With the renewed interested in espresso baskets that has been brough about with Wakenot's recent aquisition of a 18 gram HQ basket from EspressoParts.com; I thought it would be a good time to give my general impressions that I have gotten from using the baskets that I picked up a while back.
First, I just want to say that I have pretty much retired the stock Gaggia basket that I have. This is because it is almost identical to the 14 g ridged basket, and I never really encountered a difference between the two for the most part, so I just use the one that looks pretty. Other than that I use these baskets pretty regularly and really do seem to find that specific coffees like different baskets.
I am going to start with the 15 g VST basket, as you may or may not know the basket is built with precision and for heavy use. For the coffee though I find that it does seem to work best with a real bright espresso. What I should say is that the basket due to the amount of hole compared to the others likes a fine grind. Since it requires such a fine grind it does well with coffees that you want to taste all the acidity it has to offer. However, it doesn't do so well with chocolate coffees I found because it pulls out some off tastes from them.
Next the 14 g ridgeless, this one is my go to for the dark roasts that I get. Basically it's the complete opposite of the VST basket. There is a small amount of holes in the filter and it requires a much coarser grind than the otehr baskets at the same doses. I find this does well with coffees that you want a real sweet taste to them. However, the drawback is a lot of times I find that the acidity from a coffee might be lacking, and causes the shot to be a little bland if it doesn;t have a lot of sugars to dissolve into the espresso.
Now the 14 g HQ ridged, fittingly this one is about in between the two in all aspects. As this one the grind for equal doses of coffee is somewhat in the middle. This one is a nice coffee for espresso that has aspects of acidity that you want to taste but still retain some more of those sweet notes. I find this one goes well with the few seasonal espresso that I have tried since I got these baskets. I find that it can pull off most coffees, more so than the other two however you can some really interesting flavors from the other two. It's fitting that this basket would be similar to the stock Gaggia basket, because this one is a basket I would want if I couldnt have the other two, as it is the typicaljack of all trades but a master in none.
Overall of these baskets are really nice and I am happy to have them in my tool box so to speak.
Just to give a quick example of why it's nice to have these is that I just got Brown Coffee Co's Cottonwood Espresso. Anyway, I found that the VST basket pulled some astringic tastes from the espresso and the ridgeless basket just produced a bland shot, whereas the ridged was able to get a good balanced flavor from it. So it's nice to play with them!