Just got back from the Chi town Spro down hosted by intelligentsia and played around with a synesso and was introduced to the concept of pre infusion for espresso ...


I'm curious to hear from people who have tried it or currently use it or swear by it or whatever ...

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Do you mean manual pre-infusion or pre-infusion in general. Many espresso machines are already doing it and you may not be aware of it. Some machines have a chamber that holds a small amount of brew water that is released onto the coffee puck before full pump pressure is applied. Others have flow restrictors that will let water into the group head at such a rate that the coffee fills with brew water before it feels the full force of the pump. There are other ways that other machines achieve the same basic thing. The idea is to allow the coffee to absorb enough brew water to expand and puff up, sealing off loose areas that might otherwise allow channeling or side wall bypass.

So to answer your question, I like having the ability to reduce the margin of error with extraction, but it is a pain in the butt to have to do manually. I have tried it on the Synesso and the Paddle Group Linea, and it really is one more thing to keep track of while everything else is going on at the same time. I would rather have the machine take care of that aspect of extraction. But I have not worked shifts with this type of machine, and I am sure it becomes second nature to the Barista.
Soft preinfusion is very important to quality extraction and has existed in a variety of machines. often without the knowledge of the owner. A lot of companies like astoria and Nuova Simonelli have built-in soft preinfusion cycles that allow proper swelling of coffee. The expansion of the coffee leads to a release of aromatics and, thus, flavor in the cup. To not preinfuse is to mistreat the coffee be not allowing for full shot development, in my humble opinion. There are various opinions as to how long the cycle lasts, and that questioning has been exasperated by the invent of Synesso's paddle, though La Marzocco has played with the paddle group for years. In fact, the newer LM prototypes have had paddle groups where you can actually change the pressure and time of the preinfusion based on how far the sliding paddle is opened versus the light click of the synesso in one position. I watched folks preinfuse for 10+ seconds on the Black Cat custom LM/Mistral machine at SCAA this year and the shots turned out pretty nice. Suffice it to say that there is still much to be learned about manual preinfusion, but it seems to be a largely important factor in controlling quality extraction.
sorry ... to clear up ... i'm referring to manual pre infusion
It's unnecessary, but a fun "toy" to play with. You can easily get by without it, and I don't know many people who "swear by it".

If you've done a proper job of preparation, it shouldn't make a lick of difference, and I'd venture to say that you can pull a better shot under the same circumstance without it.

Just my $.02
Before coming to the Spro Down this past weekend
I had never been exposed to manual paddles for pre-infusion before.
It's cool and fun to play with but I don't think it's "better" I pull awesome shots on our 3 year old Simonelli.

From a business standpoint it's a little impractical when you're a busy shop.
For the most part it seemed to take a little longer when pulling shots(Which I was afraid I was burning them but I wasn't)

I still don't think I have Full opinion though. Thats just my first impression.
The last three posts...Chris/dale..While the Synesso seems like a manual, it is a electric switch; half way start a preinfussion and full begins the extraction. This is not just a "fun toy." I would explain but Chris and Phil did already. Read the comments before...they know what their talking about.
I believe that improved taste comes from the fact that you have less chance of uneven extraction caused by channeling. Even the best Baristas have uneven flow through the puck now and then, no matter how skilled. The expansion of the puck without full pressure creates the "seal", reducing the chance of uneven extraction. I have never heard of the release of aromatics before, and I can not think how you could possibly test for this. But you can calculate the ratio of even vs. uneven extraction with a naked PF and putting a non pre-infusion machine up against a pre-infusion machine. Uneven shots will simply not have as clean a flavor, or as good an after taste. I don't see it as anything much more complicated than improving you odds.

So it just comes down to the question of whether or not it is beneficial to have control over how long you pre-infuse. Does it create a better seal to pre-infuse for 10 seconds instead of 3 seconds? This is the only area where manual activation of line pressure and pump pressure may be important. However, once you have determined the best pre-infusion time interval, why not just make the machine do it that way every time. Unless you now get into the discussion of different pre-infusion times for different coffees or roast levels.

Chris/Dale- What did you learn about it at the Spro Down? Did you come away from it with a new level of understanding extraction, or are you left with more questions than answers?
Mike said:
The last three posts...Chris/dale..While the Synesso seems like a manual, it is a electric switch; half way start a preinfussion and full begins the extraction. This is not just a "fun toy." I would explain but Chris and Phil did already. Read the comments before...they know what their talking about.

Wait a second...

I'm curious to hear from people who have tried it or currently use it or swear by it or whatever ...

Oh, sorry, I thought that meant I was free to give my opinion. I didn't realize an opinion could be wrong. My mistake.

If you watch the baristas in retailers running Cyncras, you'll generally tend to notice a pattern of people just generally not even messing with the pre-infusion. Slap it full on, and that's it. Hmm.. why is that?

I've tried it. I've tried slower, I've tried faster, and I'm telling you that from my experience, assuming you did everything on your end right, skipping it altogether produced a consistently better shot.

Again, I feel like I need to reiterate that this is from my personal experience. In my view, from my experiences, it is a "fun toy".

