Gear Review: Airspresso – Extreme hiking coffee machine

I have a very exciting and interesting review ahead for coffee aficionados, with the Airspresso. With this in mind, I’d like to thank Steve over at Airspresso for getting one of these into my hot little hands to review, I have already spent far past my budget on gizmos and gadgets over the last couple of months!

The first impression I had upon opening the box and getting the machine out was the sheer workmanship and quality of the device. I find that usually hiking coffee machines fit into one of three categories, finicky and lightweight, heavy and robust or the third sad lonely category: make a terrible coffee (think coffee bags or instant). I must stress here , if you don’t care about “terrible” coffee, go buy your Nescafe international roast dry freeze and take a hike. So glad I finally got to make that joke, I have been sitting on that since I started the site.

Kit on scales

Nice round 250g

How it works:

The Airspresso works using the extraction style that is pretty much the same as most coffee machines, with a twist. Basically you load the base with coffee and tamp, screw into the main body and fill with boiling water to the water line. Once the Airspresso is assembled, you use a bike tyre pump to pressurise the air pocket above the water, which starts the extraction process. The tiny holes made in the main body of the machine allow for consistent pressure across the whole puck which leads to an even extraction.

Airspresso state that by suing hot water rather than steam, many of the bitter extracts that are flushed out of the grind and into the coffee are left behind, which results in a better sweeter Crema.

Something you might have picked up on is that you will need a bike pump to work the machine, yes; this is true, but don’t worry they have thought of that too.

Weight:

It was much to my surprise that the Airspresso looks, feels and is sturdy, but weighs in at a nice round 250 grams. For those really worried about weight, you can also ditch the tamp and use your thumbs, a spoon or another flat object you have with you. This will bring the weight down a further 59g to 191 grams. You’re going to need that bike pump too, and Airspresso have two lightweight different ones that do the job, the one im using is the slightly heavier one but at 89g its hardly your biggest worry! So, with a total weight of just on 330g, I think you’ll agree its very reasonable.

full kit and caboodle

Full kit and caboodle incl pump and tamp

Durability / Quality

For what it weighs, the Airspresso is incredibly sturdy and feels like proper machine. When compared with my 200 grams GSI Espresso maker, which fits in the light and flimsy category, it feels bomb-proof. The Airspresso is made of machined and anodized aluminums with a heat resistant medical grade plastic used for the middle. While it is heat resistant after making the third coffee in a row on the machine, i did use a tea-towel to hold the plastic centre as it did get quite hot. On the whole, It feels very solid and I get the distinct feeling that even if you were to use this regularly, you will have it for a very long time.

The quality of the workmanship is impeccable, its Australian made which is always a nice bonus and you can buy all the parts to replace lost or damaged components should it come to that.

The valve the pump screws into is a standard Presta valve, like the kind you would see on most bikes in a tour de France. The distinct advantage to these over a Schrader is the fact you can field service the valve, which means you’ll not be without coffee if you are unlucky enough to drop it in the dirt. They’re also bog standard so you can buy one at a bike shop if you break it.

 

bare minimum to make the machine work (no coffee and water though)

Bare minimum to make the machine work (no coffee and water though)

Coffee quality

Cracking! If I had to give the Airspresso a 1 – 10 rating, and 1 was a bad instant coffee and 10 was an award winning coffee in Melbourne CBD, I’d comfortably give it a 7, on par with most good home coffee machines. You can enjoy a nice crema, and its consistent. One of the biggest challenges I have with the GSI is the inconsistency of the coffee, there are so many variables that come in to play when you’re in the bush with a steam driven machine like the GSI or any percolated coffee pot for that matter. I was able to make more than 10 consistently good coffees on recent trips without messing a single up. Call me whatever you like but this tells me its idiot proof, and I’m a fussy guy that pours at least one coffee down the sink in a week because I’ve messed it up on my machine at home and I make 10+ coffees a week on that thing!

Ease of cleaning and Water efficiency:

The coffee basket is machined and annodised aluminum, the coffee comes out easily and rinses even more easily, the top cap is the same so no worries there. The White medical grade plastic however did get dirty after my weekend away, and I think its just going to be a fact-of-life that the white plastic gets a bit brown and stained, personally I really couldn’t care less.

