Espresso Basket Size - Lower Limits?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

Postby drudolf17 » Nov 14, 2016, 11:20 am


Newbie here though I've been reading this site and others for a while now. I have a question maybe someone could explain to me - I am looking at different size baskets for making espresso, and I would like to know why (or if) a larger basket can't be used for smaller doses? The upper limit on dose seems obvious (you can only fit so many eggs in one basket), but most baskets list a lower limit to dose size as well.

What negative effects would result in, for example, using a "22 gram" basket for a 10 gram dose besides just looking funny?

While writing this I realized maybe all of that open space would make it harder for the machine to create enough pressure for extraction... is this part of it? Seems like that wouldn't be so hard to overcome. Looking forward to hearing your responses!


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Postby another_jim » Nov 15, 2016, 11:28 am

It's a good, fundamental question; welcome to HB. Here's the answer:

Baskets are designed for various dose sizes -- 6 and 7 gram singles -- 12, 14, 15, & 18 gram doubles -- 21 gram triples. The design factors for doing this are to vary the diameter and taper of the basket sides, and the size and spacing of the holes at the bottom. This means, in a perfect world, you would be able to use the same grind setting if you dosed each of these baskets at their nominal size (but the world is rarely this perfect).

The coffee in the basket, after it becomes wet, is a puck that resists the flow of water. If you reduce the dose in a given basket, you reduce the width of the puck and the resistance to flow. To compensate, you have to grind finer. If you increase the dose, you have to grind coarser to compensate.

These corresponding changes in dose and grind are useful for fine tuning the taste: a lower dose and finer grind leads to higher extractions and more laid back tasting shots with extra caramels and body; a higher dose and coarser grind leads to more aggressive tasting shots with more prominent acid and bitter tastes.

Perhaps the biggest change espresso went through when going from Italy to the rest of the world is the change from the Italian style of dosing low and grinding fine to the international style of dosing higher and grinding more coarsely. With the current change to lighter roasted coffees, the trend is back to Italian style of grinding very fine.
Jim Schulman