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53mm versus 58mm portafilters

Published by Ben Piff
November 9, 2016 10:09 pm

The 58mm commercial portafilter is one of the most traditional and unchanged elements in the world of espresso. In recent years we have seen the quality of portafilter baskets improve thanks to companies like VST, but many users can find it labor intensive to avoid channeling and improve the cup quality with these super wide and flat baskets, especially when using a bottomless portafilter. How would it affect the shot to make that coffee puck deeper? La Spaziale and Dalla Corte are here to answer just that question with their 53mm and 58mm portafilters, respectively. 

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With the most popular 58mm portafilter dating back to 1961 with the birth of the e61, it enjoys the legacy position that is hard to beat. We’re commonly asked: So what’s the deal with the 53mm portafilter? Is it better or worse than the 58mm? Why would you want to hold less coffee? My parent’s Krups machine has that.

In the 1960s Bruno Dalla Corte was instrumental in the creation of both the e61 group head and the La Spaziale company. Before the e61 group head came out, espresso baskets were even wider. The La Spaziale 53mm double basket will actually hold more than most 58mm double baskets (18 grams is no problem), and the triple basket holds the same 20-22 grams as the 58mm alternative. You can pull the same brew ratio of ground coffee to liquid coffee using either portafilter. But the big deal with making the coffee puck thicker is that it’s more forgiving of channeling, which is when water punches a hole through the coffee. When the coffee bed is multiple millimeters thicker, it also means that even if water does start to channel through part of the coffee, it’s still going to contact more coffee as it passes down. The Clive team frequently pulls shots on the plumbed LUCCA A53 in our classroom space, and we find that preinfusion is not as necessary with a 20 gram dose than it is on an 58mm portafilter using a triple basket. This is evidenced by less spraying, and more even and syrupy extraction across the bottomless portafilter. For those that want the option, the A53 Mini can have a preinfusion chamber added, and the plumbed A53 offers true line pressure which can be programmed up to eight seconds.

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The other big factors to consider when comparing machine performance is the boiler design. The e61 machines warm up their 9lb group head, which means you may have to wait 15 minutes or so from a cold start before you can pull a shot at your desired brew temperature (leading some customers to use a programmable appliance timer so your machine is ready when you are). La Spaziale uses a saturated style of boiler more closely integrated with the group head, so it can warm up and recover much more rapidly. This is a big factor in why the plumbed LUCCA A53 is our most popular machine for caterers, small shops and offices. Dalla Corte pioneered the multi boiler concept in 2001, and these modern boiler/group designs have become the new standard in modern commercial equipment. Dalla Corte’s flagship Mina offers such groundbreaking control over espresso that we won’t even begin to scratch the surface here, but keep an eye out for future blog posts.

Whatever machine design and portafilter size you’re attracted to, excellent espresso is within grasp. The Clive team is here to make your coffee goals a reality, so call or email us with questions during your research.


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