Understanding the Different Types of Portafilters

Published on 02/14/2024 · 10 min readDive into the world of espresso with our guide on understanding the different types of portafilters, and enhancing your coffee brewing skills!
August Croft, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert August Croft

Photo by Pixabay

TL;DR: There are roughly 4-5 distinct types of portafilters available for home and commercial use. Understanding the differences in their uses and sizes is integral to choosing the right option for your needs. Portafilters come in many styles based on the type of espresso shot you’re after, your tamping skills, and whether or not you prefer seeing your shot as it forms. Plus, there are many distinct features and finishes to consider before finalizing your portafilter decision.

Did you know there are multiple types of portafilters? Take it from this former barista who used to sling double shots day in, day out — portafilters are vital for efficient and flavorful espresso extraction. But even I didn’t know just how many types of filters and baskets there were when I began my professional coffee career five years ago. How can you understand which type of portafilter is right for your espresso machine?

We’ll answer this question and many more. Not only will we discuss every single type of portafilter imaginable, but we’ll also go over the features, traits, and uses found in all of your potential filter options. Let’s start with the basics of portafilters, including all of their very many types and functions first.

Oh, and if this piece doesn’t clear things up for you, reaching out to a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert will definitely set you on the right path. Let’s begin!

What Is a Portafilter?

Photo by Kzenon

First things first: What’s a portafilter? The vessel where all great espresso is born, a portafilter is technically the handle with a basket that attaches to your machine and is designed to both catch and hold freshly ground coffee ready for espresso extraction.

Portafilters and their baskets come in varying sizes and are capable of many functions, depending on which one you have. And it’s necessary to know which one you have so that you can achieve the best crema, taste, and more when it’s time to brew.

With all of this in mind, let’s discuss some of the most common types of portafilters and why you might want to use them.

Single Basket

Designed to accommodate anywhere from 6-12g of fresh espresso grounds, single-basket portafilters make single shots of espresso. These are common baskets for commercial and home machines, ranging in size depending on your make and model. Contrary to popular belief, single baskets aren’t the most common portafilter basket used in cafés or shops around the world — most of us drink double shots!

Double Basket

If you go to just about any specialty coffee shop and ask for an espresso shot, you’re likely getting a double shot in return. Double-shot baskets hold 15-20g of coffee on average, though many commercial models differ. Still, no matter how much they hold, double baskets help craft well-balanced and typical espresso shots given their size and overall capabilities.

Triple Basket

I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t even know triple baskets existed for espresso machines until recently. But they do indeed exist, and man, do I want one. Triple-shot baskets are just like single and double baskets in design. However, they hold more coffee compared to these other options, a whopping 21-30g of coffee grounds to be precise.

Pod Basket

Pod baskets or pod portafilters are designed to support ESE pods, also known as “easy serve espresso” pods. You likely won’t need a pod basket unless you have a certain type of espresso machine that calls for pods and has a group head capable of brewing up espresso pods. However, these baskets are a must if you plan on utilizing ESE pods — they are specially shaped and designed to hold pods without mess or fuss.

Pressurized Basket

If you’re a novice espresso maker, you may want to opt for a pressurized basket for your portafilter. These baskets are designed to help control the flow of your shot, regardless of your tamping skills and grind size. There’s an added layer beneath your filter, an additional chamber that holds your espresso until the pressure’s just right. This basket is ideal for espresso introductions as it can still ensure tasty shots, even ones made by new baristas.

Non-Pressurized Basket

Built for commercial machines and the expert barista, non-pressurized baskets are the industry standard for portafilters and espresso extraction. They’re lacking the added pressure chamber that accompanies pressurized baskets, which means there’s no mercy if your grind size is off or your tamping is weak. But they also ensure more flavor, control, and consistency by comparison.

Spouted Portafilter

When it comes to easy cleanup, many home baristas opt for spouted portafilters. In fact, most home espresso machines (especially semi-automatic options) come equipped with spouted portafilters because of their ability to control your espresso’s flow.

The spout or spouts are attached to the portafilter itself rather than the baskets so that you can accommodate any size of espresso shot you like. The flow of your shot is controlled by the spouts, leading delicious crema and coffee down and into your waiting vessel or espresso cup. This is an excellent choice if you’re a barista hoping to avoid the mess that can sometimes accompany the next portafilter type on this list.

Bottomless Portafilter

The preferred portafilter type for any barista seeking a window into how their shots are taking shape, bottomless portafilters are also called naked portafilters. These filters are made exactly as they sound: without a bottom to them so that you can see your shot extraction from beginning to end.

Most commercial machines or professionals have this portafilter type, even if it does get a bit messy on occasion. Seeing how your espresso shapes, pools, and pours is necessary to understand how everything’s extracting.

What to Consider When Buying Different Types of Portafilters

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Now that you understand just how many varying types of portafilters there are, what should you consider when the time comes to actually sit down and purchase one? Here are some potential questions to answer, but feel free to reach out to a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert for more detailed insight.

Type of Espresso Machine You Have

If you already own an espresso machine, it's incredibly important to understand its type and the portafilters it can handle. Not only do you need to understand the size of the group head you are working with, but you also need to know if your espresso machine works with pods, certain pressurized settings, and much more.

