As an espresso enthusiast, I want to know the differences among all the different types of portafilters. That led me to write this guide comparing portafilter types and sizes.
Here’s what I’ll talk about throughout this guide:
- Portafilter sizes range from 49 mm to 58 mm, with 58 mm being the most common size for home espresso machines.
- The size of the portafilter basket affects the amount of coffee that can be used & the amount of water that can flow through the coffee grounds.
- Portafilter size can impact espresso taste, but the portafilter itself won’t have as much of an impact as the baskets used.
- The best portafilter size for you will depend on your espresso machine & your personal preferences.
What Are the Different Portafilter Sizes?
Portafilter sizes are measured in millimeters (mm) across the diameter of the basket. The most common sizes are:
- 49 mm: The smallest portafilter size, typically found on lower-end espresso machines.
- 53 mm: A popular size for entry-level & mid-range espresso machines.
- It offers a good balance of price, size, & availability of accessories.
- 54 mm: A less common size, but found on some models of espresso machines, such as the Breville Bambino Plus.
- 58 mm: The largest portafilter size & the standard for commercial espresso machines & many high-end home machines.
There are also a few less common portafilter sizes, such as 51, 52, 56, and 57 mm. You’ll typically find these sizes on specific models of espresso machines. For example, the Starbucks Barista has a 52 mm and the La Pavoni lever has a 51 mm.
Let’s learn why different portafilter sizes matter.
Why Does Portafilter Size Matter?
The size of a portafilter matters because it affects the amount of coffee grounds you can add. It also affects the amount of water that can flow through the coffee grounds.
A larger portafilter can hold more coffee grounds, producing a more potent espresso shot. However, a larger portafilter also requires more water to extract the coffee evenly.
A smaller portafilter can hold less coffee grounds, resulting in a weaker espresso shot. However, a smaller portafilter also requires less water to extract the coffee evenly.
The ideal portafilter size will depend on the type of espresso machine you’re using and the taste preferences of the person drinking the espresso.
But does it impact taste?
Does it Impact Espresso Taste?
Yes, portafilter sizes can affect espresso taste. However, the portafilter itself will have less impact than the baskets used.
A larger portafilter basket can hold more coffee grounds, which can produce a more complex and flavorful espresso. However, it can also become challenging to distribute and tamp the coffee grounds evenly in a larger basket.
Such a challenge can lead to uneven extraction and a less flavorful espresso.
Grounds in a smaller portafilter basket are easier to distribute and tamp. This can lead to more consistent extraction and a more flavorful espresso. However, a smaller basket may not hold enough coffee grounds to produce a complex and flavorful drink.
The type of basket used also has a significant impact on espresso taste. A precision basket has a mesh screen with fine holes. This helps to create a more consistent extraction and a more flavorful espresso.
An Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) has a mesh screen with larger holes. This can lead to less consistent extraction and a less flavorful espresso.
Let’s see the most common portafilter sizes compared.
Portafilter Sizes Compared
Here’s a comparison of the 3 most common portafilter sizes:
|53 mm||Can produce a more complex & flavorful espresso||More common||Good variety of accessories available|
|54 mm||Can produce a sweeter flavor||Less common||Limited availability for replacement parts & accessories|
|58 mm||Can produce a bolder, stronger flavor||More common||Good variety of accessories available|
The following sections will provide advantages and disadvantages of the aforementioned portafilter sizes. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what type of espresso machine you want.
1. 53 mm Portafilter Pros & Cons
- More affordable: Typically cheaper than other sizes.
- Good variety of accessories: Variety of accessories available, including baskets, tampers, & distributors.
- Popular size: The standard size for many entry-level & mid-range home espresso machines.
- Less common size: Not as common as 58 mm portafilters; more difficult to find accessories & replacement parts.
- Smaller basket size: Holds less coffee grounds.
- This can be a limiting factor for people who like to make large shots or multiple shots of espresso at once.
Most De’Longhi home models include 51 or 49 mm portafilters. They’re not as common as 58 mm portafilters, which limits them regarding parts availability. However, plenty of manufacturers have accessories and such ready for 53 mm filters.
Moving on to 54 mm portafilters.
2. 54 mm Portafilter Pros & Cons
- Compact: Convenient for homes with smaller kitchens.
- Faster extraction time: Leads to a sweeter flavor.
- Smaller yield: Less espresso compared to 58 mm portafilters.
- Compatibility: Limited availability for replacement parts & accessories.
You’ll typically find 54 mm portafilters on home espresso machines from brands like Olympia and Breville. But it’s more difficult to find replacement parts due to it not being as common as other portafilter types.
The faster extraction time is great for mitigating the risk of over-extraction, and the smaller size makes it great for small kitchens. But this type of portafilter doesn’t produce much espresso. Possibly leading you to make more if you’re a frequent coffee drinker.
