There has been a lot of talk lately about the value of a good portafilter basket because a company called VST introduced a carefully constructed, but more expensive basket for espresso.
This post is not to discuss VST baskets, which perhaps I will discuss at a later date because although I have one I have not had it long enough or used it enough to decide if it is better than its rivals or not.
Instead I want to talk about my favorite baskets that I do have lots of experience with and these are the so called “ridgeless La Marzocco style baskets.”
These baskets only fit machines with 58 mm portafilters. They as the name says, do not have ridges. I find that they work exceedingly well with an assortment of doses so they give me the flexibility to decide the exact dose I desire for a given coffee.
I also like the fact that unlike most 58 mm baskets they do not have a ridge on them that is used to help the clip hold the in place when you knock the puck out of the portafilter. The ridge is unnecessary as you see when you use these baskets because the clip still works to keep them in, but it adds value because you can grind directly into the basket with the basket outside of the portafilter and then gently slide it into the portafilter when you are ready to pull your shot.
I like to do this for several reasons. First of all distribution is essential to good espresso, and it is much easier to get a very even distribution if you can hold the basket under the grinder than if you have it in a more awkward portafilter.
Also it allows you to flush your machine with the portafilter still locked in meaning that it stays nice and hot and does not throw off the temperature of the water used in the shot.
All in all, though, it is a little silly to get too caught up in baskets because there are a lot of great shots being pulled around the world from a lot of different baskets!