Portable low-power espresso on the boat with Nanopresso

My crew and friends will attest that I love coffee, and need it to get started first thing in the day. I have always loved coffee, but in particular, I love espresso. Either on its own, or made in a latte with wonderful micro-foam, normal coffee just doesn’t do it for me anymore, and hasn’t for at least 10 years.

To further educate you on my espresso passion, 6 years ago, I purchased a full sized La Marzocco commercial dual head machine and installed it in my apartment. It was a 4500W machine which required a dedicated, 30 amp 220VAC outlet – hard to find in a rented apartment. But that didn’t stop me from wiring one in! I finagled my way into a local coffee shop that I loved, and spent several weeks learning from patient baristas all of the tricks with the machine, coffee, grinder, and the milk side of the latte.

After spending a very caffeinated weekend honing my skills, I settled into my morning routine – get up, stumble into the kitchen, turn the unit on, go take a shower, watch the lights blink as the heater sucked huge amounts of power, and 15-30 minutes later, it was ready to use! Then came the hard part – prior to coffee, I am not very detail oriented. With a traditional espresso machine, you need to grind the beans in a grinder, tamp it correctly with the same amount of force you always use, and then brew it at a particular head temperature, etc, etc.

I did eventually get really good at this, but it did require a lot of brain cells at a time when mine are not awake. Oh, and I could have never had this setup on a boat – 4500W is bigger than any inverter I’ve ever had!

Through the years I’ve tried other espresso machines that are smaller such as the Rocket line, similar to this one, and even more mainstream options like a Breville. These machines make it easier by having more appropriate sized power requirements, and in the case of the Breville, a built in grinder and dosing system so you don’t have to figure out how much coffee to put in the brew basket.

Ultimately, because of many other people wanting coffee at home and on the boat, and in the interest of making it simpler for them to use, I switched to the Nespresso line of products a couple of years ago. Many other boaters do this as well, as it really makes it easy to make espresso, cappuccino and other similar drinks, and has almost zero mess compared to traditional methods. One of my favorite parts of the switch is the absolutely amazing milk froth you get from their Aeroccino product, which I wrote about a few years ago.

But these machines still take a considerable amount of power on a boat. Both on Grace and Rendezvous, I have used the smallest of the Nespresso machines, and watched on my Victron system on Grace or on the analog gauges on Rendezvous while 1500W of inverter power is used just to heat things up. While brewing, and if you’re running the Aeroccino as well, this can jump up near 2000W.

That’s no problem for either inverter setup, but it does consume a lot of power – on Grace it was about 1-2% battery power for a double shot latte. I need that twice a day, so that’s 4% of my power, worst case. I think that is worth it, but if you add one or two other people, you could easily be consuming 10% of your power just for coffee.

I’ve tried other coffee solutions on the sailboat, including the Aeropress, a very popular way of using hot water, a filter, and a press to essentially end up with french press coffee. Same with a traditional french press. They all work, but it is definitely not espresso, and good lord – the mess that it makes can be epic. If you ever botch pushing down on the Aeropress cylinder, the whole thing goes flying. And with a french press, you now have a ton of coffee grounds you have to dispose of, and water you need to use to clean it all out.

A few months ago, my friend and crew member Jake gave me a wonderful gift that I think would be at home on a sailboat, power boat, or in your bag when you travel. It is a combo product from Wacaco that includes their Nanopresso unit, combined with an adapter for Nespresso pods. With this tiny, portable device, you add hot water, pop a Nespresso capsule in the end, pump it about 15-20 times, and you have full on espresso without the big machine or the power usage!

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Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker bundled with Nanopresso Protective Case, Upgrade Version of Minipresso, 18 Bar Pressure, Extra Small Travel Coffee Maker, Manually Operated
  • [MASSIVE POWER] Built around a newly patented pumping system, the Nanopresso is capable of reaching, with the help of your hands, a maximum of 18 bars (261 PSI) of stable pressure during extraction for unparalleled coffee quality. It is more than what most home espresso machines can deliver.
  • [EASIER THAN EVER] The Nanopresso works best with finely ground coffee that is tamped hard. It is delightfully easy to operate and simple to use. The Nanopresso requires 15% less force to pump compared to previous models. With Nanopresso, the power is in the machine, not in your hands.
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  • [MORE WATER CAPACITY] Nanopresso water tank can hold up to 80ml of water. It's lined and protected by the detachable cup. Both parts feature a heatsink pattern to absorb and protect the hands from the heat.
  • [GREAT ADD ON] You can buy Nanopresso NS Adapter or Nanopresso Barista Kit accessories separately in order to use Nespresso** Original capsules and most of compatibles or make double espresso shots. Add Nanopresso NS Adapter from (B076DGY1NS). Add Nanopresso Barista Kit from (B078GM6FFH). Versatility is where the Nanopresso shines.
Wacaco Nanopresso NS-Adapter, Accessories for Nanopresso Portable Espresso Machine, Compatible with NS Capsules, Perfect for Traveling, Camping or Office Use
  • [QUALITY ESPRESSO] The NS Adapter is a quality accessory, which allows the Nanopresso to use Nespresso** Original capsules and most of compatibles. Makes a great espresso with a rich crema on the go.
  • [CONSISTENT] The advantage of using capsules is that the coffee is mechanically ground, measured, and tamped with a higher precision than we are capable of doing by hand. There is very little left for error, so your espresso is consistent every single time.
  • [EASY TO USE] Great to use when in a hurry or when you're on the go and don't want to be bothered with grinding packing. Just drop in a pod, enjoy beautiful espresso then discard pod. Pods are convenient, mess free and easier to clean after use.
  • [Note] This package does not include portable espresso machine! If you have any problem with our products or need help, please feel free to contact us through Amazon. We will respond you in time and give you a satisfactory solution.

