This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer for more information.
What is a Bottomless Portafilter?
A bottomless portafilter sometimes called a naked portafilter, can help you make espresso like an experienced barista
It is designed to show you the flow of the exact path your espresso is taking through the portafilter basket for you to better assess any brewing problems.
There are benefits and drawbacks to using a bottomless portafilter, but you can achieve a seriously amazing shot if you take the time to train and learn from your mistakes.
In this article, we will go over the pros and cons of using a naked portafilter and tricks to get that perfect espresso extraction.
Is a Bottomless Portafilter Better?
The short answer is yes. they can, over time, help to train you to make a truly excellent cup of espresso.
It’s a great tool for learning about the flaws in your technique and can make it easier to diagnose areas where you can improve.
It’s not an easy tool to master, however. There’s nowhere to hide the small mistakes or damages that happen in the coffee puck from tamping, dosing, or grinding, so if your technique isn’t consistent it will be apparent as you watch the extraction.
If you use high-quality coffee, however, and take the time to learn how to tamp consistently, grind your beans at the right size, your espresso will overall taste better and have an improved texture, as well.
How Do You Use a Bottomless Portafilter?
You will use it the same way you would a regular portafilter the difference will be when you watch the extraction process.
Once you’ve secured your bottomless portafilter on your espresso machine, simply brew the way you would a classic cup of espresso.
The benefit comes in watching the coffee as it’s flowing into your cup. This will provide useful information about your technique and offer insight into how you can improve your espresso brewing skills.
If you see streams squirt out the side of the basket, this is telling you that your tamping wasn’t sufficient.
You need to make sure you’re using a stainless steel tamper that is the right size for your particular portafilter.
If you notice that the stream isn’t coming out the center of the filter your grinds may be too coarse and are causing channels to open up.
Make sure you’re using a grinder with the settings to allow you to create fine grinds needed for espresso.
With a little bit of testing, you will notice your flaws and be able to correct them.
I like to write down how much grounds weighed and what setting the grinder was on to know how to adjust later if needed.
How Can You Make a Bottomless Portafilter?
There are several options available to buy bottomless portafilters and for the espresso machines that come with them.
But if you’re interested in making your own at home, you can do that as well.
I would recommend having equipment meant to machine parts, this video will show you how to do it.
You can do it with powered hand tools but make sure you are careful.
To achieve this, you’re going to want to round up some tools for cutting, grinding, and polishing stainless steel.
You have a few options, but make sure your tools are well-sharpened and that you are wearing the appropriate protective gear and working in a safe environment.
- You’ll want to start with a regular portafilter, one that is older or that you purchased for the purpose of creating your own bottomless portafilter.
- Begin by cutting off the spout, as close to the bottom as you can. Watch for sharp edges.
- Next cut a hole out of the bottom of your portafilter.
- You may do this in one of several ways. Use a saw to cut through the center and then begin cutting around the edge of the circle. Or punch holes around the edge and connect them.
- You’ll want to then begin grinding the edges down as carefully as possible until the circle becomes smooth and as large as the portafilter.
- Lastly, polish and clean your new bottomless portafilter and begin testing it out.
Bottomless Portafilter vs. Spouted Portafilters
There are benefits to using both versions and I use both throughout the day depending on what I want or the type of drink I’m making.
Here are the main reasons you’ll want to consider trying a naked portafilter.
You’ll Enjoy Even Extraction
One of the biggest benefits is that it allows you to properly see the espresso flow.
If there is an issue with the extraction, then you’ll be able to determine which part of your technique needs to be improved.
It will teach you how to tamp, grind, and dose the perfect shot so that you will get that even neat flow every time.
It’s Easier to Avoid Channeling the Flow
Channeling, as the name might indicate, occurs during the brewing process, when the water begins to bottleneck around an easy-flow egress point, rather than evenly distributing.
This means that some coffee grounds will have more flavor extracted and others less, which can lead to weak or bitter coffee.
A bottomless portafilter will allow you to look at the flow of coffee to determine if there is channeling and why it might be occurring.
You’ll know you have a professional pull when nearly the entire basket is hidden behind the flow of nectar as I like to call it.
You Can Practice Your Tamping Skills
One common reason for channeling or squirting is imperfect tamping.
Tamping is the process of packing the grounds into the basket for even distribution.
You’ll want to avoid simply pouring the coffee into the basket and then tamping down immediately, as this will create channels around the center of the basket, so your coffee will not be fully extracted.
It’s important to shake the coffee in your basket so that it is evenly distributed and to level off the coffee grounds with your fingers.
If you notice channeling consider testing different tamping techniques first.
You’ll Improve Your Technique
Because the bottomless portafilter offers such improved visibility, you’ll be able to analyze each step of the coffee-making process and determine where you can improve your technique with ease.
If you notice issues like channeling or poorly tamped coffee, it will become apparent during the brewing process, which means you can make an even better cup of espresso the next time around.
You Can Enjoy the View of the Flow
There’s no denying that flowing espresso is beautiful.
When you use a bottomless portafilter, you’ll also get to enjoy watching the lovely coffee crema form under the basket before, ideally, forming into a uniform and delicious flow.
You’ll also get to look for those classic “tiger stripes” or the blending of the light and dark coffee evenly during brewing.
You’ll Have Ease of Cleaning
Passionate coffee makers know that a good cup of coffee or espresso is really worth the time and effort it takes to clean your tools.
That said, it’s a lot quicker and more efficient to clean a bottomless portafilter because it doesn’t have many places for coffee to collect or build up.
