Bottomless Portafilter Mess

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

#1: Post by breadline » Dec 29, 2018, 5:35 am

Hi, I'm new to espresso and am having a lot of trouble using a bottomless portafilter. I'm dosing 20g into a stock triple basket and am aiming for 40g of espresso in approximately 25 seconds. What I'm getting is spraying in every possible direction and a wildly uneven flow. The espresso is blonding very quickly and is thin. I've watched videos of messy bottomless portafiter extractions and mine are far worse than any I've seen. I am taking great care to prepare the puck before each shot, distributing evenly, redistributing , tamping evenly etc.

Here is a prepared puck

And here is the puck after extraction, you can see what appear to be the channels in the bottom left corner as well as in the center. There is some coffee left on the shower as well, though I tried reducing the dose (to 18g) and this did not appear to fix the problem.

I'm using Counter Culture single origin coffee that was roasted two days ago.

Is it possible that the dispersion screen/ shower are contributing to the problem? When I pull water through the grouphead without a portafilter the water comes out somewhat unevenly.



#2: Post by erik82 » Dec 29, 2018, 5:45 am

Forget the stock triple basket because they're crap and useless. Put a normal double basket in the naked or buy a decent triple basket. Also 2 days post roast is really fresh and better to wait till there 5-7 days post-roast.

PS. Don't think that you can see channeling in the puck because you can't. Look for the term puckology and you'll find out how little there is to tell about a puck.


#3: Post by Espresso_Junky » Dec 29, 2018, 6:06 am

I have to disagree as looking at a spent puck can show a few things. Wonder what coffee nerd came up with 'puckology', lmao.


#4: Post by erik82 » Dec 29, 2018, 11:07 am

You mean that you think you can see something from the spent puck. Putting 9 bar of pressure on the puck and letting the 3way valve do it's thing messes up the puck so as there's really nothing to say about what happened unless you really made a very bad puck.

You should probably look into puckology a bit more as you clearly haven't got an idea what's it about. It's not nerdy but more for people like you who think you can see what's wrong with a shot by looking at the puck.



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#5: Post by emradguy » Dec 29, 2018, 11:18 am

I agree with Erik about examining the spent puck being pretty much a useless and worthless effort.

Besides his recommendation to allow the beans to rest a couple more days and scrap the stock basket, I'd also suggest doing some reading about basket preparation skills/technique. There's clearly something more than just stock basket and inadequately rested beans going on and my thought is that it's largely technique.

There are several good guides to read, and I think they're better than watching videos for the amount of information you need to read/review. My favorite such guide is Randy Glass's, which can be found on his website,, under the how to section. It's article 12, called Easy guide to better espresso at home.


#6: Post by walt_in_hawaii » Dec 29, 2018, 2:49 pm

Hmmm. Have to disagree with you, sorry. On my lever pulls I do examine the puck when it comes out, and when there is channeling there is consistent evidence of it, little depressions in the puck surface, like water washed into a sandcrab's hole. Not a hole, mind you; just little depressions, like an inverted nipple. And, its probably a matter of personal taste, but I PREFER the beans on days 1-2... they've always tasted better, to me. They certainly pour different... much thicker and gloppier initially. After about day 5 they tend pour thinner. I make it a point usually to draw a couple cups when the beans are still warm after my roast... yum!

Ben, try using a paperclip (that's what I use, cheap, plentiful, easy to get) to stir your grinds, I do maybe a 15 second stir, sort of a compound motion like the precession of mercury's orbit. Oh, straighten the paperclip first :) Then do your tamp. I'd try slightly harder tamp first, to settle your grounds and collapse any voids in your puck which may be contributing to your spritzes. how long does your pour take?

Oh, I do agree with Erik about getting an aftermarket basket. Stay away from the extremes, I use an HQ14 and dose around 19g, but in my Strega that's normal (i.e., kinda big)... start smaller and work up. Avoid the triple baskets for now.


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#7: Post by emradguy » Dec 29, 2018, 4:54 pm

When the espresso is spraying all over the place that means you have channeling. You don't need to look at the puck afterwards to see that. Sure if you use a spouted pf, there could be cases where it's harder to know, but even then, bad basket prep will lead to flow issues out of the spouts. Bet, hey, if some people find it helpful to them, that's ok...I personally don't.

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#8: Post by Jake_G » Dec 29, 2018, 6:06 pm

walt_in_hawaii wrote:Hmmm. Have to disagree with you, sorry. On my lever pulls I do examine the puck when it comes out, and when there is channeling there is consistent evidence of it, little depressions in the puck surface, like water washed into a sandcrab's hole. Not a hole, mind you; just little depressions, like an inverted nipple.
Remember, lever machines do a much better job preserving the "evidence" in a spent puck because you don't have a 3 way valve opening up and allowing the compressed air pocket above the the puck to expand and blow the water off the top of the puck (along with the top layer...). This process is violent and often leads to false positives regarding any type of diagnosis of puck problems. Lever pulls have none of this going on and leave a pretty clear indication of what went on in the puck after the pull.


- Jake


#9: Post by breadline » Dec 29, 2018, 6:20 pm

OK guys I tried switching to a double basket and a dose of 16g, and am stirring up the grounds with a toothpick before tamping. BIG difference, the extraction still isn't pretty and it's still very uneven but it's now coming out in a consistent stream with one or two small offspurts instead of a geyser spraying everywhere. Now that I can safely look at the portafilter during extraction I'm noticing that the 3-6oclock part is extracting very quickly while the rest of the portafilter doesn't have much coffee coming through, even though the basket looks very even to me both before and after extraction

What kind of basket should I look for to upgrade, and should I look into an upgrade for the shower screen to?

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#10: Post by Bret » Dec 29, 2018, 6:53 pm

This is still a prep issue, not a basket or shower screen issue. Though you might want to pull the shower screen off and ensure it clean with no blockages, but that is not the root cause.

Work on refining your WDT with the toothpick, refining the grind, and experimenting with slightly increasing doses to find the sweet spot. One good result from changing dose, basket and WDT is a great step, but not indicative of a consistent and optimal solution. Getting a consistent prep and level tamp will solve a lot of things.

I speak as one who also tried to change baskets, tampers, and many other tools along the way. Other than recommending that you get a good leveling tamper (I favor the Kafatek LevTamp), which can really make a difference, you'll just confuse the issue with too many changes.