Most coffee products have evolved, but portafilters, at first glance, appear to have adhered to traditional aesthetic standards. It may surprise you to learn that various manufacturers manufacture portafilters and that many of them are of similar size. Even though appearances can be deceiving, they all appear quite similar.
However, even though 58mm is the standard size for many espresso machines, portafilters were not intended to be interchangeable with one another. The fact is, there is no guarantee that a 58mm portafilter will fit all of the models that are available on the market.
Choosing the right portafilter for your espresso machine is critical. We will look at four different types of portafilters. But first, we’ll look at what you should look for when selecting the best portafilter for you.
What Effect Does a Portafilter Have on Espresso?
The portafilter has a significant impact on the quality of espresso produced. To comprehend the function of the portafilter, it is first necessary to understand that the metal filter is intended to produce a clean flow of ultra-fine coffee under high pressure.
Is it possible to drink ground coffee without filtering it?
However, because most coffee grounds are not uniform in size, large particles can get stuck in the filter’s holes and cause problems.
Any particle of the wrong shape or size can obstruct one of the filter basket’s holes, affecting not just one but multiple extraction openings.
To avoid clogs, the size and shape of the holes must be considered. For example, coffee will likely become stuck on the edges of the holes that are sharp and jagged.
On the other hand, there is far less obstruction if the holes are perfectly circular and smooth. The size of your portafilter is important, but so is the precision of the holes in your basket.
How Do You Choose the Correct Portafilter Size?
Contrary to popular belief, not all portafilters are created equal. First, you should be aware that portafilters are measured in millimeters (mm). The diameter of portafilters ranges from 49mm to 58mm.
Other sizes, particularly in home espresso machines, are uncommon. The most common portafilter basket size is 58mm.
However, it is not always the case that a smaller portafilter size indicates a more affordable coffee machine. Furthermore, smaller-sized portafilters typically provide less flexibility, particularly grind size.
While it’s critical to know the size of your portafilter, especially if you’re following a recipe, most portafilters don’t include information about the grind size.
As a result, using a set of measuring calipers is the most practical way to determine the size of your portafilter. However, because most home baristas do not have one, an alternative method is to select the appropriate tamper.
You’ll also need a retractable measuring tape with 1/32 inch divisions and a calculator:
Measure the portafilter’s centerline.
Convert your reading to decimal format. You can do this by typing your measurement; for example, if you type 2/3, you get 2.33.
Change your measurement from inches to millimeters by multiplying it by 25.4, for example, 2.33 by 25.4 = 59.18 mm.
Get yourself a tamper.
75mm less by subtracting, say, 59.18 – 0.75 = 58.43mm
Because tamper sizes are fixed at a whole number, you must round up your final result to the nearest approximation. Using the preceding example, you must round up 58.43 to 58mm, the most common size.
Is a larger portafilter preferable?
The greater the size of the portafilter, the greater the extraction force at the same pressure. Larger portafilters tend to produce more consistent extraction.
There is greater contact between the water on the bottom surface and the puck for a given dose, resulting in a better pressure gradient through the puck as the puck becomes thinner as it moves through the larger basket. The likelihood of channeling is reduced as a result of this.
Most higher-end espresso machines have 58mm portafilters, whereas lower-end models have smaller portafilters.
However, while the size of your portafilter impacts the flavor and quality of your brew, it is not the only factor to consider.
There are four main types of portafilters, each with different size; let’s go over them one by one in greater depth:
- PRESSURIZED: Pressurized portafilters are typically smaller, about 52mm in diameter, and made partially plastic. Because the diameter is smaller, it is easier to maintain pressure, even when tamping is uneven. This is why it is the most popular portafilter for beginning home baristas—it reduces many irregularities.
- REGULAR: This portafilter is made of pure metal and larger diameter (58mm). This improves their heat retention, resulting in an even distribution of temperature. On the other hand, this portafilter necessitates the use of an experienced barista because it does not conceal any flaws.
- BOTTOMLESS: There are no bottom spouts on this portafilter. This is useful to see what is going on inside the portafilter. If you have tamping issues, this can help you see if one side is flooding faster than the other.
