Happily, my new basket got here today. It is an HQ ridgeless 18g basket from espresso parts north west. I blogged about it and the free shipping sale they were having yesterday here but did not expect to get it quite so soon– http://www.roaste.com/CoffeeBlogs/wakeknot/new-contender-my-favorite-basket
I have now gotten to pull a few shots with it and I really like it a lot. It is very similar to my previous favorite basket – the ridgeless Synesso style basket, which should not be too surprising since it is modeled on that one, but in theory made to more precise specs. The shapes of the baskets are identical, which is good for me as it should still allow me to updose to 18-19 grams on my machine, something I cannot do with the standard basket that comes with the machine, but something I often find helpful in bringing out the best in a coffee.
The new one is much, much shinier, but I do not know if that is just because it is new or if it has to do with the composition. It, however, has more in common with my old basket than a vst in the sense that it is 27.9 g’s, which is the identical weight of my other basket as opposed to the VST, which weighs in at a heftier 32.6 g’s. I don’t think the weight probably matters much at home, but in a shop it might indicate the heavier basket will last longer?
The hole pattern on the HQ is more concentrated in the center and does not spread as far across the bottom as the Synesso basket’s holes do or the VST’s holes do (which spread about as far as the Synesso).
I do not know if this matters in the cup, but the pour has been stunning every time. The center focused holes has led to a pour that quickly makes a pretty stream in the center. On my other baskets I sometimes have two streams that take a little while to unify as one – again I do not know if this matters, but some people think it does and for all I know they may be right.
The shots I had from the new basket tasted great, but so do the shots from the old basket. Is it my new favorite? It is too early to tell, but I expect it could very well be a tie.
One final remark is that the dose and grind from one basket worked very well on the other for the first few coffees I used even though the hole pattern was not identical (the VST needs a slightly different grind).
If you are looking for a cheap way to get a good new basket, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one at around $6 with free shipping or find a better deal. (If you already have plenty of baskets, however, including some you really love it may not be a dramatic step up or even a dramatic change in any direction).