Portafilter vs. Basket: Here’s 5 Things You Need To Know

By Mark •  Updated: 04/21/23 •  6 min read

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A perfect espresso shot is skillfully extracted. An ideal extraction depends on how the water runs into the cup through the ground coffee, basket, and portafilter.

Portafilter vs. Basket
Portafilter vs. Basket

There are two types of portafilters and two types of baskets, and which one you use can make a difference during the extraction process.

The chart represents which portafilter can be used with which type of basket to obtain that perfect shot. 

Type of PortafilterType of BasketAre they a good match?
SpoutedPressurizedYes, the most flexible option
SpoutedNon-PressurizedYes, when using a double spout
BottomlessPressurizedNo, very inconsistent and messy
BottomlessNon-PressurizedYes, most challenging but the best flavor profile!

Using a bottomless portafilter with a pressurized basket is not a good combination because the coffee extraction will be inconsistent and messy.

Keep reading to learn how the portafilter and basket can make a difference in the espresso you drink. 

What Does a Portafilter Do?

All espresso makers, whether manual, semi-automatic, or commercial, have a portafilter.

The purpose of the portafilter is to hold the basket with the espresso in place while hot water flows through it and extracts the flavor from the ground espresso. 

What Does a Portafilter Do
What Does a Portafilter Do?

There are two types of portafilters to choose from: 

  • Spouted
  • Bottomless

Portafilters, whether spouted or bottomless, are typically 58 millimeters in diameter.

They can weigh a pound or two and must be durable. They are responsible for maintaining constant heat throughout the brewing and are vital in making a good cup of espresso. 

Manufacturers typically include the spouted portafilter and basket with the machine. If you prefer to use espresso pods or make minor modifications to the portafilter’s functionality, you can also use adapters.

What Kind of Baskets Can I Use with The Portafilter?

Whereas the portafilter is pretty standard from machine to machine, one aspect that can vary is the basket. And most skilled baristas will tell you it’s the basket itself that can make the most significant difference in the espresso’s outcome. Baskets are: 

  • Either pressurized or non-pressurized.
  • Inserted into the portafilter and contain tiny holes.

In a pressurized basket, high backpressure is used to extract the flavor from the espresso within the basket. The grind, dose, leveling, and tamping do not require as much attention, which is most beneficial for the novice barista.

What Kind of Baskets Can I Use with The Portafilter
What Kind of Baskets Can I Use with The Portafilter?

A more consistent shot is made each time while being pulled through the holes.

However, the quality of the espresso shot may be compromised due to inconsistencies that may occur during the grinding, dosing, leveling, or tamping step.

A non-pressurized basket has a single wall.

The bottom of the basket has many small holes. This basket requires a perfect coffee puck that is evenly leveled and tamped for the extraction to occur evenly.

Therefore, proper technique in each process step is more critical since more precision is required in the grinding, dosing, leveling, and tamping to achieve a satisfying shot.  

The Spouted Portafilter Is Best With A Pressurized Basket

Either basket can be used with a spouted portafilter. One requires more attention to detail than the other. 

A pressurized basket is best used with a standard spouted portafilter for more flexibility. The grind of the coffee and how it is tamped is not critical in producing a decent shot.

It includes a double wall.

The Spouted Portafilter Is Best with Pressurized Basket
The Spouted Portafilter Is Best with a Pressurized Basket

The first wall has many tiny holes on the bottom, while the second has one hole to channel the espresso through the spout and into the cup.

One benefit to using a spouted portafilter with either type of basket is the number of espresso drinks you can make at one time.

  • Single spout for one cup
  • Double spout for two cups

Using a double spout allows you to evaluate how the espresso is extracted when using a non-pressurized basket. 

The Bottomless Portafilter with Non-Pressurized Basket Worked Best

The bottomless portafilter removes the spout and exposes the bottom of the basket. This allows you to view and evaluate how the espresso is extracted during brewing. 

You can use a pressurized basket with a bottomless portafilter, but it is not recommended.

Since the bottom is exposed with only one hole, uneven extraction can occur when too much pressure builds. It can also become very messy as the extraction is forced through one hole in a short amount of time.

The Bottomless Portafilter with Non-Pressurized Basket Worked Best
The Bottomless Portafilter with Non-Pressurized Basket Worked Best

With a bottomless portafilter, the pressure to extract the espresso flavor is done using the machine rather than the portafilter itself. Therefore, it’s best to use a non-pressurized basket.  

And this leads to perhaps the most significant advantage of using the bottomless portafilter and non-pressurized basket. Because doing so enables you to evaluate how well you are:

  • Dosing: the amount of ground espresso being used
  • Leveling: step done just before tamping to even out the distribution
  • Tamping: compressing the espresso grounds into the basket

Each step determines how the espresso will be pulled into the cup.

You can evaluate the espresso as it’s being pulled to see where spurting occurs and how consistent the color is throughout the process. When spurting occurs, it usually indicates that some adjustment needs to be done in the tamping process.

Perfecting these steps allows you to create a beautiful pool of golden crema to sit atop the expressed liquid.

The crema is often the signature of a well-trained barista with expertise. 

Which Portafilter and Basket Are Right For You?

Choosing which portafilter and basket you use is ultimately a personal choice based on what kind of shot you want to extract each time.

A spouted portafilter does not require as much attention throughout the process and enables you to distribute the espresso into more than one cup with a double spout.

The spouted portafilter allows you to draw out a more consistent extraction from one shot to the next since less precision is needed throughout the process. It is ideal for someone who is just starting or prefers to make espresso at home.

However, suppose you are looking to create an aesthetically pleasing espresso drink.

In that case, you may choose the bottomless portafilter for its ability to produce a rich blonde pool of crema when dosing, leveling, and tamping has been perfected. The bottomless portafilter takes more skill to pull a full-bodied shot consistently each time. 


G'day from Australia! I'm Mark, the Chief Editor of Portafilter. I'm super passionate about everything coffee-related and love to spend endless hours mastering pulling the perfect shot on my Breville Barista Express. Follow on: Linkedin and Facebook.

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