- POD: Pods are espresso portions that have been pre-measured and pre-ground and are packaged in small bags similar to tea bags. Beginners can benefit from these because they don’t have to worry about tamping or measuring their grinds. Some portafilters are designed specifically for pods, and instead of angled spouts on the sides, they have a single long spout in the center. These pods are convenient, but their freshness cannot always be guaranteed because you are not grinding them yourself.
How Squeezed Should a Portafilter Be?
During extraction, you must connect your portafilter to your espresso machine’s group head. The closer the coffee bed is to the group head, the better the brew.
However, getting the portafilter perfectly seated in the group head can take some practice at first.
You don’t have to use a lot of force to get the portafilter into the smallest possible slot. However, there are better ways to ensure that your portafilter does not leak even the smallest amount during extraction.
When inserting your portafilter into the group head, keep the following points in mind:
1. Adjust your portafilter to snug but not too tight. You don’t have to tighten the portafilter down.
2. When turning the portafilter in the group head, it’s always best to hold the top corner of the machine lightly but firmly, regardless of the size of your espresso machine. This is a good habit to develop, especially when using smaller espresso machines like the Breville Bambino. Check that the machine isn’t hot before putting it to the side.
3. Some models have a snug fit and may require more force. The portafilter handle, for example, maybe shorter, or the steam ring may be new.
4. Difficulty turning the portafilter could be caused by a buildup of coffee in the portafilter. If a machine has a capacity of 19g, it is not advisable to exceed this capacity. Other reasons include insufficient tamping, which causes friction when connecting the portafilter to the group head.
It is important to note that espresso machines were designed to stay true to the original manufacturer’s or designer’s vision and purpose.
As a result, some manufacturers design their machines to be large but lightweight. The same is true for portafilters, and some are designed to fit more snugly for a more compact machine.
What Is the Best Way to Store Portafilters?
In the group head, it is a good idea to keep the portafilter warm all of the time. This aids in releasing more oils during extraction, resulting in more crema. It’s best to keep the portafilter in the group head to avoid warping.
In addition, leaving the portafilter in the group head helps maintain a more stable temperature, ensuring that it is nice and hot when you are ready to use it.
When the portafilter is cold, leaving it off the machine can sour the shot. To clean the portafilter, rather than running water through it, pour some water from the group into it and whirl it around.
After you’ve cleaned it, wipe it down with a paper towel or microfiber cloth. It’s best to use a dry basket for each shot, so thoroughly dry the basket.
5 Things to Know About Portafilters
- Although portafilters are not intended to be interchangeable, they can be. The majority of high-end portafilters are 58mm in diameter.
- A lower-end espresso machine has a smaller portafilter.
- Selecting a tight tamper can assist you in determining the size of your portafilter.
- Portafilters are classified into four types: pressurized, non-pressurized, bottomless, and pods.
- To ensure even temperature, store your portafilter in the group head of your espresso machine. It also aids in the release of more oils.
What Is the Impact of a 58mm Portafilter?
A 58mm portafilter improves espresso by increasing the surface area of the ground coffee in contact with the hot water. As a result, the extraction is more even, resulting in a much better-tasting cup of espresso.
For espresso to be good, the quality of the ingredients must be as good as the quality of the ingredients used to make it.
Therefore, if you are going to put in the time and effort to make a really good espresso, you must pay attention to every detail.
Is Every 58mm Portafilter the Same?
It is possible to interchange the baskets for 58mm, but this is not the case for many PFs. However, as previously stated, the Rancilio and E61 PFs are interchangeable.
In addition, a few online vendors sold the bottomless Rancilio as an E61 bottomless, so you got extremely lucky with your purchase.
How Much Coffee Can a 58mm portafilter Hold?
A machine with a 49mm basket and an 11-gram dose will not produce the same volume of espresso as a machine with a 58mm portafilter and an 18-gram dose, regardless of the other variables.
It is beneficial to understand the size and type of portafilter required for your machine. Many manufacturers produce their portafilters, and even portafilters of the same diameter may not fit every make.
This is especially true for lower-cost portafilters. If you are a creative hobby barista, you can modify your favorite variety to use on your machine.
Baskets can be swapped as long as they are the same size as the portafilter. However, unlike baskets, portafilters are not interchangeable between espresso machine brands.