• All About Portafilters

    We've talked plenty about the differences between baskets in the past. This means you probably already know that a pressurized basket helps mitigate grind quality in espresso brewing. One thing that can be far more noticeable on first glance though is portafilter type! It's not always clear what a "standard" portafilter is, what about sizing? Materials? Spouts?

    It's confusing!

    But we're here to help. Read on for some portafilter basics that'll put you in the know.


    Spouts are one of the most notable features of a portafilter. The spouts on a portafilter are designed to direct the flow of coffee into your container. Single spout portafilters are generally used when brewing for one, whereas with a double spout you can brew into two glasses at once. But that's not all that having a double spouted filter can help with. One of the keys to ensuring even extraction with espresso is producing an even tamp. Keeping the grounds level in your portafilter is important, as then water flows through the puck evenly as well. A double spouted portafilter can help you identify an even tamp. If you brew into two shot glasses from a double spouted filter and they contain equal amounts, voila! You know you've achieved an even tamp. For even more accuracy, enter the bottomless portafilter.

    You've probably seen gorgeous shots of perfectly colored espresso pulling directly from the portafiler's screen. This is possible with the use of a bottomless portafilter. These filters remove the spouts, and metal bottom entirely. Instead, without a basket inserted these portafilters look like a ring. Using a bottomless portafilter can help you see exactly where your tamp may be uneven. If the espresso meets in the middle into a single stream, you know you have that perfect tamp. Plus, it looks pretty!


    Material is a factor in portafilter design, but may not be as imperative as you think. The biggest and most important thing imparted by material is durability. A good portafilter should last you years, so whether its all stainless or chrome-plated brass, a durable metal is important. Some lower end machines may come with plastic lined filters that could chip and wear over time. Stainless, on the other hand, won't nick or scratch easily. Chrome-plated brass tends to fall somewhere in the middle, offering longevity and strength but at a greater risk of scuffing than stainless. Material can also impact ergonomics, as heavier metals might cause more strain if you're constantly operating the machine.

    There's also the importance of heat conduction. If the bottom of your filter is less warm than the top, it means the water passing through it could lose temp as it passes through the grounds. This is a granular detail, but hobbyists will want to control for every variable. For E61 groupheads, which actively heat the portafilter, this means that a stainless steel filter will stay hot as long as the machine is on. With that in mind, for machines that rely on water flow to heat the portafilter, chrome-plated brass is a more heat conducive material.

    Size and Ergonomics

    There isn't a huge difference between portafilter sizes. It's true that 58mm filters tend to have slightly more even pressure distribution through the puck. This is because a thinner, taller filter will see a greater pressure difference from the top of the puck to the bottom. However, this is such a granular detail that it has little bearing on actual brewing. Instead, size has more to do with ergonomics and part availability. It's much easier to find 58mm portafilters of different materials and styles that are interchangeable than with 54mms. Since 58mm filters are generally "industry standard" in commercial coffee, you can usually find them after-market. This means you'll be able to find options with different spouts, materials, and handles.

    You'll also be able to utilize a wider range of accessories and grinders easily with a 58mm filter. Most espresso grinders with portafilter hooks are generally designed with 58mm in mind, and will offer a better fit.

    All of this, of course, its a moot point without a stand out machine. While it's fun to drill into the specifics of portafilter design, the most important parts of your coffee set up will always be machine and grinder!

  • New Product: Miir Travel Mugs!

    Taking coffee on the go is a constant struggle. There are thousands of different travel mugs out there, but that won't stop us from hunting for the best one! This week we're excited to introduce Miir Travel Mugs to our catalog of drinkware!


    Miir mugs are simple and effective. These mugs use vacuum sealing double walls to preserve temperature whether hot or cold. They also come with things you'd expect like a non spill spout and ergonomic design. We appreciate that these mugs keep things like ice cube and cupholder compatibility in mind. There's more though!

    The Miir mug uses medical grade stainless steel that is durable and long lasting, but doesn't impart any flavors. On top of this, the whole container is BPA free. This means nothing will make its way into your coffee when you use it with this mug. Finally, this mug is dishwasher safe and is available in multiple sizes!

    Check out Miir for yourself here!

  • Holiday Buying Guide: Stocking Stuffers!

    What do you get the coffee drinker that already has everything? We've got you covered today with another holiday buying guide! From smaller items to drop in as a little something extra to bigger surprises in small packages, we've got you covered.

