Having a semi-automatic espresso machine is one of the most wonderful matters, as you can have the luxury of handcrafting your café-style coffee at the comfort of your home.
In this way, making espresso coffee is easily within reach since it is a long-established means for such purpose. But it does not mean that the equipment will automatically provide your expected perfect coffee. It is a device to extract espresso / coffee. To create optimal, palatable espresso requires number of factors such as beans’ freshness, finding the right coffee grind size, brewing temperature, barista’s application techniques – just to name a few.
And of all the factors that determine an optimal extraction, one of the most overlooked one would be the filter basket itself. You may think that all filter baskets are essentially identical, but in fact they are not. There are the precision baskets OR the standard ones, and these 2 baskets produce starkly different performances in extractions
Some people may not be entirely convinced of the differences, and to spend higher price on premium, precisely-made baskets – this may be due to the general perception that the precision basket as an overrated item that is not crucial enough to be indispensable, that it is simply a basket with filtration holes – people would rather stick with the standard stock baskets they have which have the same function.
If refinement of extraction and further achieving that highest level of palatability in espresso are not in your barista journey list, then precision basket may not be a priority for you.
Whether or not you are keen in obtaining refinement in your espresso, do bear in mind one authentic fact: that there is a difference when using a premium, precision basket from a normal stock basket.
Per our previous article on filter baskets, precision (competition) baskets are named as such as they are made very exact in terms of the number, size, shape of the holes etc, unlike OEM / stock baskets where they are not made to measure in an accurate and precise manner.
For a better understanding of the usefulness of the baskets, let’s start with firstly the grinding of coffee beans. With an unparalleled grinder, the particles of coffee beans after grinding are often consistent and uniform. But when grinding with a standard grinder, the particles that come out may be less even, resulting in particles of different shapes and sizes. Even after tamping, these underlying differences still exist.
These inconsistent grind sizes result in particles which end up clogging or obstructing one OR more of the basket holes. You might think that the odds of blockage of these openings are low, but even with minimal clogs, the impact on the resulting extraction will still be great. Besides this, the obstruction may also be due to the uneven hole sizes, shapes and made of the baskets.
The shape and size accuracies of the holes have a rather big influence on how likely they will be obstructed. A mediocre basket normally would not have meticulous precise finish – the filtration holes of a stock basket may be irregular, craggy, and uneven. The coffee particles may get stuck on these rough edges, causing blockage of proper water flow.
On the contrary, on a gilt-edge, professional precision basket, the edges of the tiny holes are smooth, precisely even and circular. In view of this, precision basket has much lesser hole variability than the standard one. Precision basket has scrupulously engineered measurements on dosage and filter holes. Each hole on every basket is measured for nearest exactitude in position, circularity, square area etc before fitting for market usage.
Manufacturer such as IMS invests effort and time in many aspects that immensely enhance a basket’s performance. The domains they look at can range from shape of basket, size of filtration holes, finishings of holes to geometry, material used etc.
As a result, competition baskets usually
a) deliver consistency in shots without sacrificing flavour. They also produce higher delicacy and sweetness in espresso, with preeminent evenness in texture and body too.
b) will lower the chances of coffee flow blockage and channelling during extraction.
Hence the conclusion is that standard stock baskets tend to result in excessive channelling whereas the precision baskets produce very light and few instances of channelling.
With the said explanation, If you are still undecisive on whether to stick with the standard baskets OR use precision baskets, here are the summarized points to help you:
- If you are excited and passionate about improving each successive espresso shots, then switching to a precision basket will let you be able to attain this.
- If you are one who seeks continuous espresso refinement and perfection, then competition basket will be the one for you.
- If enhancement in palatability in espresso is what you wish to achieve, then a premium filter basket is essential.
To reiterate, many do not mind investing in a precision basket because they understand the fact that how much difference it could make to an espresso in terms of texture and taste.
Like what I have emphasized earlier in this article, the precision filter basket is like the espresso machine – it is a superlative device, a complementary tool in the process of making good espresso.
But do note that although precision basket performs to a far better extent than the standard basket, still If you expect that by using the precision basket, it will give you instant peerless result, then you might be disappointed.
Precision basket does not perform magic, nor gives you immediate superb coffee. A lot of work still needs to be put in on perfecting your crafting process, and the various parameters before an immaculate espresso to your own expectation could be created. Using a precision basket tests very much on your craft OR skill level, also shows the absolute truth on how good you are in making an espresso. In view of this, precision basket is unquestionably a must-have enhancement tool for that final refined, distinctive espresso.
In conclusion, if you are one who solely prefers a convenient, decent espresso, do not mind a mediocre flavour, then a standard basket will be sufficient.
If you are one who is looking for progress in espresso texture, taste refinement etc, then a precision basket is an important requisite. Nevertheless, the most crucial of all in espresso making, as we at BrewRatio always emphasize is – explore the possibilities, enjoy the process and pleasant experiences of espresso creations.