Tag Archives: Accessories

Crew Review: Rancilio Bottomless Portafilter

While we have carried a bottomless portafilter for E61 brew heads that also did work fairly well in the Rancilio Silvia’s brew head, it didn’t seal quite as we might like and so there was often a little bit of water leakage over the top that really was just gauche.

Rancilio released their own version for their commercial machines that fits the Silvia, so we gave it a test drive. We did notice a bit of water leaking over the top, but nothing like the former model. And the spurting/spraying/mini-geysers? There were a few present in Gail’s extraction — more of a fine mist — but that’s just a result of channeling, baby.

Wanna see it in action? Watch Gail demonstrate it on our store’s PID-enhanced Silvia.

Which Portafilter is Right for You?

So you’re in the market for an espresso machine and you’re not sure what all these different portafilter styles are about, eh? We’ve created this handy guide to break ‘em down for you.


A great learning tool for the newbie barista, the pressurized portafilter can be found on most entry level machines and takes away the stress of finding the precise grind and tamp before you extract an ideal shot.

The Way It Works
Creating the pressure that tamping would create, the pressurized portafilter is built with the function to allow water to pass through the filter when the exact pressure is reached. With no need to base it on your tamp, it will do the work for you giving you a consistent shot every time. Whether it be with a valve or a filter basket, all you need to do is fill the portafilter with your favorite ground coffee, level it out, insert the portafilter in the brew head and watch it extract your shot, leaving it to do all the work and you stress free.

However, even though the pressurized portafilter may take a lot of the work off your hands, what you’ll be trading it off for is the ability to control the flavor and strength of your brew. While commercial portafilters are made of durable chrome, stainless steel and brass material, most pressurized portafiters are are made with aluminum and plastic, which don’t maintain heat as well as the more durable commercial portafilters.

Saeco Aroma, Delonghi EC155, Saeco Via Venezia


This is how the big boys roll, or let’s just say these are the portafilters that give you the ability to control the taste and quality of your shot. When you’ve passed the stage of having your machine do all the work for you, this is where you can get your own hands dirty and start learning how important dialing in your grind and knowing what 30 lbs. of pressure feels like when you tamp.

The Way It Works
The commercial portafilter is made from heavier materials (chrome, brass, stainless steel) and will likely last longer. With these components, it guarantees heat stability which is key when making the ideal shot.

However, with more quality parts comes a little more time spent preparing your extraction. You’ll now have the variables of grind consistency, coarseness, tamp pressure and dosage to concern yourself with. You’ll calibrate your shot based on shot timing, changing each of these variables one by one to achieve the correct grind for your grinder, coffee and machine. With great power comes great responsibility, so while you have the most potential to get a great shot with this style of portafilter, that potential all lies in your hands and skill set.

Rocket Giotto/Cellini,Nuova Simonelli Musica, Rancilio Silvia

Pod Adaptor

If it’s mess free that you want, it’s mess free that you’ll get. Taking a cue from tea bags, pods are single shots of prepackaged coffee sealed in a paper filter. Not only are they mess free but they are convenient, taking away the need to dial-in the right grind and filling your portafilter with the ideal amount of ground coffee.

The Way It Works
Most semi-automatics that are E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) friendly, tend to include a pod adapter that you can pop right into your single basket filter for your portafilter. Once that adapter is in all you need to do is place a pod in the portafilter and lock it into place in your machine’s brew head.

However, unlike grinding your grounds fresh, we’ll warn you that your shot may not taste as rich and velvety smooth, nor will it have that layer of rich crema as fresh ground coffee does. Also, you’ll have little to no control over the strength of your espresso since each pod is already pre-measured and packaged.

Delonghi EC155, Capresso EC100

Bottomless (Naked)

No this isn’t rated X, but let’s just say you’ll go balls-to-the-walls-crazy for this portafilter when you see how sexy your shots will be when they’re extracted! A bottomless portafilter looks exactly like your average commercial portafilter except the bottom half is cut off, so your extraction is visible and ‘nakedly’ exposed for all to see.

