As most of you know, the Cafelat XT Convertible portafilter is a hybrid spouted and bottomless portafilter. The base is held tight in the body of the portafilter by an O-ring. When the urge hits you for a bottomless portafilter, you can simply pull the bottom off and you have a very high quality bottomless portafilter. The portafilter ships with a double spout, the bottom, Allen wrench, spare O-ring and instructions.
The spout attaches the bottom plate with a single set screw which is what the Allen wrench is for. The spout slips over a ridge on the portafilter baseplate. You can also leave the spout off and let the shot run through the single hole in the base plate. The tongue and groove gives the spout a very secure mount and the set screw holds it all together with tension. It will stand up to tamping with no fear of the spout falling off or bending under tamping pressure.
The portafilter is stainless steel and very well machined and polished. This alone makes it a very good deal. The La Marzocco stainless steel portafilter is over $200; the Cafelat XT convertible is half that price. The portafilter handle is angled so tamping on a table top is not an issue. The portafilter will sit nicely on any flat surface. With the bottom removed, you will need to tamp on the edge of the countertop or use a tamping stand.
With the bottom of the portafilter removed you have a nice thick, flat base. Most bottomless portafilters started life as a spouted portafilter. The bottom was simply drilled out to make it bottomless. That leaves a sharp edge on the bottom of the portafilter and an exposed section where the chrome plating can peel off. Since the Cafelat XT is stainless, there is no finish to peel off and no sharp base.
This portafilter body is quite deep. When compared to my Elektra stock portafilter, the Cafelat dwarfs it. Be aware that this could pose an issue if you typically use a dosing funnel with the portafilter. Depending on your grinder, you could be short on clearance between the grinder fork and bottom of the doser. I use a LaCimbali Max grinder and it was a tight fit with the bottom attached and the portafilter dosing funnel in place.
The depth of the portafilter body gives you a unique opportunity. You can use a triple basket with the spouts on the portafilter. I am using a La Marzocco HQ 21 gram basket with ample clearance with the bottom on the portafilter. I doubt you will find a basket deeper than the portafilter will accommodate unless someone comes up with 48 gram quad basket, then you would probably need to remove the base.
We can debate the pros and cons of using a bottomless portafilter, but for me, I prefer shots pulled from a spouted portafilter. There is a difference in the crema. A bottomless portafilter tends to produce a higher volume of crema. However, that crema has larger bubbles and a coarser texture. The crema from a spouted portafilter feels more finely textured. Personally, I like the mouthfeel of the finer textured crema.
Having difficulty dialing in your espresso? Grasp the spouts on the portafilter and tug down. Off comes the base and now you can diagnose your extractions with a bottomless portafilter. You can get an appreciation for how deep the portafilter body is in this photo:
That is triple basket and it is still recessed into the body.
Cleaning the portafilter is a snap. One think I noticed was how cleaner the portafilter stayed versus a traditional chrome plated brass portafilter. I decided to run this portafilter for 2 weeks without cleaning it. With my normal coffee consumption, a portafilter would be very dirty after one weeks use. The Cafelat XT, being made from stainless steel, stays cleaner longer. I have been using this portafilter with the bottom attached for 2 weeks with no cleaning other than my normal water rinse after I knock out the puck. Compared to what a chrome plated portafilter would look like after a weeks use, the Cafelat XT is quite clean after 2 weeks of use.
To clean it, I simply wiped it off with my bar towel.
This is a high quality stainless steel portafilter that bridges the 'should I get a bottomless or spouted' question at a bargain price point. Why get two portafilters when you can get one that bridges the gap? If you want a bottomless portafilter just pull the base plate off and you are ready to go. No need to put a different portafilter in your machine and then wait a half hour for it to come to temperature. You always have a bottomless and spouted portafilter hot and ready to use.