Portable Espresso Take Two: HandPresso Wild Domepod Review

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At first glance it just doesn’t make any sense.  That is to say, how could a shot of liquid gold (aka, fresh espresso) come out of a handheld device?  Afterall, if you walk into your neighborhood café or Starbucks you’ll mostly likely see a $10,000 plus hunk of steel with a brass broiler, multiple portafilters, a warming tray to accommodate 40 cups and saucers, and enough electrical circuitry to make the latest iPhone 3G S seem like your grandma’s beige rotary phone.  The handheld device in question is the new Handpresso Wild Domepod.
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(photo: product packaging is real nice and is similar to the way Apple packages products)

The Handpresso Wild Domepod is an update to the Handpresso Wild ESE. The key difference between the two models is that the Domepod can be used with freshly ground coffee and cannot be used with ESE pods.  As stated in my earlier article on the Handpresso Wild ESE, the Domepod contains the following features:
– The unit does not require electricity but rather creates 16 bar of pressure via a “bicycle pump” like mechanism on handheld device .  This method differs from the CO2 cartridges used in products like the MyPresso Twist which I’ve yet to try.  
– The unit contains a filtered plastic/metal basket that holds about 4-5 teaspoons of ground espresso (which is ground to a powder like consistency and different than, say, the ground coffee used for your typical French Press cup of coffee).

– The unit retails for $99.00 at Importika.com (it’s not cheap).
I tried a sample version of the Handpresso Wild Domepod for a 1 week period (including a few trials with my Italian born parents).  I used both freshly ground espresso from WholeLatteLove.com called Malabar Gold which contains less acid and is milder in form than your typical espresso (it’s been called a European type blend) and illy Café pre-ground espresso (find grind).  I used freshly filtered water to brew my espresso and what follows are my wholly unscientific impressions of the unit:
– I was excited that the Domepod would allow me to use freshly ground espresso versus ESE pods, yet I was worried about the process of both filling the unit with ground espresso and, thereafter, removing the grounds .  I’m happy to report that filling the unit was fairly easy.  I used both a standard plastic spoon and typical spoon served with espresso to fill the unit and it was an easy process.  Emptying the espresso cartridge which contains the used espresso grounds was easy and simply required a tap against the side of my garbage can to release.

– The pump mechanism seemed improved in the Domepod versus the ESE version, though the product packaging contains no indication the pump is improved or redesigned.  The unit required about 7-10 pumps to reach 16 bar pressure; this isn’t bad considering that the end user is providing the power and not dependent on a CO2 cartridge or electrical plug!

– As I mentioned with the ESE model, boiling water is required to produce decent results.  Using warm water, or water that is even 4-5 minutes off the boil will significantly reduce the quality and extraction of your espresso (unfortunately, this rules out using water at work via a hot water dispenser or even water from a thermos).

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(photo: Ground Malabar Gold)

 – As stated above I used both Malabar Gold and illy fine grind Espresso.  When using the Malabar, which was ground fresh and via a professional grade grinder, the unit extracted the coffee well and there were no leaks at the beginning of the extraction process.  However, when using illy ground espresso (direct from the can) the results were disastrous.  The unit leaked and splashed water during the extraction process almost as though the ground espresso clogged the head (I tried to brew 5 separate cups using the illy ground espresso and each time I had the same end result) – see picture below.  When I used the Malabar Gold, the unit worked effortlessly.  My conclusion: the bean grind is critical to the Domepod (this has nothing to do with the quality of illy coffee, but rather maybe a byproduct of the compatibility of certain bean grinds with the Domepod).

– The espresso cartridge housing the ground espresso needs to be lightly tamped with each brew (I did this with the end of my spoon).  

