We all love travelling with our bikes. But there’s always one thing we miss on early morning starts - a decent coffee. Many a time I've stood in a hotel room debating whether to drink concentrated coffee powder. But as we know, instant coffee is nothing like the real thing. So, I recently invested in two alternatives that conveniently fit in the pocket of your jersey. If you too enjoy a consistent espresso while riding far from home, keep reading as I explain pro's and con’s between the Aeropress and Wacaco Nanopress.
Firstly both units are lightweight and small enough to fit in your hand. I've experimented a lot to find both easy to use, and convenient to wash. But aside from their shared practical conveniences, both the features and coffee produced is markedly different - even when using the same coffee grind and brand.
Coffee used for comparable testing is a finely ground, in-house blend from Australian based roaster at the Dancing Bean. For background, this has been my coffee stop the last month during my stay in QLD, as I test a few products. If you’re spending time in Ipswich I do recommend the cafe.
Before comparisons I also want to admit - the experience of coffee is subjective. I’m unable to measure the taste in any way. I can only look at the extraction methods and consider my version of the flavours which are a result of processes. Each unit also has many variables that can alter the coffee, including time of extraction, grind and amount of coffee, temp of water, tamping pressure, heating/texture of milk. The coffee podcast Mapitforward shares an interesting discussion, Coffee Science - Subjective vs. Objective for those interested in learning the art and science of coffee.
The coffees clocked from my Aeropress would be pushing well over 100. I've made the most of this unit when travelling or when our coffee machines are out for repair or replacement.
First up, I can testify the unit won't replicate the same taste produced from a fine cafe. But the flavour and finish of the coffee can still be enjoyed depending on your preference in coffee experience. It’s also a far better cry than instant. As Aeropress advertise, "think of it as an espresso maker, drip coffee maker, and French press, all rolled into one." For versatility this is a remarkably well priced coffee maker.
To note, I’ve made dozens of good coffees with added milk, but haven't yet made a convincing espresso. This could be technique, but its possible our style coffee which tends to replicate Italian isn’t the expectation. Let’s not forget the Aeropress was designed in Silicon Valley, and made in USA and the style of coffee has different expectations.
While you can push a decent coffee I’d say it provides more of a mellow hit, and doesn’t have those complex flavours or depths. Im not a coffee expert so I struggle to explain it, but Aeropress is a nice easy start for the day. Of course, you can add more coffee and make a stronger brew, but its still not the same even in texture and I think Ive come up why its limited in to producing robust flavours.
If you’re very particular about coffee its important to note an Aeropress coffee is made through manual pressure, which pushes the water beyond the coffee bean and a screen plate or paper filter.
Without enough BAR’s (‘BAR’ is the measurement for atmospheric pressure), there’s the distinct lack of crema - the flavorful, aromatic, reddish-brown froth that rests on top of a shot of espresso. You can however still achieve a good iced coffee for summer, but milk and cream aren’t really convenient to carry on the back of your bike. After a strong brew? You may be better with the slow-drip method achieved by this unit.
The Aeropress takes only a minute once you get used to the procedure. I stopped stirring my coffee (as the instructions direct) which is intended to increase extraction. The Aeropress tube can also be used to store your caffeine. You will need to supply your own container or bags. It’s lightweight minimising the weight added to your bikepacking adventure.
I also advise buying the wafer thin but sturdy metal grill to replace paper filters. Definitely something worth investing if you travel.
Overall the Aeropress does produce a satisfying flat white. But if you like your espresso, keep reading below.
Aeropress original is 182g at 13cm (where to buy an Aeropress below )
The Nanopress by Wacaco is a very different unit which builds pressure via a pump system. When the pressure is released it forces the hot water through the coffee for extraction.
I’ve now used this daily for 6 weeks and its excellent for pre rides where a cafe isn’t open or accessible. The ability of this little hand held contraption will surprise you. It sure surprised me. The pressure created is advertised at 18 BAR’s. That’s above BAR’s produced by domestic machines. If you're after a strong robust coffee with a preference for espresso with crema, or a touch of milk, this is your unit.
There are thoughts that over 15 BAR’s will burn your coffee but I’ve only experienced this when I abused the beans. I will now openly admit, Im not much for following instructions. I read them, and then I like to be creative. If you’re a coffee loyalist or Italian, please cover your ears here... It’s likely I overfilled and over ground the coffee... and ended up with some small grit in the base of my cup. So warning - don't overfill, overpress and overgrind!
A really lovely few features of the Nanopress - it comes with this fab case. I bought the Barista attachment so I could pull a double espresso. It'll allow you to carry a few extra pods of pre-prepared coffee inside the nanopress for travel. It acutally comes with a tamper, plus two pods with lids to carry the coffee. I love that! So you'll have enough coffee for a few days, depending how much you drink.
I can't fault the coffee. It also takes a minute to prepare. The pieces can be fiddly at first, and you’ll want to be careful cleaning after making your first few coffees. It’s easy to forgot what’s where and end with hot water on your hands. But after a few days of making coffee its darn quick. Even at home, if you're faced with the wait time of your professional coffee machine to prep, and the cleaning after just one coffee - you may be tempted to use the nanopress as your go-to coffee maker.
The Wacaco Nanopress is 336g at 15 cm tall. (Where to buy an Aeropress below )
In a brief summary, both units are fantastic alternatives against instant coffee. The coffee produced are different between each machine. If you like convenience, plus lighter flavours, then you can likely do with the economic Aeropress. For drip coffee this is definitely an answer for great coffee in the morning.
If you like more complex flavours, and after a genuine espresso experience, then Id recommend the Nanopress. Over a month of use and I still can’t get my head around this coffee experience. I’m actually enjoying the science of pulling a consistently good coffee.
Both units do require physical exertion and requires some strength. If you aren’t capable of pushing down on the press you may prefer the Nanopress. But even this could be a potential problem for someone with hand arthritis.