| Dominik Osele

Coffee preparation with the portafilter machine

What is a portafilter machine?

Imagine you enter an Italian espresso bar. The aroma of freshly roasted coffee fills the air, a promise of enjoyment and perfection. Most likely, a portafilter coffee machine is in use, the centerpiece of every espresso lover's utensils. It combines traditional coffee preparation with modern technology and allows you to create espresso as it is served in the best cafes.

The portafilter machine essentially consists of a boiler , one pump and a so-called Portafilter , into which the ground coffee powder is placed. The water is heated by the boiler and pressed under pressure (approximately 9 bar) through the coffee powder in the portafilter, resulting in a concentrated and flavorful espresso.


Why is the portafilter machine so popular?

The espresso machine is the samurai's sword among coffee machines - precise, elegant and powerful. It offers ultimate control over every step of the brewing process. From the grind to the water temperature, everything is in your hands.

In addition, the joy of experimenting with the portafilter machine goes far beyond simply making coffee. For many people, coffee is not just a way to wake up, but a celebrated ritual that enriches everyday life and gives it a special quality. It starts with selecting the beans, the smell of the freshly ground coffee, the feeling of the coffee powder under your fingers when you put it in the portafilter. The satisfying tamping of the powder, the hissing of the machine, the aroma rising during the brewing process... Every cup you make becomes a conscious pause, a moment of calm and reflection in our otherwise hectic everyday lives.

The following video shows how this process can be taken to the extreme.


Making coffee with a portafilter – step by step:

You need:

  • A portafilter machine with at least 9 bar brewing pressure
  • Coffee grinder or already ground coffee
  • Approx. 7-9 g Black Dragon Coffee from VietBeans 🙂
  • Lime-free water for optimal aroma (unfiltered tap water could contain too much lime)
  1. Preheat the machine : Coffee is sensitive to temperature changes. Switch on the portafilter machine so that it heats up. This can take between 5 and 15 minutes depending on the manufacturer. The water temperature for an espresso should be between 92 and 96 degrees Celsius. Leave the portafilter in the machine so that it heats up. Many portafilter machines have a cup rest on which the cup can also be easily heated.
  2. Cleaning the portafilter : Tap off the old coffee sediment and clean the portafilter with a cloth to wipe away the coffee oils from the last extraction.
  3. Grinding coffee beans : Depending on the portafilter, use a medium to fine grind.
  4. Add ground coffee to the portafilter : Fill the ground coffee into the portafilter. The amount varies depending on the desired strength and size of the portafilter, but is usually around 7-9 g for a single espresso and 14-18 g for a double espresso
  5. Tamping : Compacting coffee powder with a tamper (or a tamping machine). It is important to press evenly and firmly to create a flat surface.
  6. Inserting the portafilter : Before inserting the portafilter into the machine, make sure that the brewing head is clean.
  7. Start brewing : The ideal brewing time for an espresso is 25 to 30 seconds. During this time, approximately 30ml of coffee should be extracted.
  8. Cleaning : Clean the portafilter and the machine after use. Remove the coffee powder from the portafilter and rinse it out.


Which coffee for portafilter machine?

To prepare an outstanding espresso with a portafilter machine, the choice of coffee beans is of great importance. A higher proportion of Robusta beans is often desirable , as they offer a stronger body and a higher caffeine concentration, resulting in a more intense and full-bodied espresso. In addition, the Robusta proportion ensures a beautiful and strong crema. A dark roast provides a rich, deep aroma and reduces acidity, which is ideal for espresso's characteristic bold taste. Of course, this is not set in stone and Arabica beans can also be used as they contribute subtle flavors and a natural sweetness, but a blend with Robusta highlights the typical espresso profile.

In addition to the type of bean, freshness also plays a crucial role. Freshly roasted beans , like our coffees from VietBeans, guarantee a fuller aroma and should therefore be preferred. The origin of the beans is also important as it affects the taste. Green coffee beans, which are known for their health benefits, are an alternative option ( by the way, if you want to learn more about the surprising health benefits of coffee, click here ). The correct dosage of coffee grounds is 7 to 9 grams for a single espresso, 14 to 18 grams for a double espresso . However, you should always follow the instructions for your portafilter machine to avoid overfilling and damage and to obtain a perfectly balanced espresso.

Espresso and its variants (espresso macchiato etc.)

Not all espresso is created equal. Mixing coffee with milk to add sweetness to the popular morning hot drink is no longer a novelty.


espresso – Simple espresso with 7-9 g of coffee powder and approx. 25 ml of water.

espresso Ristretto – Short espresso with a shorter run through time in the portafilter machine. Use half the amount of water with coarser ground coffee so that the water runs through faster.

espresso Lungo – Long espresso with a longer brewing time. Use twice the amount of water for the lungo. Of course, the espresso will then no longer be as flavorful.

espresso Double – Double espresso. Use twice the amount of coffee powder and twice the amount of water.

espresso Macchiato – First, prepare a normal espresso with the portafilter machine and froth some milk. There are various techniques for this, but the easiest for home preparation is to use a milk frother (for example, one like this here ). If your portafilter machine has a milk lance, you can of course use this. Make sure to use cold milk from the fridge so that the brewing phase is extended when frothing. Then simply use a spoon to add a little milk foam to the top of the espresso.

