La Marzocco Basket Confusion
Posted May 16, 2003 7:25pm
Hey, these are coming more frequently, see!
I have an update about the UPS situation I wrote about in the last cafe talk. Tom Best, the fellow who was the receipient of the package, emailed me to say that the eBay seller came through and refunded him the money. It's too bad for the seller, but at least he did come through and do what's right. Good news for Tom...
The La Marzocco "Ridgeless" basket confusion.
I'm really concerned about something that is causing a potential minor grief for my friends at ESI and La Marzocco, and a lot of confusion for the consumer.
Sometime a year or so ago (it might be longer now), a supplier started talking about a 'ridgeless La Marzocco basket' to some e-vendors. Now to be fair all around, it's possible that supplier simply told vendors that he had some filter baskets that capitalize on the successful design of the authentic La Marzocco filter baskets, but these new baskets remove the distinct ridge that some people have problems with... and the vendors started calling this the "La Marzocco Ridgeless basket". But to be equally fair, the supplier(s) never nipped this one in the bud either, and they probably should have.
Today, we have a situation with the folks at ESI and La Marzocco get calls about "where can I buy your ridgless basket?" and so do many eVendors. Problem is, that product doesn't exist. There are baskets made by third parties that were designed to fit the La Marzocco portafilters and were designed with some of the excellent qualities of the La Marzocco baskets. But La Marzocco does not market, sell, or order any "ridgeless" filter baskets. Anything sold this way should be called a ridgeless filter basket, and not associated with the company.
La Marzocco have two styles of baskets - their traditional with the deep ridge, which is, in my opinion, the best double basket on the market. The single is also the best in its class - it is better designed and deeper than any other single I've seen. In fact, the vertical surface area for the ground coffee is as tall as the double basket - the single is in fact a taller overall basket because of the inline slope it has to conform with 58mm groupheads.
La Marzocco do not market or make a triple basket in the traditional style.
The other style is the Swift basket, which is specifically designed to work with the Swift grinder and La Marzocco espresso machines. The dispersion holes in the filter are larger than traditional baskets, and it can be a challenge to use if you don't have a Swift grinder. The single, double and triple sizes all have the same area space for the filter portion, which breaks tradition from the normal filter concept of half the filter hole space for a single.
I knew this would cause trouble a year or two ago when some companies began marketing this as the "La Marzocco ridgeless basket". Here's a visual primer about different basket styles. I should note that I have not actually seen one of these "designed for La Marzocco ridgless baskets". I've requested one from a few sources a couple of times, but they never came through. No matter though, I've seen, used, and experimented with dozens of filter basket types. Here's a bunch of styles and shapes.
As you can see from these photo comparisons, there are several different "styles" approached by various vendors and designers of filter baskets. La Marzocco has a lot of thought and care put into their single basket design, and I've always thought that, whenever I read comments about "throw away the single basket", these folks probably used a poorly designed single. The LM single has a vertical height matching the double, and the dispersion and saturation of the coffee is much better; in fact, packing the coffee is much better.
In triples, I've always found it challenging, due to the physics involved in packing and tamping coffee, to get a good and easy triple shot. I understand that Zoka uses triples, but the ones I saw were Swift triples. What's strange about this is that Swift baskets have a much larger hole design in their filters than other baskets (see photo to right), but they manage to pull it off. For me, the Swift triple is easier to pack and achieve good results, but you do have to grind a bit coarser for it. The Pasquini triple requires a mid-tamp - ie, half pack it, tamp, then finish packing, and tamp again. Too much trouble for what you get.
But I'm getting off subject. Bottom line for me is this: The La Marzocco double and single baskets (complete with the thick ridge that holds it in place with the springs inside the portafilter, AND stops a 58mm tamper) are the best designed, best performing filters out there. With around a 17gram capacity for the double, it gives super rich and even ristretto shots, or surprisingly thick normal doubles (2.5 to 3oz total brewed volume).
Other baskets work okay, some better than others. My second pick would be the pasquini basket, which has the least amount of taper towards the bottom of any of my "other" filters (except the Swift baskets). The ones I like the least? Well, the Nuova Simonelli filter baskets I got with an Oscar (not pictured), weren't very good - very shallow and a weird dispersion pattern for the filter holes. But of the ones pictured, the Swift double is probably the worst for traditional brewing because of the huge (relative) filter holes - if you grind ristretto fine, you'll get a lot of "fines" in your cup.
As far as the "La Marzocco Ridgeless Basket". It doesn't exist. I wish vendors would stop selling filter baskets with that moniker. As I said above, it causes confusion in the marketplace, and even goes as far as to cost ESI and La Marzocco money, because they do get calls from confused consumers looking for the product... a product that doesn't exist.