Ask the Experts: What's the Difference Between Pressurized and Non-Pressurized Filter Baskets?

We sell several semi-automatic espresso machines (such as the Saeco Aroma or Via Venezia, any of the Brevilles or DeLonghis that feature a pressurized portafilter basket. This is a major functional difference from other machines, like the Rancilio Silvia or Rocket Espresso semi-automatic espresso machines, which have non-pressurized baskets similar to commercial-grade machines. In the photo to the right, you can see the physical difference between a non-pressurized basket (on the left) and a pressurized basket (on the right).

OK, so they look different -- but what do they do that's different? Well, we think it's all about forgiveness.

Pressurized baskets have an internal screen that filters the coffee into a small holding area with a single tiny hole in the bottom. The espresso collects in the holding area and then the machine's pressure builds in order to force the coffee through this hole. We consider these baskets to be more 'forgiving' because they allow for a wider variety of ground coffee -- since the coffee is in contact with the water longer, and is forced into a holding area prior to brewing into your cup, the consistency of the ground itself is not as important and you're able to pull a good shot regardless of the grinder you may have. It is a bit illusory, however, because the pressurization produces a 'fake' crema, not the result of fine espresso extraction, rather the result of aeration of the espresso as it is forced through the small spout.

Espresso machines with pressurized baskets are a great option for people with lower end blade or burr grinders that find their coffee grounds aren't as uniform as is necessary for higher end espresso machines...but they shouldn't expect that they'll be able to pull the high quality shots they could pull out of a non-pressurized basket.

Since non-pressurized baskets brew directly into the cup without forcing the espresso through a tiny hole, inconsistent or too coarse/fine grounds will result in poor shot extraction -- it won't be pulled in the correct time or have any crema. While there is a curve in learning how to pull shots with this type of basket, it's definitely worth the time, as your tastebuds will no doubt agree.

3 thoughts on “Ask the Experts: What's the Difference Between Pressurized and Non-Pressurized Filter Baskets?”

  • Brock Mak

    this is my machine at home, which is a very basic manual machine, is pressurized because it is pod-capatable, but can i de-pressurize it?

    • Kat

      It depends on how they pressurize it; if it's the basket, then you could look to find a basket from another company that is non-pressurized and the same depth and diameter as your current model. If it's in the handle, you either need to get a different handle or somehow modify it to remove the pressurization. Sadly, I can't tell you how you might do that as I'm not familiar with this specific machine.

      - Kat

  • Rebecca Koelzer
    Rebecca Koelzer June 28, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    I have being making espresso coffee since I was 7 years old. Espresso is brewing it real time. The taste of the coffee change to bitter the longer it is in the pot. If you take a small pot with boiling water and put finely grind coffee in it, it will foam up to spill, (the grinds releasing CO2) and that is the coffee bean having a reaction with hot water. The amount of foam is an indication of how fresh the coffee is.

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