Bottomless Portafilter Vs Regular: Which One Is Better?

We know bottomless mimosas are always a “yes,” but are bottomless portafilters?

If you’re a coffee lover who aims to make the perfect cup every time, you may be wondering if it’s better to use a bottomless portafilter or regular portafilter.

This question has been brewing for years in the coffee world, so you're not alone!

The good news is that I've done the investigating for you, so let's get into the differences between each one so you can select the right one for better espresso quality!

Coffee is often associated with a lower risk of disease and can even lower our risk of mortality.[1]

It’s probably even associated with a lower risk of mortality for the people around us, keeping us in a good mood and ready to take on whatever comes our way.

Not just any coffee will do, though. It’s all about making that life-changing espresso. So which portafilter is best for our goals? I’ve broken down all the details here.

1. Design

With a normal portafilter, espresso doesn’t travel directly into the cup. It first drips onto the bottom of the portafilter, then travels down the one or two spouts.

Bottomless portafilters don’t have either of these features, so the espresso drips straight from the filter basket into your cup!

2. Splashing Or Spraying

Bottomless portafilters can make a big mess during the espresso extraction process. If you didn’t tamp down the coffee properly, water could spray and splash everywhere.

My first week using an espresso machine, I literally sprayed espresso all over my shirt, which was obviously a lot of fun!

With a regular portafilter, this is almost impossible. If any espresso or water starts gushing out, it’ll be caught by the bottom of the portafilter before flowing out through the spout(s).

Pulling Espresso Shot On The Rocket Appartamento

3. Crema

Crema is that deliciously rich foam that sits on top of your espresso. There are many baristas who swear that bottomless portafilters produce thicker crema.

The logic behind this is that a bottomless portafilter facilitates an uninterrupted flow of espresso from the basket to the cup, while the crema can stick to the spouts of a regular portafilter.

Moreover, if the spout is cold, this can make the crema cool, sinking into the cup quicker. If solely speaking from my own experience, I don’t notice much of a difference in this regard. 

I feel that the freshness of coffee grounds and extraction technique are what will really determine if you end up with a rich crema or not.

4. Taste

Using a bottomless portafilter or a regular portafilter isn’t really going to affect the taste itself.

However, it could have an indirect effect by changing your espresso-making practices. This goes hand-in-hand with some of the other points I've detailed here.

Still, as you're able to quickly diagnose any undesirable espresso technique with a bottomless portafilter, I'd say it will ultimately result in a more delicious espresso than its spouted counterpart.

5. Splitting Espresso Shots

I know it seems like there is just nothing that the naked portafilter can do wrong, but if you want to make cortados, piccolos, and other recipes that don’t call for a double shot, you’ll have to take an extra step to make them with a bottomless portafilter.[2]

Regular portafilters with double spouts make this a breeze, as the espresso seamlessly pours into two cups.

With that being said, if you plan on making these recipes, spouted portafilters are going to be easier for beginner baristas.

Splitting Espresso Shots

6. Ability To Diagnose Channeling

Channeling occurs due to an uneven extraction likely caused by an uneven tamp or improper distribution of grind.

Rather than the water traveling evenly throughout the coffee puck, it instead finds a little side street.

This typically resembles multiple streams coming out of the portafilter, producing either overly bitter or bland, watery coffee.

A spouted portafilter will hide these streams, so no matter how dialed-in your coffee extraction process is, it’ll present the same way.

However, a bottomless portafilter exposes every nuance and flaw, and it’ll let you know if you need to work on your technique.

You’ll easily be able to see these streams come out, thanks to the open bottom.

7. Maintenance And Cleaning

Regardless of which portafilters you use, you’ll have to regularly clean them. However, cleaning a regular portafilter can be a bit more tedious as there are more parts involved.

Oils can easily become trapped underneath the filter basket and on the spout, which requires regular cleaning.

Naked portafilters have a smaller surface area, and you generally just need to wash them out with some water after each use.

Overall, maintenance and cleaning are significantly easier when using a bottomless portafilter.

