I’ve been researching how every component of espresso machines affects drink taste and consistency. That led me to write a guide on different types of portafilter baskets.
Here’s what I’ll cover:
Let’s dive in.
- Entry-level baristas should use IMS baskets.
- IMS baskets cost less than VST ones.
- VST baskets provide more consistent, better-tasting drinks.
- Both options are better alternatives to stock espresso baskets.
Do IMG or VST Baskets Make a Difference in Espresso Taste?
VST baskets make the most difference in taste with espresso because they have holes that are the same size. This design results in a more even drink extraction. IMS baskets are similar but not as good. However, they’ll produce better drinks than stock baskets.
Both baskets will also help prevent espresso channeling, which could make your drink taste too bitter or sour.
Explore the differences between these basket types.
IMS vs. VST Basket
VST baskets cost at least 3 times more than IMS baskets. But they’ll provide better-tasting espresso due to their precise designs. Entry-level home baristas should focus on IMS baskets. Intermediates and professionals should use VST baskets.
Need more information?
Here’s a table comparing our options:
|Design||Good enough for entry-level||Better design for extraction|
|Variety||Various sizes||Various sizes|
|Extraction||Less balanced||More balanced|
The following sections will dive deeper into each section on the table. Read on to learn more.
1. Build Quality & Durability
Both precision baskets have the same durability; they’ll last a long time.
Manufacturers build IMS baskets out of food-safe stainless steel. It’s corrosion-resistant and has an electropolished surface. VST baskets also have stainless steel bodies and a non-stick finish to prevent oil buildup.
Don’t let build quality decide whether you get each filter.
Holes in the IMS baskets aren’t as distributed as with VST ones. VST baskets have holes spread throughout the center and outer edges. IMS baskets keep their holes toward the center.
Manufacturers also test VST baskets to ensure they have the same hole size, position, shape, and size to ensure even consistency. IMS baskets don’t have as strict of standards and use a perforation pattern.
How compatible are they with different portafilter baskets, though?
Both baskets offer a range of sizes for making different coffee amounts. Brewing single shots versus double shots. For instance, you could find 15-, 18-, 20-, 22-, and 25 gram variations.
And many models offer ridged or ridgeless. If your portafilter has a spring clip inside, you’ll want a ridged model. Because it’ll allow you to lock your basket into place and prevent it from dropping into your trash can when you’re beating the puck out of it.
If it doesn’t have a ridge, then opt for ridgeless. Some folks believe this variation will produce better-tasting espresso. Since there aren’t “imperfections” affecting your espresso’s flow. And people think this option will reduce espresso channeling.
Speaking of extraction…
4. Espresso Extraction
VST baskets have holes more distributed throughout the basket, unlike IMS ones. Which have their holes primarily in the center. Thus, the VST basket offers a more consistent, balanced drink.
The perforation pattern on the IMS baskets prevents espresso channeling.
Let’s get down to brass tax.
VST precision baskets often cost triple the price of IMS ones. The much higher price tag comes from the more intense manufacturing process. As manufacturers must ensure that every hole is even.
Will they work with your machine, though?
6. Machine Compatibility
Manufacturers typically offer various sizes for IMS and VST baskets. Whatever version you choose will depend on the espresso machine you own.
Here’s an example:
A 22 g VST precision basket will work on Nuova Simonelli, Synesso, and La Marzocco models. 15-, 18-, and 20 g models will only fit on some Rancilio, La Cimbali, and Nuova Simonelli models .
Most sellers should have charts or product descriptions on their pages to say what their filters are compatible with. If their chart doesn’t include your specific model, ask the seller. Or contact the manufacturer and ask them whether the basket in question will fit.
Wait, I didn’t explain what IMS baskets are.
IMS Portafilter Basket
IMS precision portafilter baskets distribute holes in a perforation pattern. This helps prevent espresso channeling and has a better espresso extraction than stock baskets. They’re cheaper than VST baskets, but not as good (taste-wise).
The coming sections will explain more about what these baskets are and their pros and cons.
