Looking at a bottomless portafilter, you might assume that it’s just for show and, more than anything, used to make espresso instagrammable. And while this is partly true, there’s more to it than slick-looking photos of crema raining from the skies.
As a professional barista trainer, I’ve seen firsthand how a bottomless portafilter impacts the barista workflow while helping you troubleshoot silly errors you’re making.
So, if you’re wondering if you should dive in naked with a bottomless portafilter, keep on reading!
What Is A Bottomless Portafilter?
A portafilter that’s bottomless is a filter basket holder without spouts. It is sometimes referred to as the “naked” portafilter because you see the underside of your basket with no obstructions.
On the surface, it looks almost exactly the same as your regular portafilter. Other than the spouts, the handle and the other parts look alike. The difference is that it will reflect issues you have in technique and give you reasons to practice all your brewing steps with each cup you make.
As a fan of this piece of equipment, I can assure you that it’s a worthwhile investment towards nicer photos and more consistent espresso routines.
What is the purpose of a bottomless portafilter?
The naked portafilter brings attention to aesthetics and your extraction technique to make easy adjustments.
There’s certainly an appeal in watching the extraction process take place as water comes into contact with your coffee grounds and rains from the top. You also have more space between the bottom of the portafilter and the drip tray. This means you can fit a wider range of cups regardless of which espresso machine you’re using.
However, there are also finer details that can be overlooked when brewing without a spout.
Bottomless portafilters are used by barista trainers because they give insights into finer details of barista fundamentals. These include dosing, or placing grounds into the basket.
For such a simple upgrade in equipment, you’ll be able to address these specific areas of your espresso routine. The bottomless portafilter is a simple answer to learning proper dosing, leveling, and tamping techniques. And implementing them consistently. These are as basic to making decent espresso as air, food, and water are to living.
For baristas, it can be a great learning tool. The bottomless portafilter will literally splatter out any reason for you to examine specific parts of your espresso routine. An ideal shot trickles down from the center of your portafilter. It’s usually a brown and goldish color in the stream, with “tiger stripes” dripping into the espresso cup.
There are so many other indicators of a good extraction. You can examine flow rate, espresso color, smell, leftover fines, and of course taste. But, I can dedicate a separate newsletter for these things – watch this space.
If you see any sort of splattering during your shot, pale or dark-colored crema, then it’s time to examine all your steps leading up to brewing. This could be another newsletter. There are scientifically proven techniques for different parts of your espresso extraction routine.
Naked portafilters help you get to the bottom of any steps in your espresso-making that need troubleshooting. It offers a clear way to see how close your espresso is to perfect flow rate, color, and crema.
Is Naked Better? 3 Reasons For A Change
Are bottomless portafilters better? It depends on who you’re asking.
There are many different reasons for many different types of brewers to want more out of their espresso machines. Now that you’re aware that it might not be as simple (or neat) to use as a portafilter with spouts.
Improve Your Espresso Routine
A bottomless portafilter is for brewers who want to improve their espresso routines. It gives you visibility of what’s going on to iterate on your technique.
In this case, any sort of spillage or splatter is an easy way to spot a flaw in form. Just make sure to go figure out where you can improve.
Insta Friendly Coffee
The bottomless portafilter is also for cafes with open espresso bars. Since the shot trickles down from the basket itself, there’s a lot to watch. Or photograph for that matter. It can be a mesmerizing sight if your coffee bar is in the right place within your shop.
The bonus for shop owners? Easy social media and marketing content.
You Need Space
When your home coffee machine has low clearance for an espresso catcher you might want a bottomless portafilter.
The lack of space can make the espresso extraction process annoying. The spout becomes part of the problem and not the solution. It’s an easy call in favor of a new bottomless portafilter if this is the case.
4 Problems With Bottomless Portafilters
Let’s be honest. No single piece of equipment is perfect – the bottomless portafilter included.
Here’s some cases why you might want to avoid using one and stick to a normal spout if you’re after an easy and perfect espresso shot:
One problem you could encounter with using a bottomless portafilter is inconsistency. It will reflect the slightest inconsistencies in your espresso extraction.
It’s also not the ideal choice if you have items on the menu that call for split shots.
Such is the case for cortados, piccolos, and similar coffee recipes. Not all espresso-based drinks use a double shot. Without a basket separator at the bottom, a busy barista could end up with an extra step in the process. Not ideal on days with huge waves of orders.
It Can Get Messy
Another easy problem to foresee is the mess you could potentially end up with. Especially at the start. Espresso can spew from the basket all over the place with just one wrong move. Not all home and professional baristas like cleaning up.
The exposed bottom cools your espresso shots quicker. Crema acts as an insulator to keep your coffee hot. But if it’s already a bit cooler to begin with by the time it hits your cup, you have a bigger problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you make a bottomless portafilter?
How to convert your portafilter to a bottomless portafilter in 5 steps:
Here’s one way to convert your current portafilter into a bottomless portafilter at home. You’ll need a drill, a step drill bit, and a clamp.
1. Disassemble the portafilter.
2. Use a drill with a steel step drill bit to expand the hole at the bottom. Clamp the porta down for ease and safety.
3. Adjust in different ways if you lack the proper tools.
4. Expand the hole evenly on all sides. Be patient during this step. It takes time and care.
5. Smoothen out with a metal grinder.
Enjoy watching the crema drop from the basket into your cup!
Are all portafilters the same?
No. They come in single, double, and naked options.
A blind portafilter also exists for cleaning your group head. Even the sizes of the filter baskets are different so be sure to purchase upgrades that fit your espresso maker.