What Is Pre-infusion?

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What is pre-infusion

Everybody likes to make the most out of their daily cup of joe. Admit it – there is nothing more divine than a delicious brew. 

As such, many people have searched for techniques on how to brew the coffee properly.  If you have done so, you may have stumbled across a term called “pre-infusion.”

This article will lay down what this means in the simplest terms and how it can significantly affect the taste of your brew. 

What is it? 

person using espresso machine

Pre-infusion refers to the process of soaking the ground coffee in the machine’s portafilter with water before starting the extraction process. 

Use just enough water to soak the coffee grounds evenly. 

After a few minutes of soaking, the coffee beans will gradually “bloom” or when they rise and grow. 

 

Is it required? 

While the pre-infusion is not mandatory in the brewing process, adding this extra step can significantly improve the quality and flavor of your coffee. 

The pre-infusion process solves the problems that occur during tamping. 

If you fail to tamp evenly, cracks or air pockets form in the coffee puck. 

As such, when you apply pressure to extract the flavors, a situation called “channeling” will happen. 

In simpler terms, more water will gush out from the weaker side. 

All in all, you’ll get a terrible brew as one side is over-extracted while the other is under-extracted. 

Pre-infusion prevents channeling from happening as it levels out the ground coffee in the puck. 

As the coffee grounds “bloom”, they stick closer to each other and thus, fill in the holes and cracks. 

As a result, you’ll get a more balanced and consistent brew. 

 

How long should you pre-infuse the coffee grounds? 

caramel coffee

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. 

While most articles or testimonies recommend a specific “ideal” pre-infusion time, take this with a grain of salt. 

The whole pre-infusion process requires a bit of experimentation and a whole lot of trial and error. 

How long you soak the coffee grounds in water depends on several factors like the coffee type used, roast level, temperature, dose weight, and the like. 

As such, do not be afraid to make an extraction with various pre-infusion times. 

Take note of the different times and the brews it made and compare them with each other. 

Soon, you will find a pre-infusion time that is ideal for you! 

 

When should you time the pre-infusion process? 

Again, there is no conclusive answer to this. 

Some people count the pre-infusion process in the total extraction time. 

Others exclude the pre-infusion process from the extraction process and thus, start counting from the time the pump is engaged or when the espresso pours into the cup. 

Do not be afraid to experiment and find a method that works for you! 

 

How do you pre-infuse coffee grounds? 

Pre-infusing the coffee grounds can be done in various ways such as: 

Manual pre-infusion 

If you do not have a coffee maker or if your coffee maker lacks a pre-infusion option, you can manually pre-infuse your coffee grounds. 

To do that, pour a small amount of hot water over the coffee grounds. 

Make sure that you soak all the coffee particles evenly.

Let them soak for a couple of seconds, depending on your preferred pre-infusion time. 

After, proceed to the extraction process. 

Automatic pre-infusion 

Some coffee makers come with a pre-infusion option or feature. 

Most coffee machines with E61 group heads pre-infuse the puck before extraction. 

E61 group heads are usually found in semi-professional and more high-end coffee machine models. 

Here, a simple lift of the lever will start the pre-infusion process. 

When done, lift the lever higher to start the extraction. 

Traditional manual lever coffee machines also come with a pre-infusion process. 

Just pull down the lever to start pre-infusing the coffee grounds. 

However, if you are unsure, you can always check the coffee machine’s features by looking at their website. 

You can also approach the staff and ask for the details regarding the product. 

 

Does pre-infusion eliminate the possibility of over-extraction and under-extraction? 

No, while the pre-infusion process does aim to even out the coffee grounds in the puck, there is still the possibility of over-or under-extracting the brew. 

Over-extraction happens when the machine extracts too much of the coffee grounds’ flavors. 

If done incorrectly, pre-infusion can worsen over-extraction. 

On the other hand, under-extraction happens when the machine extracts too little of the coffee flavors. 

Pre-infusion can improve under-extraction; however, it will not do much if the amount of coffee grounds to the amount of water used is disproportional. 

 

What are the pros and cons of pre-infusion? 

coffee grounding

As pre-infusion evens out the coffee grounds in the puck, it will result in a more balanced and tastier cup of coffee. 

Your coffee drink will have more depth and flavors due to complete extraction. 

However, pre-infusion also has some disadvantages. 

Others may see it as a tedious process since it requires a bit of experimentation before you can get the ideal brew. 

Moreover, as already stated, pre-infusion does not eliminate the possibility of you under- or over-extracting the brew. 

 

What is pressure profiling? 

As you delve deeper into the pre-infusion process, you might have also stumbled upon the term “pressure profiling” as these two often go together. 

The idea here is that you pre-infuse the coffee beans then gradually increase the pressure halfway through the extraction process. 

The gradual increase in pressure enables the coffee grounds to slowly acclimate, minimizing and even preventing imbalances in the water flow rates. 

As a result, you will get a more even and balanced brew. 

 

Conclusion 

Pre-infusion is not a mandatory step when it comes to brewing a cup of coffee. 

However, it may be worth trying just to get more flavor and richness in your coffee drink. 

The worst thing that could happen is that the method will not work, and you would have wasted a couple of minutes that you could have used to sit back and relax. 

With its low stakes, why not give it a try in your next coffee brew?