Cleaning a portafilter

What Is A Bottomless (AKA "Naked") Portafilter?

A naked portafilter is a component of an espresso machine that features an open underside.

This design is preferred by professional baristas and serious home baristas, and is a great learning tool.

Why You Should Use A Naked Portafilter

When making espresso correctly, a naked portafilter is incredibly satisfying to use.

Few things are more beautiful than watching a well-pulled shot of espresso perfectly cascade like liquid gold into a cup or shot glass.

While the visual aspect alone sold me, using a bottomless portafilter helps with maintenance as you don't have to worry about buildup creating a bitter taste.

However, the biggest plus is undoubtedly how it can improve your coffee technique.

The espresso flows out without hiding anything, resulting in you pulling better shots with a richer taste, perfecting grind size, and improving puck prep.

Why You Shouldn’t Use A Naked Portafilter

If you purchase a new bottomless portafilter, keep in mind that they aren’t compatible with all espresso machines.

Not only that, but if you don’t pull a well-extracted espresso, you may experience espresso spraying all over the place!

Not to mention, a bottomless model can’t automatically split between two cups.

Naked Portafilter Extracting Espresso

What Is Regular (AKA "Spouted") Portafilter?

A regular or spouted portafilter is a portafilter that has a closed bottom that features either one or two spouts for the coffee to come out from. These are more common.

Why You Should Use A Spouted Portafilter

If you’re new to brewing espresso, you will likely find a spouted portafilter to be convenient.

You can choose one with single or double spouts, depending on what kind of recipes you’re interested in making.

Thanks to the closed bottom, they allow for more pressure during coffee extraction, which can actually create a more robust flavor.

Most espresso machines are compatible with them, and you don’t have to deal with a crazy mess splashing over the drip tray (or even your clothes!) if you don’t pull a shot correctly.

Overall, a solid bottom portafilter can be a nice option for barista trainers and those just learning about the art.

Why You Shouldn’t Use A Spouted Portafilter

If you’d like to really start experimenting and improve your espresso game, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of guesswork when using a portafilter with a solid bottom.

You won’t be able to diagnose problems as easily as you don’t have a direct view from the filter baskets. Not to mention, it’s more difficult to clean and keep up with equipment maintenance.

Spouted Portafilter Extracting Espresso

Considerations When Buying A Bottomless Portafilter

Bottomless portafilters tend to be a bit more expensive than regular portafilters, though I'd say you're also paying for that elevated quality you get when you use them.

Consider if you're going to regularly make drinks that call for split shots and if you're willing to lengthen the process to make them if you decide on a naked portafilter.

However, if you want to really improve your coffee brewing technique or care about espresso quality above all, the benefits of a naked portafilter are endless.

Common Portafilter Questions Answered

Is a bottomless portafilter messy?

If you haven't perfected your coffee puck and tamping yet, a bottomless portafilter can get pretty messy! The espresso basket is completely exposed, so the water flows right from the basket to the cup (ideally). If it's split into streams, it can spray and splash everywhere.

Why is my bottomless portafilter spraying everywhere?

Your bottomless portafilter is spraying everywhere because of uneven tamping, incorrect grind size, wrong coffee dose, worn or damaged filter basket, almost certainly. A bottomless portafilter yields higher-quality coffee if done right, though you'll really have to put effort into making sure you've achieved even tamping, used fresh coffee grounds, and so on.

How much coffee do you put in a bottomless portafilter?

For a bottomless portafilter, aim for around 18 grams of ground coffee.

So, Should You Go Bottomless?

So, is a bottomless portafilter better than a regular portafilter? That all depends on you and your coffee goals. If you're serious about improving your skills, I'd say go for a naked filter.

If you're all about double shots and just want an average cup of coffee, then you may be better off with a regular version.



Kayla Stavridis

Kayla Stavridis

Kayla Stavridis is the Head of Marketing here at Barista HQ. While keeping up-to-date on the latest trends in coffee, you can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening. She is passionate about keeping you informed about what’s new in coffee.

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