You may have already purchased an espresso machine, and many come with different portafilter baskets out of the box, which will leave you with questions about what the difference is between these two types of basket and how do they effect the espresso making process and more importantly the taste of the espresso.
The difference Between Pressurised and Non Pressurised Baskets
Pressurised baskets are a type of brewing basket used in espresso machines. They are designed to produce a fuller flavour, by evenly distributing the grounds in the basket into a consistent size while they are hot. This prevents the grounds from compacting into a solid mass as they cool. The heat and pressure of the steam also helps extract the most flavour from the grounds.
Non-pressurised baskets are equipped with a two-part filter. The upper part of the filter is perforated, allowing water to soak the ground coffee, while the lower part is solid, locking in the grounds. In this way, they don’t depend on pressure to get the most flavour out of the beans and thus, do not require the same level of skill and control as a pressurised basket.
How to Identify a Pressurised Basket
Pressurised baskets are great for people new to espresso, as the pressure ensures that the coffee is evenly distributed, reducing the risk of getting an undersized or over extracted shot.
However this also puts less control in the hands of the barista, who isn’t responsible for technique nearly as much. Non-pressurised baskets are ideal for experienced baristas who would like more control and flexibility over their espresso shots. It also allows a barista to take advantage of various grinding techniques and coffee blends. It can be quite difficult to master the technique required for a perfect shot with a non-pressurised basket, but with practice, it yields some of the best results possible.
Which machines come with Pressurised Baskets?
Many entry level machines like the Sage Bambino and the Delonghi Dedica come with pressurised baskets, which are aimed at people new to the espresso brewing process. However, if you are looking for greater control, there are after market precision IMS and VST baskets available for almost all machines that will improve the shot. Many entry level machines come with pressurised baskets. Some examples include;
- Sage Bambino,
- Delonghi Dedica,
- Gaggia Classic Pro,
- Rancilio Silvia.
Which entry level machines come with non pressurised baskets?
Most entry level machines come with pressurised baskets, but there are a few models that come with non-pressurised basketsalso. Some examples include the Breville Barista Express and the Breville Oracle. These machines are designed to give users more control over their espresso shots and are suitable for those with some experience.
Troubleshooting non-pressurised baskets
Moving to an unpressurized basket requires a bit more skill and effort and relies more on the consistency of grind provided by the grinder, as the right resistance must come from the coffee grounds themselves. A non pressurised basket requires a finer grind size to give the water that required resistance. Check the following in this order;
- That the basket is properly fit in the portafilter
- The coffee grounds are fine enough to create the resistance necessary
- The pump of the espresso machine is working properly
A pressurised basket means the basket provides that resistance so is a lot more forgiving. To achieve the desired resistance, it's recommended to learn about "dialling in espresso" through videos or articles. Although it's more challenging, the reward of producing a better cup of coffee makes it a worthwhile investment of time and effort.
Are Pressurised Portafilters Bad?
They are not necessarily bad, and with freshly ground coffee can still produce a great tasting drink, however the taste profile between the two differs and in general, pressurised baskets can result in a sweeter and smoother taste profile, while non-pressurised baskets can result in a more robust and intense flavour profile. There will be a limit to how far you can go in improving the espresso shot with a pressurised basket, and ultimately becoming an experienced home barista will require a non-pressurised basket for a more nuanced and high-end espresso.