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What is a Pressurized Portafilter? (And Should You Use One?)

What is a Pressurized Portafilter?

Are you a beginning barista trying to learn everything you can about espresso? Then one thing you’ve probably already learned is that a portafilter is one of the barista’s most important tools.

If a carpenter could be represented with a hammer and a doctor with a stethoscope, then the portafilter could surely be a representation of the barista.

What you might not know if you’re a novice is that there are different kinds of portafilters. One debate many seasoned experts have is about pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters.

Before we dig into that, though, it’s crucial to understand what a pressurized portafilter is. We’ll be covering that topic in this post.

This is what you can expect to find out:

  • What a pressurized portafilter is
  • Whether you should use a pressurized or non-pressurized portafilter
  • The benefits and drawbacks of both portafilter types

What is a Pressurized Portafilter?

The difference between a pressurized portafilter and a non-pressurized one is all in the basket. With nothing more than a glance, you can tell them apart.

With a pressurized portafilter, you’ll basically have two walls rather than one on the bottom. It might not seem like much, but it makes brewing easier for inexperienced baristas.

How does it work? The extracted espresso is filtered through the first screen and then held below it. As pressure continues to build, the espresso is forced through one small hole in the bottom.

In a non-pressurized portafilter, the espresso doesn’t get held before being forced out. Instead, it can go straight to the cup.

Should You Use a Pressurized or Regular Portafilter?

Just knowing how they each work doesn’t really tell you which type of portafilter you should actually use. We’ll lay out the benefits and drawbacks to using either a pressurized or non-pressurized one below.

The Pros and Cons of a Pressurized Portafilter

"The main advantage to a pressurized portafilter is that mistakes aren’t as noticeable in the espresso."

The main advantage to a pressurized portafilter is that mistakes aren’t as noticeable in the espresso. The grounds can be inconsistent in size, or the tamping can be improper.

Regardless of what mistakes you make before brewing, the right amount of pressure can be built to brew the shot. That’s why pressurized portafilters are often packaged with beginner-level espresso machines.

There is a disadvantage to these portafilters, though, that experts will notice just by looking at the shot and sipping on it. The crema on top will appear foamier because of how the espresso gets air in it when it’s forced through the small hole in the pressurized basket.

Taste will also be different. Many espresso experts believe that espresso from a pressurized portafilter doesn’t taste as rich as espresso from a non-pressurized one.

The Pros and Cons of a Non-Pressurized Portafilter

"In a non-pressurized portafilter, the grounds and water don’t mix for as long, so your grind and tamping need to be on point."

A non-pressurized portafilter is nowhere near as forgiving as a pressurized version. In a non-pressurized portafilter, the grounds and water don’t mix for as long, so your grind and tamping need to be on point.

The immediate disadvantage to this is that it’s more difficult to use. Beginners will need to practice in order to consistently pull good shots with these portafilters.

But the result is that the shots, when they’re pulled correctly, will taste much better. The crema will develop naturally, and will be a fine golden color like honey.

Wrap Up

Your portafilter is important, so you’ll need to make sure you choose the right one for you. When it comes to pressurized vs non-pressurized, the choice will come down to your own skill level and comfort.

A pressurized portafilter will make brewing easier, but many feel you’re sacrificing quality in exchange for ease of use. On the flipside, a non-pressurized portafilter has a steeper learning curve, but the results are delicious.

If you’re interested in purchasing a new portafilter for yourself, you can view the selection in our store. You can reach out to us through our live chat at the bottom right corner of the screen on any page in the store, or you can call us at 888-978-5224 with any questions.

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