The Way It Works
The bottomless portafilter is also a great teaching tool as you’re able to see the bottom of the portafilter and what the color of your extraction is once the hot water hits the coffee grounds. You’ll also seeing channeling, if you’re tamping harder on one side vs. the other, etc. Just like the commercial portafilter you’ll go through the same exact steps, dialing in your grind, finding what 30 lbs. of pressure is like and locking in your portafilter in the brew head.

The benefits of having a naked portafilter versus a dressed (commercial) portafilter is the ability to identify blonding, tiger striping, channeling, overdosing and the evenness of your tamp, which is usually hidden with a portafilter with single or double spouts.

Channeling happens when “spurters” or “geysers” occur. This is when espresso sprays out in small or large jet-like streams at various angles from your extraction. There also are multiple smaller streams that are separate from the unified stream which indicates side channeling. A perfect extraction will not have any channeling.

Crossland CC1, La Marzocco GS/3

Crew Review: Handpresso Wild Hybrid

If you can’t live without the hope of espresso resting squarely in your back pocket, Handpresso‘s series of portable espresso makers were developed specifically with you in mind.

Formerly, they offered the Wild version for use with ESE pods and the Domepod version for use with ground coffee. Now they’ve combined both functions in one sweet lil number — the Hybrid — for those of us who simply cannot make up our minds.

Watch Gail walk through the features and functionality, as well as pull shots using an ESE pod and ground coffee. Please note: Compak K10 Fresh not included.

Compare: Airscape vs. Coffee Bean Vac

In the world of coffee bean storage, do either of these devices do a better job of keeping your beans fresher, longer? We asked Gail to throw a bag of Velton’s Bonsai Blend into an Airscape and a Coffee Bean Vac, then we pulled shots a week later and two weeks later to see how they held up. Aside from when we opened them for testing, they were securely sealed.

Watch to find out how they stack up!

SCG’s Most Popular Non-Electric Coffee Gear – 2011

When it comes to great coffee or espresso, it doesn’t always mean it has to come out of a fancy shmancy high-tech espresso machine. Check out 2011’s most popular gear that didn’t require an outlet.

Under $30.00
#1: Aeropress
A specialty tool approved by many newbie espresso lovers and coffee connoisseurs alike, the Aeropress is a one stop shop to make that caffeinated drink you love when you’re on the go. Simple, easy to use and with minimal necessities, all you’ll need along with the Aeropress are coffee filters, grounds and hot water and you’ll have a cup o’ joe as good as (or better than!) your local cafe.

#2: Hario Coffee Coffee Dripper V60 – White Ceramic – Medium 02
Perfect for that single serving or a small group of friends, Hario pour overs are simple to use but produce an excellent cup. All you need is a coffee filter, your favorite coffee grounds and hot water and you’ll be sipping on a quality drink in a matter of minutes.

#3: Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker – 6-cup
Want that strong cup of coffee without the hassle of plugging it in? The Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop just needs hot water, your favorite coffee grounds, a few minutes on the stovetop and it’ll be percolating a rich cup of coffee in a flash. (And if you really want to avoid electrics, throw it on your wood stove!)

Under $50.00
#1:  Sowden Soft Brew Coffee Maker with scoop – 27 oz.
Some like it hot while others like it cold, and the great thing about the Sowden Soft Brew is that it’ll brew both kinds of coffee. Using a micro-thin metal filter with half a million microscopic holes, the Sowden Soft Brew brews up a smooth cup of coffee with no need for plungers. All you need to do is measure out your preferred amount of coffee, pour in hot or cold water, brew for four to eight minutes (for hot coffee) or overnight (for cold coffee) and you’ll be sipping on rich and smooth java.

#2a: Chemex Handblown 6-cup (30 oz) coffee maker with wood collar and tie
Not your average looking coffee maker, the Chemex uses a chemically corrected method of brewing to extract the most flavor out of your favorite coffee beans. Using glass that is both heat resistant and does not absorb odors or chemical residue, you’ll be drinking a more natural cup of coffee with a full, rich-bodied flavor.

