Pressurized vs. non-pressurized portafilter baskets

If you’ve recently dived into espresso coffee, you’ve probably realized that crafting the perfect cup involves more than just pressing a button. While the grinder and coffee beans play a crucial role, we mustn’t overlook the importance of the portafilter baskets. But what type of basket should you use, pressurized or non-pressurized?

To some extent, pressurized baskets mask unfavorable flavors from poor grinding or coffee beans with defects, which can result in an artificial body and crema. On the other hand, opting for non-pressurized baskets enhances the taste experience, as the final result depends solely on the process we undertake and the quality of the coffee beans we select.

The importance of the portafilter and basket

Before delving into the details of different types of portafilter baskets, it’s essential to understand the significance of these components in espresso preparation.

The portafilter and basket connect the ground coffee to the machine, ensuring even water distribution during extraction and balanced flavors in the cup.

  • The basket within the portafilter influences the amount of coffee used and how water is distributed. A well-designed basket ensures uniform extraction and proper crema in the final espresso.
  • On the other hand, proper handling when inserting and manipulating the portafilter is essential for achieving successful extraction.

Together, these two components directly impact the espresso’s quality, consistency, and flavors.

Mechanical and visual differences between pressurized and non-pressurized filters

Their mechanical and visual design reflects the differences between pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters.

Types of Portafilters
Types of Portafilters

➡️Pressurized portafilters have a double-wall basket with a small hole in the “second wall.” This creates accumulated pressure that facilitates extraction and produces acceptable crema with less precise grinds.

➡️Non-pressurized portafilters have a single wall and lack a small pressure-regulating hole. These portafilters heavily rely on precise grinding and tamping techniques to achieve the desired extraction.

FeaturesPressurized portafilterNon-pressurized portafilter
Mechanical designDouble wall with a single small hole for the coffee outletSingle wall with multiple holes
Accumulated pressureFacilitates extraction with accumulated pressureReliant on grinding and tamping
Crema and extractionProduces acceptable crema with basic grindsMore control for better extraction and crema
Grind toleranceTolerant to less precise grindsRequires finer and more precise grinding
Skill levelSuitable for beginners and less precise usersRequires skill in tamping and grinding
Use of pre-ground CoffeeCan use pre-ground coffee with acceptable resultsRequires fresh grinding for better results
Suitable for:Less experienced users or use of pre-ground coffeeExperienced baristas and enthusiasts
ObjectiveFacilitates extraction for consistent and acceptable resultsProvides control for achieving superior quality

Characteristics and advantages of pressurized portafilters

Pressurized portafilters, also known as double-wall baskets, have a distinctive feature: a second “wall” with a small hole that regulates pressure during extraction. This has notable benefits for those seeking a simpler and consistently good process.

  • One of the primary advantages of pressurized portafilters is their ability to accommodate a broader range of coffee grinds. This means you don’t need to worry as much about achieving precise grinding for decent results.
  • In addition, beginners in the espresso world will find that pressurized portafilters offer more tolerance for variability in the process, such as the level of tamping and dosing of the ground coffee.
  • Creating crema is also easier with pressurized portafilters. Although the resulting crema might be less dense than what a non-pressurized portafilter produces, it’s still an attractive addition to your espresso.

Quality and control of non-pressurized filters

Non-pressurized portafilters, also called single-wall baskets, are the preferred choice of baristas and coffee enthusiasts seeking greater control and superior quality in their espresso.

The key feature of these portafilters is the absence of a second wall, meaning that pressure during extraction heavily depends on factors like grinding and tamping of the coffee.

The lack of a second wall in non-pressurized portafilters requires more precise grinding and careful tamping techniques. However, the reward is an espresso cup with richer flavors, thicker crema, and a more complete sensory experience.

Bottomless portafilter

Unlike traditional portafilters with outlets for extracted coffee, the “bottomless portafilter” lacks a bottom, allowing espresso coffee to flow directly from the basket outward without any hindrance.

Extracting coffee with bottomless portafilter
Extracting coffee with bottomless portafilter

This allows for a clear view of the extraction process and how coffee is distributed in the basket, which can be helpful for assessing extraction uniformity and quality.

Compared to the pressurized and non-pressurized portafilers discussed earlier, the bottomless portafilter is more advanced and primarily geared toward experienced baristas and knowledgeable individuals.

With the bottomless portafilter, any inconsistencies in the coffee’s grinding, distribution, or tamping will become evident as the espresso is extracted. This can serve as both an educational tool and a way to refine extraction skills.

It also identifies preparation issues and adjusts techniques to achieve more uniform and higher-quality extraction.

Additional considerations

In addition to differences between baskets, other factors play an essential role in your espresso’s quality; Fresh grinding and the type of coffee used are key elements.

To achieve the best results with a non-pressurized portafilter, it’s crucial to use freshly ground coffee beans and finely adjust the grind size. This ensures optimal extraction and the release of coffee’s essential flavors and oils.

Espresso machine models that come with factory pressurized portafilters

If you’re looking for a home espresso machine that includes a pressurized portafilter, some notable examples are:

  1. De’Longhi Dedica EC680M: This compact and stylish machine is perfect for homes seeking convenience and quality. Its pressurized portafilter allows for satisfactory results without the need for ultra-precise grinding.
  2. Sage (Breville) Bambino Plus: A versatile option with a pressurized portafilter, ideal for those starting their journey into the espresso world. It offers a high-quality experience with some flexibility in grinding.
  3. Gaggia Classic Pro: The Gaggia Classic Pro is an intermediate-level choice that offers versatility and the opportunity to refine your skills. The pressurized portafilter makes it suitable for beginners and allows experimenting with various grinds.

Choose a portafilter that fits your needs

The choice between a pressurized and a non-pressurized portafilter depends on your preferences and needs:

  • A pressurized portafilter could be your ally if you value simplicity and are starting in the espresso world. They offer flexibility in grinding and acceptable crema without precise technique. They’re excellent for those seeking good-quality coffee without diving into complex details.
  • If you’re a coffee enthusiast seeking flavor depth and willing to invest time refining your technique, choose a non-pressurized portafilter. Despite requiring a steeper learning curve, you’ll be rewarded with espressos featuring a rich crema and complex flavors.

Whether you’re after convenience or willing to delve into the science and art of extraction, both types of portafilters have their place. Whatever you choose, remember that pursuing the perfect espresso cup is a journey filled with learning and delightful flavors. Enjoy every sip!

Frequently asked questions

What’s the main difference between pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters?

Pressurized portafilters have a second wall with a small hole to regulate pressure, making them more forgiving with grinding and technique. Non-pressurized portafilters depend on precise grinding and careful tamping to control extraction.

What’s the advantage of using a pressurized portafilter?

Pressurized portafilters are ideal for beginners and those seeking convenience. They accommodate various grind sizes and offer crema with less effort in technique.

What benefits does a non-pressurized portafilter offer?

Non-pressurized portafilters allow greater control over extraction and provide an espresso cup with richer flavors and thick crema. They are the choice of coffee enthusiasts seeking quality and flavor depth.

Written by Pablo Barrantes Nevado
I am Pablo Barrantes, a coffee lover. I decided to start this website to solve all the doubts that arise every day when preparing our favorite drink: coffee. I am an industrial engineer by profession, but I have worked in coffee shops for many years, where I have learned all the secrets about coffee machines and coffee. My passion for coffee has led me to investigate and study beyond the obvious, and thanks to this, I can offer solutions and give news about coffee and coffee makers. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I research, document and write here.

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