Posted Fri Feb 15, 2013, 8:07pm Subject: Anyone use Aeropress (or other) paper filter in the portafilter?
I've searched this forum and elsewhere to see if I could find any discussion of what I'm trying, but I didn't find a whole lot.
I did find a couple older threads about putting a circular filter on top of the tamped grounds. It seemed like the purpose there was to reduce channelling and also prevent the grounds from splashing up into the group head under pressure. Makes sense to me.
Now this next part might be bordering on heresy, but I'll ask anyway: does anyone put a paper filter in the bottom of the filter basket (under the grounds), or between the basket and the portafilter? I realize this is essentially what happens with ESE pods, and therefore will be viewed with disdain by many. But allow me to explain my interest in this method.
First, I'm new to espresso. For the last few months I've been working on perfecting Americanos with my Aeropress, and I've become accustomed to the smooth taste that results at least in part from the paper filter. I follow a pretty standard coffee geek method of preparation: using high quality beans that are freshly roasted, carefully using a scale to measure the mass of the coffee and water, choosing an appropriate grind setting with my burr grinder, making sure the temperature of the water is where I want it, and so forth.
I love my Aeropress Americanos, but I've been wanting to dip my toe in espresso...wait, that doesn't sound right. I've been wanting to expand my coffee hobby to include espresso preparation for a while now. So I did a bunch of research and ended up getting a Gaggia Classic. Even though I've only been using it for a couple days, it's already clear to me that I have a long way to go before I reach the same level of competence with espresso as I've achieved with my Aeropress.
Meanwhile, I'm in the exciting phase of experimenting with all kinds of variables to gauge the effect on the taste of my shots. Different beans (SO and blends), roasts, doses, grinds, etc. One thing that's stood out to me, and is probably blindingly obvious to anyone reading this, is that a 16g, 2.5oz, 25-second double shot of espresso is far more potent than a 24g, 8oz Americano made with an Aeropress. Not just more potent, but also a bit more...bitter? Acidic? Obviously I haven't figured everything out yet. Whatever it is, it's also giving me a bit of upset stomach.
Anyway, after many different shots over the past couple of days, none of which were very good, I just felt getting something out of my Classic that I could enjoy. I realized that what I wanted was the smoothness of an Aeropress-like Americano. Yes, I realize I can just use my Aeropress for that...but I wanted to see what 9 bar (or 11, or whatever this Gaggia is pushing) could do with the Aeropress filter.
So in the spirit of experimentation, I put an Aeropress paper filter at the bottom of the double filter basket (in retrospect I should have just put it between the basket and the portafilter). I cut the diameter down a little bit so it would fit better. At the last moment I also decided to put a filter on top of the tamped puck. Results: not surprisingly the shot took a bit longer to reach ~2.5oz. Somewhere in the 30-35s range, so I'll probably go for one click coarser on the grinder next time. Group head was free of coffee grounds, which was very nice -- it's usually a bit messy up there after a shot. Crema was decent, maybe slightly less than without the filter. As straight espresso it definitely tasted a little smoother than the same blend without the filter. I made a ~6oz Americano out of it and it was pretty good. Nothing amazing, and I'd still take my Aeropress Americano over it any day of the week. But it showed potential to create something I might enjoy while I'm improving my technique with the Gaggia.
I hope I didn't offend any espresso purists. :D I am curious to find out whether anyone else is using or has used a similar method. One day, after I've figured out how to pull nice shots and have grown to enjoy espresso for what it is, I'll probably look back at this post and laugh at myself. That's OK though. It's a reflection of where I am on my coffee journey, and I'm not going to waste time worrying about whether I'm doing it wrong. I'm almost positive I'm doing it wrong, but half the fun is figuring out the right way for me.
Thanks! I don't know how I missed that thread when searching, but it has a good discussion of what I'm talking about.
To follow up, I made my first very good (at least to my palate) espresso this morning, using an Aeropress filter between the filter basket and the portafilter. I also added one on top of the tamped grounds. I also payed a lot more attention to how the grounds were distributed in the basket, and noticed I was getting a some clumping out of the grinder. It's certainly likely that an even distribution and more careful tamping contributed to the better cup. But it was also smooth (some might say muted), likely due to the filter.
Posted Sat Feb 16, 2013, 1:28pm Subject: Re: Anyone use Aeropress (or other) paper filter in the portafilter?
And I just figured out why putting the paper filter between the basket and portafilter isn't such a great idea. A few seconds into the pull and...SNEEZE! -- hot espresso shooting out of the spouts. The pressure pushed the paper filter down into the hole at the bottom of the portafilter, and tore a hole in the paper.
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