A few weeks back, a reader contacted me interested in knowing if I’ve yet tried the Staresso manual Espresso maker, as he was thinking of buying it and was interested in my thoughts. I’d not tried it, so I replied to let him know I’d buy it and let him know – along with a review on the blog.
This is a pump action manual espresso maker, it’s not the only one of its kind, there’s Handpresso, Handpresso Wild Hybrid, Wacoco Minipresso & the newer Nanopresso – which even works with Nespresso & Nespresso compatible pods – and there are quite a few more manual pump operated Espresso makers too. I don’t claim to know which came first, the chicken or the egg, or Handpresso or Wacoco etc., but it seems that these kinds of manual portable espresso makers have been around a couple of years now. I recall seeing Minipresso a couple of years back and thinking, hmm, I bet that doesn’t work very well – I think I was wrong, actually, but anyway, I’ve been wrong before so that’s no big deal ;-).
Staresso seem to be quite a bit different than the other designs I’ve seen, they seem less “flasky” than some of the others on the market that come with a plastic flask cup type affair. There’s a cortado glass type espresso cup which fits into the bottom part, and it’s also sold not just as a portable Espresso maker, but also as a cappuccino maker, with the claim that it also froths the milk, which I found very interesting!
So, I bought it – unfortunately, it took nearly three weeks to come – which reminded me of why I usually buy everything on Amazon ;-), but it came in the end – so without further ado…
Staresso Espresso Maker Review.
Unboxing and first impressions.
My first thoughts on looking at the box itself, and then opening it to retrieve the Staresso, are really good. I’m impressed by the quality of the box, the way it has been packed, the lack of excessive packing materials – OK the plastic bag probably isn’t needed, they could do away with that or use compostable paper or something, but I’ve seen far worse.
The unit itself comes complete, there’s little or no assembly to do – and it looks and feels really high quality.
I really like the glass, I’d probably buy it just for this – how sad am I?? 😉 It’s a really nice thick walled cortado glass type thing, and if they sold these separately I’d buy a few of them, love it.
It’s all really self-explanatory in terms of how to use it, I had a glance at the manual – but I didn’t feel compelled to read it, it’s really simple.
It comes with a little cleaning brush thing, and a spare rubber gasket, all good – the only thing I was a bit disappointed with on first inspection was the scoop/tamper, which is flimsy, was almost oval shaped when getting it from the box, and doesn’t look up to much as a tamper.
But other than that, really impressed, all looks good, and eager to give it a go.
First Try – Luke Warm Espresso Anyone?
I’ve used manual espresso makers before, such as Flair and Rok, so I should have known that I’d need to pre-warm everything, otherwise I’d end up with Espresso which isn’t warm enough, and also this will affect the extraction, so cool Espresso isn’t the best.
But I forgot, and I just went ahead and pumped out an Espresso with everything cold – and the result was exactly that, luke warm Espresso. Crema looked OK, taste wasn’t bad either actually, but it was really not very warm at all, not the best.
So, I then pre-warmed everything, including my new favourite glass ;-), the brew chamber, the pump, everything – just for 30 seconds or so in water just off the boil – did it again, and this time – wow, much better!
The grind was a bit on the coarse side, was a bit under extracted, so I had to tweak and dial in, but once I did that, I was really impressed by the Espresso I was able to produce by hand with the Staresso.
Something else I wondered about, was whether you could slap a nespresso pod in there, whether the pressure would be enough to pierce the foil, it wasn’t (although I didn’t try Lavazza, they work a bit differently so I should have tried that) – but just out of interest, I tried opening a couple of Nespresso Espresso pods and using the ground coffee from these in the Staresso portafilter, and erm – YES – this worked perfectly, really impressed. So if you do get one of these, and if you don’t have a grinder or you’re in too much of a rush to grind, you’d be OK chucking a few Nespresso pods or Nespresso compatible pods in your bag – then just open the foil, tip the pod over and place it in the Staresso filter, tap it – and remove it. I found that two Nespresso Espresso pods just slightly over-filled the filter, so I brushed the excess off, and then tamped it with the plastic scoop tamper (which is crap, I’ll get onto that in a minute), and pumped as normal.