    Odds and Ends

    First up, let's look at a few smaller extras that many coffee drinkers may overlook. For your outdoorsy friends, check out the GSI Outdoors collapsible dripper. This neat little tool is great for making pourover at home or on the go. It's billed as a camping device, but it works great in hotel rooms and relatives houses too! Another neat little add-on to a classic coffee making tool is the Fellow Prismo add-on for Aeropress coffee makers. The Prismo provides extra resistance to an Aeropress brewer, allowing you to get thicker, richer coffee from the device. It's a fun way to try something a little different out of a standby coffee maker. Stepping up on price, but still offering great value, is Kalita Wave stainless steel dripper. While we agree that your choice in dripper is largely going to come down to personal preference, the Kalita is a beloved option, and the stainless steel version lasts for years! For the home barista that enjoys milk drinks, cups and pitchers are always a great option. Spouted frothing pitchers generally offer the best control for latte art. As for cups, we love Acme's line of drinkware, such as this Demitasse set.


    Big Surprises

    What if you're looking to go the extra mile with a stocking stuffer? Maybe you want to tease a bigger gift, or just like the idea of the surprise of a more expensive item in their stocking. If that's the case, take a look at items like the Espro Calibrated Tamper and OCD Coffee Distribution Tool. These devices help with prepping espresso shots. The OCD gives you excellent distribution of grounds in the portafilter. This is a must for brewing with a bottomless portafilter and ensures even extraction for better tasting espresso. The Espro Tamper "clicks" at 30 lbs. of pressure. It's a great tool to train yourself on proper tamping technique.

    Finally, one of our favorite coffee crafting stocking sized items is the Acaia Lunar Interactive Espresso Brewing Scale. This definitely the luxury car of coffee scales. Acaia's tech is top notch, and the Lunar packs it into a tiny package that's perfect for weighing shots. with multiple modes and integration with Acaia's range of apps, this scale will take your espresso brewing to the next level.

    Look out for more holiday shopping guides and some incredible deals very soon!




  • Which Portafilter is Right for You?

    So you're in the market for an espresso machine and you're not sure what all these different portafilter styles are about, eh? We've created this handy guide to break 'em down for you.


    A great learning tool for the newbie barista, the pressurized portafilter can be found on most entry level machines and takes away the stress of finding the precise grind and tamp before you extract an ideal shot.

    The Way It Works
    Creating the pressure that tamping would create, the pressurized portafilter is built with the function to allow water to pass through the filter when the exact pressure is reached. With no need to base it on your tamp, it will do the work for you giving you a consistent shot every time. Whether it be with a valve or a filter basket, all you need to do is fill the portafilter with your favorite ground coffee, level it out, insert the portafilter in the brew head and watch it extract your shot, leaving it to do all the work and you stress free.

    However, even though the pressurized portafilter may take a lot of the work off your hands, what you'll be trading it off for is the ability to control the flavor and strength of your brew. While commercial portafilters are made of durable chrome, stainless steel and brass material, most pressurized portafiters are are made with aluminum and plastic, which don't maintain heat as well as the more durable commercial portafilters.

    Saeco Aroma, Delonghi EC155, Saeco Via Venezia


    This is how the big boys roll, or let's just say these are the portafilters that give you the ability to control the taste and quality of your shot. When you've passed the stage of having your machine do all the work for you, this is where you can get your own hands dirty and start learning how important dialing in your grind and knowing what 30 lbs. of pressure feels like when you tamp.

    The Way It Works
    The commercial portafilter is made from heavier materials (chrome, brass, stainless steel) and will likely last longer. With these components, it guarantees heat stability which is key when making the ideal shot.

    However, with more quality parts comes a little more time spent preparing your extraction. You'll now have the variables of grind consistency, coarseness, tamp pressure and dosage to concern yourself with. You'll calibrate your shot based on shot timing, changing each of these variables one by one to achieve the correct grind for your grinder, coffee and machine. With great power comes great responsibility, so while you have the most potential to get a great shot with this style of portafilter, that potential all lies in your hands and skill set.

    Rocket Giotto/Cellini,Nuova Simonelli Musica, Rancilio Silvia

    Pod Adaptor

    If it's mess free that you want, it's mess free that you'll get. Taking a cue from tea bags, pods are single shots of prepackaged coffee sealed in a paper filter. Not only are they mess free but they are convenient, taking away the need to dial-in the right grind and filling your portafilter with the ideal amount of ground coffee.

