53mm vs 58mm Portafilters
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. Still, 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 that question with their 53mm and 58mm portafilters, respectively.
With the most popular 58mm portafilter dating back to 1961 with the birth of the e61, it enjoys a 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?
In the 1960s, Bruno Dalla Corte was instrumental in creating 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 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. Using either portafilter, you can pull the same brew ratio of ground coffee to liquid coffee. But the 53mm double basket is deeper, and if the coffee puck is thicker, 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 starts to channel through part of the coffee, it will still 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 as it is on a 58mm portafilter using a triple basket. This is evidenced by less spraying and more even syrupy extraction across the bottomless portafilter. For those who want the option, the A53 Mini can add a pre-infusion chamber, and the plumbed A53 offers true line pressure, which can be programmed for up to eight seconds.
The boiler design is another big factor to consider when comparing machine performance. 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. Hence, 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 significant 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.
Excellent espresso is within the grasp of any machine design and portafilter size you’re attracted to. The Clive team is here to make your coffee goals a reality, so call or email us with questions during your research.