Why Pressurized portafilters Shouldn’t Be Your First Choice

pressurized portafilter on a white background with a plastic scooper sitting next to it

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A pressurized portafilter is a much more forgiving accessory that doesn’t require as much of a learning curve to learn how to use.

Still, if you value your espresso’s quality, you will want to read further to see if you can live with some of the drawbacks it causes.

What is a Pressurized Portafilter?

Most of the time, when you make espresso shots in a home or commercial machine, the coffee passes through a single wall filter basket, either exiting through a spouted or bottomless portafilter.

The pre-ground coffee actually passes through a double screen with a pressurized portafilter, first through a large screen, traditional in a non-pressurized basket.

Then the coffee is funneled through a smaller hole in the second filter. The extra pressure created when moving the coffee from the larger holding area through the small exit is how the pressurized portafilter gets its name.

A pressurized portafilter sitting under a burr grinder being filled with fine espresso bean grinds

How Does a Pressurized Portafilter Work?

The hot water enters the first wall of the filter, turning the grinds into the coffee. It then forces the brewed coffee through a single hole in the second filter wall, creating consistent pressure throughout the brewing process.

How Does the Filter on a Pressurized Portafilter Differ From a Non-Pressurized Version?

An unpressurized basket has an internal screen that filters the coffee into a confined vessel with a single hole at the bottom.

In the holding area, espresso collects before being forced through a hole by the machine’s pressure.

Generally, these baskets are more “forgiving” because they allow for various ground coffee as the coffee stays in contact with the water longer.

Since it is forced into a holding area, it is less important to have precise gradation on the grounds themselves.

The ‘fake’ crema results come from the espresso being aerated more as it is forcefully forced through the small spout rather than from fine espresso extraction

What is a Dual Wall Filter?

The dual wall filter refers to the second filter through which the coffee is funneled and pressurized.

It’s a 2 step process that leaves the coffee in contact with the water longer to help it brew under pressure.

A stainless steel tamper in a non-pressurized portafilter

Do You Tamp a Pressurized Portafilter?

Some people hate tamping the coffee grounds into their portafilter basket, which is one of the main benefits of using this type of portafilter.

With a pressurized portafilter, you won’t want to tamp your coffee. Brush the excess espresso grinds off the top with your finger and give it a light tap to ensure the basket is properly filled.

Is it Hard to Clean a Pressurized Portafilter?

Cleaning them can be a little bit tricky since the grinds can become stuck or hardened over time.

While there are DIY ways to clean them at home, a combination of running water through your espresso system and using specific portafilter cleaners is probably your best bet.

Pressurized VS. Non-Pressurized

There are pros and cons to consider for both brands, and you’ll want to experiment with both of them to see which is best for your lifestyle and expertise.

Here are just some of the things you’ll want to consider when deciding between a pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter.

Pressurized Portafilter Pros

2 shots of espresso sitting on the drip tray with a thick crema in glass cups

You Create More Crema

Pressurized portafilters create more pressure during the brewing process. That means more of that delicious classic espresso crema, without any extra work.

This is a big deal if you’re used to a thick, rich, silky crema.

The flavor and texture will be very different then what you’re used to.

You Don’t Have to Worry About Tamping.

Tamping can be a little tricky to master, but you don’t have to worry about that with this type. It will ensure that there is even pressure across all of the espresso grinds.

It also means you can’t tweak your technique and experiment with different flavors.

Your Coffee Grind Doesn’t Have To Be As Fine.

Normally, espresso needs a fine grind size; these details don’t matter as much now since your coffee will be sitting in the holding basket longer as it filters through the center hole second filter basket.

The grind doesn’t need to be as fine, and there is more wiggle room when it comes to the quality of your grinder, espresso machine, and the beans you use.

a Table of pros and cons referring to pressurized portafilters vs. non-pressurized portafilters

Pressurized Portafilter Cons

It Can Be Challenging to Clean

Cleaning a pressurized portafilter can be a little annoying and requires more work and materials than other filters.

You Don’t Have As Much Control

If you had a quality Delonghi espresso machine with 15 bars of pressure and a built-in burr grinder, you would be able to pull high-quality shots.

This would be mostly because it would come with a spouted portafilter that you would be able to change the amount of coffee, grind size, and the tamping technique to change the flavor and texture.

You will no longer be able to do that, and you will be making a sub-par espresso because of it.

A man making a foul looking face due to his espresso tasting bad after making it in a pressurized portafilter

It Can Alter the Flavor

You usually get more crema when you use a pressurized portafilter. A non-pressurized version will produce a thinner crema that will make your coffee taste weak.

This can severely change the way it tastes especially if you’re used to a richer espresso.

Non-Pressurized Portafilter Pros

The Flavor is Rich

Your coffee spends less time sitting, which means the flavor is often bolder and richer.

Due to this, you will never see a professional barista use anything else; it would only ruin the roasted coffee taste.

You Can Change Your Process

When you’re in charge of the tamping and brewing process, you’ll be able to change your methods and adjust to meet your brewing needs.

This makes it easier to get that perfect cup of coffee.

crema pouring out the bottom of a non-pressurized portafilter

Your Crema Will Be Fresher

The crema is an essential part of quality espresso shots.

While you’ll get more crema from a pressurized system, since the pressure literally creates crema, the crema from a non-pressurized portafilter will have slight variations like flavor and texture.

Non-Pressurized Cons

It Takes Time to Master

To use a spouted or bottomless portafilter correctly, you have to know how to tamp correctly, grind your coffee beans to the right size, and use the correct coffee measurement.

This leads to more of a learning curve, but the result is so much more enjoyable.

You Need a Fine Grind

A pressurized portafilter is much more forgiving when it comes to your coffee grind’s fineness, but when it comes to the non-pressurized one, a fine coffee grind is necessary’s not always easy to achieve.

It’s Not Inexpensive or Quick

A really good espresso coffee grinder is not inexpensive.

Freshly ground coffee only lasts a few days, and so if you want regular coffee, you’ll have to get used to grinding pretty often. If you’re not interested in grinding at home, a pressurized portafilter is probably a better choice to fit your needs.


Pressurized portafilters are excellent tools that can be used to help you achieve a quality cup of espresso at home.

There are benefits and drawbacks to using one, but if you’re interested in saving time and money, it may be worth the decreased quality of espresso it will make.