Seeking Expert Opinions: The Influence of Espresso Baskets

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
savagebrood
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#1: Post by savagebrood »

Hello Esteemed Baristas,

I just got a new espresso machine and it came with some baskets. The holes seem much smaller to the naked eye than what I'm used to.

So...

I'm reaching out to the community today with a question that's been on my mind for some time regarding espresso baskets. Like many of you, I've noticed the variety of baskets out there - some tapered, others straight-sided, not to mention the difference in hole sizes. But I'm curious to understand in detail how these variations can impact the extraction process and the final result in the cup.

From my understanding, tapered baskets tend to direct the water flow through the center of the coffee puck, which could potentially affect the extraction uniformity. On the other hand, straight-sided baskets appear to encourage a more even water flow through the entire puck, though I suspect there's more nuance to consider.

And then there's the question of hole size - do larger holes, allowing for a faster flow rate, influence the flavor profile compared to baskets with smaller holes? I'm sure the roast level of the beans might also interact with these variables, but I'm unsure exactly how.

Currently, I'm brewing with an 18:40 ratio - 18 grams of coffee for a 40 gram yield - and I'm always eager to experiment and refine my espresso shots. However, without a comprehensive understanding of how different baskets can influence extraction, I feel like I'm shooting in the dark.

So, I'm turning to you, my fellow coffee enthusiasts. Could anyone more knowledgeable shed light on these questions? How have you found different basket types affect extraction and flavor? Are certain baskets more suited to different roasts or extraction rates? I'd love to hear about your experiences and insights.

Thanks for your time, and I look forward to learning from all of you.

Pressino
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#2: Post by Pressino »

The only comment I feel qualified to make regards my experience with a specific type of basket, namely the nanotech coated ones. I read a lot of positive on-line comments about them and figured they would be worth a try. The first thing I noted is that my usual grind, dose, and puck prep resulted in exceeding fast extractions that tasted worse than they looked. So I figured I had to just change grind level, dosing, and puck prep. I eventually got to the point where the coffee tasted OK, but no better than shots I had learned to pull with my non-nanotech baskets. And that was for one particular coffee I was using...things would require hard-to-predict readjustment with another coffee or roast level. I put the nanotech aside and went back to my old baskets, with a new found respect for them...

There was one thing I liked about the nanotech coating...it did make knocking out the puck easier and cleaner...

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Jeff
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#3: Post by Jeff »

If you're pulling classic espresso blends and roasts at classic flow rates and ratios, you are probably better off ignoring "precision" baskets. A decade or two ago, many of the baskets shipped with machines and generally available were simply stamped. They could be dreadfully uneven across the bottom, to the point of impacting the flavor negatively. These days, most of the baskets out there are of reasonable uniformity, including those that ship with most of the major manufacturers of mid-range and up machines. I would advise against VST or other high-flow baskets if you are a novice and pulling classic espresso as they tend to be very unforgiving of weak prep or grind/dose being off a bit.

Tapered and rounded-corner baskets seem to work well with classic espresso for many people.

If you're pulling classic espresso and want to try something different, I'd try a modestly priced basket with a different shape than what you have now.

Lighter roasts are generally harder to extract than darker roasts. Many of the people I know that are working with "filter" roast levels for pulling espresso are using some kind of high-flow basket, generally without a strong taper or rounded corners.

Among these people, there is strong belief that hole coverage -- how close to the edge of the cylinder the perforations come -- is important. There is reasonable evidence that baskets with greater coverage extract more evenly. There is also reasonable evidence that the use of bottom filter paper changes the extraction and many believe that it improves flavor in a positive way. There is yet another step beyond this that is just being explored with baskets like WAFO, Sworks, PCL and similar. They have several times the holes as a basket like a VST. Some have patterns that are intentionally uneven. This is still being explored and appears to do two things -- change the overall flavor of the espresso and provide more fodder for the nay-sayers. Here's a thread on H-B WAFO baskets
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cafeIKE
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#4: Post by cafeIKE »

It's my considered opinion there is no one size or shape fits all. You can't have too many :!:
Basket Science or Propaganda

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Screen-O-Rama or Why [E61] Dose Advice is Highly Suspect

IMO, people focus too much on baskets and not enough on the screen. Personally, for the brews I enjoy, I like the shortest screen possible as it gives the most headspace flexibility with different baskets and doses. Sadly, not all machines have screen, and thus headspace, flexibility.

A 0.01g scale will up your game. A 0.1g scale error is ±0.2g which is a big change.

Tamper face makes a difference with some coffee/basket combinations. It's the last tweak I try. Tamp force is almost irrelevant. Level is paramount.

Baskets wear, so what was great yesterday may not be tomorrow. Nothing says that Joe's XYZ basket is identical to Sam's. Add in pressure variation and Sam's raving could be that of a lunatic :shock:

And lastly, most of what people claim about basket flow is bunk unproven speculation. The cake disperses the 125psi hitting the puck to next to zero at the bottom. Each hole is dispersing about 0.002ml/s.

Mat-O-Matic
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#5: Post by Mat-O-Matic »

+1 to Jeff's good summary.

First consideration for basket choice is to match the size to the desired dose. Headspace in your machine and puck thickness are the concerns, but both tend to be tolerant of a range.

Although 1:1.22 (18:40) is generally a good ratio for common espressos, different beans and your tastes may prefer something else. I change ratio, dose, and grind with every new coffee but only use a few baskets for most cases.

In addition to CafeIKE's links, basket studies over the years help one understand how different baskets affect results. Here's a rigorous, early look. And here's a paraphrase from this discussion: [Don't make things complicated on yourself.] "Use one basket for doubles, one for singles, baskets you like. Then vary the dose and grind together, lower doses with finer grinds, higher doses with coarser grinds."

Owning an espresso machine does also mean baskets will mysteriously proliferate in some drawer in your house. 8)
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pizzaman383
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#6: Post by pizzaman383 »

I have come to believe that basket choice makes more difference than the grinder or machine used. Great advice already shared.

I prefer classic dark espresso roast and every high flow basket sits in the drawer unused.
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coyote-1
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#7: Post by coyote-1 »

pizzaman383 wrote:every high flow basket sits in the drawer unused.
Frankly, I cannot imagine why anyone would want this. You need pressure to get the most out of this process; why not let your basket help you create that pressure?

So many of the tools that have been created for espresso seem only to make it increasingly difficult to get a good cup of coffee.

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cafeIKE
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#8: Post by cafeIKE »

High flow baskets reduce pressure

Mat-O-Matic
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#9: Post by Mat-O-Matic »

High flow baskets are crucial tools for extracting light roasts. Finer grinds, higher doses, precise control over temperature and flow are all required with little tolerance for error. It's delicious. I keep a few in different dose sizes and use them about a third of the time.

However, the Finest and Best of if all has led to these baskets (and an expectation for big doses) being sold to everyone as a must-have accessory. They add needless complication, are counter productive for roasts darker than medium, make extractions far more difficult--especially for people who are too new to know any better--and that sales trend is a disservice to consumers and the hobby.

But, y'know, let me tell you how I really feel :D
LMWDP #716: Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

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Moka 1 Cup
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#10: Post by Moka 1 Cup »

Amazon has an excellent return policy, including baskets.
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