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Why wait for first drips?


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Following on from the comment by @pj.walczak on Mildred’s recent barista routine thread, I got thinking about why it is recommended to wait for the first drips?

 

I would set out at the start, that I don’t do this. I use an arbitrary PI time and grind accordingly to achieve tasty. Currently on a light to mid roast bean and 7s PI works to deliver a what I want in 40s.

 

With a recent “espresso blend” from Extract I found the beans easier to extract so used a 5s PI.

 

This is because, on my lever, I had found that if I wait for the first drips, the resultant shot can run a bit too quickly.

 

Does the first drip advice originate from a means to try and standardise the timings, ie first drip = saturated puck, hence repeatable PI shot to shot?

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So I have been trying to abide by this rule the last couple of days. Interesting results.

 

This seems to work for me providing you wait for first drips to actually start lowering THROUGH the basket. Just waiting for the brown colour to spread across the basket isn’t sufficient as can be misleading and sometimes still lead t a further long wait for the flow to start.

 

This method does take some of the guessing out of the PI and compensates for grinding errors - you do have to have the confidence to let it wait for whatever length PI the drip-method dictates though.

 

I accidentally ground some Rave Kenyan too fine this morning and had an 11 second PI. I had been struggling to get the taste right - , previously a little unpleasantly sharp lemon with my normal method, but using the first-drip method it was really quite tasty and balanced.

 

Certainly works for these current beans.

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Hmm, i don’t know what to make of this. I have got tasty for sure with these beans but I swear I have lost body in the shot and the crema is definitely lighter with lesser tiger striping (I know, I know - I’m not divining shot quality by crema, just observing!!)

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This rule, to wait for the pre-infussion finish, I first read in Scott Rao book.

It is also something, that Reiss, from Londinium strongly recommends.

It is perfectly fine to set a goal of 7 seconds preinfussion, however you would want to adjust your grind, in such a way that at the 7th second the whole puck is saturated and you have the first drips in the cup. And if if do not see the drop at 7th second, you wait and allow the pre-infussion to complete. In next shot, you can just adjust your grind settings to complete the prewetting in your target time.

 

Per Rao:

 

"Preinfusion soak improves extraction uniformity by allowing water to find its way to all pockets of the coffee bed before the high-pressure phase removes solids from the bed. Espresso preinfusion also decreases fines migration, decreases channeling, and allows use of a finer grind, which increases total extraction slightly."

 

Pre-infussion negates the effect of wrong preparation and bad coffee distribution in PF. That is the reason, I always want it to finish.

So for me this is just universal rule. Of course there is nothing wrong in breaking the rule, but it should be done with purpose and for some specific reason. Having tiger stripes, for me is good reason. And I confirm, with full pre-wetting the puck, the tigers are less visible. What does it mean? I suspect this is just more even extraction, but this is just a guess. Thankfully, coffee is just my hobby, not a job so I can just guess.

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...at the 7th second the whole puck is saturated and you have the first drips in the cup...

 

So you let the PI continue until there are actually drips falling into the cup?

 

That is longer than I had been going. I’ll try again tomorrow and see where we get to with new beans.

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Hmm, i don’t know what to make of this. I have got tasty for sure with these beans but I swear I have lost body in the shot and the crema is definitely lighter with lesser tiger striping (I know, I know - I’m not divining shot quality by crema, just observing!!)

Longer pre infusion , quicker shot potentially after.

the finer you can grind, if your grinder is capable then in there you can extract more.

A long pre infusion shot can taste different though in body etc. All subjective.

If course you dont have to wait for drips to get good tasty shots, plenty of machines etc in great cafes just have no preinfusion or short burrs for example

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I’ve got the E37s so hopefully good enough.

 

if your grinder is capable then in there you can extract more.

 

If you could please provide the usual signed report, addressed to my wife, stating that my grinder is a poor example and “an EK js the only solution” and “a lot smaller than you might expect”, that would be appreciated.

 

Surprised myself this morning with a 30s PI just to see what happened (I had the grinder set far too fine following a bean change to @SoleBay Rwanda) - the shot tasted superb and I know it would be have been disappointing if I had bailed out at a 10s PI as I normally would have done.

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Thought I would add some observations in case someone is following in my footsteps here.

 

One surprising benefit of this method is it completely rules out a disappointing first shot of the day. Temp / humidity changes day to day usually necessitate a grind tweak each morning. When using an arbitrary 5s PI, day, there is little chance of getting the best for the bean on the first shot. By watching and waiting for the coffee to show,be it a 3s or a 10s PI, the resultant shot has turned out better.

 

What I have noticed is that allowing myself to move to a longer PI is I am finding a much tastier shot at 1:2.5 ratio and I swear I am getting bigger shot volumes out of my lever. Accepting that I have lost some body and mouthfeel, one shot this morning was a 20s PI and the result was lovely and notably more balanced.

 

So, on balance, another subtle change in my espresso learning. Thanks to the contributors.

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  • 2 weeks later...

@rob177palmer I too had being doing what you have been - an arbitrary 6-7s pre infusion then holding the lever at bite point until full saturation.

 

I might play with this first drip method myself.

 

What lever are you using out of interest?

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I might play with this first drip method myself.

 

What lever are you using out of interest?

 

I have a Quickmill Veloce spring lever.

 

I am a week or two into this approach and now completely bought in. Have screwed up the grind more than once when changing beans and ended up with a great tasting and smooth coffee after a 45 second PI - previously would have just dropped out and been a sinker. This way even extreme PI like this produced very nice coffee.

