When to start the timer?

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#1: Post by BaristaMcBob »

I'm sorry for asking this as I'm sure it's been asked a thousand times, but I could not find it in the FAQ section. Experts such as James Hoffman say it should "obviously" start with the pump. But Acaia and the other high-end scale makers obviously think it should start with the extraction.

Should I start the shot-clock when I engage the pump or when the first drops come out? Does the 30-second "standard" include the preinfusion / pressure build-up stage?

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#2: Post by jd1688 »

My ECM has a shot timer on it and it starts when I pull down the lever/pump turns on, so thats when I start it :)

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#3: Post by HB »

I searched on "when to start timing extraction" and variants thereof:

Does espresso shot time include preinfusion time
Measuring shot timing
Does extraction timing include preinfusion?
Timing of extraction
When do you start to time the shot?
When is the start of extraction time?
Timing of extraction starts when?
HB wrote:The majority agree the timing starts when the water first makes contact with the coffee, i.e., when the pump starts. Some espresso machines have extended preinfusion times that may last 8-10 seconds (e.g., E61 with vibratory pump like the Quickmill Anita), others bead almost immediately (e.g., no preinfusion with rotary pump like the Elektra A3/T1). For those with long dwell times, Jim Schulman suggested the convention that timings be reported as half the dwell time before beading. That's as good as any convention, since it's really pointless to worry about 24 seconds versus 26 seconds.
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#4: Post by realbrotherjay »

I think if you only have one source, go with timing from pump on. Acacia has the mode that starts with first drops probably because a segment of their user base, large or small, prefers to time that way. At the shop I work for we use that auto tare/timer mode by putting the cup on and starting the pump as soon as the scale registers. At home I've been using an ECM Synchronika as well, so I get the full shot duration timed on the display there, and then I let my scale tell me how long the output phase of the shot was. Both are useful data points, but overall time that the puck is exposed to water is more useful IMHO

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#5: Post by Nunas »

For me, the answer to this question is, "It doesn't matter." All that matters is that you like what's in the cup. So, scales, timers, thermometers, pressure gauges, and the like are all just devices that allow us to produce a shot we find agreeable consistently. The scales time from the first few drops simply because that's how scales work when set in that mode. Or, they start to time from when they tare, so if you use that mode, you pull the handle (or push the button) to coincide. Most espresso machines with inbuilt timers obviously have to time from when the pump starts.

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#6: Post by RapidCoffee »

Describing extraction time has become more complicated with the advent of profiling machines such as the Lelit Bianca and Decent DE1. These espresso machines permit extended preinfusion (and even blooming) phases, which may last as long as a traditional espresso shot (30s or more). In such cases, it becomes important to specify what you are timing: low/no pressure vs high pressure stages.

E.g., a 45s extraction could be a low-flow ristretto from a classic espresso roast, or a 30s bloom followed by a 15s gusher from a light roast. The extractions are entirely different, and just specifying overall timing does not provide sufficient information.

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#7: Post by Jeff »

Following on to the great comments above on consistency and that different machines have different "normal" extraction profiles, asking why time is meaningful at all is important.

For me, overall shot time is an output. It is a reference or control point, not something that I "set".

I'll stick to classic, pump-driven extraction profiles, like you have on a home SB or E61 box. I recall James Hoffman in one of his videos rightly mentioning something along the lines of "If you have a lever machine, you'll have to adjust these concepts."

For me, when I get a new coffee, I try to hit a familiar benchmark. Once I'm there, my experience with my gear and the kind of coffees I generally pull can help me dial in faster. "Last time I remember something with this kind of too-bitter balance, I found 1.5 marks coarser on my grinder was about right." Keeping a log book with notes can help build up that kind of memory, even if it is just the time to make sure you gather some thoughts about the taste and what you've done as you write them down. For a typical E61 box or SB, "18 g in, 36 g out, in 25 seconds from pump on" seems to be a reasonable benchmark. There's nothing magical about those numbers. Your tastes, coffee, and gear may eventually settle on "17 g in, 42 g out, in 30 seconds" or whatever. The idea is that you get from "blech" to your "generally good" benchmark quickly, then can easily tweak to "great".

The second place that overall shot time is interesting is to evaluate consistency. If your shot time is varying a lot for the same output weight, something is changing. If it is a consistent shift and the flavor has consistently changed, you might consider adjusting grind or dose a tiny bit. Especially with a grinder with a sticky adjuster, or one with backlash, this is one of the few times I'll adjust the dose a little bit (maybe 0.2-0.5 g?) rather than trying to "bump" the grind, then not being able to get back to where I was if I made thigs worse.

While I'm tempted to say wherever you pick to start your timer doesn't matter, I have a preference for "pump on" as it is clear and includes potential changes in how the puck wets. Those changes might be machine, grinder, prep, or even ambient conditions. Scales start with "first drops" or with a button push since they don't have a way to sense when the pump turned on.

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#8: Post by LBIespresso »

Like most answers you will get here this one starts with: It depends.

If the info is just for your own data. All that matters is that you are consistent. That way you can go back to your data from a year ago and say, "When I had this coffee last year, this is what I did to get my best shots."

If the info is to compare with others that have the same machine, keep track of when you press the button/pull the lever as well as first drips and full time. Or you can go into much more detail.

I am using a manual lever so an example of time for a shot for me would be:

Raise lever and preinfuse for 7 seconds at 1 bar. Apply 3 bars of pressure until 18 seconds (ish until first drops) gently increase to 9 bars and let pressure decline to keep flow consistent (by ear) until I reach intended weight which should be at around 58 seconds total shot time.

Clearly much more complicated than 14 in 18 out in 58 seconds.

Bottom line: Be consistent and if comparing with others as detailed as you can get without driving yourself crazy.
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BaristaMcBob (original poster)
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#9: Post by BaristaMcBob (original poster) »

THANK YOU!!! Sounds like there's no official scientific ISO standard. If the machine is going to choke, the timer's start point is irrelevant anyway. :D

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#10: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

BaristaMcBob wrote:Should I start the shot-clock when I engage the pump or when the first drops come out? Does the 30-second "standard" include the preinfusion / pressure build-up stage?

I use my iPhone Stop Watch for every shot. If you look at the posted pic you'll see that it displays everything.

I start & run it from beginning to end and I can see its utility by interpreting the numbers even though I remember nothing of this shot.

Lap 1 is Preinfusion till 1st drop time.

Lap 2 is Pump 'ON' time.

Lap 3 is 'Post Infusion' back to line pressure time

The time on the Clock face is Total Shot Time.

In actual operation 'Reset' becomes 'Lap'

What all this tells me now because this shot was definitely 'weird' is that single dosing, as I always do, I must have forgotten to readjust the grinder for the coffee I was using. I can tell that it was left on the finer grind setting used for my wife's 'Blend' that choked out this, my shot, as I must have forgotten to readjust the grinder.

At first I thought this pic was a terrible example to post because to me it looks so obviously wrong but I now see how useful it can still be by what can be gleaned - even 2-months later I can tell that this must have been my shot, not my wife's and with COVID nobody else has been to the 'Freedom Café'!

The iPhone Stop Watch is also useful because of its ease in taking a Screen Shot and then either downloading the image to a folder in the Photo Library or even forwarding the image to anyone as either an e-mail or text message.

"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"
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