While your choice of grinder and coffee beans are crucial to pulling a flavorful espresso shot, you cannot deny the importance of portafilter baskets in that process—they determine what coffee grounds you can use.
We go over the two basket types in this article and explain which is best for which use case and the differences between them. But first, let’s explore the roles of the portafilter and filter basket in your coffee-making process.
Understanding the Portafilter and Filter Basket
A portafilter consists of two parts: the filter basket and a handle. In coffee-making, the portafilter, also called the “group handle,” holds the coffee grounds in the filter basket while pulling or extracting your espresso shot.
To pull or extract your expresso shot, you must first fill your grinds in the portafilter filter basket, level the top of the ground in the filter basket, and then compress it using a tamper. Most filter baskets have a line in the basket as the recommended compression level. From here, you can lock the portafilter into your coffee machine and pull your shot. It can take several trials to achieve the perfect coarseness or tamping pressure you require, so try again if your expresso didn't come your preferred way.
Filter baskets are removable, usually for cleaning and filling with coffee. They are primarily metallic and have one or more holes beneath them where extracted coffee can drain into your cup.
What are Pressurised Filter Baskets?
Pressurised filter baskets are otherwise known as dual wall filter baskets; the first wall is a standard mesh base, while the second outer wall is a bottom layer with a tiny hole for extraction. The area between the layers is referred to as the holding area. The water that goes through the grounds to extract the coffee is held in the holding area during extraction. And as the pressure builds, the coffee is pushed through the tiny hole on the second layer. This is what gives the pressurised basket its name.
Pressure baskets are typically included in entry-level home coffee machines and aren’t used for commercial coffee-making espresso machines. Many entry-level machines cannot exert enough pressure when extracting a shot and are heavily complemented by the pressurised portafilter. They are also beginner-friendly as they can compensate for inconsistencies in the grind size with pressure.
Another reason manufacturers may include both dual and single wall baskets with their home coffee machines is because home users may be using pre-ground coffee, or less fresh beans, the pressurised filters help create fake crema. If your are grinding your beans with a home coffee grinder and are using fresh quality coffee beans then you should not need to use them.
- Easy to use
- Less dependency on grind size
- Do not require expensive grinders
- Tolerate tamp pressure better
- Watery espresso taste
- Limited extraction control
What are Non-Pressurised Filter Baskets?
Non-pressurised filter baskets are otherwise known as single-wall or precision filter baskets. They come with a single mesh layer hence the ‘single wall’; there is no holding area for pressure to mount. The only pressure applied comes from your grind size and tamp. As a result, it’s essential to ensure a finer grind before compressing and pulling your shot. Ensure you have a good, powerful grinder to create fine and consistent grounds when using non-pressurised filter baskets.
Non-pressurised filter baskets are ideal for commercial use and are the go-to option for expert baristas since they allow greater control over each extraction. You can experiment with finer grinds and different volumes. They also extract more from the coffee and offer an impressive crema and better-tasting espresso. This extra precision contributes to the steep mastering curve that makes it less beginner-friendly.
- Greater control over the extraction
- Ability to experiment
- Better espresso flavour
- Thicker crema
- Extract more from coffee
- Steep learning curve
- Requires a good quality grinder
- Requires more precision
When to Use Each Basket
At its core, pressurised baskets are for beginners and coarse coffee grounds, whereas non-pressurised baskets best suit expert baristas and fine coffee grounds. However, both filter baskets have ideal situations that require one over the other. Here’s how to tell which basket suits you better.
Choose pressurised filter baskets when using pre-ground coffee, as you have no control over the grind size of the beans. They are also ideal for an entry-level grinder that can’t offer fine grinds or an entry-level home coffee machine that can’t build good pressure to pull your shot.
But if you have a quality espresso machine and coffee grinder, the non-pressurised filter basket suits you best. You’ll get a more flavourful and quality espresso and crema, especially if you’re willing to beat its steep learning curve or already know how to dial in the espresso.
Best Options to Buy
Here are the best pressurised and non-pressurised filter baskets available in Australia. The options below are compatible with Breville home coffee machines like the Bambino Plus, Dynamic Duo, and standard commercial espresso machines.
- 54mm pressurised basket from Breville
- 58mm pressurised basket from Breville
- 54mm non-pressurized basket from Very Barista
- 58mm non-pressurized basket from Breville
FAQs: Filter Baskets
1. Should I use a pressurised portafilter?
While not the best option for experimenting and controlling your extraction, pressurised filter baskets are ideal for beginner baristas with neither a high-end grinder nor a powerful espresso machine.
2. Do you tamp a pressurised portafilter?
You do not need to tamp a pressurised portafilter. You must only level the edges of the filter basket to ensure it is adequately filled. However, we recommend tamping the coffee grounds down enough to create clearance for the hot water.
3. Is a bottomless portafilter better?
Bottomless portafilters come without a sprout. The coffee drains directly into the cup, giving you a clear view during extraction. Bottomless portafilters are better since they let you examine your espresso's colour and texture while brewing. They yield better crema and excellent espresso flavours and are ideal for training baristas and experimenting.
4. How do I maintain my portafilter?
Clean your portafilter regularly to avoid coffee grounds drying up. We recommend washing your portafilter right after pulling your shot, especially if you have no intentions of using it again soon. Remove the filter baskets during cleaning and rinse them in warm water to remove all residues. Even the finest coffee beans cannot raise the taste of a shot pulled through a dirty portafilter.
Both pressurised and non-pressurised filter baskets offer a good coffee taste. However, for a more favourable and precise taste, non-pressurised baskets are the ideal option. Of course, you’ll have to learn to dial in the espresso and experiment to find your preference, which can be tedious and time-consuming. But it’s only goodness from there once you’ve crossed this barrier.