The GSI MiniEspresso is a unique stovetop espresso maker for the camper that prefers their morning brew small and strong. The set includes a cup and a handy case for easy storage and transport, and the design makes knowing how much water and coffee to use a no-brainer.
The MiniEspresso just starting to pour out our yummy shot.
If you've ever used a Moka pot like the Bialetti, then the GSI MiniEspresso will seem quite familiar. Fill the base with water up to the valve, add ground coffee up to the brim in the basket, place the basket in the base and screw on the top. The top piece has a spout that the coffee brews through and a platform beneath that for placing the included cup. Put it all on the stove, turn the heat on (not too high, not too low for the best flavor), and wait for just a few minutes. Your shot will pour up through the spout and directly into your cup.
While the MiniEspresso might look complicated at first, it's actually very quick and easy to use. The most challenging part is finding a stove that's not too big for it.
Flavor from the MiniEspresso is quite decent, though it wasn't our favorite. The Bialetti produces a better-tasting final product, but the version we tested is also much larger and made out of aluminum. The MiniEspresso is compact, stainless steel, and the shots taste good enough to at least satisfy most coffee snobs, though don't expect much crema on the top — this device doesn't create that kind of pressure during the brewing process.
It's easy to want to crank the heat under the MiniEspresso so you get your shot super fast, but if you do that it will be a bit weak. And if you have the heat too low, the shot will get bitter. It's worth it to experiment with your heat setting to find the (literal) sweet spot. We had a few espressos from this device that were on the sour side before figuring out the flame level for our particular stove.
Enjoying a nice espresso on a chilly high altitude morning.
Ease of Use
While this espresso maker has a few more pieces than other devices, brewing is simple and straightforward. The design helps you know exactly how much water and coffee to use: water up to the valve in the base, coffee up to the brim of the basket. It might take you a little bit of time to figure out the perfect heat setting on your stove for optimum flavor, but once you do, you'll be churning out shots with ease.
We do have two complaints in this department that you'll want to consider before purchasing. First, the bast of the MiniEspresso is only about 3", so if the grates on your stove are farther apart than that you'll have a problem. We discovered this too late on our first trip out and were frustrated when the brewer kept tipping over. Some customers in online reviews speak of having to rig a wider base or brew on top of a cast-iron pan. Secondly, while the stem of the brewer itself is wrapped in heat-resistant nylon, the handle on the espresso cup is not — beware grabbing it off the stove right away in your excitement to get caffeinated: you will most certainly burn your fingers in the process if you do.
Here you can see the MiniEspresso falling through the grates of our stove and how we needed to use a cloth to grab our hot cup after brewing completed.
Because this brews just a single shot at a time, it's not ideal for large groups. Though, to be fair, brewing and cleaning are fast, so you can repeat the process easily if you need to.
The one aspect that will slow down making repeat shots is how hot this device gets while brewing. You'll either need to wait between brews or douse everything in cold water if you need to move fast.
Fresh ground coffee ready to go in our MiniEspresso. It doesn't take much - about 10 grams of coffee fit in the basket and you'll receive approximately a 2-ounce shot.
The MiniEspresso lives between worlds a bit when it comes to portability. It's certainly small and light for what it is, and it comes with a convenient case for storage and transport. But the whole setup is also far heavier than most backpackers are going to want to carry deep into the woods.
While this setup is too bulky and heavy for backpacking, it is a nice size to have along on the road while car camping or to consider throwing in a suitcase for travel — as long as you'll have access to a stove, that is.
The MiniEspresso Set comes with a handy case for convenient storage and transport.
This brewer weighs 1 pound 1.3 ounces in its case and 10.3 ounces without the case. While shedding the case will drop a lot of weight, this also leaves you with loose parts to keep track of while on the move.
Keep in mind that the weight of this setup includes a cup, something most brewers do not.
If you're already car camping, consider bringing along a stovetop milk steamer to go with the MiniEspresso for a full-on latte!
The value of the MiniEspresso is dependant on personal preference. If you are a diehard espresso drinker and can't imagine a morning without it, then this price tag probably isn't a big deal. You don't need filters or even a cup, this set has everything you need except the water and the coffee. However, if you enjoy a good cup of drip here and there or are just so-so about espresso, then the MiniEspreso is an expensive device compared to many other options in this review.
The GSI MiniEspresso Set is perhaps not the most practical brewer, but it's fun, easy to use, and produces a decent shot of espresso. It's our current Top Pick for Camp Espresso because it's lightweight for what it is and comes with a cup and carrying case. If you're an espresso drinker that wants to stay classy in the woods, consider this savvy set.