I've been doubting the flavour results of the Naked Portafilter recently.
I know, I know...
I can hear the screams of rage and pain from here.
Yes, I was one of the people who so zealously promoted them.
And yes... I still believe that they are incredible for training purposes.
But recently I've been finding myself less and less satisfied with the flavour of the shots. The mouthfeel is wonderful, there is no doubt about that. But I've been finding that with some coffees the resulting balance is off (sometimes dramatically).
I had a couple visitors the other day (Dom and his lovely wife) and was pulling some shots and Dom mentioned that I was not using the naked. So I swapped.
The last shot from the normal portafilter I pulled for us was wonderful. Total clarity, wonderful balance, finessed, polished - with great depth and transparency.
The shots from the naked, however, while looking great, lacked the balance. Instead of a round and polished profile, they were jagged, with exagerated high-mid notes and a noticable drop off on the bottom.
So I've spent that last couple days experimenting and I'm finding that, with some coffees, I'm getting better results from the normal (spouted) portafilter. This is particularly noticable with the Hairbender (for example), where the shots show the above described "jagged" flavour profile. In fact, I'm noticing that the more balanced the espresso is (or, perhaps, how important balance is to the style of the espresso) the less desirable the naked shots are.
The shots from the naked portafilter are very much "shock and awe" in all ways. They're stunning to look at extracting, the colours and textures in the cup are interesting, the mouthfeel is wonderful and the flavours are "all over the place" in your mouth. But there is a lack of finesse that I find displeasing with some coffees. There is a lack of subtlety that bothers me.
So, for now, I think I'm retiring my naked portafilter from production use and will use it purely for diagnosis, experimentation with techniques and training.