In terms of water efficiency, apart from the very little bit you lose when boiling the water, and the couple of mls that are left in the puck, you will get every drop back as coffee. Rinsing wise if you were really pressed for water, I think wiping down with a dry cloth would work fine.

Time to Coffee

Time to coffee; from start to finish for a single coffee, see the video link here on Hike Australia – in the next few days. This shows the whole process from taking the machine out of its case, preparing and finally the coffee itself. I think you’ll find the longest wait will be the water boiling. Until then, you can see the step by step at the bottom of this article!

I would like to add to this, that due to the way the coffee machine works, if you’re aiming to make more than a single cup the Airspresso gets more and more ahead of percolator style coffee and you can boil the water all at once and line up coffees to be made quickly.

Cost / Replacement parts:

This is the only real stumbling step I had with the Airspresso and its not a huge one; The price, compared with something like the GSI which costs roughly $50; the Airspresso clocks in at a $139 for the basic package, up to $199 for the full RRP kit and caboodle, and both packages still require a bike pump for somewhere between $28 and $39.  However, due to the amount of cash that people like me spend on hiking equipment I just don’t think its that much of a difference, especially over the life of the gear ,to complain about. This comes down the age old “You get what you pay for”.

Once you have the kit, you probably wont ever need a new one; in fact your kids might even end up fighting over it. Ther are a few replacement parts, With replacement O rings coming in at a whopping $2 for two and the Presta valve at $6.

You can find all the info required on the Airspresso page.

In Conclusion

While the cost for the Airspresso is more expensive than many of the options out there, I suggest that you do not discount it on this alone. We in the hiking world regularly spend the extra dough to get the highest quality and I think that it is definitely worth thinking about doing in this case.

My feelings are that the Airspresso is a long term investment for a coffee lover that wants to have consistently good coffee in the bush. It is relatively lightweight, very compact and sturdy. This feels like a piece of equipment that you will have long after your down sleeping bag, brand new ultra lightweight tent and titanium spork have all been retired.

See below for a step by step process

putting coffee in the Airpsresso basket

Putting coffee in the Airpsresso basket

Tamping the coffee down

Tamping the coffee down

tamped cofffee

Always very important to not over-tamp the coffee

screwing the base into the assembly

screw the base into the assembly

pouring boiling water into airspresso

Pouring boiling water into airspresso

Attaching the pump to the presta valve

Maker sure that you have the Presta valve round the right way!

 

Pump the coffee!

Pump the coffee!

Airpresto! Coffee

Airpresto! Coffee-de-jour

Thankyou for taking the time to read the review! If you have any questions you can contact me by email or by commenting in the section below!

6 Responses to Gear Review: Airspresso – Extreme hiking coffee machine

  1. Instead of a bike pump – you may want to try one of these.
    http://www.cellbikes.com.au/Bike-Rider-16g-CO2-Air-Cartridge-Canisters

    Just a thought.
    Regards Bob

    • I have thought about this actually, I have three things that I am not sure about that need to be addressed;

      First, while its under pressure, I am not sure it would put out enough pressure to properly extract the coffee.
      Secondly, it looks like a pretty expensive way to make coffee if every single time you used one you’re forking out $2.
      and finally, is it a presta valve or a schrader? If you have to carry a presta adapter thats just another thing to get lost / damaged.

  2. I’m going to presume you’ve heard of the Aerobie Aeropress – it’s pretty much this concept minus the bike pump, and with a bit more bulk.

    They are still a fantastic coffee maker, and I take mine on all my hikes: http://aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm

    • Hi Casey,

      I have heard of it, and I know a few people who swear by them. I haven’t ever tried a coffee from one, but it is something I have been thinking about trying out. If I do manage to get my hands on one, ill be sure to write a review for it here.

  3. The Aeropress doesn’t make espresso despite the claims on the packaging. Instead it makes a damn fine filtered coffee. The question is what does the airspresso make? Espresso or filtered coffee?

    • Hi Daniel,

      Its an actual espresso. The pictures make it a little tough to see, but the basket is a real one, like you’d expect on a real machine’s grup handle. As long as you have the strength and a decent bike pump, you can even build up ~8-9 bar in the vessel and get a really high quality extraction. There is no need for filter paper; its a true espresso machine.

      Cheers,
      Ben

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