Baskets of Fun for Extraordinary Espresso

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Baskets of Fun

Types of coffee beans, grind size, dosage, distributing, tamping pressure, brewing temperature, extraction time, flow appearance etc are many parameters to look out for in preparation work and determination of outcome of a coffee extraction.

If you are embarking on the next phrase of your coffee / barista journey, you would realize that there are so much more to explore besides the usual fundamentals mentioned above.  And one of these is the filter baskets.

The filter baskets may look unassuming and unnoticeable for many beginners using home espresso machines.  But as you advance to the next higher stage of coffee extraction, you will find that filter basket itself is indeed of an important status.  It works very closely with the dosage of coffee, affects mainly the rate, volume of liquid output.

Ridged OR Ridgeless?

In the market, there are ridged and ridgeless baskets.  Whether ridge or ridgeless, the decision of which one to use is based more on ease of use, locking it in and dislodging it from the portafilter.

Ridged basket has a protruding rim circumference just slightly below its top round rim.  This protruding rim allows and ensures the basket is firmly secured in the portafilter, minimizes the movement of basket while knocking out the coffee puck.  But sometimes, the firmness is in excess, which leads to extreme tightness – this makes removing the basket slightly more difficult from the portafilter.

In contrary, because that the ridgeless basket is made without the protruding ring, hence there may be times when it will fall out or dislodge itself slightly from the portafilter while one is knocking out the coffee puck – since it may rest less firmly inside the portafilter.  In view of the above, whether to select ridge or ridgeless still boils down to one’s preference.

Light OR Intense Coffee?

The above question lets you determine the type of basket shots you would need.   Generally, if you like to drink a light coffee, meaning a single shot espresso, then you would need to use a single filter basket.  For a stronger coffee, a double shot basket would then be suitable.  And if you wish to have the most intense coffee, then you may wish to consider a triple basket!

Commonly, the 2 most used baskets are the single shot and double shot ones.  To distinguish between them, a single shot basket has a clear, full tapered funnel shape while a double basket has straight wall or wall with very minimal tapered-in shape.  The amount of coffee each basket could contain is stated in the following:

  1. Single shot         =             7g to 10g
  2. Double shot       =             15g to 20g
  3. Triple shot          =             21g to 24g

The aforesaid is just a general guide to coffee dosage in a basket.  Do note that for double shot and triple shot baskets, there are in fact not much differences since they both can be used to do double espressos.   The only distinction is that the triple shot basket might have a deeper base than a double basket.   Hence when purchasing a triple shot basket, you might wish to also make sure your portafilter has sufficient height to accommodate the deeper triple basket.

To be Pressurised OR Not to be?

If you have used a standard home espresso machine, you may find that it will come with either non-pressurised (single wall) or pressurised (dual wall) filter baskets or both.  How to differentiate between these baskets?

The most distinct feature of a dual wall is that it has a single hole at the flip-bottom of the basket, while a single wall basket has the mesh-look bottom (see images below):

The dual wall trough is also known as a faux bottom basket.  The pressurised basket has a mechanism with extra pressure within the wall of the basket.  And this kind of trough is mainly used as a support to extract decent coffee from pre-ground coffee, and to try as much to obtain a fake crema from it – since coffee in powder status has already lost its freshness quicker due to oxidization, and it is more difficult or impossible to achieve quality superlative coffee from pre-ground / stale coffee.  Pressurised basket is also beneficial for those home users who are looking for a simple, easy setup without the targeted aim of achieving precise grind settings and in-depth intricacies of espresso extraction.

The dual wall filter is applied in this case to extract the most out from the coffee powder.  In summary, it regulates the pressure and optimises the extraction regardless of grind, dose, tamp pressure OR the freshness of coffee.  The downside of a pressurized basket is that it does not allow for an extraction process that will result in an authentic classic espresso taste and mouthfeel.

For single wall (non-pressurised) baskets, they are the most appropriate for quality home espresso machines as these baskets are used hand-in-hand with freshly roasted coffee beans.  Hence the standard of coffee extraction is definitely far excel that of a dual wall with pre-ground coffee. 

If you are seriously passionate about extracting superlative coffee with optimal results, the intricacies of espresso brewing, non-pressurised baskets are the best options as these are the only baskets that complement best with fresh coffee beans.  And of course, to be accompanied with high-calibre grinders with first-rate burrs will be an unparalleled combination. In this case, investing in an exceptional grinder is of utmost importance here as the best grind quality comes from a superb grinder machine.

Stock Baskets OR Precision Baskets?

Years back, as a beginner using a home espresso machine, I never thought that there are precision baskets.  At that time, I assumed that the baskets that I used are the same for all other baskets for espresso machines.  As I progressed further in my coffee making journey, I realised there are more to these – and I met the Precision Baskets.  What is Precision Basket actually?

Usually, the coffee filter baskets that come along with any home espresso machines are regular ones.  The manufacturing techniques for the baskets used by these manufacturers may not be as precise – thus may produce filter baskets which are irregular-sized, with partially or fully blocked filter holes, leading to uneven, under or over extraction when using them.

Hence the birth of Precision Basket – it is a trough with well-defined, evenly sized filtration holes.  Well known manufacturers (IMS, VST etc) are specialists in making precision baskets.  It is experimented and proven that by using precision basket, there will be minimal channelling and side extractions.  The resulting coffee extraction will be at its full optimal state / flavour.

Whether to opt for stock baskets or precision baskets is again a matter of personal preference, OR also a matter of whether you would wish to experiment / explore further in enhancing and perfecting your espresso extraction.  If this latter is the case, then you might wish to invest in precision baskets, which will unquestionably improve the calibre, and further refine your coffee extraction.

All in all, at different phases of a coffee making journey, there will always be new discovery in the form of enhanced technique, device, method etc in making your coffee taste better.  Filter basket is one of the area of devices that is often overlooked as most of us would focus more on other parameters such as grind setting, tamping pressure, brew temperature etc, of which we think would have a more direct impact on coffee extraction results.  But in fact, filter basket plays a very crucial role.  It is a linchpin in the back-end stage that determines the quality of the output too.  It is of great worth to imbue yourself with a first-rate basket for an excellent extraction. 

In a coffee making process, no one parameter that affects the quality of coffee can work singly or on its own.  For example, by getting the correct grind setting of a coffee bean type does not guarantee you an optimal coffee beverage.  It must be coupled with many other factors to achieve that perfect shot.   And as we always emphasize – enjoy the process of your coffee journey.  It is a path of trials and errors.  Once you overcome these, outstanding and peerless flavour will come to you in no time.

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