Portafilter machines – which one suits you best?

Written by: Smilla H.



Time to read 8 min

It's time. You've played through the Bialetti, V60 and French Press and want to go one step further. An espresso machine should be in the house. But before you can prepare cappuccino, espresso and flat white like you do at your favorite coffee shop, you need to do a little research. There are many different portafilter machines on the market. All with different technology and large price differences. Here the spectrum ranges from a few hundred euros to a small car. But which portafilter machine is right for you?

Portafilter machines - what you should consider when buying.

First of all I can calm you down. You don't have to spend several thousand euros to be able to prepare really good coffee. Nevertheless, there are some things that you should consider when buying. Some factors are for example:

How deep do I want to delve into the topic?

How many coffees do I want to prepare with the machine?

Do I want to connect my machine to the mains water supply?

How important are milk drinks to me?

Does volume matter?

How much space do I have for my espresso machine?

... and how much budget do I actually have available?

All of these things influence which portafilter machines best fit into your household. In this article I will therefore go into the main differences between common models. We also clarify where the advantages and disadvantages lie.

Which portafilter machines are there?

In this section we look at where the differences in technology lie. This means, for example, how your machine heats up and how the water is transported from A to B. These things not only affect the handling of your machine, but of course also the price tag.

Boiler or thermoblock

thermal block

Let's get to the most important topic. How should your portafilter machine heat up? Let's start with the thermal block.

Here, the water is guided through a pipe past a heating element, as in a flow heater. This means that no boiler is installed here. Thermoblocks are often installed in cheaper machines. However, a few expensive models also rely on it. The construction and quality vary greatly here. Correspondingly inexpensive thermoblocks are installed in inexpensive portafilter machines. This is reflected above all in the temperature stability.

The advantages of a thermoblock machine are its fast heat-up time and compact design. Since there is no boiler in the machine here, thermoblock machines are often very narrow and fit into any kitchen. In addition, thermoblock machines are generally cheaper than portafilter machines with a boiler. So if you're on a budget, these machines are a great way to make espresso at home. A great model to start with is the QuickMill Orione.

The main disadvantages of cheap models are the temperature stability during brewing and poor steam pressure. In addition, with thermoblock machines you almost always have to switch between milk froth and espresso brewing. You need different temperatures here. So if you want really consistent results or like to make cappuccinos, I would rather recommend machines with a boiler.


In portafilter machines with a boiler, the water is heated to the required temperature in a boiler. The main difference here is in the construction. There are so-called single-circuit, double-circuit and dual boilers. A distinction can be made here between boilers with PID and thermostat or pressostat.

A detailed explanation would go beyond the scope here, but you can remember one thing: the heating circuits of your machine are somewhat longer with the thermostat and pressostat. This means your brewing temperature will fluctuate a bit here. With PID control, your machine heats up at very short intervals and keeps your brewing temperature incredibly precise.

You can also simply set portafilter machines with PID to a specific number of degrees. This means that you can also set your brewing temperature depending on the coffee. We have already described in another article how the temperature affects the taste.

Since the pros and cons vary widely between models when it comes to portafilter machines with a boiler, let’s go through them one by one.


As the name suggests, the Einkreiser is a water cycle. That means your water for espresso and steam comes from the same place. There is, however, a problem. Brewing espresso requires a much lower temperature than producing steam. If you are circling, you have to switch the machine between espresso and milk foam using a toggle switch or button. This means that cappuccino and Co. take much longer. In addition, there are greater temperature fluctuations with single-circuit machines without PID than with portafilter machines with dual boilers or double-circuit machines.

However, there are also some advantages to circling. These are mainly the price and their size. Single circuits are often much cheaper than double circuits and are more compact. These portafilter machines are especially recommended for coffee lovers: inside with a small budget or little space. Models with PID in particular deliver excellent espresso at a very constant level.

dual circuit

These espresso machines have the advantage that you can prepare espresso and frothed milk at the same time. They have two separate water circuits: one for steam and one for espresso brewing.

To put it simply: In a large boiler, water is heated to around 110 to 130 degrees. A heat exchanger in the boiler now enables the two water circuits to be regulated separately. Simply put, your water for the espresso runs through a pipe that leads through the boiler. This provides good temperature stability and enables quick preparation of cappuccino and co.

However, there are also a few disadvantages with double circuits. Due to their construction, it is difficult to set the temperature here. If too much time elapses between the draw-offs, the remaining water in the heat exchanger heats up too much. You should therefore make a quick reference here to have the perfect brewing temperature for your espresso. In addition, two-circuit systems are already relatively expensive, take up more space and take longer to heat up. can you live with Then take a look at the QuickMill Rubino.

