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I have a Lelit espresso machine which came, like nearly all other machines, with multiple baskets. I got a double (up to 20g), a small double (up to 18g) and a single (up to 9g) basket.

The machine lets me brew phenomenally delicious espresso with the large double basket, which has straight walls and lets the water flow through the coffee evenly. The espresso has a really nice texture, it's neither sour nor bitter, perfectly balanced, very sweet and just very enjoyable in general.

The single and the small double baskets however only have holes in the middle and are kind of shaped like a funnel. I understand the purpose of this shape, it's to slow the water down so you get similar extraction times with the same grind setting.

During the past few weeks I tried to use the single baskets exclusively to see if I can make single shots instead of having to drink a doppio every time. I have tried adjusting a lot of factors and could not get an espresso that was as good as with the double basket. I tried adjusting temperature, pump pressure, grind size, tamping pressure, and extraction ratio. I have tried using 7,8, and 9 grams of coffee with a brew ratio of 1.8 to 2.5 and none of them were as good as with the double basket.

No matter what I tried, the espresso always had that channeling taste. It was sour and bitter at the same time. Inspecting the pucks afterwards showed no clear sign of channeling most of the time.

After this frustrating ordeal I just went back to using the double basket, which clearly makes better espresso (I even did a blind test to see if I can tell the difference, I got 4 out of 4 right).

Are single baskets just not made for specialty coffee? Does the funnel shape cause circulation at the edges and therefore higher extraction at the edges compared to the middle of the puck? Is it possible to get an espresso from a single basket that is as delicious as one made with a double basket? If not, can I buy a single basket that has the same shape as a double basket but with room for less coffee? I'm already pretty close to the finest grind setting on my grinder so I'm scared that using less coffee would make it flow faster than I can counteract with grinding finer.

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  • I've also been trying to get a good single shot. Ive heard of the IMS Single filter basket, but apparently it leads to a messy puck. Some have mentioned tamping technique for a single shot should be different since the ridges get compressed more than the center where most of the coffee is. Some tampers have a second small side you can try. I'm still working on my technique here too.
    – dmh
    Sep 28 '20 at 3:57
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    Thanks for the tip on the IMS baskets @MONODA43! I don't think grooming the puck with each side of the tamper and fiddling that much with it is sustainable and fun to do in the long run. Also I assume it would lead to some significant channeling if you were to tamp like that. Sep 28 '20 at 18:46
  • I agree, is hasnt been fun :)
    – dmh
    Sep 28 '20 at 18:47
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Yes. If you're willing to accept a bit of increased workflow hassle, the La Marzocco 7g basket with an inner straight-walled cylindrical bit (or one of its derivatives) works very well. To use this, you only fill the inner bit (with 6-8 grams) and tamp with a 41mm tamper. When properly dialled in, the basket yields a single that's quite close to, if not indistinguishable from, a split double in terms of taste.

Downsides of this approach:

  • While not strictly required, a special funnel to fill in the inner bit is practically necessary
  • Ensuring proper distribution of grounds in the basket is a challenge; some form of WDT seems to be necessary with most grinders
  • Can't use the same tamper for singles and doubles
  • Small dose is very sensitive to small variations; weighing each shot is practically necessary in my experience
  • After the shot's been pulled, there will be not a puddle but a pool of water on top of the puck. Easy enough to flip and drain into the drip tray, but forget to do this right after the shot, and you'll be left with a soupy mess in the portafilter.
  • The inner cylindrical bit only holds up to about 8g of coffee. With some coffees, this may force a grind size that's too fine and lead to bitterness. I find the LM single basket to be ideal for classical Italian espresso blends designed for smaller doses, but less ideal for third wave coffee. (I wish someone made a 10g LM-style single!)

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