How important is pre-infusion?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.

#1: Post by dndrich »


So much information on this website...daunting!

I currently have a Breville Barista Express but am considering an upgrade to the Lelit Elizabeth. The Express produces shots with a programmed pre-infusion. It is something like 6-8 seconds. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, many of the shots (using medium to dark roast) are sour. I think the problem is temperature control of the group. But that is another problem.

The new machine I am considering can be programmed for pre-infusion. It looks like many of the HX machines basically just ramp up to pump pressure over a number of seconds. I read somewhere that a bit of pre-infusion is helpful to wet the grounds and reduce channeling, thereby making for more consistent shots. So the Elizabeth can do that easily as a double boiler programmable machine. Question is, should I use pre-infusion? I am just looking for tasty shots for milk drinks, but might want the occasional straight shot. I know this is a can of worms for you folks who get the nuances of all kinds of types of coffees and brews, but just looking for some beginner guidance here.


#2: Post by makspyat »

I asked exact same question and Jeff wrote a very detailed answer: Is pre-infusion necessary?

I feel that preinfusion eases requirements for grind size + puck prep: those with manual lever machines may get away with imperfect grind size by varying the brew pressure.

There is less room for mistakes with a fixed pump pressure machine - you could pull fruity (not sour) shots, but you have to put a bit more effort in other variables. At least I enjoy my coffee with Profitec Pro 300, which does not have variable preinfusion, but I spend time honing each shot.


#3: Post by Maggiekw »

I had the breville barista touch myself, not the same, but quite similar. I upgraded to a ecm machine with flow control and a new grinder, and my experiance is that the grinder is the most important thing. The grinder that is build in in the breville machines are quite rubbish. Put your money in a good quality grinder and use it with the breville, or if you have the budget, buy the Lelit Elisabeth aswell.

Me myself find it really usefull with the flow profile, but a good grinder is more important.


#4: Post by klee11mtl »

+1 on Magnus' comment.

My experience is with the Barista Pro which is not identical but very similar to the Barista Express. Have you tried manual mode where you can adjust pre-infusion and extraction times?

I have played a lot with pre-infusion, temperature adjustment, and extraction times and while each has an impact, how much a single factor has varies a lot depending on the coffee itself. As for sourness, the overall balance of my extractions improved not by changing the brewer, but switching to a different grinder. My Eureka Notte is still a lower end grinder but it produces significantly better and more consistent results than I was ever able to get with the built-in Breville grinder.

As the Elizabeth does not have a built-in grinder, were you also planning on upgrading that as well? If not, your grinder may be your limiting factor. If you are, my recommendation would be to upgrade the grinder first and re-assess.

dndrich (original poster)

#5: Post by dndrich (original poster) »

No doubt about the grinder. I have a Niche Zero now. Great grinder.


#6: Post by cskorton »

Preinfusion is really only necessary if you enjoy light roasts. I've found my tastes are focused in the medium to medium dark range, so preinfusion isn't necessary.

Find your preferred taste in coffee first, then buy the equipment after.

And even then, some of my favorite medium-light roasts were pulled on La Marzocco Linea without any preinfusion at all.

Focus on grinder first, then quality coffee second.

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#7: Post by spressomon »

I wouldn't be without pre-infusion of some type...for any roast level, bean type, bean blend, etc. Its another 'tool in the toolbox'; however, after 2+ decades of making espresso & espresso drinks at home with about 1/2 of that w/o pre-infusion on the then machines...its a very worthy and beneficial 'tool'.

Imagine what pour over would be...without pre-wetting ("infusing") the grounds.
No Espresso = Depresso

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BaristaBoy E61

#8: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

spressomon wrote:I wouldn't be without pre-infusion of some type...for any roast level, bean type, bean blend, etc.
+1 & Amen to that!

There's just no going back because preinfusion and a naked portafilter provide all the 'healing' and feedback to pull as perfect a shot as possible - even if I've messed up somewhere in the prep or grind.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

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#9: Post by Ypuh »

My gross estimate is that 99.9% of all coffee in the world is prepared and drunk without any form of pre-infusion. Many of those people are still alive today, enjoy their daily cup and sometimes might even have a good cup of coffee.
I don't want a Decent