What Is A Portafilter On An Espresso Machine? (Expert Guide)

Whether you're an absolute newbie or just trying to perfect your knowledge of all things "espresso," you may wonder what a portafilter is.

This component is a part of every espresso machine.

In fact, it's likely the most important one! This handy guide will help you identify the portafilter on your machine and learn what it's for, the different types, and how to use one correctly!

A portfilter is a critical component of any espresso machine. If you take a look at your espresso machine, you'll immediately notice a handle sticking out.

On the end of the handle is a little basket that holds the coffee grounds.

Hot water travels through these coffee grounds to extract espresso and leave you with a delicious cup of coffee. Simply put, it's where all the magic happens!

They’re almost always made of either stainless steel, aluminum, or brass.

The cylindrical part fits nicely into the group head of espresso machines and allows for a more effective extraction process.

Components Of A Portafilter & What They’re Used For

While the portafilter is a relatively easy concept in theory, it involves many different components.

This can make it a bit intimidating to use when you're first starting to learn about espresso making. Let's break each component down and make things easy for you!


As you can probably guess, the handle is the portion of the portafilter that sticks out of the machine. It's what you hold when you place it back into the group head or remove it.

You usually pull it to the side and out to remove it, taking care not to tilt and spill any coffee grounds.

I was pretty surprised the first time I used a commercial espresso machine, as it was much heavier than I imagined!

Spring Clip

You'll likely only see the spring clip if you take the portafilter basket out. It looks like an extended paper clip and is what actually keeps the basket inside.


I think of the portafilter basket as a little bed where I tuck the ground coffee in nice and tight. The filter basket is located right below where water pours out, passing through the grounds.

The basket has many tiny holes on the bottom, kind of like a miniature colander. Some pressurized portafilters even have a feature that creates more pressure with just one hole.

Components Of A Portafilter


Not all espresso machine portafilters have them, but if you have any experience with commercial espresso machines, chances are you’ve seen a pressure gauge.

This lets you review the output pressure of your pump (unless the machine itself already has one).


Not all portafilters will come with a spout. If yours doesn’t, it’s known as a naked or bottomless portafilter.[1]

If yours does, it will have a portion that looks like a little water slide. It's the part that swoops downward, allowing for the espresso to pour more evenly.

Double-spouted portafilters, for example, allow you to pull a double espresso shot evenly. For coffee lovers who just aren't satisfied with a single shot, this is perfect.

Exploring The World Of Portafilters (Different Types)

As with everything involving the art of espresso-making, there are many intricacies and variations involved with the portafilters.

You’ll find them in an array of different configurations, shapes, and sizes. Let’s talk about each of the types you may come across so there are no surprises!

Bottomless Portafilters

If you've ever seen a gorgeous photo of an espresso shot being pulled, chances are it was made possible by a bottomless portafilter.

Also referred to as a "naked portafilter," these have no spouts and come with an exposed filter basket.

Bottomless portafilters are desirable for many reasons. One, because they're so much easier to clean.

Spouted portafilters are known for collecting coffee oils and other buildup, which can only be removed completely by submerging them and leaving them to soak in cleaning solution.

Naked portafilters? Simply rinse the basket out.

Oh, they're also great for barista training!

You'll have a great visual reference if you don't get the grind quite right or don't tamp properly. You may see extraction from just one side, or more than one stream.

With a spout, you can't tell. In this regard, naked portafilters help you pull better shots.

However, they do have the potential to be quite messy as the espresso can just pour right through the naked portafilter and splash all over the place.

Of course, this will only encourage you further to learn how to pull a proper shot!

Bottomless Portafilters

Pod Portafilter

Pod portafilters are like the Keurig coffee makers in that all you have to do is pop a prepackaged “pod” of espresso into it to start the brewing process. They are also called ESE (easy-serve espressp) pods.

This is nice in the sense that you don’t have to worry about dosing coffee or tamping correctly.

Portafilter Adapter

These allow for more flexibility, as you’ll be able to use different configurations of coffee and portafilters with an adaptor.

For example, if you wanted to use your favorite ground coffee one day and some pods the next, you could do that with an adapter without having to use a particular machine.

Spouted Portafilter

Spouted filters have either a single or double spout, allowing espresso to pour into your cup.

A double can pour into two cups at once, making it more of a commercial portafilter ideal for producing more coffee quickly.

Pressurized Portafilters

As you could probably guess, pressurized portafilters add…pressure! If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly option, this is for you.

If you’re having trouble producing a thick crema or consistent flavor with a non-pressurized portafilter, it will do it for you!