Most espresso machines come with portafilters included, but not all. In addition, you may be hoping to upgrade your existing portafilter to another type, such as a non-pressurized option or bottomless-filter type. No matter your goals, understanding your own espresso machine will be integral to choosing a portafilter that fits.

Size of Group Head You’re Trying to Fit

Often shortened to simply “the group,” a group head is where your portafilter attaches to your espresso machine. This is just one reason why it's integral to understand the size of your machine's group head and portafilters so that you can match them accordingly. Commercial and residential espresso machines often have extremely different group head sizes, so proceed with specificity first and foremost.

Size of Portafilter

Ensuring that you have the right portafilter basket diameter to brew espresso is important. For the most part, commercial espresso machines have a portafilter size average of 58mm. However, my Breville Barista Pro (and most other Breville machines) utilizes a unique 54mm-size basket, a size I must get in order to fit my group head. Overall, residential espresso machines use smaller baskets and may produce smaller shots compared to commercial machines, but it always depends on the manufacturer.

The depth of your basket affects your shot as well. While double shots are the standard and your espresso machine likely comes with a double basket, you may want a smaller or larger basket for your own needs. Remember that you can always split shots brewed from a double basket, but some home baristas prefer to find portafilters that are the precise size they need.

Features to Look for in Portafilters

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From naked portafilters to plastic handles, what features should you look for when shopping for a portafilter upgrade? Here are just a few considerations.

Ridged Baskets vs. Ridgeless

Did you know that you can get your filter basket styled with ridges? Which one you can get may depend on the type of portafilter you have. But the primary difference between these two options is how easy it is to swap your baskets while making espresso.

Ridged baskets come with an extra lip around them so that they better grip the portafilter compared to ridgeless options. However, ridgeless filter baskets are easy to swap and remove from the portafilter housing, ideal for busy mornings, beginners, or commercial settings. Still, ridgeless baskets are more likely to fall out, something to keep in mind as you peruse.

Pressurized Portafilter vs. Non-Pressurized

We've already discussed the differences between pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters, but you still need to determine which option is right for you. Pressurized baskets are ideal for novice baristas looking to cut out the potential for mistakes or ill-prepared espresso. But non-pressurized baskets afford every barista more control, clarity, and optimum flavor from their shots.

Spouted vs. Bottomless

If you're already debating between a pressurized and non-pressurized basket, you should also determine whether or not you want a spouted or bottomless portafilter. Remember that bottomless baskets are likely to be a bit more messy compared to spouted portafilters.

Quality espresso shots are best observed and studied when utilizing bottomless portafilters. Most baristas begin with spouted portafilters and upgrade to bottomless ones when they feel ready to parse what their crema and extraction are telling them, but it all depends on what you are looking for.

Do You Need an Adapter?

Wondering if you've purchased an adequately sized portafilter for your espresso machine? The good news is that there are adapters and types of portafilter add-ons to consider so that you can fit your desired portafilter onto your existing device.

I encourage you to look into portafilter adapters and other options so that you can achieve the espresso shot you're looking for without needing to purchase another type of espresso maker.

How to Choose a Portafilter for Your Needs

Photo by Olena Yakobchuk

If you’re still wondering which portafilter might fit the bill for your morning cup, check out these examples for additional insight.

Sandra: Cafe Owner With New Hires

Growing in popularity but still prioritizing quality, Sandra’s café has recently taken on a few inexperienced hires. While she’s not afraid to train, Sandra knows she’ll save both time and money as well as frustration from her staff if she purchases proper portafilters and baskets.

Features Sandra should look for:

  • Pressurized baskets for an intuitive brewing process
  • Bottomless portafilter options to show off the shot extraction process

Examples: Flair Espresso Bottomless 2-In-1 Portafilter, IMS Precision Basket

Alex: Meticulous Home Barista

A professional barista bringing espresso into their home, Alex wants a comprehensive and cohesive setup complete with portafilters that prioritize control. They know they need a bottomless portafilter but haven’t decided what other accessories will set them apart, especially given their penchant for aesthetics.

Features Alex should look for:

  • Bottomless portafilters
  • Tastefully styled portafilter accessories

Examples: Clive Wood Bottomless Portafilter

Robert: Novice Hoping to Upgrade From Pods

With a home espresso machine capable of tackling the average ESE coffee pod and standard espresso coffee beans, Robert’s hoping to move beyond pod-based extraction. However, his machine didn’t come with the right portafilter for standard espresso. Plus, Robert needs everything to still be intuitive and easy to clean up after.

Features Robert should look for:

  • Spouted portafilters and other tools for keeping things clean
  • Baskets made for traditional espresso extraction

Examples: LUCCA 58mm Dosing Funnel, Rocket Espresso 58mm Portafilter

Find the Best Types of Portafilters for You and Your Machine

When getting into the nitty-gritty of portafilters and their uses, finding the right fit for your espresso machine can be daunting. A complimentary chat with one of our Curated Coffee and Espresso Experts should set you down a path to success. Reach out to one today!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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