blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Thursday, April 05, 2007

don't serve the drink until the portafilter is empty

Dear Baristas,
I would like to hear your opinion on this issue, so please post your comments...
I have had several discussions over the past week with concerned baristas about emptying the puck out of the portafilter after the espresso is brewed. We all know that it is bad form to leave the spent coffee in the hot portafilter for many reasons. One reason is the heat from the group head bakes the coffee oils into the small holes in the filter basket, and the group head screen, contributing to rancid flavors in future shots. One barista stated that it was his habit to return to the espresso machine after he had served the beverage and empty the portafilter at that point. I replied that it was better to empty the portafilter before the drink is presented to the customer. This can be challenging because there is time pressure to serve the beverage to the customer quickly. But I think it is worth the extra fraction of a second to empty the portafilter before stepping away from the machine, because there is no chance that you will forget to empty it that way. Is there ever a time when it would be preferable to leave the puck in the machine 'til later? What are your thoughts on the matter?


Anonymous Alex said...

It's important to follow many procedures that people forget! Read "An Ordinary Black Cat" to find out what is important and then we can discuss coffee... and the 1st chapter is free and the rest is less than a cup of a correctly made coffee! Look at to find out

4:58 PM, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Nick said...

Serve the drink first.

The objective is the best drinks. Knocking out the pucks is a good practice. Most importantly, it helps keep the groups clean.

However, I'd add these steps to the post-espresso procedure when you don't expect to make another drink right away:
1) serve the drink
2) go back, knock out puck
3) rinse the portafilter basket with water from the hot water jet (including the bottom of it, if needed), until the water runs clean
4) run some water through the group to get the coffee off of it
5) wipe the screen with a rag (occasionally and optionally)
6) reinsert portafilter and enjoy life :-)

Sometimes, there will be residual water in the portafilter when it's time to make the next drink. Shake the portafilter (yes, like a Polaroid picture) or whip it (whip it good!) to get the water out... lest it gets a little messy.

Sarah: are we gonna see you in Long Beach for conference?

5:41 PM, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Anne said...

What about the old thoughts of David Schomer? Has the "leave the puck in" argument been debunked? Schomer says to leave the puck in until you make the next drink, then run water through it before you knock it into the box (this makes the puck looser - it really works!). Also, run water through the screens once the portafilter is out. As long as the espresso has been properly dosed and tamped, the screens should remain clean (if the screens are clogged with espresso, that means they're over dosed).

Anyway, if you think I'm gross (which I suppose is fair), I'm still with nick, always serve the customer before cleaning the machine.

11:42 AM, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Sarah Wilson-Jones said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:54 AM, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Sarah Wilson-Jones said...

We have a pretty easy time removing pucks if it is done shortly after the drink is served. I have never heard of the idea of softening the pucks by running water through it, but I guess it would work.

The other question that comes up in all this, and Nick alluded to it, is the importance (or not) of a dry portafilter before brewing. Nick says just whip it around to remove the excess water, but I would prefer to use a dry rag, which isn't always handy. It just seems like it's neater and might provide for a better extraction if the portafilter basket was dry. I have no proof for that, though.

5:59 AM, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Sarah Wilson-Jones said...

And yes, a few of us will be at Long Beach! See you then, Nick!

6:00 AM, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Anne said...

We keep a dry rag on our grinder so we can wipe the portafilter out every time. This seems so simple, but it's an essential part of my routine.

For me, water is the number one factor that influences espresso (of air light water and heat), so I like to keep my puck as dry as possible before brewing. So I wipe, and try to get my shots going as soon as their in the machine so no water drips from the group head. I don't have any evidence on this either, but that's my own personal supersition.

12:48 PM, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Prasti said...

i agree with nick re: serving the drink first before knocking out the puck. my "routine" when i used to be a barista was pretty similar to nick's outline post-espresso. i like to keep *very* clean portafilters so knocking out the puck and rinsing out the portafilters was an easy habit to establish :). hmm..dry rag to wipe portafilter...good idea. cheers!

8:54 PM, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Lebel Journal 2007 said...

Hi, I am learning how to become a great barista for a cafe I work in can you maybe give me some advice and maybe some pointers on how to do it really good?

My email is


11:06 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger Touchstone said...


down vote I alone on the planet seemed to have solved the endless problem of cleaning the fine holes of an espresso portafilter, or a Moka express fine steam filter. None of the liquid or abrasive cleaning apps work, period. Instead, in the past, one had to use a pin to poke out the minute holes. A task so laborious and hopeless than most espresso and Moka machines in the world are hampered by limited filtration.

No longer. The pin-holes are plugged with coffee fibre, which burns. Place the filter over a gas flame, either side, for 10 minutes, tapping it with tongs occasionally, and bingo . . . A CLEAN FILTER. All the minute coffee fibre plugs burn or pop out. Best to use a small coffee pot rack on top of your smallest hob gas burner for this. And metal thongs.

Will I be knighted for this? Cead

9:11 PM, December 10, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should never leave the previous coffee in the Portafilter.After you extract the coffee dispose of it and dry clean the Portafilter, do not leave any specs of coffee, wipe clean.

12:27 PM, July 07, 2013  

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