[Homeroast] Portafilter in or out?

Larry Dorman ldorman at gmail.com
Tue Sep 27 08:36:43 CDT 2016

So...  there is a local coffee shop (Garland, TX) that has a decent
location and aesthetic, but they are lacking in one critical area which is
the quality of their coffee.  I actually dumped half of an americano from
this shop once because it just wasn't enjoyable.  I like good coffee, but I
do have some tolerance so for me to dump something is a statement.

Anyway, I'd love to help this shop get better.  When I was in there this
weekend I noticed that they keep their portafilters laying on a tray on the
counter instead of in the group when not in use.  It happened that the
owner was in so I mentioned to him that he should keep them in the group to
keep them hot and that it would improve the coffee.

I clearly offended the owner.  :(  His first response was to let me know
that he has four other award winning coffee shops.  His second response was
to state that the manufacturer of the machine (La Spaziale.  I don't know
the model, but it's a small two-group machine.) recommends against keeping
the portafilters in the groups when not actively in-use.  His final
response was that it didn't matter because he trains his folks to run a
small amount water from the group through them before use.

This doesn't ring true with what I've learned and what seems logical to me,
but I do want to learn if I'm out in left field.  I can't come up with any
harm in keeping the portafilters in the group.  I suppose if they're locked
in tight then they *could* cause premature gasket wear.  However, if I were
running a shop I'd have a plan for regular replacement regardless.

Otherwise, it seems to me that running a small amount of water through the
PF will only partially heat it... there is a lot of metal there and the
water is only going to heat the immediate area.  The commercial machine
should be able to handle running some water through the group, but that's
still kind of like doing a cooling shot which isn't recommended for a
dual-boiler machine.

So... was I wrong (from a technical aspect) to suggest to the owner that he
keep the portafilters in the groups between uses?

The owner's contention was that he's just had some difficulty getting his
staff fully trained due to timing and turnover.  In fairness, I did get
another americano on this visit and it was fine.

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