About Espresso Machine Portafilters
A portafilter is the part of the semi-automatic and automatic espresso machines that hold the ground coffee. The portafilter is, at its most basic level, a filter basket attached to a handle. This device locks into the brew group of your espresso machine, forming a seal so that the water is forced through the ground coffee in the basket at high pressure. There are three basic types of portafilters available for the various machines.
The commercial portafilter is designed to give the operator more control of the extraction process, but can be more difficult to learn. The pressurized portafilter insures consistent pressure, regardless of the operator’s skill with the tamp. And the pod portafilter works with prepackaged ground coffee in a sealed filter paper packet similar to tea bags. If you prefer a particular machine, but it doesn’t come with your portafilter preference, you may also be able to get an adapter for your portafilter or a second type of portafilter. Understanding the different portafilter types will also help you choose the right espresso machine for your needs.
The Commercial Portafilter
Designed to work like the portafilters used on large commercial espresso machines, this filter usually has a slightly larger filter basket than other portafilter types (58mm vs. the usual 53 mm diameter) and can often weigh up to a pound more. The stability and durability under extreme heat and pressure make this chrome plated brass instrument highly desirable. The wider filter basket gives you more surface area, helping give the operator a better extraction. When tamping the ground coffee into this filter, the amount of pressure used will determine the density of the coffee. This determines the amount of pressure for the extraction by making it harder or easier for the water to pass through the grounds. Learning to tamp consistently at the right pressure and choosing the right grind for the coffee are what can make this portafilter more difficult to master. Although the commercial style portafilter can be more difficult to operate, it allows the operator more control of the extraction process than other portafilter types. It is widely considered the gold standard for portafilters due to the excellent espresso that it is capable of producing.
The Pressurized Portafilter
The pressurized portafilter is not as aesthetically pleasing or durable as the commercial type, since it is generally made of aluminum and plastic. It is lighter weight and has a smaller basket. But this remarkable filter will create the pressure for you. A light tamp is all that is required. The portafilter will let the water pass only when the correct pressure has been reached. This allows even inexperienced operators to make good espresso. Whether the pressurized portafilter uses a valve or a special filter basket, the results are consistently great espresso without worrying about proper pressure. However, the pressurized filter does tend to disguise the usual visual clues that let you know that you are getting the best possible results from your coffee. This can frustrate those more experienced operators looking for more control.
The Pod Portafilter
Pods are coffee that has been ground and tamped, then sealed into filter paper packets, much like a tea bag. These prepackaged pods take the guesswork and much of the mess out of making espresso. The pod portafilter is designed to work with these pods. Put the pod into the portafilter, lock the handle into the machine, and brew until you reach the desired amount of espresso. Just discard the used pod when the extraction is completed. Pods are standardized and work universally, so that pods made by one company will work with a machine manufactured by another company. Many coffee roasters and most of the major manufacturers in the coffee industry conform to the E.S.E. Standard (Easy Serving Espresso), allowing consumers to purchase from a wide variety of products with confidence that they will be compatible with one another. The pods do have a few limitations to balance the ease of use and consistent high quality. They are only available as single shots and can be as much as four times as expensive as ground coffee. However, the easy clean up and minimal knowledge required gives this product an unparalleled advantage in many situations.
Portafilter Adapters for Commercial and Pressurized Portafilters
The perfect machine for some situations doesn’t always come with the perfect portafilter for the needs of every operator. The adapter is the answer to your dilemma. The pod adapters available for many machines will allow a commercial or pressurized portafilter to work as a pod portafilter. An adapter can give you the flexibility to try your hand with the perfect tamp using your commercial portafilter, or use it as a pressurized portafilter when desired. Sometimes a second portafilter handle is just the best way to achieve the flexibility you need. Let us help you find the right portafilter options for all of your needs.