Pressurized Vs. Non-Pressurized Espresso Baskets

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Many entry-level espresso machines come with both non-pressurized and pressurized filter baskets. While the two basket types may look almost identical when sitting in a filter basket holder, each type of portafilter basket is suitable for things.

Let’s compare the pressurized vs non-pressurized portafilter. It is crucial to understand the best basket to use for any particular coffee, skill level, and coffee machine and how they affect your shot quality.

What Is A Pressurized Espresso Basket?

Pressurized baskets are sometimes known as dual-wall filter baskets. They differ from non-pressurized portafilters because they have just one tiny hole in the bottom instead of dozens. Even then, the differences between the two are not immediately apparent-the best way to see which is to hold each up to the light. Then you will see clearly that the pressurized basket has one hole while the non-pressurized basket has many more.

pressurized-basket-with-one-hole

Dual wall filters are useful if you’re using a grind size typically inappropriate for espresso. This includes using pre-ground coffee. They are also perfect if you want decent-quality espresso but lack the expertise to dial in for the best possible drink.

The pressurized espresso basket has only one hole, which ensures that all the pressure needed to force through the coffee is generated in the basket. This means you can create a satisfying espresso with good crema regardless of coffee, grind size or tamping quality, or skill level.

Who Is It Suitable For?

Pressurized filter baskets are best suited for people with neither the barista skills to dial in for perfect espresso nor the type of coffee appropriate for espresso. For example, if you’re using pre-ground coffee or don’t have a good espresso grinder that can grind to a precise size, you can still make good espresso with a pressurized portafilter.

That’s because pressurized baskets are far more forgiving to both the type of coffee used and the skill level of the domestic brewer. Pressurized baskets are also useful for anyone who is using an entry-level espresso machine.

Of course, the quality of the coffee will suffer compared to using a non-pressurized filter basket, but you should still get a good espresso regardless of your skill level or the coffee you use.

What Is A Non-Pressurized Filter Basket

Non-pressurized baskets are sometimes called single-wall baskets. They differ from pressurized filter baskets because they have many holes through which the coffee emerges, instead of just one.

non-pressurized-basket

They are the original type of basket and are still the preferred basket in commercial espresso machines when used by professional baristas. Also, they are often used in high-end domestic espresso machines for those who want to take their espresso brewing to a higher level.

Many espresso enthusiasts prefer to use a non-pressurized basket (single wall basket) with a bottomless portafilter. This allows them to correctly extract the espresso as the coffee emerges evenly through the dozens of holes. In addition, this allows baristas to diagnose a problem with a shot or make any adjustments necessary to get the perfect shot, as they can observe elements like the color and flow rate of the coffee as it emerges from the basket.

Who Is It Suitable For?

Non-pressurized filter baskets are ideal for those who are either skilled in dialing in for the perfect shots or want to learn how to improve their expertise.

For example, if you enjoy grinding fresh coffee beans and have a top-quality grinder that can grind to the correct size by incremental adjustments, a non-pressurized portafilter is an excellent choice as it offers full control over the espresso shot.

Pressurized vs. Non-Pressurized Portafilter Baskets – What’s The Difference?

User Friendliness

If you’re using a pressurized portafilter, you don’t need to worry about elements, including getting the precise grind size. Indeed, you can even use pre-ground coffee with a pressurized basket and still achieve a good shot. Cheaper grinders are also ideal when using pressurized filters. In other words, they are far more user-friendly than non-pressurized filter baskets.

On the other hand, non-pressurized baskets need the appropriate skill to make the perfect shot. There are many aspects to making the perfect espresso, including achieving the correct grind size and selecting the correct coffee beans.

This means you either need to have highly developed barista skills or be prepared to learn how to become an expert via a process of trial and error. If you do this, you can get a more satisfying espresso using a non-pressurized portafilter.

grinding-coffee

Crema

For many people, the crema on their espresso is a determining factor in whether they consider the beverage to be of the necessary quality.

Pressurized portafilters create larger bubbles resulting in a foamier, less authentic crema. This may not be an issue if you’re not an espresso aficionado.

staresso-espresso-shot
Even a portable espresso maker Staresso can pull espresso shot with rich crema thanks to the pressurized basket.

However, if you’re a serious espresso enthusiast, you may prefer a non-pressurized basket. That’s because they make far more authentic crema. For example, it will be creamier and less foamy if done correctly.

wacaco-picopresso-pulling-shot
In comparison, Picopresso uses a non-pressurized basket, the crema is richer and creamier.

Shot Quality

A pressurized portafilter doesn’t offer much control over the extraction process, while a non-pressurized portafilter enables you to take control of the whole process. However, pressurized baskets help balance out the quality of the shot regardless of the coffee and grind size you use.

solis-barista-perfetta-pulling-a-shot

When using a non-pressurized basket, it’s important to correct the grind size. So, if your ground coffee is too fine, the extra resistance can cause the coffee to taste bitter. However, if the coffee is very coarse, your coffee will be watery and weak despite it potentially having a good crema.

Therefore, many entry-level espresso machines only have double-wall baskets, as they produce an espresso shot that looks and tastes good no matter what bean or grind size you use.

espresso-shot-from-lelit-bianca

Grind Size

If you’re using a pressurized portafilter, we suggest using a coarser grind size. However, we don’t recommend using a grind size suitable for drip coffee.

staresso-pro-step-2-tamp-coffee

If you’re using a non-pressurized portafilter, it’s essential to prepare the coffee puck correctly. If the coffee grounds are too coarse, the shot will be under-extracted. This will lead to a sour and weak coffee. On the other hand, if the grounds are too fine, they will clog the tiny holes and over-extract your espresso. Indeed, sometimes even the freshness of the beans you’re using dictates the perfect grind size. One or two steps of adjustments can make a real difference.

To get the perfect shot with a non-pressurized filter basket, you must be prepared to make several adjustments. Therefore, it may be necessary to try different beans and roast levels.

Final Thoughts

While non-pressurized and pressurized filter baskets may look identical at first glance, one subtle difference ensures they behave very differently and are appropriate for different users. The number of holes through which the coffee emerges greatly affects the quality, the amount of control it offers, and the skill level necessary for each.

If you have an entry-level espresso machine and are just beginning your espresso journey, it’s a good idea to begin with a pressurized filter basket until you get used to the machine and the process.

However, If you want to learn how to become an expert espresso barista, providing you have a decent grinder, you should use a non-pressurized basket to hone your skills and produce beautiful espresso as good as any you find in a coffee shop.