Published November 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.
They claim to be a viable replacement for an espresso machine. But can they make a decent product?
Update: December 2012
The ROK is the newest incarnation of the Presso Espresso Machine.
Update: March 2012
When we tested hand-powered espresso makers in 2008, we recommended an inexpensive portable device called the AeroPress ($29.95). While the machine is easy to use, the espresso that it produces falls just short of the ideal deep, rich coffeehouse brew. Would the latest manual model, the Presso Espresso Machine, be worth the higher price tag ($150, which is still far lower than that of electric machines)? Like the AeroPress, the Presso is designed for simplicity. The 11-inch tool consists of two long, curved levers attached to a wishbone-shaped body, a clear hot-water chamber with markings for single and double shots, and a portafilter for grounds. Also included are a measuring scoop that doubles as a tamper, an adapter for making two single shots simultaneously, and a syringe-like milk foamer (you simply stick it into milk and pump the plunger to froth). The instructions were clear, and the superb result—rich, full-bodied espresso topped with a nice crema—had test cooks lining up for shots.
We tested two hand-powered portable espresso makers to see if they could do the job of an espresso machine. While neither produced the deep, rich brew you might find at a gourmet coffee outlet, both made flavorful espresso quickly and easily. One product requires a coffee pod (ground coffee beans in their own filter), and pressed out brew with a hearty aroma; however, tasters commented on its muddiness and bitter finish. The other entry did better. Using freshly ground beans, it produced smooth espresso that, according to tasters, combined the slightly heavier body of French press coffee and the cleanness of drip coffee. With good reason—it mimics the technology of both. To make a cup, you insert a disk-shaped paper filter, add coffee to the chamber with hot water, mix, and press.