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What's the deal with bottomless portafilters?


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From what I've read elsewhere, I understand that the theory is that the bottom of the filter acts as a heat sink which adversely affects the final results... the idea is that the coffee should go from grounds to cup at the same temperature with no increases or decreases along the way. Also a good way of ensuring that the puck is not channeling but rather extracting evenly throughout by means of visual inspection of where the coffee stream exits the filter basket.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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The bottomless PF helps a lot in diagnosing distribution/packing problems in your pucks. It does make it harder to get the espresso into a shot glass, but I've had no problems pulling shots into Illy espresso cups.

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Okay, interesting. I can buy the argument that it's useful as a diagnostic tool for packing technique. That makes perfect sense, although I'm not sure why you'd want to use it as the regular everyday portafilter instead of as an occasional diagnostic tool. Not so sure I buy the "heat sink" argument, though. If the portafilter is properly preheated, it shouldn't be meaningfully different in temperature from the rest of the path traveled by the water. And, of course, unless the coffee grounds are also preheated, there is going to be a slight modification of the temperature simply due to the grounds absorbing heat from the water. Having a greater thermal mass in the portafilter should only provide more temperature stability, not less.

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I can't imagine ever getting to the point where all my shots are perfect, so since I expect to be learning from each shot I screw up over the next several years I figure I might as well use the bottomless PF all the time. The other nice thing about the bottomless PF is that you've got one fewer thing to clean - the espresso only ever touches the basket so the PF never gets coated in old coffee oil.

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I don't understand why someone is necessitating your portafilter be in thermal equilibrium. An extraction is necessarily a non-equilibrium process, so having the temperatures be sans-equilibrium (but close) sounds reasonable to me.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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And of course, we should not disregard the coolness factor, which may be germane to using a bottomless holder. I have noticed a big upsurge in photographs of pulling a shot with a bottomless holder. So far, I have not felt the need to spend $ 50-65 for one. I did borrow one for a bit and confirmed that I have no problems with puck channeling, but I was already pretty sure of that.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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They're only cool until the interfere with the barristo pulling my espresso. Then, I may come over the counter and caffeinate myself in a most un-customer-like fashion.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Some say you end up with more crema. From experience I'd have to say it depends on the coffee and blend. I do find that in general the crema is thicker and more abundant when using a bottomless portafilter but the ultimate product and taste is unchanged. I'll have to admit that it's cool to see your espresso come out of the PF in a glop of tiger striped goodness though. It can be much messier too if you don't have good tamping/grinding techniques due to spurting.

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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It's a useful training and diagnostic tool.

It also changes the mouthfeel, which can be positive with some coffees and not with others.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly unless you're a pro in which case training is the most important) it eliminates the need to clean your portafilter and spouts every 45 minutes to reduce contaminants.

As for the various heat issues noted above - they're pretty much just myth (both in terms of positive and negative impact).

fanatic...

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. . . it eliminates the need to clean your portafilter and spouts every 45 minutes to reduce contaminants.

This, I suspect, is the biggest part of the bottomless portafilter's popularity in professional settings. That and the techie/trendy appeal.

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eliminates the need to clean your portafilter and spouts every 45 minutes to reduce contaminants.

That's something that we were never clued in to when I worked for $tarbuck$ It probably would have helped to some extent (but not nearly enough)

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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I took one of my extra portafilter handles to a local "aqua-cut" shop to have it converted but still have to pick it up and test it. And I just spent a couple days hanging out with a coffee business friend whose opinions I hold in high regard. I inquired as to why he wasn't using the bottomless PF I saw sitting on top of his machine. He shrugged and said "because I can't taste any difference". But he's not pulling shots in a busy cafe - he pulls them just to test the coffee - and thorughly cleans any PF at the end of any session (always a good idea). I'm thinkin that for many of us it might make little to no difference. But I'll soon find out how and where my dosing, packing and tamping techniques need improvement and that's worth something to me.

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There is NO taste difference. There is however a difference in the amount and consistancy of the crema.

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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I found a slight taste difference... higher astringency and bitterness perception..... It's a very interesting development, but I prefer the taste of my espresso from spouted right now, because it tastes smoother, clearer, perhaps lusher.... perhaps because of filtration or some sort of solid breakdown that happens in the spout... definitely worth exploring

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Good point. Thanks Chris.

For those that aren't aware, I'm used to tasting a blend of different varieties from the Daterra farm of the Cerrado, Minas Gerais, Brazil. It's roasted to between the end of 1st crack and beginning of 2nd crack (light roast). Beans given 2-8 day gentle rest, pulled on La Marzocco, with ridged double basket, 198 degree water, 13 gram weight, 1.8 espresso volume pulled in 25-30 seconds.

Edited by SL28ave (log)
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Good point. Thanks Chris.