The whole unit is very compact and made of rugged plastic. You can use espresso-ground coffee or Nespresso pods if you have both attachments.

Nanopresso yellow tattoo model – picture courtesy of Wacaco

You can also get more creative designs and colors, along with even smaller versions called the Minipresso – check out all of the options at Wacaco’s website.

You can see both versions above. On the left is the Nespresso version, while on the right is the espresso-ground coffee version. You can see the waffle print in the left hand Nespresso version where the foil front of the pod will rest. On the right, the upper bucket is where the coffee would go.

If you’re using coffee, it is important to get a finely ground, espresso-style coffee to use in the system. You’ll be putting it under a decent amount of pressure, and if you have standard coffee that is ground much more coarsely, you won’t get a good pull (push?) from the system.

Hot water goes in the top of the unit, which unscrews just like the bottom. It is important that the water be near boiling, not just hot tap water. I tried both, and the shot was far better with much hotter water.

I use the Nanopresso mostly with Nespresso pods, as I love how easy they are to clean up, and I love the taste of the shot it produces. You simply drop your flavor of choice into the end, holder, place it in the bottom piece, and screw that on to the bottom of the entire unit.

Now comes the manual part – you twist the pump handle and it pops out of the unit. Then start pumping! I found about 20-21 pumps would produce my perfect shot while using most of the hot water. This also varied based on the type of Nespresso pod I was using.

Voila! I now have a wonderful shot of espresso, and with a fraction of the power of a big electric machine.

Cleanup is pretty easy too – just pop the Nespresso capsule out of the bottom end, and put it in recycling! You’ll notice the Nanopresso creates a very similar waffle pattern to the standard Nespresso machine.

I love that I can have espresso on the boat without using tons of power. Even though I have a big battery bank and inverter, I can see where using a Nanopresso on longer trips could be helpful to conserve that power. I can also have it in the woods, while traveling, and pretty much anywhere I can make hot water. Even on business trips, I can save myself from having to drink normal coffee and avoid Starbucks, all while enjoying my own favorite blends from Nespresso. Thanks to Jake for such a wonderful gift!

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5 thoughts on “Portable low-power espresso on the boat with Nanopresso”

  1. Always love reading your detailed articles. I am far from your connoisseur skills on coffee making but I do appreciate a good cup (not mug) of coffee from freshly ground fresh beans. On the boat however, I found my taste buds change and when it comes to coffee, quantity takes over quality in some way. I dont grind beans on the boat for the several day trips I make. Instead I try to concentrate on storage of the ground coffee in tight seal container to reduce humidity, etc. When it comes to brewing, I found that double walled, stainless steel french press produces reasonable balance of quality, quantity with relatively small mess.

    Reply
    • Fresh ground or made in any way is definitely the way to go. A bit of me is disappointed with using Nespresso pods since they are not fresh ground, but their espresso sure tastes like it! If I were drinking coffee, I would definitely take the approach you have – keeping the beans as fresh and humidity free as possible, and grinding them right before brewing. I had a french press for years on the sailboat as that was the best way to get quality coffee with the same properties you cite! Happy caffeinating!

      Reply
      • Nice article. I like the idea of this device, and am certainly going to look into getting one. We use a french press and are very happy with that style of coffee, but I’ve also taken strongly (pun intended) to the Italian style espresso kettles. They produce a very strong espresso.

        I am though, not at all a fan of the pods. They are overwhelmingly (so it seems) popular, but a huge add to our waste/plastic issue. I imagine millions of the buggers ending up who knows where, since much recycling is a real farce (how do they separate the foil from the plastic, and how much energy does that take?). I am relieved to see, though, that the option of fresh ground coffee is an option in them.

        Reply
        • I agree on the recycling side of the pods. While I do try to recycle them as much as possible, I am sure the overall effort required costs us something in the long run. Having all of the equipment on board to store and grind coffee to espresso quality is also costly and not something I want. Getting good espresso ground coffee is thankfully pretty easy to do here in Seattle, but less so on longer trips. Hence why the pods, which stay fresh much longer, can be useful.

          But it is great that you can use ground coffee in the unit too!

          Reply
  2. After such stories, I always present a similar picture in my head. Around the water and the noise of weak waves. You can brew a cup of your favorite espresso and go to the deck of your boat. Sunny weather, light breeze and complete peace. Gorgeous.

    Reply

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