Cappuccino – If you want to avoid normal milk and just use milk foam instead, a cappuccino is the right choice. Brew an espresso in a cappuccino cup and fill the rest of the cup with milk foam.

espresso Morocco – For a sweet espresso, simply melt a little chocolate (preferably dark with a high cocoa content) and pour it on top of the espresso. Alternatively, sprinkle a little cocoa powder into the cup and pour the espresso on top. Then add some milk foam to the espresso.

espresso Roman – For a more unusual creation, you can add a few drops of lemon juice to the finished espresso. The Espresso Romano is usually served with a little sugar and a slice of lemon on the side.

How to clean a portafilter machine – step by step instructions?

It is important to clean the portafilter machine regularly to remove acids, residual oils and fats from previous use so that the coffee taste is not distorted.

Necessary utensils : brush, blind sieve, small screwdriver, cleaning powder, milk lance cleaner.

  1. Cleaning the brewing group (at least once a month) – Remove the sieve from the portafilter and insert a blind sieve into the portafilter instead. This is used in the so-called “backflushing” cleaning process. The water that would normally be pressed through the portafilter is pressed through the blind sieve back into the brewing group, removing even the most stubborn coffee residues. You should check the manufacturer’s website for which blind sieve (with which diameter) you need.
  2. Cleaning of brewing sieve and seal (at least once a month) – The sieve and the seal should also be cleaned thoroughly with a brush once a month. Often both can be easily removed from the machine by hand or with normal kitchen utensils. However, sometimes a small screw has to be loosened to remove the sieve.
  3. Cleaning of portafilter (at least once a month) – Of course, the portafilter and the sieve should also be rinsed and cleaned thoroughly with water on a regular basis.
  4. Cleaning the milk lance (at least once a month) – Don’t forget to occasionally clean and wipe the bottom part of your milk lance.
  5. Decalcification (every 3-6 months) – Removable parts can be descaled individually (in a bowl).

    To descale your portafilter machine, start by heating up the machine and then turning it off. Then empty both the boiler and (if present) the heat exchanger by operating both the hot water tap and the brew group lever.

    Mix the descaling agent according to the instructions and pour it into the machine's water tank. Turn the machine back on so that the boiler is filled with the descaling solution. Run the solution through the brew group by operating the brew group lever until the liquid comes out.

    Insert the blind sieve into the brewing group and operate the brewing group lever to descale the expansion valve. Hold the lever for about 20 seconds and repeat this process three times.

    Allow the descaling agent to work for half an hour and then allow it to flow through the brewing group by operating the brewing group lever. Remove the end piece of the hot water outlet, switch off the machine and operate the hot water tap to empty the boiler.

    You should then rinse the machine several times with fresh water.

    If you use hard (especially calcareous) water, you should descale the machine monthly.

FAQ: Questions and answers about making coffee with a portafilter machine!

Which portafilter machine is recommended for beginners?

For beginners, a portafilter machine for home use that is easy to use and maintain is ideal. It is worth comparing different models in the portafilter machine test before buying in order to make the best choice for your own needs.

How do I properly clean and maintain my portafilter machine?

Regular cleaning of the portafilter machine is crucial for its longevity and coffee quality. The portafilter and nozzles should be cleaned after each use. Thorough descaling every few months is also recommended.

Which coffee grinder is best suited to my portafilter machine?

The choice of a coffee grinder for a portafilter machine depends on various factors. It is important that the grinder delivers a fine and even grinding result in order to extract the optimal flavor from the espresso beans.

What are the best coffee beans for a portafilter machine?

The best coffee beans for portafilter machines are usually fresh, high-quality espresso beans. It is worth trying different varieties to find your personal preference. Espresso beans for portafilter machines should offer a balanced aroma and a good crema.

How do I make the perfect espresso with a portafilter machine?

To prepare an excellent espresso with a portafilter coffee machine, the correct grind setting, water quality and temperature are crucial. It is also important to fill the portafilter correctly and tamp the coffee evenly.

How long does it take to make an espresso with a portafilter machine?

The preparation time for an espresso with an espresso machine varies, but is usually between 25 and 30 seconds. This time can vary depending on the grind selected and the amount of coffee.

Can I also use normal coffee beans for my portafilter machine?

It is possible to use regular coffee beans in a portafilter machine at home, but for the best results, special espresso beans for portafilter machines are recommended. These beans are often roasted darker and have a stronger aroma, which is ideal for espresso.

Are there differences between professional portafilter machines and home models?

Professional portafilter machines usually offer more features and higher capacity, but are also more expensive and take up more space. A home portafilter machine is often more compact, easier to use and designed for normal household use.