#2b: Frieling Insulated Coffee Maker French Press 1-2 cups
Frieling has taken the  french press process up a notch by giving their press double wall insulation, keeping your coffee hotter four time longer than your average glass french press. Multipurpose and seasonal, not only can this stainless steel press be used to make coffee but take out the plunger and it becomes a stylish pitcher for cold drinks on hot summer days.

#3: La Cafetiere Thermique Cafetiere  – 8 cup
Sleek yet sophisticated with a little whimsy to it, the La Cafetiere Thermique Cafetiere changes up the average french press by giving the press a new look and style. Taking a cue from other upgraded presses, the Thermique keeps coffee hotter three times longer with its double wall stainless steel body. And unlike other presses made of glass or stainless steel with a round look, the Thermique has a unique angular design.

Under $100.00
#1: Bodum Santos (Pebo) Stovetop Vacuum Coffee Maker
Why not combine coffee and chemistry — or at least a little mad science? While you’re really crafting a delicious cup of joe, it will feel like you’re mixing chemicals to make some crazy concoction with this vacuum pot. But fear not! Watch the magic happen as you place the Pebo on the stovetop, and see the water from the bottom orb get sucked up into the top orb, then saturate your favorite coffee to produce an excellent brew.

#2: Handpresso Portable Espresso Machine – with Domepod
Whether it be at the top of the mountain while you’re hitting the slopes, out in your tent in the middle of the forest or at the airport before you catch your flight, owning the Handpresso means there’s never a place where you can’t scratch that espresso itch. An easy to use portable espresso machine, it’s also lightweight and small, so can fit almost anywhere.

#3: Espro 3-cup Press
Can you really improve on the well-designed, classic press pots of yore? Espro thinks you can! Their Single Serve Press outshines other presses by micro-filtering and preserving your coffee’s flavor twice. With a unique metal filter, it keeps grounds out of  your cup and lets the oils in so your cup o’ joe is richer with a full-bodied flavor.

Over $100.00
#1: MyPressi TWIST Portable Espresso Maker 2.0
New gadgets are always fun to find, but they’re even better when they make life a little simpler. For coffee lovers who are always on the go, the MyPressi TWIST provides excellent espresso shots no matter their locale. Using N02 & C02 capsules to facilitate extraction, your shots will rival those of the cafe’s down the street.

#2: Walkure Karlsbad Porcelain Coffee Maker – 12.5 oz/28.5 oz
Straight from Germany, this innovative coffeemaker will amaze you! Who would’ve thought you’d get a smooth clean cup of coffee through a ceramic filter?! The Walkure Karlsbad Porcelain Coffee Maker uses a two chamber method, allowing you to brew your coffee like a pour over with its crisscross ceramic filter. Customers love it because it’s easy to clean, easy to use and — unlike other pour overs that use paper filters — it’s less wasteful.

Crew Review: Bonavita Kettle

One thing we really love about the Hario Buono kettle is its spout — carefully curved and thin, it provides great control when preparing pour over coffee. So when we got our hands on Bonavita’s electric kettle that features a gooseneck spout, we were thrilled!

Watch Gail go through features and specs, boil up some water and then demonstrate how well the kettle pours. To see it in action with an actual pour over, take a look at Allison’s Chemex filter tete-a-tete.


Compare: Chemex Filters vs. Hario 02 Filters

Our first time out, Allison used a Hario 02 paper filter for her brew test with the Chemex. And we didn’t hear the end of it from our YouTube fans!

So once we received our first shipment of signature Chemex filters, we decided to do a side by side brew comparison to practically determine if you could tell a difference in the cup. Watch as Allison brews up two batches on the Chemex and we taste them to find out.

Experimenting with Cold Brew Coffee

Do you really need a fancy, specially-designed gadget to brew up a batch of cold coffee? Or can you just use your trusty ol’ press pot? While we carry a couple of different cold brew options (from Hario and Sowden), we wanted to see if using one of them (namely, the Sowden) produced a better, worse or similar cup to making a cold brew with a La Cafetiere french press.

So we put Allison to the test! Watch as we brew up a batch in each, using the same grind and coffee-to-water ratios, allowing them to sit over night and then giving them a taste test. We also compare how much sediment appears in the cup. So exciting!