Read on to learn more.
What Is an IMS Basket?
An Industria Materiali Stampati (IMS) basket is a portafilter basket made with a mesh finer than VST. This mesh uses a unique perforation pattern, allowing even more water distribution over coffee grounds. Moreover, the mesh basket has a nano quartz coating to help reduce coffee oil buildup.
Reducing oil accumulation is essential because such buildup can lead to bitter-tasting coffee.
Folks in Brescia, Italy, created the IMS basket for baristas participating in the 2011 World Barista Championship .
Check out their pros and cons.
IMS Basket Pros & Cons
- Affordability: Cheaper than VST.
- Ridgeless: Can accept oversized tampers.
- Durable: Made with high-quality materials, such as stainless steel.
- Reduced channeling: Can help to reduce channeling by providing a more uniform surface for the water to flow through.
- More expensive: More expensive than stock baskets.
IMS baskets cost less than VST, but more than Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) baskets. Meanwhile, these baskets help prevent channeling and will last a long time due to their robust construction.
Moving onto VST baskets.
VST Portafilter Basket
VST precision baskets are more expensive than their IMS counterparts. But they offer more consistent extraction due to having better-distributed and precisely-designed holes.
The following sections will explain more about what VST baskets are. Along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Dive on in.
What is a VST Basket?
A Voice Systems Technology (VST) basket is a precision basket where the manufacturer designed each hole as the same size and a precise pattern. Such consistency in pattern design ensures that your shots taste smoother and richer.
This flavor comes from having consistent shots due to identical holes.
And because of this manufacturing process, VST baskets cost more than their IMS counterparts.
Vince Fedele, an engineer at Voice Systems Technology, had noticed issues with holes at the bottoms of espresso portafilter baskets. That led him to use a digital scanning system to measure every hole’s position, shape, and size and ensure identical within a micron’s tolerance.
See their advantages and disadvantages.
VST Basket Pros & Cons
- More consistent extraction: The uniform holes help to ensure that the water flows evenly through the coffee bed, resulting in a more consistent extraction.
- Better taste: A more consistent extraction can lead to better tasting espresso.
- Ridged & ridgeless options: Can affect taste & cleaning.
- Easier to use: This is because they are often made with a larger surface area, which makes it easier to distribute the coffee evenly.
- More expensive: Costs more than OEM & IMS baskets.
- Not compatible with all portafilters: May not be compatible with all portafilters.
- Check the compatibility before purchasing.
VST cost more than their IMS counterparts, but for good reason. Their precise construction allows for a more even distribution of coffee, which leads to a smoother, better-tasting drink.
Let’s see whether VST and IMS baskets are better than ones included with your portafilter.
Are Precision Portafilter Baskets Better than Stock?
Precision portafilter baskets are better than stock baskets. They’re made with tighter tolerances, meaning the holes in the basket are more uniform and spacing.
This helps to ensure that the water flows evenly through the coffee bed, resulting in a more consistent extraction. Additionally, precision baskets frequently have a larger surface area, which can help to improve extraction.
Here are some of the benefits of using precision portafilter baskets:
- More consistent extraction: The uniform holes in precision baskets help to ensure that the water flows evenly through the coffee bed.
- Better taste: A more consistent extraction can lead to better tasting espresso.
- Reduced channeling: Helps to reduce channeling by providing a more uniform surface for the water to flow through.
- Easier to use: Easier to use than stock baskets.
- This is because they are often made with a larger surface area, which makes it easier to distribute the coffee evenly.
They will not automatically make your espresso taste better. You still need to use good quality coffee and grind it to the correct consistency. Additionally, you need to tamp the coffee evenly and use the correct amount of water.
VST precision portafilter baskets cost more than stock and IMS baskets, but offer the best taste and consistency due to their unique design. If you’re an entry-level barista, opt for OEM or IMS baskets. More skilled baristas with large wallets should go for VST baskets.
Want to learn more about factors that’ll affect your espresso’s taste? Explore our espresso machine parts guide.