A precision portafilter basket will make your coffee taste better. I would go as far to say that filter baskets are the third most important tool for making coffee after your grinder and machine. This makes them an essential upgrade for any espresso setup.
But what are the best portafilter baskets on the market today? And why do they make better coffee compared to most stock baskets? In this guide we're answering these questions and exploring the world of espresso baskets.
Best Portafilter Baskets
I'll start off by listing some popular precision filter basket, then talk about how they impact the taste of coffee, what to look out for when buying one, and which ones fit your espresso machine. The below filters are all 58mm. At the end of the post I have listed 54mm (Breville Barista Express, Impress, Bambino etc) and 51mm options.
IMS has a big range of precision filter baskets to fit a range of espresso machines, from 54mm Brevilles to 58mm E61 machines and more. This new "Big Bang" is designed to prevent channeling by the holes getting denser in the center.
This basket from E & B Lab comes with a "nanotech" coating that makes it easier to knock out used pucks. So you get the benefit of great extraction combined with an easier clean up.
VST are the original manufactures that changes the espresso game. They were the first company to come out with precision baskets and they continue to make high end products today. They're designed to have uniform even holes covering the base.
How Precision Espresso Baskets Impact Coffee Extraction
Just a decade ago, precision baskets didn't exist. Stock baskets were mass produced and the holes within the basket weren't uniform or consistent. This changed thanks to Vince Fedele of VST, brought a new level of precision to basket design, leading to a significant improvement in espresso quality.
He realised that a basket's role in espresso making is pivotal. Uneven holes lead to uneven extraction, but precision baskets allow for more consistent and finer grinds, resulting in better tasting espresso. This is when his company produced the first precision filter basket.
Compare the two baskets above. To the left is a VST basket and to the right is a stock basket that came with my Rocket Appartamento. You will notice two things about these baskets.
- Number of holes: the precision basket has a whole lot more holes compared to the stock basket. This allows for more flow, which allows you to grind finer to get more flavor and yield out of your coffee.
- Uniformity of holes: the VST basket's holes are uniform and evenly spread apart. If you would look at these two baskets under a microscope, you will see that the VST holes are all almost all the same size and evenly spaced.
Inconsistent hole sizes and shapes in poorly made baskets can lead to uneven extraction and poorer quality espresso. Unlike the stock basket, which is much more inconsistent. Precision baskets allow for finer grinding and higher extraction, especially with lighter roasts or more complex coffees.
Types of Precision Coffee Baskets
There are two main factors to look at when deciding on the type of coffee basket to purchase: ridged vs ridgeless and the size of the basket.
Ridged vs Ridgeless
The basket's design plays a subtle yet crucial role in the dynamics of espresso extraction. It's not just about holding the coffee grounds; it's about controlling the flow of water through the coffee, impacting everything from the extraction rate to the flavor profile of your shot.
The choice between ridged and ridgeless baskets can be a matter of preference and practicality.
Ridgeless baskets typically allow for a more seamless coffee puck removal, enhancing the overall ease of cleaning and maintenance. Ridgeless baskets also offer a more uniform flow as the water flows straight down the puck - however, this also produces a higher risk of channelling if you haven't done good puck prep.
Ridged baskets on the other hand sometimes have coffee stick on the bottom, however can produce more complex flavors as the water is not uniformly extracting from the base. They also have the benefit of staying in your portafilter more securely due to the ridge shape – however the portafilter I use has never had issues of the basket coming out.
But which one is better?
My personal preference is for ridgeless baskets, but this doesn’t mean they are "better" - it is a matter of taste.
Size Of The Portafilter Basket
18, 20, 22 grams or more? The size of the basket is more than just a number; it's about matching your coffee dose to the right vessel for optimal extraction. A mismatch in size can lead to either overpacking or under-extraction, both of which can significantly affect the taste of your espresso.
So what size basket should you get?
Well, it depends on the recipe of the espresso you are making. Again, one size is not better than the other, it just depends if you want more or less yield. Some coffee taste great with 18 grams of coffee, while others, like some light roasts, taste better with a higher dosage as they need more coffee to get the subtle flavors out - thus, a bigger basket to fit the coffee in.
However, if you are buying your first basket, I recommend getting an 18 gram as that is more or less the standard starting grind amount for 58mm machines.
Choosing The Right Filter Basket For Your Espresso Machine
The final decision when getting a portafilter basket is to make sure you get one that fits your portafilter! Different machines have different portafilter sizes, so you need to make sure your espresso basket matches the size of portafilters. Below I have outlined the correct size for some of the most popular espresso machine brands.
Ascaso, Decent, Gaggia, Rocket Espresso, Lelit, Rancilio Silvia, La Marzocco, ECM, Profitec, and pretty much every E61 Machine
All these machines have the standard 58mm basket. So any of the options I've listed at the start of this post will work for these machines.
Breville coffee machines have two portafilter sizes: 54mm and 58mm. Below are portafilters sizes on their ranges so you know what coffee basket to buy.
- 54mm machines: Barista Express, Barista Pro, Barista Impress, Barista Touch Impress, Bambino, Bambino Plus, Infuser, Dual temp, and Compact Cafe. Below I've listed a 54mm basket.
- 58mm machines: Dual Boiler, Oracle, and Oracle Touch. All the 3 options I listed at the start of this post are 58mm sized baskets. So select one of those for your machine.
These links will take you to the 54mm sized IMS Competition basket for your Breville espresso machine. It's one of the most popular baskets for the Breville range.
DeLonghi coffee machines use 51mm portafilter baskets. These includes there machines such as: the Dedica, EC685, and the La Specialista. So when getting a precision basket for DeLonghi, you need to make sure you grab yourself a 51mm like the one below..
That's all on espresso machine baskets. Remember, the right basket can elevate your espresso from good to exceptional. It's a worthwhile investment for any coffee enthusiast. Happy brewing, and here's to achieving that perfect espresso shot! And if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.