People usually fret about buying the best espresso machine so they can brew the perfect shot of espresso. What they underestimate when buying an espresso machine is the power of the portafilter. You may wonder what’s so important about it? Everything! So, much so that we have got different types of portafilter too!
The portafilter is where all the magic happens! It is where the pressurized water meets the flavor of coffee beans to produce an espresso shot that gives you butterflies in your stomach and a boost of energy. So, if you want to brew a professional espresso shot, you need to know your portafilters.
What is a Portafilter?
If you are new to the world of espresso, coffee beans, and espresso machines you must be wondering what even a portafilter is. What does it do? And how do you use it? Your confusions are valid and about to go away.
The portafilter is a metallic filter that holds ground coffee in the espresso machine. It is specially designed to hold finely ground coffee beans and remain sturdy under highly pressurized water. Bad portafilters can leak or spill coffee in your cup, which is why you need quality portafilters.
There isn’t much manual labor involved with the portafilter. All you have to do is fill it with your ground coffee, tamp (apply pressure on the ground coffee using a tamp to even it out), and dust off any residue. Next, you attach it to the espresso machine, it goes right in the middle and locks it in place. That’s it!
5 Types of Portafilters
Portafilters come in different types to assist you with espresso extraction. Depending on your level of expertise with using an espresso machine or your preference for pulling an espresso shot, you can choose your pick. Here are the five different espresso machine portafilter types you can choose from.
1. Pressurized Portafilters
If you are a beginner or still in the process of mastering your tamping technique then this portafilter is for you. As suggested by its name, it creates extra pressure during espresso extraction so you can pull the perfect shot. This is achieved by various means such as gaskets and springs in the basket or handle.
The pressurized portafilters are usually inexpensive. If you are looking for an afordable espresso machine, this feature will almost certainly be included. However, this also means they will be made from plastic or cheap aluminum. This pressurized system of the portafilter is designed specifically for beginners.
You can still enjoy a consistent and pleasant shot of espresso even if your tamping is a little off or grinding isn’t quite ideal. The extra pressure in the portafilter makes up for all mistakes! They do, however, have some disadvantages, such as being difficult to clean and producing phony crema.
2. Non-Pressurized Portafilters
Unlike pressurized portafilters, non-pressurized portafilters are best suited for experts and professional baristas. They contain no additional layer of filter which means the tamping and grinding must be just right. There is no added pressure to save you from errors, But then isn’t making the perfect shot itself a trial and error process, so why not?
These portafilters require utmost accuracy and more work on the user’s part. But that only means you will brew and pull a mouthwatering shot of espresso and nothing less. The extra work and precision that you put in are bound to yield phenomenal results!
If you are interested in non-pressurized portafilters, you might even be interested in precision baskets. As per the name, these baskets are precisely engineered so each hole is the same size and equally spaced. This prevents clogging and results in the perfect extraction.
3. Naked Portafilters
Wait, naked? So, or other portafilters dressed up? Pfft! Naked here refers to being bottomless, which is another name for these portafilters. And by bottomless we do not mean there is no filter, it means there are no spouts in this portafilter.
These filters yield amazing quality espresso shots and are super consistent with the espresso flavors. You can actually see the espresso droplets forming under the portafilter basket before they drop to your cup. Since espresso directly pours into the cup, it retains all the essence and flavors!
A naked portafilter is capable of yielding 50% extra crema compared to other portafilters if you use it right. Imagine, a dense and fuller crown of crema on your espresso shot, a sight for sore eyes!
4. Pods Portafilters
Pods are the cool new portafilters exclusively designed for semi-automatic espresso machines. If you wish to flex your espresso skills, get yourself the best semi-automatic espresso machine and show off your use of the pods.
Pods contain pre-packed ground coffee sealed in filter paper. Normally, this pre-packed coffee is enough for a single shot of espresso. They are extremely convenient and eliminate the hassle of cleaning as well as save you from a mess. Plus, they brew a mean batch of espresso too!
All you have to do is place one of the pods in the portafilter and lock the portafilter in place. Since these pods are standardized they fit perfectly in every pod espresso machine.
