If you are an espresso lover and interested in making delicious espresso at home, traditional espresso machines can cost anything from hundreds to even a thousand dollars. However, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, some manual espresso makers cost far less.
This review will look at one of those manual machines – the Cafflano Kompresso, the lightest espresso maker on the market.
The review will detail all you need to know about the Kompresso coffee maker, including the quality of espresso it makes. It will also offer brewing tips to ensure you pull the best possible espresso with the machine.
We have made dozens of espresso shots testing this great portable espresso maker, so read on for our considered opinion on the Cafflano Kompresso based on our first-hand experience of using it.
What Is The Cafflano Kompresso, And Who Invented It?
Beanscorp, a Korean company established by coffee-loving engineers, is behind the Cafflano Kompresso.
In keeping with the company’s other products, the Kompresso launched on Kickstarter. Released in 2017, it is one of the most lightweight and portable espresso makers around.
The company claims this tiny espresso maker can pull authentic espresso shots, but is that really the case? Let’s take a deep dive into the minutiae of the machine to find out.
Cafflano Kompresso Design
On seeing the Kompresso for the first time it will strike you how remarkably compact it is. It has dimensions of just 3.9in (10cm) x 6.6in (17cm), making it the perfect size for anyone with limited countertop space or for packing in a bag and taking on your travels. It also weighs just 200g, making it the lightest portable espresso maker you’ll find. And importantly, it’s also very affordable, meaning you don’t need to find hundreds of dollars to enjoy espresso made at home.
There is a plunger with a red piston gasket, a silicon O-ring on the base, and a transparent brewing chamber containing a shower screen. Finally, it has a plastic espresso cup and an intriguing branded tamping scoop for tamping that leaves the company’s logo imprinted on the coffee bed.
The Kompresso’s filter basket sets it apart from its competitors, including Nanopresso and Staresso. It is a naked basket with a stainless steel filter instead of the pressurized basket with a valve included in other portable manual espresso makers. As a result, the company’s claim the coffee maker can pull true espresso shots is true. We’ll examine the quality of the espresso later on.
In total, the machine has six items that, when put together, make for a reassuringly compact espresso maker that’s easy to carry with you on the move.
How Does The Machine Create The Necessary Pressure For Espresso?
To brew authentic espresso, you need nine bars of pressure, or around 130 psi (pounds per square inch). However, in the absence of either an electric pump you’d find in a standard espresso machine or a lever common in a manual espresso maker, it appears impossible that the Kompresso could achieve the necessary pressure via a coffee puck using your hands.
However, the company has solved the issue. Here’s how.
It’s difficult to build high pressure when it’s distributed over a large surface area, so to address that, the chamber is narrower than you would expect. This smaller surface area ensures a better force to pressure conversion in the brewing chamber. For example, if you use an AeroPress, you’ll notice the plunger is far wider, meaning it generates less pressure when brewing.
The Kompresso also uses hydraulic compression alongside Pascal’s Principle (which states that in a closed container, a pressure change in one area is transmitted without loss to every part of the fluid and the walls of the container) to increase the extraction force.
Because water is not particularly compressible, high pressure over nine bars is maintained throughout the extraction process.
How To Make Espresso With A Cafflano Kompresso
- Coffee: 13.5g of fine espresso grounds
- Water: 60ml at 201F (94C)
- Brew time: Between 30 and 50 seconds
Step One: Grind The Coffee
Because the Kompresso has a naked portafilter, we need 14 grams of coffee to find the ideal grind size for dialing in. After grinding, pour the coffee grounds into the filter basket and tamp the coffee firmly with the scoop. Place the shower screen on top and gently attach the filter basket to the chamber. Do make sure you don’t screw it too tightly, as it could damage the rubber rings.
Tips: If you press down too quickly and easily, you can use more coffee or grind more finely. Conversely, if no coffee emerges within 10 seconds of pressing the plunger, stop doing so, as this could damage the filter basket. Instead, use less coffee, grind it more coarsely and try again.
Step Two: Add Water To The Brew Chamber
Pour in water at a temperature of 201F (94C) to just above the 60ml mark on the brew chamber. Then, attach the piston and let it sit for 10 seconds to pre-infuse for a better extraction.
Tips: You’ll need to apply some force to the piston until you see a few drops of coffee dripping to the cup, then let it sit for pre-infusion.
Step Three: Press The Piston
Press the piston using your elbow or palms and aim to maintain the pressure until it reaches the bottom. This should take around 40 seconds to complete.
Some water will stay in the brew chamber. However, you will still have a gorgeous espresso shot of around 27-30ml, giving you an approximately 1:2 brew ratio.
Tips: There are three ways to press the plunger. The first is detailed in the manual, which suggests pressing with your palms and pulling with your fingers. This is the safest method, as you hold the entire device. However, we found it difficult to maintain a consistent pressure until the end using this method, and you need a strong grip.
The second method involves pressing with open palms from the top. Your body weight ensures an easier press, but it might hurt your palms a little.
Thirdly, you can press with your elbow. We recommend this method because it utilizes your body weight to ensure consistent pressure, and it shouldn’t hurt. However, you will need to ensure you press down vertically to avoid spillages.
Can Kompresso Coffee Maker Brew Real Espresso?
