January 28, 2006

Espresso Portafilter

There are a multitude of variables to the art and science of an espresso shot. The bean, the roast, the freshness, the packing of the grinds, the temperature, the length of pull... The difference between a good and a great shot is potentially infinite, and perhaps meaningful only to those willing to create the meaning themselves. The difference between a good shot and a bad shot on the other hand can often be reduced to one, and only one factor, how clean what is apparently called the portafilter is.

The portafilter is that handle thing with a metal cup on the end where the espresso is packed in. As the name implies its where the espresso is filtered, and its also often where it goes wrong. Next time you order your favorite espresso drink watch how the baristas make it. In New York at least odds are they'll follow a pattern, pull, knock knock the grinds out over some metal bar on top a trash receptacle, pack in the grinds and start again. Knock knock, brew, repeat. Each time this is done a layer of residue from the previous round is left in the portafilter. Grinds from which the cream of the bean has been extracted. Grinds from which something will be extracted into your drink. Something bitter.

Maybe it sounds petty, but the fact is you can clearly taste the difference, a clean portafilter pretty much ensures a decent pour. There is all sorts of variation, space for the pour to approach perfection in the hands of a master, but none of these variables have anything near the effect of the difference between a clean a dirty portafilter. Watch the barista, if they clean the portafilter with hot water, or wipe it out thoroughly with a rag, you'll get a decent espresso shot, if they knock knock and reload you'll be be drinking a bitter brew. So yeah, that makes this a plea, to all the coffee shop owners and baristas out there, please, please clean the damn portafilter!

Posted by Abe at January 28, 2006 12:15 AM

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