumping it on a table. And that’s about it. No electricity is required though you will naturally require access to a kettle or a camp stove to boil the water.
Staresso Mini review: Performance
Frankly, I’m amazed by the results every time I use this product. The espressos just don’t seem to differ in any way from those extracted by most mains-operated machines. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I get more consistent results out of this little fella than I do from any home espresso machine. It’s quite a Eureka moment when the first thin stream of black gold appears and it’s even more jaw-dropping when the crema begins to form. And by crema I mean a proper one that’s about 5mm in depth, with a silky-smooth bubble-less texture.
As mentioned earlier, you can use either ground coffee or Nespresso capsules with this product. I tend to stick to the Nespresso method simply because it’s quicker, creates less mess and you don’t have to rinse out the portafilter after every cup. For the best Nespresso hit, I would advise opting for the Kazaar blend which provides a very decent kick up the pants.
Staresso Mini review: Verdict
If you're a coffee lover, this remarkable pocket titan will quickly become one of your most important travel accoutrements, along with your passport, wallet, toothbrush and underwear.
It makes such amazing espressos on such a consistent basis that you might even consider using it at home. And if that’s the case, it’ll be the cheapest bona fide espresso machine you will have ever bought. Bravo, Staresso!