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– Using the right type of freshly ground espresso greatly enhances the quality of the product.  The Malabar Gold produced a rich and flavorful cup of coffee with decent crema and some complex flavors.  Don’t get me wrong, the Domepod WILL NOT produce café type espresso (like the espresso found in the best spots in Europe; think northern Italy and Austria).  However, the Domepod does produce a better cup of espresso than a typical Bialetti stove top unit.  I would even go further and state that the Domepod espresso is better than the typical crap you’ll find at your local Starbucks (yes Starbucks espresso isn’t good, sorry I wish I had better things to say about the chain).  

– I was disappointed with the temperature of the espresso coming out of the Domepod.  Even with pre-heating my cup and using just off the boil water, my espresso wasn’t at the ideal temperature I’m used to (whether I’m comparing it to stove top espresso or café/bar espresso).

– The Domepod model now contains a water level indicator to guide the user as to how much water to pour into the water chamber.  This is critical as the flavor and texture of the espresso varies greatly with the amount of water used; using too much water will produce a watery cup without much flavor and using too little will create a super concentrated cup.  I found filling the water chamber just below the water line works best (so don’t follow the water level indicator exactly)

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(photo: explosion when using Illy fine grind espresso, not sure if there is a espresso grind compatibility issue with the unit)
 
– I’m still experiencing a small amount of water leakage towards the end of the extraction process which is similar to what I reported in the ESE model.  The is a little frustrating as any excess water will dilute the flavor of your espresso; in turn, I’ve learned to move my espresso cup just before the final drops of coffee are being extracted).  

– Just as with the ESE model, the build quality is superb with the Domepod and the unit feels solid and should last a lifetime provided you keep the pumping mechanism clean and occasionally change the unit gasket.  As I said above, the product design and packaging is at a high level.

– The Domepod, like the ESE model, is really designed for single use.  I tried brewing multiple cups of coffee for family members one evening and the process of constantly removing coffee grinds and refilling the unit with water is cumbersome.  The unit is best for single service at the office or when traveling.
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(photo: Malabar gold espresso ground professionally)

The bottom line is that the Domepod is an improvement over the ESE model simply because the former utilizes freshly ground coffee and other than the aforementioned, the ESE and Domepod are identical machines.   While the flavor, texture, and aroma are all improved via the Domepod, I wouldn’t want to mess with ground coffee at the office or on a business trip, for example.  So, the choice is yours in terms of which model to purchase:  The ESE (Wild) is convenient but produces a lower quality cup, while the fresh ground coffee (Domepod) makes a richer and more flavorful espresso but requires carrying and handling finely ground coffee.   

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Comments

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8 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I have mine for a few months and I have made up a review like you and a tips and trick article.
    Handpresso Wild Domepod [Test]
    Handpresso Tips and Tricks
    Hit the American flag for an English translation.
    You’re explosion issue might be due to your coffee not being compressed enought. Use a 35mm coffee tamper if you can (hard to find!) or do like me, use the handle side of the Handpresso to compress the coffee in the filter basket. Make it has hard as possible and have the metal metal rounded to the outside of the filter (bottom).

  2. Hi Alexander,
    Thanks for the comments. I will try compressing or tamping the coffee grinds with my illy ground coffee. I did however tamp both Malabar Gold and illy Ground with sample pressure and device (and only got “explosion” with illy).
    I’ll take a look at your review…
    Best,
    Vince

  3. So how did it went with another type of coffee/grind?
    A tamper custom sized for the Handpresso has been released! It could help you make even better espressos!
    Handpresso Tamper [Test]

  4. Interesting that I had the opposite experience with the Illy canned grounds. It is the only thing I can find that does NOT shoot through too quickly. My burr grinder broke and the ones in the shop(s) do not grind fine enough. They work well in my countertop unit, but not the Domepod. This is OK, as the Domepod lives at work, where a grinder would not be welcome!

  5. Elegant and Sustainable Coffee: Chemex, Filter Drip, Coffee-Maker

    (photo: thanks to Dr. K, Chemex in action during brewing process) I was flipping through the latest issue of the New Yorker and an article by Malcom Gladwell caught my eye, as it usually does whenever I see his name…

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