Many people who adore coffee also love the process of crafting their brew. They prefer not to use the “one-touch button” process of pod machines or automatic machines. Manual espresso makers allow for a more tactile coffee-making experience.
However, not all manual espresso machines are created equal. There is a huge range of prices, construction, and operation styles on the market today, it can be very difficult to choose.
For this reason, we have found 5 manual espresso machines and have studied and reviewed them in depth. The first three are excellent choices, while the fourth and fifth are great but the price tags may be an obstacle. You will find different manual espresso machine styles, price ranges, and aesthetics so there’s something for everyone.
Top Pick – Flair Espresso Maker, Manual Press
Best-Rated Manual Espresso Machine
- Padded protective carry case
- Durable stainless steel and aluminum construction
- Completely manual operation, no need for access to power
Our top pick for the best-rated manual espresso machine is the Flair Espresso Maker, Manual Press. This popular, highly-rated model has a unique and attractive aesthetic, with a minimal frame and large press lever. There are no unnecessary or flashy buttons, dials or lights, just the bare minimum required for a delicious, hand-pressed coffee. It is a 100% manual with absolutely no power required to operate it.
If you are dedicated to hand-pressed espresso, this could be an ideal choice. But do be aware that you will also need a burr grinder, and a water kettle (which you will likely already have anyway). This machine yields a rich, 40ml shot with a water input of 60 MLS and ground coffee input of 18 grams.
This is a portable manual espresso maker. You can break it down into a smaller unit and pack it away into the included travel case. This feature makes it ideal for travelers who need a portable manual coffee maker, as well as being a permanent at-home feature.
The price is excellent, considering the durable materials (aluminum and stainless steel).
✔ Does not use any power
✔ Simple to use
✘ Many small parts to clean and assemble
Staresso Portable Espresso Machine
Best Portable Manual Espresso Machine for Traveling
- BPA-free construction
- 100% manual operation, no power needed
- Milk-frothing capabilities
Our runner-up is the very affordable Staresso portable espresso machine, our pick for the very best manual espresso machine for traveling. This is a small, lightweight, bullet-shaped machine made from BPA-free materials. It requires absolutely no power and is 100% manual. This is what makes it the best option for traveling and camping, as you can make coffee anywhere as long as you have hot water.
Impressively, the Staresso portable espresso machine can make cold-brew coffee as well as a hot espresso. What’s more, it can even make frothed milk. If you prefer to use pods as opposed to ground coffee, you can, as it is compatible with Nespresso pods.
When it comes to the espresso itself, the Staresso is designed to create a rich, full-bodied brew with a thick crema. It’s great that you don’t have to compromise on quality coffee when buying a small, portable coffee maker.
✔ Compatible with pods and ground coffee
✔ Makes hot and cold brew coffee
✔ Extremely portable
✘ Can be cumbersome to reassemble after cleaning
Third Best: Rok EspressoGC
Best Non-Electric Manual Espresso Machine
- 10-year warranty for metal parts
- Lightweight and easy-to-store construction
- Improved pressure
The Rok EspressoGC manual coffee maker is known for its unique and attractive design, as well as its entirely manual and power-free operation. This is an upgraded version, with improved pressure for richer espresso.
The user must fill the water holder with hot water, pack ground coffee into the portafilter and twist it into the unit. Two curved handles are raised then pressed down simultaneously to force hot water through ground coffee. For this reason, this is an ideal option for those who enjoy the practical, hands-on process of making a single cup of espresso.
The slip-free grip pads on the bottom of the base allow you to make coffee without risk of tipping over the unit. What’s more, the noise-free, power-free operation means it can be used discreetly in a quiet home or office setting, as long as there is a kettle nearby.
The Rok EspressoGC would be ideal for someone who enjoys smart aesthetics, a simple espresso, and who already has a grinder, milk frother, and kettle. It would even be a great gift for a coffee-fanatic who is enthused about various coffee-making methods and processes.
✔ Ideal for camping or power-free locations
✔ Easy to use and clean
✔ Comes in a compact, metal storage case
✘ Doesn’t produce sufficient crema
✘ Contains plastic parts
✘ Requires a separate coffee grinder
La Pavoni PPG-16 16-Cup Espresso Machine, Brass
Best Luxury Manual Espresso Machine
- Durable steel base triple-plated with copper and brass
- Milk frother
- Wood handles
- Pressure gauge
- Water level window
The La Pavoni PPG-16 manual espresso machine is undoubtedly an eye-catching, attractive machine, plated with high-shine copper and brass. This very expensive machine would suit serious coffee connoisseurs who want a statement-piece for their kitchen for decades to come. Customers have reported that while the upfront cost of this machine is very high, the maintenance costs are almost non-existent as it is so durable.