    The Way It Works
    Most semi-automatics that are E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) friendly, tend to include a pod adapter that you can pop right into your single basket filter for your portafilter. Once that adapter is in all you need to do is place a pod in the portafilter and lock it into place in your machine's brew head.

    However, unlike grinding your grounds fresh, we'll warn you that your shot may not taste as rich and velvety smooth, nor will it have that layer of rich crema as fresh ground coffee does. Also, you'll have little to no control over the strength of your espresso since each pod is already pre-measured and packaged.

    Delonghi EC155, Capresso EC100

    Bottomless (Naked)

    No this isn't rated X, but let's just say you'll go balls-to-the-walls-crazy for this portafilter when you see how sexy your shots will be when they're extracted! A bottomless portafilter looks exactly like your average commercial portafilter except the bottom half is cut off, so your extraction is visible and 'nakedly' exposed for all to see.

    The Way It Works
    The bottomless portafilter is also a great teaching tool as you're able to see the bottom of the portafilter and what the color of your extraction is once the hot water hits the coffee grounds. You'll also seeing channeling, if you're tamping harder on one side vs. the other, etc. Just like the commercial portafilter you'll go through the same exact steps, dialing in your grind, finding what 30 lbs. of pressure is like and locking in your portafilter in the brew head.

    The benefits of having a naked portafilter versus a dressed (commercial) portafilter is the ability to identify blonding, tiger striping, channeling, overdosing and the evenness of your tamp, which is usually hidden with a portafilter with single or double spouts.

    Channeling happens when "spurters" or "geysers" occur. This is when espresso sprays out in small or large jet-like streams at various angles from your extraction. There also are multiple smaller streams that are separate from the unified stream which indicates side channeling. A perfect extraction will not have any channeling.

    Crossland CC1, La Marzocco GS/3

  • Turkish Coffee a la Aeropress

    You asked for it, so we answered! Recently, a viewer suggested that we experiment with the AeroPress when making Turkish coffee. So we asked our resident Turkish coffee expert, Rade, to jump into the 21st century by prepping up some coffee and then putting it through an AeroPress.

    Watch to find out how the experiment turned out.

  • Crew Review: Handpresso Wild Hybrid

    If you can't live without the hope of espresso resting squarely in your back pocket, Handpresso's series of portable espresso makers were developed specifically with you in mind.

    Formerly, they offered the Wild version for use with ESE pods and the Domepod version for use with ground coffee. Now they've combined both functions in one sweet lil number -- the Hybrid -- for those of us who simply cannot make up our minds.

    Watch Gail walk through the features and functionality, as well as pull shots using an ESE pod and ground coffee. Please note: Compak K10 Fresh not included.

  • Compare: Airscape vs. Coffee Bean Vac

    In the world of coffee bean storage, do either of these devices do a better job of keeping your beans fresher, longer? We asked Gail to throw a bag of Velton's Bonsai Blend into an Airscape and a Coffee Bean Vac, then we pulled shots a week later and two weeks later to see how they held up. Aside from when we opened them for testing, they were securely sealed.

    Watch to find out how they stack up!

  • Compare: Chemex Filters vs. Hario 02 Filters

    Our first time out, Allison used a Hario 02 paper filter for her brew test with the Chemex. And we didn't hear the end of it from our YouTube fans!

    So once we received our first shipment of signature Chemex filters, we decided to do a side by side brew comparison to practically determine if you could tell a difference in the cup. Watch as Allison brews up two batches on the Chemex and we taste them to find out.

  • How-To: Mavea Purity C Water Filter Installation

    Filtering your water is essential if you plan on plumbing in your espresso machine to a direct water line in your location. Without this, you run the risk of scale build-up that can only be removed by a professional taking apart the machine and physically removing the scale. How quickly this occurs will depend on your location -- we did have a cafe attempt to go without filtration for just a couple of months and their equipment completely seized up as a result. Clearly, they were working with very hard water, but it's not a risk we recommend you take, at all.

    For commercial locations, there are tons of filtration options that will address a wide variety of water source needs. If you're looking at that kind of a setup, then you'll need to install something a bit more sophisticated and robust that will be able to address the multiple appliances that will require water (such as drip coffee makers, ice machines, water fountains and your espresso machine) in a way that's easy to manage. But for just straight espresso machine filtration, the Mavea Purity C filters are simple, easy to install and do an excellent job of filtering out what you don't want in your espresso machine's boiler.

    Watch Gail as she walks us through an overview of how she installed a Mavea filter on our La Marzocco Linea.

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