Portafilters guide for espresso fans

Victoria Woodward

UK

Here is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about portafilters and filter baskets. These little coffee tools are arguably the most important parts of your beloved espresso machine.

What makes the perfect espresso?

Baristas have many tips and tricks to pulling the perfect espresso but, ultimately, how the coffee grounds are held in your espresso machine is at the heart of a delicious shot.
 
The portafilter, its portafilter basket and the way you press (tamp) the grounds into the basket can make or break your espresso.
 
Learn how to make an espresso at home >

First up, what is a portafilter?

The portafilter (also called a ‘portaholder’) is the the device with a handle that your espresso machine pumps water into. The portafilter basket, which holds the coffee grounds, sits inside it. Let's be honest, we've all watched the barista insert the portafilter into the machine with the handle and wished we could have a go.

For perfect espresso extraction, you need to use uniformly ground coffee and evenly press it down into the portafilter basket (called ‘tamping’). To make this critical step as easy as possible to do correctly at home, we’ve given the portafilter on our espresso machines a unique flat base. It has recessed spouts so that you have a stable foundation for pressing down the grounds and achieving a consistently even tamp.

View the espresso machine >

Stainless steel Artisan espresso machine

Espresso machine - Artisan

Dual, smart temperature sensorsYes
Flat, commercial portafilter Yes
Low press pre-infusionYes
Accessories includedYes
Colours7
Material housingStainless steel
Guarantee5 years

Espresso machine

Dual, smart temperature sensorsYes
Flat, commercial portafiltersYes
Low press pre-infusionYes
Accessories includedYes
Colours
Material housingDurable plastic
Guarantee2 years

Black espresso machine

Why the tamp is so important

What's all the fuss about tamping? Well, evenly compressed coffee creates resistance, so the water has to work hard to get through. The pressure created pulls the precious oils from the grounds, giving us that intense, authentic espresso taste.

If the grounds are uneven, the water finds the gaps and moves past them, instead of extracting the flavour, leaving a tasteless, watery brew.

Love crema? Good tamping is also key to getting a lovely tan-coloured froth on top of your shot.

See what is crema in coffee?

What does the portafilter basket do?

It’s where the espresso magic happens, as the water hits the beans and extraction begins.

Water passes into the filter basket, through the ground coffee and into your cup. In the KitchenAid Espresso machine, the baskets are specially designed to be used at the high pressure created by the 15 bar Italian pump, with beans ground specifically for espresso.

And, if you grind your own coffee beans at home, you can experiment with tiny changes to the grind size to tweak your espresso’s flavour.

Explore our coffee grinder >

Choosing the size of your portafilter basket

The size of coffee filter basket you choose, depends on which kind of espresso drink you’re in the mood for.
 
If you’re drinking a pure espresso, you’ll probably opt for a single basket.
 
If you fancy a cappuccino or a latte, they are made with either a single or sometimes a double shot, topped with steamed milk and milk foam. The flat white is traditionally made with a double shot, so go for the double shot basket.
 
Discover how to froth and steam milk >

Should I choose a double or single wall portafilter basket?

There are two types of filter baskets for KitchenAid espresso machines: double wall (or pressurised) baskets and single wall (unpressurised) baskets. Your choice depends on the level of control you want over the brew process. Here’s how it works:

1)  Beginner’s choice: Double wall baskets for effortless espresso

These have the usual mesh base, plus another 'wall' that acts like a holding area, with a small hole at the bottom. Extra pressure builds to force the coffee through this hole, ensuring the water finds its way through all the coffee grounds.
 
This means that pre-ground coffee, a less precise grind, or a slightly uneven tamp, can still give you good extraction, and a lovely cup of espresso.

2)  Expert’s choice: Single wall baskets for greater control

Without the second wall, the only thing creating brewing pressure is the coffee grinds and how you tamp them – so precision in both is key.
 
Coffee lovers prefer this type of filter basket, as it allows more control. You can experiment to find the best grind for your machine and beans, to give the fullest flavours and richness.
 
Even if you’re a beginner, give this basket a go. You’ll be a pro in no time.

Discover how to grind coffee at home >

Why is a portafilter 58mm diameter? 

The popular commercial-style portafilter of 58mm diameter is one of the most traditional and enduring elements of espresso making. The reason for having this size rather than a smaller one, is that it retains temperature and distributes heat well during extraction. 

How fine should coffee be ground for espresso?

Your chosen coffee should be ground finely for making espresso with a beautiful flavour and texture. If you grind it yourself, you can make sure you have the ideal, precise grind size. When finished, it should be the consistency of ground cinnamon.

Our KitchenAid coffee grinder for the home has 70 unique grind size settings, and you can simply rotate the knob to select the one that’s right for you. Espresso should be between grind size 55-70. You can even grind directly into the portafilter so you're ready to go.

Go to the coffee grinder > 

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