When you get a new espresso machine, it’s inevitable that you’ll get excited to brew your first shot of espresso on it. While experienced baristas can do this without question, beginners might find themselves filled with hesitance and questions of their own.
A common question we see novices asking is, how full should the portafilter be? Brewing espresso is a delicate craft in which there are many factors that need to be considered. How much to fill the portafilters with grounds is a big one.
Here’s what we’ll be addressing:
- How full should the portafilter be?
- How to pack the portafilter
How Full Should the Portafilter Be?
There isn’t one universal amount of grounds that applies to every portafilter. Like with many other things, it depends on what size of portafilter you’re using.
Generally, people use single, double, or triple basket portafilters. Typically, a single basket should hold around 11 grams, a double around 17 grams, and a triple around 21 grams.
Make sure you get a scale so you can accurately weigh out your doses.
How to Pack Your Portafilter
Now let’s look at how to actually pack your portafilter. It takes some practice to get familiar with the process.
There are a few steps:
- Grinding the espresso.
- Leveling out the grounds.
Grind the espresso.
Start by grinding your espresso. Most espresso grinders allow you to grind directly into your portafilter. Some may even have programmed single or double doses in them, so that you’ll get the amount you need for a single or double shot automatically.
A small peak should form in the middle of your portafilter as you grind. You should have the amounts we described previously once you’re done grinding, depending on the size of your basket.
If you’re using pre-ground espresso, you can spoon it into the portafilter until it forms that small peak in the center. Keep in mind, though, that grinding your espresso fresh will give you the best possible taste, and we strongly recommend doing so in the future.
Level out the grounds.
Once you’re done grinding the espresso, you’re not ready to put the portafilter into your machine yet. You have to level it out first.
You can do this with a finger. Sweep your finger across the peak, flattening out the espresso grounds much like you’d level out flour in a cup.
What you should try to do at this step is get the grounds as flat and even as possible. This will ensure all grounds are reached when you brew the shot.
Tamp the grounds.
You smoothed out the grounds with your finger, but tamping the espresso finishes the process and ensures a balanced extraction.
Hold the portafilter in one hand and your tamper in the other. Press down on the grounds so that the flat part of the tamper rests snugly in the portafilter.
Apply pressure to the tamper, pushing on the grounds. Ideally, you should apply about thirty pounds of pressure.
If you’re not sure how much that is, you can familiarize yourself with the feeling by pressing down on a scale until it registers thirty pounds.
Clean away any excess grounds that are stuck on the lip of the portafilter. Once that’s complete, you’re ready to start brewing.
Now that you know how to pack your portafilter, we hope you’re able to enjoy the best-tasting espresso. If you use the suggestions in this post, you should be able to brew a quality shot for yourself.
Don’t be disappointed if it’s not perfect right away. Brewing great shots every time takes time and practice, so keep practicing to improve the overall quality of your drinks.