If you’re using two Nespresso pods or compatibles per brew in this – then it’s not the cheapest, although if you’re buying some of the cheaper compatibles for about 25p each, 50p isn’t bad.
Frothing Milk? Well – Kind of…
One of the claims of the marketing bumf of the Staresso is that it’ll froth milk too, so it’s a portable manual cappuccino or latte maker.
Well, yes – it works, kind of. You take the pump part off, put this into the milk and pump to create the air, to create the froth, and it does kind of work.
It’s slow, its a faff – and you end up with luke warm latte. I wouldn’t call it cappuccino, I couldn’t get it frothed enough for that, I’d call it latte, maybe even cortado given that the glass looks like a cortado, depending on the coffee to milk ratio – but it’s let down by the fact that by the time you’ve messed about frothing it, it’s fairly luke warm.
If you had a camping stove and you could froth it while it’s still being warmed, then that may work – although I’d just say be very careful faffing about trying to froth milk while you’re heating it, as that sounds like an accident waiting to happen!
Personally, if I wanted to froth milk on the go I’d just shove a battery operated whisk type milk frother in my bag, like the good old Ikea milk frothers, for a couple of quid, or a snazzy version such as the Sedhoom or the Ozeri Deluxe – these are easier, there’s less faffing, they’re quicker – and they’re capable of thicker foam if you’re wanting to make that kind of foam for a cappuccino.
To sum up what’s good about the Staresso, I think it’s a well built manual Espresso maker, it feels and looks good quality. The quality of the Espresso I think is really good, as long as you pre-warm everything. It’s fairly light, it’s quick and simple to clean, and I really like the glass that comes with it – I far prefer drinking from a glass than drinking from a plastic lid-cup.
The tamper scoop is terrible. Apart from the fact it’s made from flimsy plastic, it’s too small… Surely it’s not that difficult to ensure that the tamper scoop is the right size for the filter? It’s not just ever so slightly too small either, it’s way too small, I had to move it around and tamp a few times in an attempt to tamp the full surface of the puck. If I was keeping this (I’m not – I’m giving it away, more on that shortly) I would be looking for something else to use.
As I mentioned earlier, frothing milk with the pump is a nice idea, but it doesn’t really work, it’s too much of a faff, takes to long, and the milk cools down too much in while you’re at it, meaning you end up with lukewarm latte.
Tips for using the Staresso Portable Espresso Maker
Pre-warming. Just pour hot water into the chamber, close it up, wait 20-30 seconds, and then pump the hot water through into the cup. leave the cup to warm up for 10-20 seconds or so, then pour it all out. Yeah this adds a minute or so to the process, but your Espresso will be better extracted and hotter, as a result.
Pumping. Don’t push the pump all the way down, just stop slightly before it goes all the way in, the reason I say this is that if you pump it all the way into the groove each time, I was finding that sometimes I accidentally turned the pump slightly and it goes into the locked close position, and you lose momentum while you’re trying to release it.
Nespresso pods. As I mentioned earlier, I was really impressed with how well the Staresso did with the ground coffee from Nespresso pods. I just opened the foil, tipped the coffee in, and then tamped. I did use two pods though, I don’t think one would be enough.
Where to buy the Staresso?
It’s about £45 quid here on Amazon, available on Amazon prime.
I usually buy everything from Amazon, I have Amazon Prime, so I look for the blue tick to confirm that prime is available for that product, so I get free next day (usually) delivery. It amazes me sometimes, I’ll order something on a Saturday and get it on Sunday, having said that I’d be more than happy to wait a day or two longer if that made for a nicer & safer working environment and less pressure & stress for their staff!
But this time, I broke from tradition, it was on offer at Sportspursuit.com for quite a bit cheaper, but it took nearly three weeks to arrive, and I got no communication from them whatsoever about the order. It was just a case of pay for it, wait, it’ll come at some point. A completely different experience from ordering from Amazon, and just reminds me why I usually buy from Amazon. Not that I’m saying all online retailers except Amazon are slow, of course.