As an owner/manager, I can say that a naked portafilter just doesn't make sense for some shops. For one, the dose and tamp have to be uber-accurate — which, I admit, they should be anyway — or else you get this strange spray from any random direction of the filter basket. But another problem is that all naked portafilters aren't made to the same standards. For Astoria/CMA machines, I have only been able to find one supplier, which is Espresso Parts (Chris Coffee doesn't even carry them). And not to knock EP, but the bottomless they sell for Astoria is just sorta cheap. Feels flimsy, in both the metal (thin and sort of toylike) and the handle (just sort of thrown on, with no style or ergonomics behind it). I have a feeling that a $200 Simonelli-made bottomless would be better, but obviously it requires the right machine; ditto for the LM/Synesso style, which are more popular among high-end places and so get more attention.
The leveling question seems separate to me; another thread, "Dosing," that's going on right now may address some of that. But I've been converted from a "press finger slightly and drag across" method of leveling to a more graceful method of making sure the portafilter is filled well on all sides, then circling the rim two or three times around, thereby nudging the grounds into place and lining the edges of the basket, then positioning the tamper carefully (level at all four points) and tamping once at about 30 pounds. It has made my shots more nuanced, a bit lighter and a bit sweeter.
PS: Double spouts allow for shot portioning, which is great if you end up getting a line of three or four one-shot drinks and want to multitask.
What are you looking for? If you have a shop that is looking to make the highest quality espresso, a bottomless filter shows you what your doing wrong as soon as the water saturates the puck. And knowing how to read it, will let you know what you need to do to correct it. You will get channeling if either your tamp, grind or proton is wrong. Most baristas don't put enough coffee into the filter, many don't tamp hard enough and as many tamp too hard. Timing the shots should also tell you what your doing wrong.
As far as Astoria filter holders, they have their own for most (if not all) their machines. They share the same design as their spouted holders. Nice heavy filter holders.
im not really looking for anything.. maybe just the defense for not using a naked . I started using one a year or so back and im all about them- its more acurate , it lets you see exactly what going wrong as its happening & because of that theres less waste involved since you dont have to pull shot after shot and taste shot after shot going through all the variables. also i think they are far easier to train baristas on, they can physically see whats going on in their extractions. So i guess i am really looking for a yes or no- can you make a really high quality espresso with a spout & no leveling?
is it a yes but it takes a little more time and intuition
or no because it leaves that much more guess work in a game of variables?
If you're using the precision that you would use on a naked, it might take more time to dial in without using the sense of sight as much, but you'll also be able to keep consistency (depending on your bean) and not have to constantly taste and tinker. I see two problems with it, though. First, the spouts tend to gunk up and you're losing some flavors in your coffee causing a lack of balance and quality. They're much more time consuming when cleaning or just polishing the machine/baskets. The second problem comes from today's light roasted espressos. They tend to be more fickle and can change almost in an instant for some baristas and we need to be on our toes when using these coffees, nakeds help us do that.
A potential money saving option (depending on your customers' patterns) could be purchasing one naked for straight shots and macchs, while using the less cost-prohibitive spouted portafilter for larger milk drinks. You can also use the naked portafilter as the dialing in device.