5. Commercial Portafilters
This variety of portafilters is found in the top brand espresso machines as well as commercial espresso machines. They are known for their excellent coffee retention, stability, and sturdiness. This portafilter will be perfect for experts and with some practice will also transform the coffee experience for beginners!
Commercial portafilters are typically 57-58 mm in diameter which is a great size to hold a good amount of ground coffee. Made with sturdy chrome-plated brass, not only are they heavy but also extremely difficult to damage. They will stick by you through thick and thin!
It’s all these features combined that result in amazing espresso extraction. Many coffee enthusiasts agree that with some practice, the commercial portafilter can pull the best shot of espresso hands down.
How to Choose a Portafilter?
We have established that the portafilter can’t be underestimated if you want to pull an excellent shot of espresso. It is way too important to be overlooked! So, what do you look for in the best portafilter? How do you choose the best one? We will tell you how!
From now on your espresso shots will be nothing except the top quality and fantastic!
Choose the Portafilter Basket
The first step in choosing a portafilter that extracts espresso phenomenally involves choosing your portafilter basket. You can choose between a single, double, and triple portafilter basket.
1. Single Basket
Single portafilter baskets can retain between 8 and 10 grams of ground coffee. This makes for a single shot of espresso. The single-shot basket features smaller pores at the bottom which makes for more pressure and a slower flow of espresso.
2. Double Basket
The double shot basket can hold 16 to 22 grams of ground coffee. This is the standard for commercial and prosumer espresso machines which usually use the double basket. Since they hold a larger amount of coffee, it is what people tend to gravitate towards more.
3. Triple Basket
If the double shot basket does not satisfy you, don’t worry. There is no shame in craving more coffee or wanting to spare yourself the trouble of brewing espresso again and again. The solution to your problem? Pop in the triple shot basket. It can hold 30 to 35 grams of coffee which is bound to satisfy your craving better.
Choose the Right Portafilter Diameters
This is a crucial step for all coffee lovers. You do not want to be stuck with an espresso machine with a smaller portafilter size when you consume large amounts of coffee. It is important to gauge your espresso needs and the portafilter diameter accordingly.
Any espresso machine’s group head has a predetermined size specified by the manufacturer’s design. The smaller the group head, the smaller the portafilter will be, and the less coffee it can hold. You might consider using larger baskets, but you can only put so much coffee in them before the extraction messes up.
The standard diameter, particularly in newly manufactured commercial espresso machines, is 58 mm. Portafilters with diameters of 54 or 40 mm are also available. The size of the group head is thought to be smaller the cheaper the espresso machine. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.
Where to Buy a Portafilter?
Most espresso machines come equipped with their own portafilters. These portafilters are suited to the espresso machine as designed by the manufacturer and also fit the group head perfectly. However, you can easily buy portafilters online or from the same place you got your espresso machine.
Many online platforms such as Amazon have a large variety of portafilters to choose from. In addition to that, you can get them from any kitchen appliance store that keeps espresso machines as well!
Just remember to check the portafilter size and the group head size of your machine before purchasing. Make sure you are getting the right portafilter according to your level of expertise and your preference for portafilter baskets.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do all portafilters fit all machines?
Every espresso machine has a predetermined group head size as designed by the manufacturer. Only a specific and precisely sized portafilter will fit that group head. Not all portafilters will fit all machines. However, there is a common size of 58mm used for portafilters.
2. What are portafilters made of?
Commercial portafilters typically are made using stainless steel, durable chrome, and brass material. On the contrary, pressurized portafilters tend to be manufactured using plastic or aluminum.
3. Which type of portafilter is the best?
Commercial portafilters are famous for producing quality espresso. They boast great retention and stability and are very durable.
The different types of portafilters all play a major role in how great or poor your espresso shot is. While some will save you from tamping and grinding errors others will help you brew a fantastic shot through trial and error. In any case, you must always give profound attention to your portafilter purchase!
With the correct portafilter (size, basket, type, and all) you’ll be amazed at the flavors and vibrancy of your espresso shot! And the crema with the right portafilter, well let’s just say you’re in for an extremely fabulous surprise!
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