Bottomless portafilters have garnered quite a bit of attention because of an obvious reason—they’re much more photogenic than regular portafilters. Most of us know bottomless portafilters from Instagram, Pinterest, and other such sites.
In fact, a quick image search of the word “portafilter” will most likely show bottomless portafilters before it shows regular portafilters.
But beyond their interesting appearance bottomless portafilters are a hot topic of debate among baristas, coffee lovers, and aficionados alike.
What is a bottomless portafilter?
A regular portafilter is technically known as a spouted portafilter. This is because it has a spout, which serves to give direction to the coffee coming out. There are different types of portafilters, like for example the double spouted portafilter, which can be used regularly or to brew two shots of espresso at the same time.
The attractiveness of spouted portafilters is their precision, and their ease of use. However… Unless you’ve used a bottomless portafilter before, you can hardly appreciate this fact. So let’s see.
Bottomless portafilters are exactly that: they have no “bottom”. Instead of a spout, there is just an empty space in there, revealing the metallic surface of the filter. They work exactly like a regular portafilter, and the fact there is no spout does not mean that coffee just drips down chaotically.
If done correctly, a bottomless portafilter shot should look a lot like this:
But that doesn’t answer the main question: are they worth it?
Are they worth It?
At first glance, it might seem like they aren’t worth it, at all. Why is that?
Turns out, getting the shot right is quite harder on a bottomless than on a spouted portafilter.
This comes down to extraction. If extraction goes perfectly, then the coffee should be coming down evenly and look just like that picture. But things don’t always go so smoothly as they do in pictures.
In real life, even extraction is very hard to master. And that means that your bottomless portafilter will pour coffee down in all sorts of ways—down the right side, with nothing coming out the left side. It’s all rather confusing.
There is a silver lining though. Having a bottomless portafilter will give you an incentive to perfect your shots. For one, there’s the incentive of being able to take breathtaking pictures to show off later on your social media.
More importantly, bottomless portafilters let you visualize your shot. Whereas with spouted portafilters you might’ve never noticed your extraction wasn’t even, bottomless ones let you know right away. That, right there, is an amazing tool.
The ability to be able to simply take a look at how your shot flows out is, to many baristas, priceless. It will let you know instantly when something isn’t going right, and you can then start to work it out—whether it's the grind size, your tamping game, or something else, that’s for you to figure out.
And the more you work toward an even extraction, the better your coffee will taste, too! It’s not all about how it looks, but also about how it tastes. The more even the extraction, the better the flavor.
Yes, bottomless portafilters are worth it, but not to everyone. Some people are more than happy with their coffee the way it is. They might not have the passion, the time, or the energy to start perfecting their shot so it comes out seamlessly. In their case, a bottomless portafilter would be more of a nuisance, actually.
But if you’re a passionate coffee aficionado that takes pleasure in perfecting their craft, a bottomless portafilter might just be one of the best tools for you.
What are your thoughts? Let us know below!