Before I got my current Gaggia Classic, for a brief time I was messing around with a used Gaggia Carezza that I bought for a song on craigslist. It came with a homemade naked portafilter, which of course I still find useful. That's where this little story begins.
By “naked” I mean that the two-cup spout had been removed--in my case by the previous owner using a hole saw so that I could see the underside of the basket when viewing from beneath. And what a view this is! It’s great for diagnosing extraction problems (for example, see here and here) as well as just satisfying one’s general curiosity about espresso in an uber-cool way. Though be careful not to let a spritzer catch you in the eye if you’re on your knees looking up while pulling a shot (hasn’t happened to me yet).
So I ventured forth into espressoland naked, the very same way I was born. This process proved to be somewhat like learning to drive in a car with a manual transmission, which I recommend, though with much less violent jerking involved.
Fast forward to last week. My naked portafilter's handle is missing the half-moon insert that closes it off (note the naked theme), and one night the light in my kitchen hit this open end just right, allowing me a glimpse of a rusty hex bolt and some muck inside. Yuck. With the help of an extender for my socket wrench I was able to remove the handle and then go to town cleaning everything. I’ll spare you the details for now and include a picture of a more eye-friendly naked portafilter below (shown upside down).
Anyway, the episode got me thinking about how much easier it must be to clean naked portafilters than “fully clothed” ones with spouts. Sure, you can always soak the latter in JoeGlo or Cafiza and then use a spout brush like this one to scrub inside the spout channels. I haven’t seen the need yet to do something similar with the stock portafilter on my Classic, but this bridge will get crossed before long.
What good is portafilter clothing then if you’re not splitting shots? It seems to cause or hide more problems than it solves, in my house at least (where I’m the only espresso consumer). Well, one answer might involve temperature regulation, with the metal spout proving useful to some as a heat sink. Check out this fantastic Home-Barista thread, in which RayJohns describes an invention along these lines.
What should we call his hybrid portafilter design? Not-so-naked? Clothing-optional? Halter top? Chaps? Bikini? Suggestions in the comments section below would be welcome! In the meantime, feel free to get naked.