A Must Have Upgrade? Bottomless Portafilters


I bought a Gaggia Classic Pro and been having a lot of fun pulling shots.

One of the major reasons that I chose the Gaggia Classic Pro as my machine is the fact that it uses standard 58mm baskets which are used in commercial grade machines. A lot of home espresso machines use smaller baskets like 54mm.

The benefits of having a standard 58mm basket is that I can use a wide range of accessories.

So one thing that I really wanted to try out first was upgrading to a bottomless portafilter.

If you don’t know what a bottomless portafilter is, or why to use one, I wrote a detailed post here.

The portafilter that I bought

Gaggia sells their own bottomless portafilters but as always its relatively difficult to buy from Japan. I could of course import it like the machine, but it seems a little too much effort for a simple portafilter.

And although Gaggia’s official portafilters have the benefit of perfectly matching the machine, they cost quite a lot about $65 USD (+ import and shipping). Also, they have the same plastic handle identical to the double spouted portafilter which comes with the machine. It kind of looks a bit cheap and I’m not a fan of them.

So I went with a generic portafilter which I could easily order from Japan. What I was looking for was, 58mm size, bottomless, matches the Gaggia Classic Pro (will comment later), and a wooden handle.

The one I chose was this one from Amazon. I actually cost 7000yen (about $60). Which really isn’t that much cheaper than the official one, but considering the import fees, it seemed to be a better choice.

Once ordered, I received some info that it was being shipped from China. It arrived in about 2wk. Not too bad.

Looking at the box, it couldn’t be more generic. No brand names or product names at all. The box seems as cheap as it could get, this got be pretty worried…

This came out of the box.

To my pleasant surprise, it looks and feels pretty decent! The handle is properly real wood and its finished pretty well.

The metal part has a mirrored finish and has a very nice look to it. The product description said that it was stainless, but I have no way of confirming that.

The weight is quite substantial at 370g. It feels very nice.

As a comparison, the double spout portafilter which came with the Gaggia Classic Pro weights about 500g. This obviously has the spout and bottom so more material used which would make it naturally heavier. Considering that the bottomless portafilter seems to be made out of pretty heavy duty material.

It also properly has a basket holder spring.

Side by side comparison.

There was a happy misunderstanding, which was that the portafilter came with an included double basket.

The size was slightly smaller than the double which came with the Gaggia Classic Pro. It holds about 12g.

What surprised me is that the holes in this basket seemed to be more uniform than the ones in the Gaggia basket. Its probably impossible to see in the photos but to my eyes this was pretty evident. (The top is the one which came with the portafilter, the bottom is the Gaggia one)

It depends on the quality, but baskets do cost like $10 even for a cheap one, so this was quite lucky.

The portafilter fit the Gaggia Classic Pro very nicely. This is up to personal preference but I think it looks much better than the original plastic handle one.

I was quite worried about buying a generic portafilter since there really isn’t any information out there but this was a very nice choice! I’m not saying all generic portafilters are good, but some are definitely worth a consideration.

I little note which I touched upon earlier. I said I was looking for a portafilter that matched the Gaggia Classic Pro.

You need to be careful of the location tabs on the portafilter which allow them to lock into the group head.

The Gaggia Classic Pro uses portafilters with tabs in the diagonal locations. A lot of machines use tabs at the sides. If you buy one with the wrong position, it might lock in but the handle will be facing a weird direction.

2 Benefits of Bottomless Portafilters

There are 2 major benefits to using bottomless portafilters.

Observing the extraction

The first is it allows you to observe bottom of the basket during the extraction. This tells you a lot about how evenly your coffee is being extracted.

By looking at how the espresso falls from the basket, you can identify flaws in your extraction.

A good extraction will have espresso flowing out of all the holes evenly, which will result in a single flow at the center of the basket. The time it takes the drips to form this single stream will give you an idea of how good the puck prep was. If your stream doesn’t come together to one, or if it’s off you one side, this indicates that the coffee is unevenly distributed in the puck.

If you see spurts of coffee, that indicates channels forming in your puck. This is the main enemy for even extraction. As you can see in the photo, I have loads of spurting happening… coffee is all over the place. When channels form, it over extracts the coffee grounds at the channel and under extracts in under places, resulting in an uneven extraction which you do not want.

The ability to assess these extraction errors will allow you to improve your espresso.

Extra clearance for scales

The second merit is that bottomless portafilters have more space below them.

This allows you to fit a scale underneath your cup, or use taller cups.

I have the TIMEMORE BLACK MIRROR scale, but it did not fit below the cup.

But with the bottomless, it fits!

Having a scale to measure the yield is critical in getting consistent shots. You need to measure the weight and time of your shots to adjust the brew.

By the way, the clearance form the drip tray to the portafilter was; 70mm for the double spout original portafilter, and 95 for the bottomless.

If you are serious about getting better espresso, please consider getting a bottomless portafilter.