If you would care to elaborate on why you feel the need to say it is not, I would love to read it. The previous posts that you pointed to don't really say much of anything about it.

Thus far, I think Phil is closest, but I still don't think he's got it quite right either. (just a quick reminder.. opinion.. )

Maybe the meaning of "Just my $.02" was lost on you, and if so, I apologize.
No harm, No foul. Phil is giving a edjucated response and just calling it a Cool toy seemed to be a little light on facts.

Jason Haeger said:
Mike said:
The last three posts...Chris/dale..While the Synesso seems like a manual, it is a electric switch; half way start a preinfussion and full begins the extraction. This is not just a "fun toy." I would explain but Chris and Phil did already. Read the comments before...they know what their talking about.

Wait a second...

I'm curious to hear from people who have tried it or currently use it or swear by it or whatever ...

Oh, sorry, I thought that meant I was free to give my opinion. I didn't realize an opinion could be wrong. My mistake.

If you watch the baristas in retailers running Cyncras, you'll generally tend to notice a pattern of people just generally not even messing with the pre-infusion. Slap it full on, and that's it. Hmm.. why is that?

I've tried it. I've tried slower, I've tried faster, and I'm telling you that from my experience, assuming you did everything on your end right, skipping it altogether produced a consistently better shot.

Again, I feel like I need to reiterate that this is from my personal experience. In my view, from my experiences, it is a "fun toy".

If you would care to elaborate on why you feel the need to say it is not, I would love to read it. The previous posts that you pointed to don't really say much of anything about it.

Thus far, I think Phil is closest, but I still don't think he's got it quite right either. (just a quick reminder.. opinion.. )

Maybe the meaning of "Just my $.02" was lost on you, and if so, I apologize.
Mike said:
No harm, No foul. Phil is giving a edjucated response and just calling it a Cool toy seemed to be a little light on facts.

Jason Haeger said:
Mike said:
The last three posts...Chris/dale..While the Synesso seems like a manual, it is a electric switch; half way start a preinfussion and full begins the extraction. This is not just a "fun toy." I would explain but Chris and Phil did already. Read the comments before...they know what their talking about.

Wait a second...

I'm curious to hear from people who have tried it or currently use it or swear by it or whatever ...

Oh, sorry, I thought that meant I was free to give my opinion. I didn't realize an opinion could be wrong. My mistake.

If you watch the baristas in retailers running Cyncras, you'll generally tend to notice a pattern of people just generally not even messing with the pre-infusion. Slap it full on, and that's it. Hmm.. why is that?

I've tried it. I've tried slower, I've tried faster, and I'm telling you that from my experience, assuming you did everything on your end right, skipping it altogether produced a consistently better shot.

Again, I feel like I need to reiterate that this is from my personal experience. In my view, from my experiences, it is a "fun toy".

If you would care to elaborate on why you feel the need to say it is not, I would love to read it. The previous posts that you pointed to don't really say much of anything about it.

Thus far, I think Phil is closest, but I still don't think he's got it quite right either. (just a quick reminder.. opinion.. )

Maybe the meaning of "Just my $.02" was lost on you, and if so, I apologize.

The last time I wrote on the topic, I got into a huge analysis of reconsidering the entire fundamentals of our understanding for the physics of espresso extraction.

I just figured there wasn't time or space for that here. I generally save things like that for other avenues.

So, I implied that there is more to what I was saying by putting "fun toy" in parenthesis. Text communication is hardly as effective as verbal.
Jason- I am curious why you think coffee could or would tastes better without it (it is hard enough to find a Barista who can make a great shot with pre-infusion, let alone trying to fly without a net). Is it your argument that proper portafilter preparation (say that fast) negates the need? I would also say this were true in an ideal world. But I see it kind of like golf. If you pick the right club, and make the perfect swing, you will never miss. The trouble is, you can't always make the perfect swing. I believe that every time you groom the portafilter and lock it in, you are playing the percentages. A lot of what a good Barista does is meant to raise the percentage.
Phil Proteau said:
Jason- I am curious why you think coffee could or would tastes better without it (it is hard enough to find a Barista who can make a great shot with pre-infusion, let alone trying to fly without a net). Is it your argument that proper portafilter preparation (say that fast) negates the need? I would also say this were true in an ideal world. But I see it kind of like golf. If you pick the right club, and make the perfect swing, you will never miss. The trouble is, you can't always make the perfect swing. I believe that every time you groom the portafilter and lock it in, you are playing the percentages. A lot of what a good Barista does is meant to raise the percentage.
I agree with everything quoted, but I am skeptical about the common theory that pre-infusion somehow swells the puck. It does have a purpose, but I don't think puck-swelling is that purpose. I think it's misunderstood.

I'll buy some form of "saturation", or a "pressure ramp", but not "swelling". What actually happens from pre-infusion is more what I'm concerned with, here. My experiences have supported my theory... which is just a theory (just like any other).

But think about it. At most, you're getting a little surface swell. You can't possibly saturate the entire puck without pressure being applied. Once that pressure is applied, the water cushion is doing the tamping for you, even if you forgot.

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