Dual boiler

The upper end of the price range. As the name suggests, dual boilers have two boilers. Here the water for the espresso and milk froth is heated in two different boilers. The advantages here are obvious. Very high temperature stability. Froth milk and draw off espresso at the same time. Temperature for the espresso can be set.

These portafilter machines make no compromises - and you can see that in the price. Dual boiler espresso machines are often relatively expensive. In addition, the many setting options on high-end devices are not for a quick coffee in between. For espresso lovers who are looking for a real hobby, however, a dual boiler machine is the non plus ultra. A good investment here is, for example, the La Marzocco Linea Mini.

rotary pumps and vibration pumps

Now we've talked quite a bit about heating. However, water must also get from A to B. Two types of pumps are mainly used for this. The vibration pump and the rotary pump. Exactly how these work is interesting, but irrelevant for your purchase. So let's talk directly about pros and cons.

Portafilter machines with vibration pumps are often cheaper. Here, however, you have to make compromises in terms of longevity and volume. Because of their design, vibratory pumps are more prone to defects and much louder than rotary pumps.

In contrast, rotary pumps are often very resistant. They are therefore often found in catering machines. In addition, they are relatively quiet. However, you also have disadvantages with portafilter machines with a rotary pump. Firstly, these are always a little more expensive, secondly, they don't forgive any mistakes. Here is a brief explanation: rotary pumps immediately build up full pressure in portafilters. What sounds good in itself can become a problem, especially for beginners. If you make mistakes when distributing your coffee powder, it will quickly lead to a bad extraction.

In terms of taste, the two pumps don't take anything else apart. So the right pump is mainly a question of budget and experience.

Conclusion: which portafilter machine is the best for you?

As you can see, there is something for everyone when it comes to espresso machines . For coffee lovers with a tight budget and an even narrower kitchen counter, we recommend a single circuit or a portafilter machine with a thermal block.

Would you like to spend a little more money and prepare fantastic cappuccino? Then take a closer look at Zweikreiser. Here you have a great price-performance ratio and you can prepare milk drinks like in your favorite café.

Money is not an issue? Then portafilter machines with dual boilers are interesting for you. Here you get in most cases incomparable quality and absolute control over your end result. Especially if coffee is a real hobby for you, you will be really happy with a dual boiler.

FAQ portafilter machines

How does my depth in the coffee theme affect my choice of a portafilter machine?

Depending on whether you want to deal intensively with the technology or are looking for a simple solution, your choice of machine should be adjusted.

What role does the amount of coffee I prepare every day play?

The amount of coffee influences the choice of machine. Some models are better suited for occasional use, others for frequent use.

Can I connect my portafilter machine to the mains water supply?

Yes, some machines offer the possibility to connect them to the mains water supply. This makes handling easier, but requires appropriate installation.

How important are milk drinks when choosing my machine?

If you would like to prepare milk drinks such as cappuccino, pay attention to a powerful steam nozzle.

Does the volume of the machine play a role when choosing a portafilter machine?

Yes, some portafilter machines can make noise when heating up or brewing. If a quiet machine is important to you, you should pay attention to it.

How much space does a portafilter machine need in my kitchen?

Measure the available space in your kitchen to make sure the machine will fit snugly.

What budget should I plan to buy a portafilter machine?

Set a budget that suits your needs. Portafilter machines are available in different price ranges.

What types of portafilter machines are there?

There are several types including thermoblock, single circuit, dual circuit and dual boilers. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

What is the difference between a thermoblock and a boiler?

A thermoblock heats the water through a pipe while a boiler heats the water in a cauldron. Each technique has an impact on temperature stability and brewing time.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of thermal block machines?

Thermoblock machines offer fast heat-up times and a compact design. However, the temperature stability of cheap models can be affected.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of boiler machines?

Boiler machines offer better temperature stability. There are single circuit, double circuit and dual boilers. The choice depends on your requirements.

What types of pumps are there in portafilter machines?

There are rotary pumps and vibration pumps that affect the flow of water in the machine. Vibration pumps are cheaper but noisier and less durable than rotary pumps. Rotary pumps, on the other hand, are more resistant and quieter. They provide a constant flow of water.

Which portafilter machine is right for me?

The right choice depends on your preferences and requirements. If you're on a tight budget, thermal block machines or single-circle machines are good choices. If you want to prepare a variety of drinks, dual-circuit machines are ideal. Dual boilers offer total control and quality for enthusiasts.