Choosing the best espresso machine seems to be the trickiest task in the coffee world. However, there are many other tools that you should pay attention to once you buy your machine. A portafilter is one of them. Deciding what type of portafilter to use in your machine isn’t just about selecting a basket size and matching diameter.
Whether you get an over-extracted espresso or your shot is a bit thin, a bottomless portafilter can help you fix the problem. A bottomless portafilter – just like any other type – has its pros and cons and there are a few things to consider before investing in one.
What is a Bottomless Portafilter?
A portafilter that has an open underside is called bottomless. Some classic portafilters can be modified in order to become bottomless. It’s also possible to purchase a ready-made bottomless portafilter. A bottomless portafilter, also known as a naked portafilter, affects the preparation of espresso and helps diagnose espresso extraction problems.
Thanks to the exposed basket and eliminated spouts of the bottomless portafilter, you can monitor the whole extraction process. Therefore, you can figure out the areas that are extracting badly and adapt your technique for better extraction and first-class espresso. Both beginners and professionals can reap a lot of benefits from a bottomless portafilter.
When compared to a regular portafilter, a bottomless portafilter doesn’t require perfect tamping skills. If there’s any channeling, the stream will still spray or split. When used improperly, this portafilter can reveal all your brewing mistakes.
What is the Difference Between a Spouted Portafilter and a Bottomless Portafilter?
When compared to a regular spouted portafilter, a bottomless portafilter provides the best and the worst of espresso shots. The spouted portafilter helps hide any imperfections in the tamping, dosing, and grinding, ensuring a clean flow of well-extracted coffee.
The bottomless portafilter can show those imperfections if your coffee puck is badly tamped, unevenly distributed, overdosed, or underdosed. In this case, your espresso sputters out and isn’t extracted properly. It happens because the brewing water finds empty areas in the puck, moving through faster and easier.
In the areas where brewing water moves quicker, the drink shoots out the portafilter’s bottom at increased speeds and in different directions. That’s why it’s important to learn how to use a bottomless portafilter.
On the other hand, a bottomless portafilter can help you notice your brewing issues and find a way to solve them. This type of portafilter has a lot more perks to consider, too. When you tamp correctly, the coffee pours wonderfully, giving you a cup of top-notch espresso.
When using a spouted portafilter, it’s more difficult to identify channeling and change the brewing process if something goes wrong. As a result, you can get the espresso with bad flavor or taste.
What are the Benefits of a Bottomless Portafilter?
There are many perks of using a bottomless portafilter. Besides the benefits mentioned above, here are a few more to consider:
1. It’s a Great Learning Tool
If you’re looking to enhance your espresso brewing technique, a bottomless portafilter is a must-have. This tool will give you a complete view of how ground coffee and water are transformed into tasty beverage within a few seconds. By seeing the full extraction process, you can make any adjustments to receive the best espresso.
After all, it’s a lot easier to notice the issues in extraction when you see how the drink flows out of the basket. If your espresso has a medium mahogany color, it means that your drink is well-extracted. Tiger striping – the espresso stream containing darker and lighter crema – is an indicator of a fine espresso shot.
The espresso has to collect along the basket’s bottom into the center, flowing down in a compact column. If it flows down in a loose column, it’s a sign that something is wrong. You can quickly notice this problem when using a bottomless portafilter.
Another reason to use this type of filter is to control the texture, which is typically silky and viscous. If you see several streams or one stream collecting to one side, this means the brewing water is focused in channels through the puck. When left uncontrolled, this will result in uneven extraction and bitter espresso.
When the espresso rogue streams are coming from the basket’s bottom, chances are your portafilter was dosed or leveled improperly. Many other problems can be seen and fixed, making a bottomless portafilter an ideal tool for beginners.
2. More Crema and Flavor
Since the espresso shot contacts with the bottom of the portafilter basket and no other surface, your espresso tends to have more crema. The coffee beans must be fresh, though. The lack of a bottom or a spout offers higher cup clearance, letting espresso extraction directly into the serving cup.
