Why Do Espresso Machines Have Two Spouts?
Espresso makers are intricate machines — sometimes bulky and made up of seemingly mysterious parts that somehow work together to brew a perfect shot.
But have you ever wondered why espresso machines often have two spouts? It’s what sets them apart from other more conventional coffee makers — and serves a particular purpose.
It Takes Two
There’s a fundamental reason why many espresso machines have two spouts: it’s to efficiently make two cups of espresso simultaneously. It even has a name — a mustache spout.
The two spouts are usually attached at the bottom of the portafilter, which holds the filter basket where the ground coffee is added. Most espresso machines have two or more filter baskets.
A large filter basket lets you brew two shots at once, and the two spouts are the best way to pour the espresso into two separate cups.
A Close Look at Espresso Machines
Espresso machines are more than just one spout or two. Different machines have different types of portafilters and spouts that operate in various ways leading to different experiences for espresso drinkers.
Let’s take a deeper look at espresso machine spouts and the ins and outs of espresso making.
All About Spouts
Espresso machine spouts direct the coffee flow into a container, and portafilters usually come with one or two spouts. Single spouts are perfect when you’re brewing for one person, while a double spout lets you brew espresso into two cups or shot glasses at once.
It can help you make a single espresso shot for one person or two single shots for two people, or a double espresso for one.
The bottom line: espresso machines with two spouts provide more flexibility in both efficiency and overall coffee making.
Double spouts have other benefits, including helping to ensure an even tamp. When making espresso, you strive for even extraction, the way water pulls out coffee compounds to ensure full flavor and smoothness.
Tamping refers to keeping the coffee grounds in your portafilter level so the water flows through evenly.
An even tamp can be easily identified by using a double-spouted portafilter. You know you have an even tamp when the two shot glasses have the same amount of brewed espresso coming out from the double-spouted filter.
In addition, espresso spouts can prevent water from spilling onto the rest of your espresso machine.
This helps save money since double spouts allow people to make perfect espresso shots the first time, instead of forcing them to use more beans and waste a lot of money.
Spouts on espresso machines also prevent sediment build-up inside the machine’s glass carafe. That’s a big reason why those who use espresso machines with two spouts say it makes the best-tasting espresso shot.
Why a Portafilter Matters
Have you ever seen an espresso machine and wondered what that handle-shaped part is that sticks out of the machine?
That handle is the portafilter, where coffee grounds are held in a basket and where the coffee comes out. It’s sometimes called a group handle and looks like a giant spoon.
Spouts are the primary features of most espresso machine portafilters. Still, they are also made up of the handle, which allows whoever makes the coffee to secure it to the machine’s group head. This part connects the hot water to the compacted coffee, so it brews into a cup.
Portafilters also contain the basket that holds the coffee grinds and the spring clip that holds the basket inside the portafilter through pressure. Some also have a pressure gauge that lets you check the pump’s output pressure.
Spouts are standard on most portafilters, but it does not have any spouts; a portafilter is called “bottomless” or “naked.”
Types of Portafilters
Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of espresso machines on the market with different types of portafilters? Here’s what they all mean:
These portafilters provide a way to create more pressure when you’re brewing espresso.
For example, suppose you’re inexperienced with proper tamping and grind size. In that case, a pressurized portafilter can help guide you toward the best pressure for a great brew.
You’ll typically find the extra pressurization tool either built into the device or built into the portafilter basket.
For the more experienced brewer, a non-pressurized portafilter depends on the tamp evenness, grind size, and bean amount to yield the best pressure during brewing. Non-pressurized portafilters are popular with those who want to craft unique versions of espresso through the tamp and grind size.
Also called “naked,” bottom portafilters do not sport a spout on the bottom, so you can actually view the espresso dripping from the basket.
For great brews, espresso on bottomless portafilters usually begins dripping from the basket’s outside edges and then streams down the middle. Bottomless portafilters allow less room for an error involving the tamp, grind size, and dose.
Any portafilter that works with a packaged espresso pod (think the equivalent of a Keurig K-cup) is called a pod portafilter. The popularity of such pods has led to the development of a portafilter adapter which is used to make small changes to a portafilter to make it more pod-friendly.
Types of Espresso Machines
Espresso machines run the gamut from simple to extremely high-end and advanced. The simplest forms of espresso machines force water through coffee through pressure caused by heating up water in a sealed vessel.
With these types of machines, coffee is packed into a funnel, water is heated over fire, and pressure escapes through the coffee and out of the top tube, which is basically a more straightforward form of a spout.
A step up is what’s called a pump-style machine. Cold water is held in a reservoir, and a pump moves water out and into a heating chamber, which includes a built-in heating element and a valve that lets water in.
Ground coffee is held in a portafilter where the coffee is packed in a basket. Pump-style machines usually have two spouts on the bottom of the basket where brewed espresso is released.
Other parts of the machine include the steam wand, which heats and froths milk for different types of espresso drinks, and a control panel where you’ll find the primary power switch, a control valve, and indicator lights that tell you that the machine is on and the heating chamber has hit the right temperature.
How to Clean an Espresso Machine With Two Spouts
Proper cleaning of any coffee maker is essential to its longevity and brewing consistency.
There are two popular options for cleaning a double-spouted machine. One is to carefully release the steam by opening the valve. A vacuum may be needed to suck up the excess if it doesn’t entirely escape. You may have to clean the valve again when using a vacuum because the pump seal may collect residue.
Another approach is purchasing a hose that connects to the spouts from the steam outlet (if there are no spouts, a retractable house can be fixed to a valve to access it for cleaning). The hose is a particularly desirable option to clean two spouts because you won’t have to buy separate cleaning tools.