Advanced Techniques



Espresso Machine: Portafilter

The portafilter is the entire assembly of the handle, the basket, and the spouts.  The portafilter is always made of metal and must always be warmed before extracting espresso.  If you see the portafilter resting on the tray of the espresso machine at your local coffee shop you should walk out the door.  Pre-heating the porta-filter can be done using the hot water nozzle or water from the group head itself.  It is not recommended to ever use more than 1-1.5 ounces of water at a time since excess use will cool the hot water reservoir inside the machine.  It is essential that you learn how to "temperature surf" on your machine to accurately control the temperature at which the espresso is brewed.  Some people recommend leaving used pucks of espresso in the basket to help maintain heat.  This advice seems advantageous, but make sure you allow about 1 oz of water to flow out of the head to rinse the screen after pulling each shot.

Cleaning a Portafilter

Although most portafilters are black inside, they are supposed have a shiny metallic surface.  After one day of not cleaning the porta-filter coffee oils will accumulate, go rancid, turn black, and ruin any shot your prepare.  If your espresso comes out thin, white, and rancid tasting this is usually the problem.  Although most people think it is impractical, I believe it is important to clean the porta-filter, basket, and screen heads hourly.  To clean these components use tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) or Puro Caff and use a 1 inch square piece of a green brillo pads.  Scrub thoroughly, but quickly to avoid cooling too much, and rinse thoroughly.  While scrubbing the porta-filter, back flush for 30 seconds with the blind basket in place and a teaspoon of TSP for 30 seconds, and follow with at least 5 rinsing cycles.  If you have never cleaned your porta-filter before, place it upside down in a milk pitcher, fill the pitcher with water covering only the metal, add a couple teaspoons of TSP, and boil the water using the steam wand.  Scrub periodically.  This should get out the worst rancid coffee oils.  If all else fails order a new porta-filter.

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