Last Updated on May 31, 2022 by John Moretti
As someone with both professional and home brewing coffee experience, making the best coffee possible has been one of the more important aspects of my daily life. Even though many people might not know this, a good portafilter is key to achieving success in this field. However, there are a couple of different portafilter types, and they all have similar but different uses.
There are three commonly used portafilter types. These three types are pressurized, non-pressurized or spouted, and naked or bottomless portafilters. The most widely used of these types is the regular, non-pressurized, spouted or commercial portafilter, which we often see used in shops.
Not all portafilters are interchangeable, and most of them have different uses or are better for specific people. Below is a guide explaining how these portafilters look, work, and their uses. It is essential to ensure that you always use a portafilter compatible with your espresso machine while also ensuring that you can make your best coffee.
Spouted Or Commercial Portafilters
The most commonly used type of portafilter has three different names, commercial, non-pressurized, and spouted portafilters. This type of portafilter is common in coffee shops and many homes with mid-to-high-range espresso machines.
Chrome, brass, and stainless steel are the most commonly used materials for making these portafilters. The material is made with these to mean that they are heavy, durable, and very good at retaining heat which helps the extraction of good espresso.
Since these portafilters are mainly for commercial use, they require some training to get used to since you need to tamp the ground coffee properly for the best extraction of espresso.
Commercial or spouted portafilters allow you to extract espresso, which funnels into a bowl with a hole and an attached spout. Two types of spouted portafilters get used today, single spout and double spout portafilters.
Double-spouted portafilters are more common than single-spout portafilters, and many coffee enthusiasts believe the single-spout version is unnecessary and redundant. Single-spout portafilters are usually used with a single espresso basket but can be used with a double shot basket if both shots are going into the same cup.
Double-spouted portafilters are more commonly used and are generally only used with double-shot baskets. Using a double-spouted portafilter allows the person extracting the coffee to split the double shot between two cups or glasses or let it all funnel into one cup. It is common to see busy shops split espresso shots this way.
Pressurized portafilters are seen more commonly with home espresso machines, especially those of a lower tier. These portafilters create a certain amount of resistance before the coffee is allowed out of the portafilter and into a cup.
These portafilters usually consist of lower-quality materials like plastic and aluminum, which means they are more prone to breaking and do not retain heat the same way commercial portafilters do.
There are two main benefits to using this type of portafilter. The first benefit of using this portafilter is that it is nearly effortless to use. There is minimal effort needed from the person using this filter as you barely need to tamp, and distribution is done mainly while brewing. For this reason, this portafilter is the best to use for beginners.
This portafilter’s other benefit is not for the user but the machine and manufacturer. Not only is this filter cheap to produce and sure to get replaced more often, but because this filter can build up pressure by itself, the espresso machine does not need to be very powerful.
Since this filter can produce its own pressure, the manufacturer of the espresso machine can spend less money on the device itself.
The way these filters work is complicated and can vary from one to another. The basic concept of these portafilters is that there is a mechanism in the filter, basket, or handle of this portafilter that stops liquid from pushing through until a specific pressure point. Once the correct amount of pressure is active, the liquid espresso will funnel through a spout into a cup.
Naked portafilters are a different type of commercially used portafilters. In recent years these filters have grown increasingly popular, and many coffee shops use these filters for a couple of different reasons.
The top half of this filter looks similar to that of a spouted filter. However, the bottom of this portafilter has no spouts or funnel. This design allows you to see the filter basket used in this portafilter, with a couple of different benefits. These filters are also get made using chrome, brass, and stainless steel, making them very durable and even nice to look at.
It is important to note that this portafilter can be tricky to use if you do not have experience, and many people use them to improve on their technique. I have used a couple of bottomless portafilters before, and extracting your espresso just right can be a bit tricky.
However, if you are trying to improve your skills and master the art of tamping and extracting coffee, these filters could help you tremendously. Because the bottom of the portafilter allows you to see the filter basket itself, you can see exactly where the problem with your tamping lies.
If you are tamping too hard, applying too little pressure, tamping inconsistently, or even using the wrong grind size, this portafilter will tell you very quickly. I was appalled to see that I had been tamping incorrectly after making decent coffee for years. But this portafilter helped me and many other baristas improve our taming and our coffee altogether.
These portafilters can also be helpful in two other ways, assessment and showing off. The first one of these is a test of a barista’s skill. Though it only happened to me once, I was once required to use a naked portafilter to make coffee at an interview to allow my possible employer to assess my skill level. Luckily I had been practicing my tamping for a while.
The last way these filters are helpful is to show off. There is something of beauty in seeing someone prepare a coffee while using a naked portafilter. Not only does it show the level of skill of the barista, but you get to see how your espresso is formed from start to finish. Showing off is one of the reasons why these filters are trendy in specialty coffee shops.
Things To Look For
If you are looking to purchase a portafilter, no matter the use, you should always look for a couple of things before finalizing your purchase. These things include:
- The size – Not all portafilters are the same size. There are standardized portafilters, but not all manufacturers use them.
- The material – No matter what portafilter you want to buy, the material used in its making will have an enormous effect on your experience. Make sure to buy a portafilter made from high-quality materials to ensure it is less likely to break and will improve your coffee.
- Your use – Remember that the portafilter is only as good as how you use it. Using a pressurized portafilter in a coffee shop is not a good idea. In the same breath, requiring your new trainee to use a naked portafilter is also not the best.
Whether you are new in the coffee scene or just wish to improve on your skills, there is a portafilter best suited to your needs. It is key to remember that not all portafilters are the same, and you need to consider your use before trying to buy a new one.