An increased amount of crema means better flavor. That golden crema is more than just amazing – it also tastes great. This is usually the main reason why espresso enthusiasts opt for bottomless portafilters.
3. It Makes the Brewing Process Visible to Customers
There’s nothing more pleasurable for a coffee junkie than watching ideally silky and golden brown coffee drink dripping from the portafilter directly into a cup. Specialty coffee shops often encourage baristas to use bottomless portafilters in order to make the brewing process visible to customers.
It’s believed that visibility attracts more customers. Plus, using a bottomless portafilter is a fun way for barista to demonstrate their skills to customers.
4. Easy Cleaning
A bottomless portafilter is extremely simple to clean. There are no crannies and nooks to clean with a brush. Moreover, there’s a low chance of buildup as a bottomless portafilter has less surface area. Due to it, no buildup or contamination affects the flavor of your espresso. It’s critical to clean a bottomless portafilter regularly, though.
What are the Drawbacks of a Bottomless Portafilter?
Although a bottomless portafilter has a number of wonderful benefits, there are some disadvantages to consider, as well. When compared to a spouted portafilter, a bottomless portafilter restricts the flow of coffee less. This means you have less control over the flow unless you have excellent tamping skills.
Beginners usually opt for a spouted portafilter to acquire certain tamping skills and master the art of controlling the flow of espresso during the brewing process. In case you have poor tamping skills and your puck tends to be loose, you might create a huge mess around the counter as your espresso might shoot out the sides of the bottomless portafilter.
Another drawback (not for all people though) is that a bottomless portafilter doesn’t allow you to make two shots of espresso at the same time. You can brew only one shot as all the espresso drains into one cup and there’s no spout to redirect it. The regular portafilter has a spout, which is split into two so you can make two shots of espresso at the same time.
Another possible disadvantage (again, not for all people) is that a bottomless portafilter can alter the quality of crema. Although this portafilter creates more crema, it has a bit different texture that some people like and others dislike.
What to Consider When Buying a Bottomless Portafilter
Before you purchase a bottomless portafilter, make sure you can find the one for your espresso machine. You need to find a bottomless portafilter that will match the diameter of an exact model. The thing is, the sizes of any portafilters are different. Just because you find a bottomless portafilter from a manufacturer that produces your espresso machine, there’s no guarantee that they both will match.
Another thing to consider is where you’re going to use a bottomless portafilter. If you’re planning to use it at home or in a small coffee shop, this type of portafilter is worth trying.
However, if you own a big coffee shop with a lot of customers, you might want to use a spouted portafilter that allows you to brew two shots of espresso simultaneously. Or, it would be great to have both options, which will
satisfy each espresso enthusiast.
DIY Bottomless Portafilter: Worth It or Waste of Time?
If you can’t find the needed bottomless portafilter for your espresso machine, you can make your own one. Is it worth your time and effort, though? Modifying a standard portafilter requires special tools and it can cost a fortune.
Besides a traditional portafilter that matches your machine, you will need several tools for cutting and polishing stainless steel. Safety precautions are important here, too. Take a spouted portafilter and cut the bottom out with a hole saw, finishing and polishing the edges with a grinding stone. There should be no sharp areas left to lower the likelihood of cutting yourself.
Sure, it’s best to purchase a ready-made bottomless portafilter to avoid all those cutting and polishing processes.
The Final Word
Whether you are looking to use a spouted or bottomless portafilter mostly depends on your expectations and needs. Whether you own a specialty coffee shop or use an espresso machine at home, you can use a bottomless portafilter to master your espresso brewing skills.
If you have poor tamping skills, it’s recommended to use a regular portafilter rather than a bottomless one. However, if you want to take your espresso brewing process to the next level, a bottomless portafilter is an excellent tool to purchase.
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