Fixing difficult to insert portafilters

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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another_jim
Team HB

#1: Post by another_jim »

The machines I've owned were all one handed and casual when it came to inserting the PF into the group. But recently I've reviewed or used some machines that required lots of two handed, shoulder work out torquing to get in and out.

Today I had an obvious revelation: these are all commercial groups, and there is no way in hell a working barista would put up with a frustrating torquathon like this hundreds of times a day. So here is my question. How do you fix a hard to insert PF? Some machines seem prone to this problem: Dalla Corte, Rancilio and Bezzera come to mind, and tips for them would be particularly useful.

Here's two I thought of:
  • Food safe grease on the PF ears or gasket
  • Filing the bottom of the PF ears to make them thinner
Please, let's hear the fixes from working baristas or people who know how it's done in Italy (one can argue about the quality of Italian espresso, but doing almost all singles certainly means more PF mounting than doing almost all milk drinks).
Jim Schulman

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dsc

#2: Post by dsc »

Hi Jim,

easiest would be a thinner gasket. Wouldn't risk grease on the gasket/ears as it means the PF can undo itself doing an extraction (I think mhoy/Mark had a problem like this). Filing down the PF's ears will work of course but this means messing up the PF.

Regards,
dsc.

Bluegrod

#3: Post by Bluegrod »

I would try the thinner gasket route if that is an option for your machine. I did have a previous machine that I had the same problem with and I took a small mill file and trimmed down the ears of the portafilter to make it fit. The only problem I did have was that once the protective chrome layer was gone and the brass was exposed I believe it shortened the life of the portafilter as brass is really soft and seemed to wear down fairly quickly on my machine then causing just the oppposite problem where the portafilter went past the 6 0'clock position. If you do decide to try and file the ears just remmeber that brass is very soft and it doesn't take long to file it down and you can go from too tight to too loose in no time. The only other thing I am wondering is if you have a distributor of espresso gear near you I am wondering if trying a few different makers of portafilter handles for your machine may make a difference as usually with most things there are slight differences between the same products as you go from one maker to another. I have no basis for that statement it is just something that I thought may be another solution to try.

User avatar
malachi

#4: Post by malachi »

file down the "leading edge" of the ears so that they are more "ramped".

also (obviously) over time, will get easier to insert.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

da gino

#5: Post by da gino »

I can't find the link, but someone (Tim Eggers?) had a clever solution which was to flip the portafilter upside-down and run it across some flat sand paper (maybe 100 then 220 then 320 grit). I had to do it for a portafilter that was too tight and it worked like a dream. As long as everything is kept flat it would be hard to mess up and even if the result were unsightly (it was hardly noticeable in my case perhaps a little brass showing through) it would be invisible with the basket in the portafilter. It took me about 10 minutes because I took it way too slow. Now all my portafilters fit the same.

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HB
Admin

#6: Post by HB »

da gino wrote:I can't find the link, but someone (Tim Eggers?) had a clever solution which was to flip the portafilter upside-down and run it across some flat sand paper...
Here you go: How to: La Marzocco OEM Portafilter fit E61 Group (Alternative Modification) (from the unabridged FAQs and Favorites, searched on 'portafilter').
Dan Kehn

User avatar
misterdoggy

#7: Post by misterdoggy »

Not being an "accomplished" Barista, the greasing idea wouldn't work as it would be a nightmarish problems with grounds attaching to the grease wouldn't it ?

After installing several PF's on E61's I found filing down so that the PF NEVER needs more than a snug fit.

Just like gaskets that keep water, gas and airtight, rubber gaskets prefer snug to over-cranked, and taking 5 minutes to file down for that perfect snug fit will save time later...

gscace

#8: Post by gscace »

another_jim wrote:The machines I've owned were all one handed and casual when it came to inserting the PF into the group. But recently I've reviewed or used some machines that required lots of two handed, shoulder work out torquing to get in and out.

Today I had an obvious revelation: these are all commercial groups, and there is no way in hell a working barista would put up with a frustrating torquathon like this hundreds of times a day. So here is my question. How do you fix a hard to insert PF? Some machines seem prone to this problem: Dalla Corte, Rancilio and Bezzera come to mind, and tips for them would be particularly useful.

Here's two I thought of:
  • Food safe grease on the PF ears or gasket
  • Filing the bottom of the PF ears to make them thinner
Please, let's hear the fixes from working baristas or people who know how it's done in Italy (one can argue about the quality of Italian espresso, but doing almost all singles certainly means more PF mounting than doing almost all milk drinks).
I see way more portafilters than most, since they are part of Scace 2 devices. They all get fitted to my Marzocco when i test them. Periodically I get batches of pfs in which the machined surfaces of the ears do not extend all the way to the rounded surface of the pf body. My solution is to rework this area with a die grinder and a cylindrical carbide bit, ensuring that the flat surface of the ear extends all the way to the cylindrical side of the pf. A file would suffice for this work, if one was just fixing one or two portafilters.

-Greg

hperry

#9: Post by hperry »

another_jim wrote: So here is my question. How do you fix a hard to insert PF? Some machines seem prone to this problem: Dalla Corte, Rancilio and Bezzera come to mind, and tips for them would be particularly useful.
I currently own a Dalla Corte Super Mini (and used a Mini for about 90 days) and I owned and used a BZ40 Bezzera as my primary machine for 5 years. Never had much of an issue with the Bezzera so things could have changed in later models.

As you know, the Dalla Corte is very sensitive to overfilling and I find that jams the portafilter. Haven't had difficulty inserting the portafilter as long as the dose stays around 15 grams. Anything over that and it is very difficult to twist on. The approach I've used with the Dalla Corte is to grind about 16 grams, then use the suggestion that I think you made, I depress the coffee with the back of the Dalla Corte tamper. This sloughs off a gram or 2, reduces channeling, and the portfiler normally goes on relatively easily as long as the tamp is level.

I suppose the thin dispersion screen might offer a little more opportunity to updose.
Hal Perry

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another_jim
Team HB

#10: Post by another_jim »

Overfilled baskets are a different issue. My point is that if a PF/Group mating is so stiff that it takes two hands to put in or remove, even if the basket is empty, it is too stiff for commercial use. This is true even of new machines using the manufacturer's gear. For instance, out of the box, the Silvia and DC Mini required two hands to mount or dismount the PF.

If this is also true of their commercial offerings, they have a problem. Who's going to buy a torquathon machine for their cafe?
Jim Schulman