For those that aren't aware, I'm used to tasting a blend of different varieties from the Daterra farm of the Cerrado, Minas Gerais, Brazil. It's roasted to between the end of 1st crack and beginning of 2nd crack (light roast). Beans given 2-8 day gentle rest, pulled on La Marzocco, with ridged double basket, 198 degree water, 13 gram weight,  1.8 espresso volume pulled in 25-30 seconds.

I roasted a couple samples from Daterra last week. Aren't they wonderful??? Perhaps a touch too acidic for me (La Pavoni pulled espresso) but really good. I also roasted them quite light. Of the four I tried the Bourbon was my favorite. They do make HUGE crema. I didn't give them the 2-8 day rest.... Why do you do that? To lessen the acidity??

Ken

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You want the coffee to degas. This will result in improved balance, sweetness and body and dramatically improved mouthfeel.

Thanks Malachi, I'd always heard that was 1-3 days. I'd never heard 8. I very much respect your opinions here, Malachi. Do you rest your coffee for 8 days??

I noticed with the Dateras a sever decline in crema production after it was 7 days old. I also started picking up some sour notes I hadn't noticed before but I think I was over extracting trying to get back to the volumes I'd started with.

I roasted it Monday and did one shot of each sample Wednesday. They were all great but, to me, the Bourbon showed the best balance and had more 'bottom end' to it. By Friday I'd blended the Bourbon with some Peaberry and Sweet. That was nice too but I prefered the Bourbon by itself.

Ken

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Thanks Malachi, I'd always heard that was 1-3 days. I'd never heard 8. I very much respect your opinions here, Malachi. Do you rest your coffee for 8 days??

I noticed with the Dateras a sever decline in crema production after it was 7 days old. I also started picking up some sour notes I hadn't noticed before but I think I was over extracting trying to get back to the volumes I'd started with.

Ken

I should have revised my statement to say, "I taste the espresso betwen 2-8 days."

There shouldn't be an absolute consensus that all beans are no good for everyone after 8 days anyways. I know of at least one roaster in Europe that is doing amazing light roasted single origin espressos, and they claim it peaks slightly more than a week after roasted. But the beans need to be stored away from oxygen, heat, light at every moment. (this is not a time to be shutting any doors, IMO)

Is it the new crop Yellow Bourbon you're liking?

Edited by SL28ave (log)
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Thanks Malachi, I'd always heard that was 1-3 days. I'd never heard 8. I very much respect your opinions here, Malachi. Do you rest your coffee for 8 days??

I noticed with the Dateras a sever decline in crema production after it was 7 days old. I also started picking up some sour notes I hadn't noticed before but I think I was over extracting trying to get back to the volumes I'd started with.

Ken

I should have revised my statement to say, "I taste the espresso betwen 2-8 days."

There shouldn't be an absolute consensus that all beans are no good for everyone after 8 days anyways. I know of at least one roaster in Europe that is doing amazing light roasted single origin espressos, and they claim it peaks slightly more than a week after roasted. But the beans need to be stored away from oxygen, heat, light at every moment. (this is not a time to be shutting any doors, IMO)

Is it the new crop Yellow Bourbon you're liking?

Ahhh.. Very good. That sounds more like what I did. Similar times to what you experienced. Since I roast every week I haven't found a need to experiment with getting beans to peak 7 days after roasting. It does sound intriguing though. (Sorry - I didn't get the reference to "shutting any doors" but forgive me, I'm fighting off a cold or something today...)

The package only said Bourbon so I would assume it is not the current crop of Yellow. There was a Sweet and a Sweet Yellow as well. All were quite good but the Bourbon really caught my interest..

Ken

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I just tried a Daterra for the first time and was blown away. It was the "Ecco Reserve Espresso " (which I think may have been a 2004 COE winner).

It was so sweet that even the tiniest bit of raw sugar would have spoiled the flavor for me (I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon to espresso if I'm drinkiing it rather than trying to assess the taste and I also usually add about 1/4 teaspoon to most short cappa's or machiatto's).

Pertinent to this thread is the fact that it was made with LM portafilter that was not bottomless but had no spout screwed on - the espresso just dropped straight out the bottom through the small opening. I wonder if that achieves some middle ground between spouted and bottomless? (from a texture or flavor perspective is what I mean)

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The combination of green bean plus roast means there is no real way to say "you should degas your coffee for exactly X days always". I've never tasted an espresso that peaked at beyond 6 days or before 2 days (IMHO and to my taste). That being said, I always taste over the full range of 24 hours to 10 days and track the changes to the flavour during that time.

fanatic...

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That being said, I always taste over the full range of 24 hours to 10 days and track the changes to the flavour during that time.

I've just started to do the same thing.... It's really interesting to track the changes.

Ken

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