Espresso Puck Exploding When Removing The Portafilter (Fixed)

In the coffee world, people who love coffee and make it for a living enjoy the wonderful smell and strong taste of a perfectly made espresso. However, even the greatest coffee makers often encounter some issues. the coffee grounds that remain after producing espresso, the espresso puck exploding when removing the portafilter. This article will explain why this occurs, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens to you.

How To Fix The Espresso Puck Exploding When Removing The Portafilter

You can take some steps to prevent the coffee puck from blowing out. The best way to avoid it is by waiting a minute or two to let the pressure go down, using a basket that doesn’t have pressurized holes, and making sure the coffee grounds have a consistent size when you grind them.

Wait A Few Minutes

After making your espresso, take some time before removing the portafilter. It is important to allow the pressure within the portafilter to release naturally. Rushing might cause issues.

Allow approximately a minute or two to pass. During this period, air will gently escape through small holes in the portafilter, reducing the pressure inside the portafilter. It’s a bit like slowly letting the air out of a balloon.

After you’ve waited for a little while, carefully remove the portafilter. However, remember to handle it with gentle movements.

Begin by gently tilting the portafilter to the side, just a little bit at a time. This helps release pressure slowly and prevents a sudden burst, often referred to as the “portafilter sneeze.”

Use A Non-Pressurized Basket

The Espresso Puck Exploding When Removing The Portafilter, Use A Non-Pressurized Basket

The short version is:

Using a non-pressurized basket is a good way to avoid a “portafilter sneeze.” Unlike a pressurized basket, it doesn’t trap pressure as much as a pressurized basket does. So, when you finish making your espresso, the pressure inside it goes away more steadily and evenly, making it safer to take off the portafilter.

The complete version is:

Pressurized baskets have a special design, such as a single small hole or a two-layer basket, which adds extra pressure. This design can be useful for making coffee consistently, especially when the coffee grind size or tamping isn’t perfect.

The pressurized mechanism pushes the water out from one point, making a fake layer of crema. However, this artificial pressure also means that there is still pressure in the portafilter after producing coffee, which might result in a “sneeze” if not handled properly.

This is also why pressurized portafilter baskets tend to get stuck in the group head more frequently.

Non-pressurized baskets follow the traditional style and depend entirely on factors like coffee grind size, quantity, and the pressure applied during tamping to create the necessary resistance for brewing.

Non-pressurized baskets have multiple holes, so unlike pressurized baskets that hold pressure in, non-pressurized ones allow water to flow freely.

This means that as soon as the machine finishes the extraction process, the pressure decreases right away, which greatly reduces the chance of a “portafilter sneeze” when you take off the portafilter.

The Grinder Makes Too Many Fines

If your grinder generates an excessive amount of fine particles, commonly referred to as fines, they have the potential to obstruct the openings in the coffee basket, resulting in pressure accumulation

This often happens when using pressurized baskets because they have only one hole for water to flow through, which can easily become blocked.

If you find yourself encountering an excessive amount of fine coffee grounds, think about upgrading to a grinder model that provides a more uniform grind size.

Here are a few things to think about if you’re upgrading your grinder:

  • Grinder Type: There are two primary types of coffee grinders: blade and burr grinders. Burr grinders are generally considered better because they grind coffee beans to a consistent size. In contrast, blade grinders often create an uneven grind, which can result in inconsistent extraction.
  • Quality of the burr: Burr grinders are available in two varieties: flat and conical. Both can achieve a consistent grind, but they do so using slightly different methods. Conical burrs are typically found in lower-speed grinders and are less prone to clogging, whereas flat burrs are commonly used in high-speed grinders and are renowned for their precision.
  • Grind Settings: A high-quality grinder offers the flexibility to adjust the grind size, accommodating various brewing methods. For espresso, a fine grind is usually preferred, but having the option to switch to a coarser grind for methods like French press or pour-over is a valuable feature to have.
  • Grind Consistency: This aspect pertains to how evenly the grinder crushes coffee beans. A grinder that achieves a consistent grind will lead to uniform extraction and ultimately result in better-tasting coffee. Premium grinders tend to produce fewer fine particles and a more uniform particle size overall.
  • Maintenance and cleaning: Regular cleaning of coffee grinders is essential to prevent the accumulation of old coffee grounds, which can adversely affect the flavor of your coffee. Keep in mind that certain grinders are simpler to clean than others, so consider opting for a model that facilitates an easy cleaning process.

