Years ago, while I was poking around a kitchen store with a friend of mine, he floated a basic theory of kitchenware: many of the things that you have in your average kitchenware department are not as good or efficient for apartment living as the version you would find in the outdoors department. When you're looking for tiny and practical, he argued, try the camping section. At the time I laughed: no matter how small your living space, having one multitool fork-spoon-knife seems a little bit excessive, and those omnipresent enamel camping mugs are a horror show for drinking anything hot—they burn your hands immediately. But it's true that, in your early twenties with a tiny shoebox of an apartment, you don't always need the full-sized countertop version of a device when a smaller one will do. And while I didn't end up stocking my kitchen entirely from the outdoors store, I did pick up something that is the absolute best coffee-making space-saver I've ever found: the sleek, handsome, clever mini espresso maker made for camping.
The GSI Outdoors Mini Expresso works in basically the same way as a moka pot, the popular (and also cheap) stovetop espresso maker. You just put your grounds in the filter basket and fill the bottom tank with water, and place it on your stove. (Or on your campfire or heating coil, whatever you have working for you.) One of the moka pot's major flaws is that it's easy to overbrew your cup of espresso. If you don't have your eye on the stove, the grounds can recirculate over and over, making for a very bitter cup. But the camping version does away with the problem by pouring your coffee for you. It has a small platform to put your mug in, under a spout. In just about two minutes, a double-shot pour of espresso comes out of the tap, into your cup. If you're making coffee for one, it's basically perfect. And rather than hogging precious counter space, the whole thing takes up roughly the size of a large mug. At $36.99, It's also inexpensive enough to give as a gift for your favorite caffeinated college student, or as a housewarming gift for an apartment.
If you tend to make coffee more than one cup at a time, or you'd prefer something a little less rugged, the Gemini Espresso machine applies the exact same concept, but for two cups. It comes with two cups and two saucers for $45 at the MOMA Design Store, and the green enamel reads more "sophisticated European" than "broke college student." Faulty as it may be, I'm not giving up my full-sized stove and range for a campfire anytime soon. But I will say that whenever I'm looking for new kitchenware, I tend to browse through the camping section, too. You never know what genius space-saving contraptions will work for you.