The big question is, can the Kompresso produce authentic espresso? The short answer, happily, is yes! In fact, in our testing, we were impressed enough with the espresso to make comparisons with that produced by an entry-level espresso machine.
One slight issue is it’s quite difficult to get rich crema with a manual espresso maker without a pressurized filter basket. However, keep reading for some tips on how to achieve this.
Tips For Pulling Great Espresso Shots Using The Kompresso
There are several steps to achieving the best possible espresso using a Kompresso. One of the most important and attractive elements of an espresso is the rich crema on top. However, there are a few things that can influence the quality and quantity of the crema.
Either filter or espresso roasts are suitable. However, if you’d prefer a sweeter, richer cup with gorgeous crema, we suggest using a medium-dark roast or dark roast coffee.
Freshly Roasted Beans
It’s always preferable to use freshly ground coffee. Also, freshly roasted beans produce more crema. Since the fresh beans contain a higher level of CO2 and coffee oils, which will form the crema during the extraction in the brewing process. The coffee beans roasted between one and four weeks are best for espresso.
If you use grounds that are too coarse, the pressure will not be high enough, and you will get an under-extracted coffee. However, if the grounds are too fine, the coffee will be over-extracted, and you’ll clog your filter.
In the same way that dialing in is important using a standard espresso maker, achieving the correct grind size using a proper espresso grinder is important for a great shot using the Kompresso.
We used an espresso grinder that produces consistent, precise grounds for dialing in. However, less expensive options will also do the job, provided you use the finest grind setting. They may be a little harder to dial in and get the best extraction, though.
Coffee Beans Variety
If you use Robusta blend rather than Arabica beans, you’ll get more crema. However, while crema is an important element of real espresso, it doesn’t have to be particularly thick. Therefore, Arabica beans will suffice too.
If you want to know more about crema, we explain what is crema in detail in another guide.
Alternative Manual Espresso Makers To The Cafflano Kompresso
Staresso Portable Espresso Maker
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If you’re a fan of rich espresso with crema (and who isn’t?), but you’d rather produce it without finding the perfect grind size or tweaking the settings on your grinder, the Staresso is a more forgiving alternative.
This affordable espresso maker has a pressurized filter basket and generates a very high pressure thanks to its pump, meaning it’ll offer a tasty espresso with a rich crema using pre-ground coffee. It can also make cold brew coffee using cold water.
It’s a great entry-level option as it is newbie-friendly, and you don’t need a grinder to get great espresso.
The Staresso is a little bigger than the Cafflano Kompresso. However, it is still small enough that you can take it with you on the move. Check out our in-depth review of the Staresso for more information.
AeroPress With The Fellow Prismo Attachment
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The AeroPress is one of the most versatile coffee machines for brewing strong coffee. However, the machine on its own is incapable of generating the necessary pressure for brewing an espresso-like beverage. Step forward the Fellow Prismo attachment, which aims to solve this issue.
The Fellow Prismo takes the place of the original AeroPress filter. A small valve on it only releases the espresso when it attains a certain pressure level. Meanwhile, you will also get a metal filter plate instead of the paper filters of the original. This addition is significant, as paper filters absorb the oil and produce less crema.
The Fellow Prismo attachment will generate enough pressure to produce artificial crema of the type you’d expect from a pressurized basket. Plus, it will do so with pre-ground coffee or coarser grounds.
The brewed coffee will be more akin to an authentic espresso. However, the crema the Fellow Prismo produces will still be thinner than the crema from the Staresso or Kompresso. Read our AeroPress Review for more details.
We have tested the Cafflano Kompresso for a while and used it to pull dozens of espresso shots. So, with that experience at hand, here are our closing thoughts.
Who Is The Cafflano Kompresso Suitable For?
The machine is inexpensive, so it’s a great option for espresso lovers on a tight budget. It’s also light and compact, so it’s perfect for anyone intending to make espresso on their travels. You can put it in a bag and get a quality caffeine fix on the move.
It’s also suitable for anyone who loves rich crema on their espressos because it produces excellent crema that’s both creamier and has a more satisfying mouthfeel and body than machines using a pressurized filter.
Who Shouldn’t Consider The Cafflano Kompresso?
It might not be the best handheld espresso maker if you’re a complete newbie because there is a learning curve for making excellent espresso. Therefore, you will need to go through a process of trial and error as you dial in your recipe for the most flavorful espresso.
Also, it’s not suitable for people who don’t have a decent espresso grinder that lets you tweak to achieve the perfect grind size. The dialing-in process for the Kompresso is similar to that needed for a standard espresso machine. Therefore, if you’re completely new to espresso making and don’t have a grinder, you might be better off with a machine like the Staresso.
Finally, as we explained earlier, the plunger is not easy to press. You’ll need to deploy a significant amount of manual force, so it might not be for you if you don’t have that kind of strength.
Overall, this Cafflano Kompresso is a welcome addition to the list of lightweight portable espresso maker for espresso coffee lovers.
Yes, there’s a learning curve, and you’ll need to do a bit of work to extract the great coffee. However, for the price and quality of coffee, it produces it’s well worth considering for people on the lookout for a machine that can produce nice espresso with a rich crema on your travels.