#45 Single portafilers. Is this a goodbye?


I mean, I surrendered. But I fought hard, I swear. Honestly,  I feel like the last barista on Earth who finally switched to using only double portafilters, while all the other guys already did it long time ago.

By this I admit that I knew that singleshot basket portafilter had been banned from specialty because the shape of its basket leads to an uneven extraction and makes it really hard to make consistently good shots.

I was conscious about the problems, but we were using them still, to make a switch not so drastically, but step by step. So when we finally said goodbye to the single basket, I wanted to make sure that everybody understands why.

All of us worked with single baskets, and never thought it would be an issue. It is something that theoretically makes sense. One espresso – less dry coffee in – single basket, two espresso – double. Looks perfectly logical, and shouldn’t be causing troubles at all, on the opposite, should be helping us to manage the workflow. It was the original idea,  suppose. And it just did not survive the specialty vibe.

Now the idea of using 7 grams for single shot, and 14 for the double, like the idea of an espresso being a necessarily 30 ml drink extracted in 30 seconds is going to the past. Some of us still rememeber these times ( I actually entered coffee at the time of David Schomer’s book being a barista byble, and I am sure I am not the only one here), the lucky ones just heard about them. Does not matter. Things changed, dramatically, in the past 5 years, and are going to be changing even faster in the future (in the direction of the further automatization, as we all understand).

So, single baskets. I’ll just tell you about what I experienced, and how I decided to stop using them. I know that many baristas who entered specialty after “30ml times” just not used them, because they were considered flawed to begin with.  I was not one of those. And there are still many people who use them.

To put it simple, with all the tools in use, for me it became extremely challenging to come to work every day, and fight for our single shot and double shot to be the same ratio, same tds, same taste, and do it consistently. Consistently.

As I was saying before, consistency is the key. Regarding food, regarding service, regarding coffee.

And now imagine that battle. You not only want your espresso from the double portafilter be the same, shot by shot – you want your single portafiler produce the same espresso. Same weight, same taste, same TDS. Different geometry of the baskets. Coffee stuck in the grinder. Because even with the direct grinding, without using the dosing chamber, you will have more or less 1 gr of coffee there – 1 gr that is ground coarser or finer than you need, when you are switching between single and double.

So, goodbye, consistency. Or, no, but you grind, “flushing”, in between of every switch. Additional work, additional waste, additional time.

Many people are preoccupied with the question “What should I do with the other espresso, if I just need to make one? I am wasting a whole espresso for nothing”. But I started to ask myself back then. How much do I waste adjusting that single portafilter, and then constantly switching throughout the day between single and double? Can it be more than 2 or 3 wasted espressos? What is the cost of 1 espresso for you?

Probably it is not such a big problem as we pretend to see it? Probably we end up wasting more insisting on using the single ones than finally switching?

When I said before that single portafilters did not survive the specialty coffee time, I was partly joking, partly not. Because only now, when we started to think first, about the numbers in coffee, and second, about the specialty coffee as it is (look here the definition of specialty coffee I stick to) we found out that they are actually lacking. Before everybody was pretty happy.

And now, when we have better more consistent grinders, when we are roasting lighter and tasting better, and not only that – when we finally threw away the 50 ml measuring jug and bought the scales and the refractometer – we found out that single portafiler has been letting us down all that time. We found out only now.

Is this a time to switch? And… Is this a good bye?..


(Leer en español)





Published by liza maksimova

Q Grader. Roast Master. SCAE certified.

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