Why? Because you'll get those silky smooth results even if the coffee beans aren't fresh or your grind isn't quite right.

However, this is also why you won't find this type in higher-end coffee machines.

I'm not a huge fan of them because they almost promote uneven extraction, which we know doesn't offer the best espresso flavor.

Non-Pressurized Portafilters

Non-pressurized portafilters are very common in commercial-type settings and are likely what you'll see at a Starbucks.

Unlike a pressurized portafilter, a non-pressurized portafilter relies on you to dial in the grind size, dosage, and tamping evenness for nice results.

It also allows for more versatility, as you can modify each of these factors as you wish, giving you complete control.  

Filter Baskets

How To Use A Portafilter (Become A Pro!)

  1. Put ground coffee in portafilter: Take a good grinder or manually scoop them out, loosely pouring them into the portafilter so they're slightly overflowing on top.
  2. Tamp down: Tamp the grounds down with the right pressure for extraction.[2]
  3. Attach portafilter to group head: Make sure it's completely secure and locked in.
  4. Now the espresso extraction process can begin.

What Are Some Advantages Of Using A Portafilter?

Different portafilters have different advantages; however, they all facilitate making espresso with a more condensed crema.

Using a portafilter allows for a more consistent espresso grind, flavor, and texture.

Bottomless portafilters, for example, will help you quickly learn how to perfect your grind size and learn how much coffee to use to pull the perfect espresso shot without bitterness.

Pressurized and pod portafilters leave most of the work to the espresso machines and portafilters themselves. You don't have to do much to get a great espresso shot!

How To Clean & Maintain Your Portafilter

As with most things in life, if you do a little maintenance regularly, you never have to worry about your portafilter negatively affecting your espresso taste.

Regularly disassemble your portafilter and spout, using a soft brush to get rid of any grime.

Follow that up by rinsing it in hot water and drying it with a soft cloth (free of any lint or little tufts of fabric). With spouted portafilters, you’ll need to do this more often.

Man Cleaning A Portafilter

Get The Most Out Of Your Portafilter (Barista Tips!)

Make sure to always use fresh coffee beans and tamp them down correctly. This is probably the biggest factor in the espresso brewing process.

The temperature and pressure should be set correctly when making espresso, as the wrong settings could affect the espresso taste negatively.

Aside from that, always make sure that your portafilter basket and other parts of your espresso machines are in good working condition to prevent coffee residue from building up.

What To Consider When Buying A Portafilter

Type Of Espresso Machine

You'll want first to consider how much coffee you drink and check out the portafilter size based on that. Then, check to see the type of portafilter it includes.

If you're serious about making good espresso all on your own, avoid single-spout portafilters. You'll be able to pull perfect espresso shots by practicing with bottomless portafilters.


The size of the portafilter will depend heavily on the espresso machine you have. However, there are generally 3 sizes: 51mm, 54mm, and 58mm.

Most commercial espresso machines will have a 58mm, making it the most commonly used size. Consumer machines will have either a 54mm or 51mm group size.


Portafilter types are seemingly endless, and they also come in an array of different materials!

Most modern portafilter types are made from aluminum, brass, or copper. However, a traditional portafilter will typically be made from stainless steel.


Which size of filter baskets do you need? Most machines will come with both a single basket and a double basket, so you can pull a single or double shot.

I prefer a double shot basket as they are known for being more consistent, and if you like strong coffee like I do, you'll never go wrong with it.

If you really want to get crazy, consider a triple shot basket, too!

Preparing To Tamp Ground Coffee In Portafilter

Common Espresso Machine Portafilter Questions

What are portafilters made from?

Portafilters are made from metals like stainless steel, aluminum, brass, or copper.

What is another name for a portafilter?

Portafilters are also known as the "group handle."

How long does a portafilter last?

You should change a portafilter every 6 months or so, but it does depend on how often you use it. You may get away with it lasting 12 months or longer!

Can I reuse coffee in a portafilter?

You should not make more than one cup per coffee puck. A good rule of thumb is "one extraction per portafilter filling," so never reuse coffee in a portafilter.

You're Now A Portafilter Pro!

Coffee is packed full of benefits and a ton of flavor.[3]

To reap all those benefits, a portafilter can be a big help.

I hope I've not only answered your question of "What is a portafilter?" but also answered any other questions you may have surrounding this crucial component.

Whether using prepackaged pods or fresh coffee grounds, you're well on your way to creating the perfect cup of espresso by following these tips.


1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uom9gONLA2o
2. http://socraticcoffee.com/2015/07/the-impact-of-tamping-pressure-on-espresso-extraction/
3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coffee/

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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