If you enjoy the hands-on process of packing the portafilter and controlling the lever pressure for your perfect coffee, this could be ideal for you. The pressure gauge and water level window make the process simple. You can create cappuccinos and lattes with the included milk frother. Note that this machine requires a power outlet, and takes 6-8 minutes to heat up once switched on. You will also need a decent coffee grinder.
✔ Incredibly durable
✔ Produces authentic espresso flavor and composition
✘ Too large for compact kitchens
✘ Possibly too complex for beginners
Breville, the Barista Express Espresso Machine, BES870XL
Best Manual Espresso Machine for Home
- Stainless steel construction
- Large 19 – 22-gram coffee dosage
- Consistent temperature
- Pressure gauge
- Adjustable grind size dial
The Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine is an expensive yet highly-rated model with a large, stainless steel construction.
This is a manual machine, but it does offer automatic options for those who prefer it. For example, the water temperature is automatically controlled, and the coffee grinder dispenses a set amount of coffee. You can select your preference out of a single shot or double shot and will be reminded when to clean the machine via an indicator light.
This model has the bonus of a built-in conical burr grinder, so you don’t have to buy and find a space for a separate one. It also comes with a milk frother for making lattes and cappuccinos. This could be ideal if you prefer a manual experience with a few “cheats” to make the process easier with fewer variables to control. However, the price is rather high when you can make excellent espresso with a far more affordable model with a fully manual, power-free operation.
✔ No need for an external grinder
✔ Consistent temperature
✔ Comes with all necessary parts (Jug, Cleaning Kit, Scoop)
✘ Pressure gauge prone to faulting
✘ Reports of short lifespan
How to Choose a Manual Espresso Machine
The price range is the first factor to consider and finalize, as it will narrow down the models and styles you can consider. Remember that a high price doesn’t necessarily mean better quality, especially when it comes to simple, 100% manual machines like the top three on our list.
Storage space and portability
Is your manual coffee machine going to have a permanent spot on your counter? If so, how much space do you have, realistically? Would you like a portable manual coffee maker which can be taken camping, to and from work, or while traveling?
Be sure about the cleaning requirements of the model before you make your purchase, and be realistic about what you’re willing to commit to when it comes to maintenance.
Other parts required
Consider what parts and accessories you will need to purchase, and what you’re willing to buy. For example, do you already have a coffee grinder at home? If not, would you prefer a coffee maker with a built-in grinder to kill two birds with one stone?
Manual Espresso Machines FAQs
What is a manual espresso machine?
A manual espresso machine is simply a machine that requires the user to control the water input, often the coffee input, and how long the water is passed through the coffee. Some manual espresso machines require a lever to be pressed down, while others have a button but need the user to switch it off or turn the handle when the coffee is complete.
How to use a manual espresso machine
It depends on the kind of model you have. However, the general process for power-free or portable manual espresso makers is as follows: fill the water vessel, add ground coffee to the basket, lightly tamp, assemble the pieces, and manually press to create pressure and force the water through the coffee. You may need to experiment with the speed at which you press, to achieve the flavor and richness you prefer.
For electric machines, it’s a matter of controlling the ground coffee dosage, tamping the coffee, twisting the portafilter into the unit, and timing the extraction. However, it does vary from machine to machine.
Are manual espresso machines worth it?
Yes, if you value excellent, authentic espresso and enjoy the tactile process of creating your brew. However, if you simply need an easy caffeine hit with little maintenance, you could try a single-serve coffee maker.
How do manual espresso machines work?
An espresso machine, by definition, is a machine that makes coffee by forcing hot water and steam (with a lot of pressure) through packed coffee grounds. The coffee, as well as crema (oils from the coffee combined with tiny air bubbles), is the result, called an “espresso shot”. As explained earlier, a manual espresso machine relies on the user to control the water input and duration of the espresso-making process.
What kind of coffee should I use in my manual espresso machine?
The best method is to buy espresso beans and grind them yourself at home for ultra freshness and flavor.
Choose espresso beans as they have been dark-roasted to give that rich, slightly bitter espresso flavor. When grinding the beans, aim for a fine consistency, but not so fine that it is like soft powder. The finer the grind, the harder the water has to work to get through, sometimes causing a blockage. If it’s too coarse, the coffee will be watery with little or no crema. Aim for somewhere in between sandy and powdery.
Who makes the best manual espresso machines?
It does depend on the kind of machine you desire. For small, portable machines with a low price tag, Staresso is hard to beat. For stovetop espresso makers, Bialetti is the very best. For intricate, luxurious, and authentic Italian lever machines, La Pavoni is considered the best, (with a high price tag).