This is helpful over time because trapped or lingering coffee can actually change the taste and scent of your brew, making it more bitter or sour.
The easier it is to clean your portafilter, the more reliable your coffee flavor will be.
The Crema is More Developed
The espresso crema is similar to the head you might find on a dark beer or stout. It is light brown or sometimes red in color and forms when the air bubbles mix with the oils in the coffee.
There are many elements that go into the perfect crema. For instance, you don’t want too much, as it reduces the amount of coffee in your pull.
You want it to last more than a quick minute before dissolving or “dropping”, and it has to have the perfect consistency, not too thick or watery.
The quality of the crema you produce can be influenced by many things, including the type of beans you use, the machine available to you, and how much practice you have at brewing espresso.
While it may seem like a lot of work to achieve the perfect result, it does influence the flavor profile and the texture.
It allows you to bring the cup much closer to the coffee basket and because there are fewer surfaces for the coffee to come in contact with after brewing, more of the air will remain.
Taller Glasses Can Fit
You have significantly more options when it comes to which cup or glass you use for your espresso when you rely on a bottomless portafilter over a spouted one.
In addition to being able to use taller glasses, since there’s now more cup clearance between the drip tray and the basket, you’ll also be able to depend upon a more constant stream, which means your pull will look more uniform and enticing in see-.
What Are the Drawbacks to Using a Bottomless Portafilter?
Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to using anything and challenges to keep in mind, as well. Here are some things you’ll want to consider before getting started.
Bottomless Portafilters Aren’t for Beginners
If you’re starting out on your coffee making journey, that’s great! You have a lot of exciting options for delicious brews and coffees to try out, but you’ll probably want to hold off on starting with a bottomless portafilter just yet.
Other portafilters are much more forgiving when it comes to perfecting your tamping technique and you’re less likely to run into issues of channeling or spraying because of it.
Crema is another element of the espresso-making process that needs to be approached manually and can be challenging to perfect.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t want to learn!
But it’s better to practice first with a more forgiving portafilter so you feel comfortable with the espresso-making process before moving on to more challenging accessories.
Bottomless Portafilters Can Make a Mess
While bottomless portafilters are much easier to clean than other coffee brewing tools, they can still be quite messy since they have a habit of shooting in unpredictable directions .
If coffee isn’t tamped properly or if there is extreme channeling, you can end up with sprays of coffee that go anywhere but the cup.
If you’re having trouble with your tamping, try a leveler.
An espresso that is properly brewed is definitely worth the mess, but it’s important to pay attention while it’s brewing and make sure to keep paper towels close by.
Bottomless Portafilters Can’t Fill Two Shots at Once
With a classic spout portafilter, you can easily pull two double shots simultaneously, each seamlessly filling a demitasse cup.
With a bottomless portafilter, the coffee can—should—only go in one direction, which means that if you’re making a lot of coffee, you could end up spending quite a bit of time at the espresso machine.
It can all be worth it for that perfect cup, however.
Bottomless Portafilters Produce a Different texture Thanks to Less Condensed Crema
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the flavor or texture of their coffee.
A crema made with a bottomless portafilter will be fluffier and richer, which can change the texture of your coffee as it slowly mixes in.
You can experiment with finding the right consistency by changing grind size, water temp, and tamping pressure.
Bottomless vs. Pressurized Portafilters
A pressurized portafilter will save you from tamping but will come at the cost of flavor and texture.
By using a second wall with a much smaller center hole, the pressurized portafilter mitigates many of the mistakes associated with a bottomless portafilter, like uneven tamping or channeling problems, since all the coffee is extracted first, before going through the second filter.
This will also help to create a crema, but it may not have the same structural integrity as one made with fewer filters and the taste can differ, as well.
In fact, the crema is horrible and not good at all, at least that’s my opinion.
By contrast, the bottomless portafilter has no extra filtering or steps, so you’ll need to be more precise in every stage of the espresso brewing process, but the coffee often comes out tasting richer and stronger and the texture is silkier and more robust.
Are Portafilters Interchangeable?
There are many different brands and manufacturers so it can be challenging to find the right portafilter to fit your machine.
Because there is no consistent measuring process across the industry, you want to be especially careful when it comes to purchasing a new portafilter.
Do your research, purchase for your brand or model, or DIY your bottomless portafilter if you cannot find the right fit.
The best way to find what size you need is to look in your manual or call customer service.
Your portafilter will even change sizes between different models made by the same company, so don’t assume they are the same.
How Full Should a Portafilter Be?
There are different size portafilters that hold different size filter baskets.
they come in single, double and triple.
The amount of coffee you pour into yours will depend on what size filter basket you have, as well as the type of espresso machine.
A single basket will hold just over 10 grams of coffee, a double basket between 14-18 grams, and a triple basket just over 20 grams.
Look at the specifics for your brand before weighing out your grinds.
You’ll want to begin by grinding your espresso or carefully spooning pre-ground espresso into your portafilter, keeping in mind that fresh espresso will have a bolder, better flavor.
After your portafilter is full, you’ll want to give it a shake and then smooth over the top using your finger. Then you are ready to begin the tamping process.
Play around with the measurements to get the perfect espresso pull for your machine every time.
You have many options and tools at your disposal when it comes to making a wonderful espresso.
Still, if you’re ready to begin challenging yourself, finding areas to improve upon, and to chase that perfect brew, a bottomless portafilter can help.
You can create a rich and silky crema, perfectly combine dark and light coffees, and learn about each stage of the brewing process with ease.