Release The Lever First

If you’re using a lever machine, you can reduce pressure by gently raising the lever before unlocking the portafilter, but be careful not to lift it too much to prevent adding excess water.

A moderate lift, approximately halfway, should suffice to allow air into the chamber, subsequently lowering the water pressure.

Use A Coarse Grind Size

The Espresso Puck Exploding When Removing the Portafilter, Use A Coarse Grind Size

When you finely grind coffee beans, it becomes more challenging for pressure to escape through the densely packed coffee ‘puck’ in the machine’s portafilter. However, if you opt for a coarser grind, the gaps between the coffee particles enable air and water to flow more easily. As a result, there is less pressure buildup both during and after the brewing process.

Nonetheless, it’s critical to think about how this affects the flavor of your coffee. Using coarsely ground beans may result in a too-quick extraction, resulting in an espresso that tastes sour and unpleasant.

I would prefer dealing with a slightly messy, over-pressurized coffee puck over a bitter, hastily brewed shot of espresso.

Using a Smaller Coffee Dose

Avoid overfilling the basket, as the coffee puck expands slightly when it becomes wet, contributing to pressure within the portafilter. If there is an excessive amount of coffee in the portafilter, it increases the risk of the puck bursting upon release.

Therefore, ensure you use the appropriate quantity of coffee, taking into account your basket size and the type of beverage you intend to prepare. Typically, 18 grams of ground coffee suffices for a double espresso shot.

Similar to the grind size, this factor can also significantly influence the quality of your espresso.

Tamping The Coffee Too Hard

The Espresso Puck Exploding When Removing The Portafilter, Tamping The Coffee Too Hard

Excessive pressure used during the coffee tamping process might result in a slower extraction, often resulting in an overly bitter espresso and excessive pressure buildup within the portafilter.

So, simply focus on compressing the coffee evenly and creating a level surface within the portafilter; this is enough to achieve a good brew.

Open The Steam Value

In some coffee machines, the group head, which is in charge of coffee extraction, and the steam wand, which is used to froth milk, are linked. Their pressures are frequently interrelated, which means that changes to one might affect the other.

If the pressure in the coffee-brewing area is too high, one way to fix it is by opening the steam wand. This action lets some pressure out and reduces the pressure inside the coffee group head.

Clean The Portafilter Before Use

Check that the portafilter and group head are clean and free of residue from the last brew.

Old coffee residue can block the machine, leading to increased pressure. Consistently cleaning essential parts of the coffee machine, such as the group head, handle, and portafilter, is essential for trouble-free operation.

After cleaning, always remember to keep the portafilter in the group head to prevent the gaskets from drying out.

Final Words

Effectively controlling pressure during espresso brewing is crucial to preventing “portafilter sneezes.” Please wait for a few minutes before removing the portafilter. Using a non-pressurized basket and maintaining a consistent grind size can help resolve this problem.

By following all the steps mentioned in the article, you will fix the issue of the espresso puck exploding when removing the portafilter.


Is it normal for an espresso puck to explode?

Yes, it can happen occasionally due to various factors, but it’s manageable with the right techniques.

Can the exploding puck damage my espresso machine?

It’s unlikely to cause significant damage, but regular cleanup is essential to prevent any long-term issues.

Do I need expensive equipment to prevent puck explosions?

While high-quality equipment helps, proper technique and attention to detail are equally important.

Can uneven tamping lead to puck explosions?

Yes, uneven tamping can create uneven pressure within the puck, increasing the chances of it exploding.

How can I improve my tamping technique?

Practice and consistency are key. Experiment with different levels of pressure and focus on achieving an even tamp.

Meet Vishu Yadav, the coffee connoisseur behind With a barista background and a love for coffee, he explores diverse coffee cultures and brewing techniques. Join him for the latest trends, specialty roast reviews, and brewing insights on

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