A portafilter is a device that holds coffee grounds in place while you pull an espresso shot. It helps to have the right portafilter for your machine. Because they impact the tamp and pressure of the coffee beans. Once you have the best portafilter, you can focus on brewing a shot that suits your tastes.
What Are Portafilters?
Portafilters are the small, portable basket of an espresso machine that holds the coffee grounds while you’re brewing a shot. The portafilter allows hot water to pass through the grounds to extract the espresso.
A portafilter has only a few parts. It makes it a basic utensil compared to the espresso machine’s intricate workings.
The handle keeps the device portable when you’re packing grounds.
The basket holds the coffee grounds and has holes so the water can pass through.
Some portafilters have a spout to allow the espresso to pour into the cup without extra effort on your behalf. You can have a single spout or a double spout for double-shot portafilters. You have a naked portafilter if there’s no spout on your device.
Overall, a portafilter resembles a filter basket on a drip coffee maker. It’s smaller and doesn’t require the paper filter, but it performs the same task.
Portafilter Basket Sizes
Different portafilter basket sizes depend on your espresso machine’s brew head. You need to find the right basket. Anything wider or smaller than the brew head isn’t compatible.
The easiest way to discern basket sizes is by how many shots of espresso you can make, such as:
- Single-shot baskets
- Double-shot baskets
- Triple-shot baskets
Single-shot baskets can handle anywhere from seven to 12 grams of coffee grounds per shot. You’ll pull one rich shot from this size basket. Most single-shot baskets have a funnel shape at the bottom. And go inside a portafilter with a single spout since you can only pull one shot.
Double-shot baskets can hold between 14 and 21 grams of ground coffee. There are different styles of double-shot baskets: straight walls or tapered walls. The wall design doesn’t impact the quality of the espresso shot you’ll pull. And it typically fits in a portafilter with double spouts.
Triple-shot baskets can handle more than 21 grams of ground coffee but still make double-shot drinks. Since these baskets are so deep, they might not fit into your standard portafilter. You should either get a naked portafilter or a deeper option for triple shot baskets.
Which Portafilter Do You Need?
There are different types of portafilters beyond sizes. Knowing what you need depends on the coffee grounds you use and what machine you have.
Pressurized filter baskets can have the same sizes and designs as the types listed above. The main difference is that there’s only one small hole at the bottom of the basket. If you buy ground coffee from the store instead of grinding it fine enough for espresso, you’ll want a pressurized portafilter.
The pressurized portafilters have a double wall. So the water can flow through the grounds and pass through one bottom before getting pushed through the single hole of the second wall.
If you use regular coffee grounds with a standard portafilter, there won’t be enough pressure to make a quality espresso shot. The pressurized portafilter delivers a delicious espresso shot. And not a small portion of coffee that looks like espresso but tastes weaker.
Commercial espresso machines typically use a portafilter with a 58mm diameter. In many cases, cheaper commercial machines have smaller portafilter diameters. But overall, 58mm is what to look for if you’re buying a replacement.
Commercial portafilters usually hold a double shot basket. This means you can put up to 21 grams of coffee grounds into the basket to brew two shots at once.
Most commercial baristas prefer using non-pressurized portafilters, which are standard. The bottom of the basket has one layer with an extensive grid of holes. As the hot water flows through the coffee grounds, espresso will bead up from each hole and drip into the cup.
Pod portafilters work with specific machines. They’re similar to Keurig and Nespresso. These machines provide pods with fixed amounts of coffee grounds. They’re ready to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Pod portafilters hold a premade pod of espresso, so you don’t have to measure the grounds to pull a shot.
The premade pods are Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods. They are compatible with many new lines of espresso machines. You can also use pods with pressurized filter baskets due to how the design will extract the most flavor from the pod. ESE pods usually contain seven grams of coffee, making them ideal for single-shot baskets.
Pods are a great solution to simplify your espresso-making process. They’re easy to use and make cleanup a breeze, guaranteeing a delicious. This is if you don’t care about grinding beans and perfecting your espresso puck each time.
Spouted vs. Naked Portafilter
Portafilters usually have one or two spouts at the bottom to help the espresso flow into the cup as it brews. Portafilters without one or two spouts are bottomless or naked portafilters. There are pros and cons for each of these portafilter options, but both are acceptable options for your espresso machine.
If you have a double shot basket, using a spouted portafilter simplifies the separation of espresso shots. The espresso automatically flows down the spout and into one of two cups, so you have two equal shots.
Even if you’re only pulling a single shot, the spout streamlines the espresso flow, so it’s already in the cup and ready to drink or mix into a coffee beverage. Some people don’t care about single-spout portafilters for single-shot baskets. This is because there’s nothing to divide, so it comes down to personal preference.
Some baristas prefer spouted portafilters because you can’t see the espresso as it brews in the basket. The bottom of the portafilter blocks your view, so you just have to trust the process. The espresso flows down the spout and into the cup, and only then will you taste the shot and see if it turned out right or if you didn’t tamp the grounds properly.
Naked portafilters or bottomless portafilters are becoming more popular. There’s no spout at the bottom of the portafilter, so you can see the bottom of the filter basket. If you watch the espresso brew, you can see droplets form on the basket before they drip down into your cup.
Beginner baristas love naked portafilters because it helps you see every step of the process. You can watch the espresso brew and see if more drops form on one side of the basket. This issue tells you that you pushed the puck lower on one side than the other. You’re able to make an adjustment with your next shot to pull it perfectly.
Naked portafilters also leave more crema on the shot. The spout forces the air out of the coffee oils as the espresso rolls down into the cup, so you get about 50% less crema than naked portafilters. Each espresso shot will taste richer than you’d get from a spouted option.
It’s also easier to clean naked portafilters. You don’t have to struggle to scrub the inside of the spout or else risk having strange-tasting shots due to the coffee oil buildup inside. Since there’s no bottom on a naked portafilter, cleaning is quick and simple, giving you a great-tasting espresso shot each time.
Did you enjoy learning about the different types of portafilters? Hopefully, this article gave you insight into how each basket and filter can impact the way you brew espresso. Leave your thoughts in the comments and share this article to help people pull the perfect espresso shot.