Does brew time matter at all?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
MatGreiner
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#1: Post by MatGreiner »

For a given espresso, what would be the expected difference in taste if an espresso is brewed at 1:1 (or 1:2 or whatever) over 18 seconds vs the same recipe over 45 seconds? Is this really down to the taste differences only of how finely coffee is ground?

I'm curious about this question in isolation. Preinfusion increases contact time between water and coffee, and has affects on flavor and brew mechanics, yet it also seems like a separate, more nuanced category. While discussion of preinfusion's affect may point to the answer, as might refractometer readings or simply a more rigorous 'try it and see' tasting, it seems like something people would know.

James Hoffman released a new vid about espresso brew time confirming what I've grown to suspect, that time is a metric useful in certain situations (part of high volume quality control, or dialing into the ballpark) yet otherwise pretty irrelevant.

Jeff

#2: Post by Jeff »

Yes, it is very nuanced. That video is intended for espresso novices and intermediates. I'm pretty sure he said something like "you need to understand the rules so you know when and why you're breaking them." Understanding and having a good benchmark to start with makes dialing in a lot easier.

"Making a cameo appearance" in that video is a minute-long shot underway using a very advanced technique with basically a 40-second preinfusion.

It's a profile that several DE1 owners use, especially on lighter roasts. Lighter roasts tend to be more difficult to extract well, requiring longer contact time, more water, higher temperatures, higher flow rates, finer grind, or a combination of those. Since this profile is so different, I have to file away in my head a completely different "guess" as to where to start for grind and how to adjust for taste.



Going the other way, to some extent, is the allonge profile, which is a flat, 4.5 ml/s extraction to something like a 5:1 ratio. Again, different starting points for grind and an approach to dialing in are needed, compared to a "standard" 2:1, 25-30 second, "9-bar" shot.

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yakster
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#3: Post by yakster »

I would say that you need to factor in the temperature and pressure profile used along with the time of the shot to answer this question. Levers pull off great shots that far exceed the rule of thumb for time but have a declining temperature and pressure profile.
-Chris

LMWDP # 272

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cannonfodder
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#4: Post by cannonfodder »

The machine you are using must be considered. What is your temperature curve? Long shots from a double boiler PID controlled machine with very long preinfusion will be very different from a heat exchanger machine. It is a limit of the equipment you are using. Something a novice may overlook.

For example, my daily driver for the past almost 20 years is an Elektra A3. Big 6 liter boiler with a large heat exchanger. As the brew time increases beyond 30 seconds the brew temperature spikes very fast. The machine is tuned to run a 25-30 second shot. If I flush down and pull a shot at 201F for the first 25 seconds my temperature delta is around 0.5 degrees. At 30 seconds it has climbed to about +0.8 degree, at 35 seconds is 2+ degrees.
Dave Stephens

MatGreiner
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#5: Post by MatGreiner »

This site frequently gives me glimpses into the wide worlds beyond my knowledge plateaus.

It makes sense that this is highly machine and technique dependent, so I'll leave it there and thank all for the responses.

My initial question was wondering if, with a given dose and grind setting, I can pull a drinkable 1:1 at 21 sec, and a 1:2 at 30 sec. Then what might be an expected taste difference between that 1:1 at 21 sec., and a 1:1 with a finer grind at 28 or 35 sec? With reflection, that answer is in Jim's 101, and the flow profiles are beyond my equipment's abilities.

I have an A3, too, and I'm keen to learn more about its temperature response. I added a reduced gicleur to get the water debit/flow to about 280 ml/30 sec, so the flush chart in the in-depth review here doesn't apply to my setup any more. I recently got a thermocouple, but haven't yet had time to build it into a basket, and my Klein 400 has enough of a delay in its samples that I worry readings will not be as meaningful as I'd like.

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another_jim
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#6: Post by another_jim »

cannonfodder wrote:For example, my daily driver for the past almost 20 years is an Elektra A3. Big 6 liter boiler with a large heat exchanger. As the brew time increases beyond 30 seconds the brew temperature spikes very fast.
Yep, very long preinfusions and ultra-slow flowing shots are best with double boilers and those lever machines where the group cools off during the shot. Even well designed HX machines will gradually heat up on ultra-long shots.
Jim Schulman

DamianWarS

#7: Post by DamianWarS »

MatGreiner wrote:For a given espresso, what would be the expected difference in taste if an espresso is brewed at 1:1 (or 1:2 or whatever) over 18 seconds vs the same recipe over 45 seconds? Is this really down to the taste differences only of how finely coffee is ground?

I'm curious about this question in isolation. Preinfusion increases contact time between water and coffee, and has affects on flavor and brew mechanics, yet it also seems like a separate, more nuanced category. While discussion of preinfusion's affect may point to the answer, as might refractometer readings or simply a more rigorous 'try it and see' tasting, it seems like something people would know.

James Hoffman released a new vid about espresso brew time confirming what I've grown to suspect, that time is a metric useful in certain situations (part of high volume quality control, or dialing into the ballpark) yet otherwise pretty irrelevant.

video
as machines get a greater ability to dial in like with the DE we able to play with pressure/flow profiling and have some really long shots through that. If there was no discernable difference between Shot A @ 30 seconds and Shot B @ 60 seconds with the same dose/grind (just controlling the pressure/flow to slow the shot) would mean the latter is a waste of time and energy. What actually happens is coffee that has a longer contact time with a solvent (water) is going to give off more coffee stuff than it would a shorter time.

espresso time is contact time with water which translates to the extraction amount. In many ways, it is just like the time in any brewing method such as a french press. The popular method for french press is 4 mins, then you press and stop the brew. To say that 2 min or 10 min would have no difference however is just silly, of course, it has a difference. With a french press we directly control the time, the brew water never changes so when we want to stop the brew we just press and the brew is stopped and it has no impact on the yield. With espresso, time is a product of other factors and we control the time indirectly by changing the other factors (grinder, dose, temp, etc...) if we stop it too early/late it will affect the yield and extraction so we must rely on the other factors if we want to keep the yield consistent. Mostly with espresso it's controlled before you pull the shot and the shot's quality reflects what sort of prep you did to the coffee. Time is still important because its about how long the coffee has been in contact with water and you can allow a shot to go longer or shorter and have that direct control over time but this is more the last thing you do to dial in.