One more to go.
3. 58 mm Portafilter Pros & Cons
- Compatibility: Due to common use, it’s easier to find accessories & replacement parts.
- More precision: Easier to distribute coffee grounds evenly.
- Increased extraction: Higher extraction & bolder, stronger flavor.
- Also compatibility: Won’t fit on all machines.
- Longer extraction times: Could lead to over-extraction or burnt espresso.
58 mm portafilters are common in commercial espresso machines and are also becoming a staple in home espresso makers. However, they won’t fit on all machines.
And though it’s easier to distribute coffee grounds due to the large size, you’ll have a longer extraction time. Higher times could lead to over-extraction, which will result in bitter- or burnt-tasting coffee.
Let’s discuss choosing the best portafilter size.
How to Choose the Best Portafilter Size
You must pick portafilter sizes that correlate with your espresso machine’s group head size. For instance, if you get a device with a 58 mm group head, you must get a 58 mm portafilter. This prevents you from having control over the choice of portafilter size.
Unless you get a new machine.
Though, you can’t choose what portafilter size you need, you can select a different portafilter type. Which’ll make a difference in your espresso extraction and taste.
What is a portafilter, exactly?
What Is a Portafilter for Espresso?
A portafilter is a part of an espresso machine that holds the coffee grounds and acts as a funnel for the espresso to flow out. It’s made of 2 parts: the handle and the basket.
The handle is what you grip to insert and remove the portafilter from the espresso machine. The basket is where the coffee grounds go.
Let’s check out the different types of portafilters.
Types of Portafilters
The following sections will cover different types of portafilters to help you determine what’ll work best with your machine.
Read on to learn more.
1. Bottomless Portafilter
A bottomless portafilter is a portafilter that has the bottom side open, exposing the filter basket. This allows a clear view of the extraction process. Giving the barista real time information about possible flaws in the puck preparation (e.g., air gaps).
Bottomless vs. Spouted Portafilters
Here’s a comparison that’s easy on the eyes:
|Characteristic||Bottomless Portafilter||Spouted Portafilter|
|Mess||More mess if the puck is not prepared correctly||Less mess|
|Ease of use||More difficult to use, requires more practice||Easier to use, more forgiving of puck preparation mistakes|
|Visibility||Can see the espresso flowing from the basket, which can help diagnose problems with puck preparation & extraction||Cannot see the espresso flowing from the basket|
|Taste||Some people believe that bottomless portafilters produce a better tasting espresso||Taste is subjective, but spouted portafilters can mask flaws in puck preparation & extraction|
Bottomless portafilters are easier to clean and simplify troubleshooting due to the lack of spouts. However, there aren’t any safeguards in place to protect folks from splashing caused by espresso channeling.
Neither portafilter will make a difference in taste. Though, some baristas will tell you that bottomless portafilters produce better-tasting beverages.
2. Spouted Portafilter
A spouted portafilter is a type of portafilter that has a spout or spouts on the bottom. The spout helps to direct the flow of espresso from the portafilter into the cup.
Spouted portafilters are the most common type of portafilter and are typically included with espresso machines. They are relatively easy to use and less messy than bottomless portafilters.
3. Pressurized Portafilter
A pressurized (or double-walled) portafilter is a portafilter that has a small hole in the middle. This hole helps create a consistent espresso extraction, even if the grind is imperfect or the puck isn’t tamped evenly.
Beginners often use pressurized portafilters because they can help to produce a more consistent shot of espresso. However, they aren’t ideal for experienced baristas who want more control over the extraction process.
Pressurized vs. Non-pressurized Portafilter
Here are the differences between non-pressurized and pressurized portafilters:
|Characteristic||Pressurized Portafilter||Non-pressurized Portafilter|
|Ease of use||Easier||More difficult|
|Control||Less control||More control|
|Taste||Can produce a less flavorful espresso||Can produce a better tasting espresso|
|Cost||Less expensive||More expensive|
Pressurized portafilter baskets are a better choice for beginners due to their affordability. But don’t offer as sweet or rich of shots as non-pressurized baskets.
4. Commercial Portafilter
A commercial portafilter is a portafilter used in commercial espresso machines. It’s typically made of stainless steel and has a larger diameter (58 mm) than portafilters used in home espresso machines.
The larger diameter leads to an increased extraction and is compatible with various accessories and parts. Since 58 mm portafilters are the most common.
58 mm portafilters are the most common size but take longer to brew. 53 and 54 mm portafilter baskets brew quicker and don’t have as high of a risk of over-extraction as their famous counterpart. The size of the portafilter you’ll get depends on the espresso machine bought.
Are you having trouble finding an espresso machine? Check out our recommendations.