A portafilter is a bucket-like device that stores coffee grounds in a slotted filtration basket. Portafilters come in two varieties: regular or spouted portafilter and a bottomless or naked portafilter
To make a good cup of espresso you’ll need a quality portafilter. Espresso is made when pressure hot water combines with the ground coffee inside the portafilter after locking into the holder of an espresso machine.
And in order to find yourself the best portafilter, you’ll first need to know the difference between different types of portafilters especially bottomless portafilters vs regular portafilters.
So, as coffee lovers, we trust you will not compromise on your coffee experience.
Bottomless Portafilter VS Regular: The difference?
Before we can get to the actual difference between them to know, it’s important to establish what a bottomless filter is in the first place. Does it not have a bottom or what are we looking at here? Only one way to know: scroll below!
What is a bottomless portafilter?
The bottom of the hamper is exposed when a bottomless or “naked” portafilter is opened. It just seems to be a solid handle having a metal ring when there isn’t a basket attached.
You can either purchase a bottomless portafilter or you can modify your regular portafilters to make a bottomless one. DIY is all the rage anyway, isn’t it?
How is a Bottomless Portafilter Different from a Regular Portafilter?
So, how do the two portafilters differ? Basically, unlike the bottomless portafilters, the regular ones have a closing at the bottom. Regular portafilters are enclosed in a solid closing which opens into a funnel-like structure through which your coffee flows into your cup.
Regular portafilters can be single-spouted or double-spouted. And contrary to the bottomless portafilter where the coffee directly pours into the cup, in a regular portafilter it first makes contact with the spout. Then flows into the cup.
The beautiful thing with the bottomless portafilter is that you can actually see the coffee droplets forming underneath the portafilter! The flavourful magical beads appear right on the basket before flowing into the cup.
4 Most Common Problems in Using Portafilters
Both types of portafilter suffer a few drawbacks. Still, where a drawback might plague one portafilter, the other portafilter might just be immune to it. Here’s the portafilter baggage you will have to deal with.
When you properly and evenly tamp your coffee grounds in the portafilter, the water flows through the coffee uniformly. This makes for excellent extraction of espresso. However, uneven tamping can create channels; pockets in the portafilter with the least resistance so water can flow.
Where channels are formed, the extraction becomes poor and the coffee, well. You’d rather not drink it. Here, the bottomless portafilter shines like a diamond! With its exposed basket you can easily see if and where any channels were formed and fix your tamping in the future.
However, with regular portafilters, the portafilter spouts obscure the view of the basket. The espresso will always flow smoothing into your cup. So, you’ll never really find out if your tamping went wrong.
Single spout portafilters or double spouted portafilters can both be a hassle to clean. You have to unscrew the spout and scrape thoroughly and deeply to get all the nook and crannies. If even a small part is left uncleaned, there go your coffee flavors.
However, the bottomless portafilter is free of any such difficult cleaning ritual. With its smaller and exposed surface area, all you gotta do is thoroughly rinse it a few times and you’ll be good to go!
Splashing can be the biggest issue with bottomless portafilters. Their cleaning might be easier but they are capable of making a mess elsewhere, like your countertop. This relates to the tamping issue. Improper tamping will make water gush through the portafilter, resulting in a splash.
Regular portafilters enjoy a splash-free and clean flow of the espresso into the cup. The spouts screwed onto the bottom of the portafilter absorb or restrict any splashes ensuring a smooth flow of espresso.
Crema and Flavors
It is a common belief that bottomless portafilters result in fresher flavors and a richer crema. This is because the espresso directly falls into the cup, preserving all flavors and creating more crema.
On the other hand, the contact of espresso with the spouts of the portafilter can (although minimally but still) dampen the flavors a bit. Plus, some of the crema sticks to the inside of the spouts, resulting in lesser crema in the cup. Plus if the spout is cold it’ll affect the temperature of both the espresso and crema.
In any case, with enough practice, you can get rich and perfect-tasting coffee with a thick crema using both portafilters which will help you to make many popular types of espresso drinks.
Bottomless Portafilter VS Regular: Which is Better?
Our home baristas would suit better with a bottomless portafilter. Despite some mess, it is extremely easy to use and clean. Plus, you can easily pinpoint your mistakes with this portafilter and learn your way to the best shot of espresso!
However, for professional baristas, the regular portafilters with spouts would be best. In a busy coffee shop, there is no time for splashes and countertop mess. Plus, a double-spouted portafilter would shorten the serving time by a lot!
1. Why do espresso machines have two spouts?
Espresso machines feature two spouts to allow baristas to split the espresso shot into cups. Or brew a larger shot for one cup in less time. This is extremely useful for commercial usage.
2. Is a bottomless portafilter better?
The bottomless portafilter is easy to use, easy to clean, makes better espresso, and makes you a better barista by exposing your mistakes. However, it all comes down to your preference. If you prefer saving time and mess, you’d want to opt for regular portafilters.
3. How do you tamp a bottomless portafilter?
Add your ground coffee to the portafilter basket. Use a tamp to press down hard on it firmly to even it out. Brush of the edges.
4. Is the bottomless portafilter get loose when attached to a basket?
While using a bottomless portafilter the baskets are not dependent on support at the bottom of the portafilter, so there is no chance of a ‘slip.’ Other than that, they have super wide rims which rest firmly on top of the portafilter basket. So, there is no chance of an accident.
Lastly, as the final form of stability, portafilters are equipped with a retractable ring to lock the baskets in place. In fact, you’ll know that your basket is intact when you push it hard and hear a ‘click’ sound confirming that it’s locked in place.
Bottomless portafilters vs regular, regardless of the type, if you truly love your coffee, you’ll not take your portafilters lightly. They’re not just a technical necessity in your espresso machine. Portafilters can make all the difference when it comes to the strength, flavors, and crema of your espresso! This is how you can drink espresso like an Italian pro.