Freshly Brewed Espresso at 18.000 feet altitude

Making espresso at cruising altitude in the cockpit

Combine having a pilot license, flying a private Cirrus SR22 Turbo aircraft with being a barista and you get a strange combination. Flying the Cirrus through Europe, I regularly fly at a cruising altitude of 18.000 feet (flight level 180). At this altitude, the flight is highly automated with an advanced autopilot system, modern avionics and glass cockpit. At these moments, cruising along at a speed of 210 knots for several hours I often long for a freshly brewed espresso.

MH130512-A060 MH130512-A059

Flying along at a cruising level of 18.000 feet pushing some buttons to keep the system going.

On top of us both (me and my wife) being certified baristas, my wife wrote the Dutch book ‘No Nonsense Espresso‘. The logical next step was evident: find a no-nonsense solution to make a fresh espresso at 18.000 feet while cruising along at a speed of more than 380 km/hr. I found the solution.


The book cover of ‘No Nonsense Espresso’, written by my wife Saskia ter Welle.

The Handpresso Auto E.S.E.

The Handpresso Auto E.S.E. gives you the way to make coffee in your car. I don’t think they thought of making coffee in the cockpit of private aircraft, but it works about the same.

Cirrus-Espresso-5 Cirrus-Espresso-4 Cirrus-Espresso-3

I had to take some measures as the Handpresso Auto draws 150W, which is too much for the cigarette-lighter adapter in the cockpit, which is secured at 2,5 A. So, I bought a small external 12V battery pack as the source for the Handpresso to not get into trouble with the electronics and avionics in the cockpit while brewing coffee.


The Handpresso Auto E.S.E. – the espresso machine for in your car or in the cockpit?

The coffee making process

The process of making an espresso is quite straight forward. The Handpresso Auto works with E.S.E. espresso pads. On top of that, you will need fresh water and a 12-volt power source.

  • Connect the Handpresso Auto to your 12V power source;
  • Add fresh and cold water to the Handpresso at the top;
  • Add an E.S.E. coffee-pad. I prefer the Illy pads;
  • Close the lid firmly (clockwise turn) while keeping the Handpresso straight;
  • Turn the Handpresso on and let the pressure build up to 9 bar as the temperature rises;
  • Once the Handpresso is ready a sharp sound is heard;
  • Turn the Handpresso upside down above an espresso cup and push the side button;
  • The espresso will pour into your cup!
  • Stop the process by pushing the side-button the other way;
  • Now enjoy your espresso!


Filling the Handpresso with water and adding an Illy pad.


Cirrus-Espresso-7 Cirrus-Espresso-4


One of my passengers is enjoying his coffee while at the same time linked to the aircraft supplemental oxygen system.

Below a short video shot with a GoPro on how to make espresso in the cockpit.

For more information on the Handpresso Auto E.S.E. device:

To order the ‘No Nonsense Espresso’ (book in Dutch):

[mlw_quizmaster quiz=1]