 

I have also started to expect the first coffee each morning to “show” sooner than it is ready to pull, so a few drips in the cup for the first cup, no more than one drip thereafter before engaging the spring (probably a function of not completely clearing the grind path of staled before grinding my first shot).

 

Been a really positive learning exercise.

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I have a Quickmill Veloce spring lever.

 

I am a week or two into this approach and now completely bought in. Have screwed up the grind more than once when changing beans and ended up with a great tasting and smooth coffee after a 45 second PI - previously would have just dropped out and been a sinker. This way even extreme PI like this produced very nice coffee.

 

I have also started to expect the first coffee each morning to “show” sooner than it is ready to pull, so a few drips in the cup for the first cup, no more than one drip thereafter before engaging the spring (probably a function of not completely clearing the grind path of staled before grinding my first shot).

 

Been a really positive learning exercise.

What pressure are you running on your veloce or is it fixed? I have a pro 800 and you can vary the PI by upping or lowering boiler temp a bit but not by huge amounts. Currently boiler is 1.2bar for PI.

 

Have you had to grind finer?

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Same boiler pressure PI like yours. Mine has a band between 1.1 and 1.4 from what I have seen. Have tried to set and forget pressure.

 

I probably haven’t been grinding noticeably finer, just leaving the lever cocked until much more coffee showing across the basket.

 

Some might be a nudge finer but I would say the main change is hopefully the longer PI is leading to a more complete extraction. I can certainly say the flavours are more balanced this way to a 1:2.5 ratio, whereas I tended to be at 1-2 previously and not always clearly picking out the tasting notes.

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This morning’s example - grind definitely too fine as this photo was at 35s PI

21756b560a34ab36bd7b9e79619827cd.jpg

 

Even still the pour was a little slow:

49e5e2a7b91a6b09aef37a83f179a446.jpg

 

But the shot tasted fine, if a bit “earthy” compared to the best from this bean (“jasmine, peach, blueberry, coconut”!!) but definitely this method results in a higher proportion of good shots

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And as with everything espresso - a small nudge of the grind resulted in this at 13s PI:

36b6f22fc1da6be0b1dc9ac63d310a2b.jpg

 

And the first drip before a much more even pour:

08ce2be2cb3c9653e106cf934262613e.jpg

 

And a more balanced and fruity shot in a more reasonable time from first cocking the lever:

b1411de846d10e4338491e111f990244.jpg

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I played around with long pre infusion on the Vesuvius , took the water debit right down to the smallest it could go then, used the profiles on the buttons manually to hit 8 bar when first drips came out.

Was never really convinced by 100% by the results I got, hard to put my finger on it and this is from memory and unhelpful, but alot just had a weird undone taste to them. Could be my water, number of reasons but moved away from it to different profiles. (for reference they went from 12 seconds to up to 25 seconds sometimes).

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Definitely agree that a 30s PI is too long. The grind tweak ahead of that last shot was just what was needed tho - a 10 ish s PI works better more often.

 

I had shied away from long PI previously as the pour speeds up so much. Had previously thought that was a bad sign.

 

The learning here is grind to roughly the PI you are targeting (10s say) but definitely don’t engage the spring according to an arbitrary time - I am better to watch the basket and wait for the puck to tell me when to go.

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Been playing with this.

 

Results are a little inconsistent for me owing to the fact the Pro 800 has a higher peak pressure (two springs vs one). So if I get full "wetting" on my naked PF pre engaging the piston the shot then pours too quickly.

 

Any advice?

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Been playing with this.

 

Results are a little inconsistent for me owing to the fact the Pro 800 has a higher peak pressure (two springs vs one). So if I get full "wetting" on my naked PF pre engaging the piston the shot then pours too quickly.

 

Any advice?

 

What does pre engaging the piston mean?

Advice - grind finer. I

More pre infusion = shot runs quicker, but it's hard to tell , as you din't give us a time the shot took or ratio you were aiming for

 

How did the shot taste ...

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That makes sense BUT, how quick is too quick?

 

I think it was DFK that first gave me the “first drip” advice a year ago when I first got my lever. I tried, then found the pour too fast so gave up and went for the arbitrary PI time.

 

The pours are definitely a lot faster following a full puck wetting, but can you grind a little finer and try again?

 

This morning I was approximately at 35s PI then 20s for the pour to a ratio of 1:2.5. That PI was a little too long, but the pour tasted great and was much faster than I used to see under the old method (previously c. 5s PI then 30-35s pour).

 

I have found this method gives a much much smoother and more balanced shot. It has calmed excess acidity from some African beans

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What does pre engaging the piston mean?

Advice - grind finer. I

More pre infusion = shot runs quicker, but it's hard to tell , as you din't give us a time the shot took or ratio you were aiming for

 

How did the shot taste ...

 

Sorry that should have read pre *comma* engaging the piston.

 

I aim for weight not time per say 1:2 or 1:2.5 But also time so I have a point of reference.

 

My poorly worded question was if I grind coarse enough to see the drips appear I get a fast shot and if I grind finer I get no visible wetting on the PF but the shot runs at a normal pace.

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if I grind finer I get no visible wetting on the PF but the shot runs at a normal pace.

 

This is effectively the old method though, but with a longer PI - you would see the drops eventually. Why not just as a tester wait to see how long it takes - 30/45/60 seconds? Try it and see the resultant shot.

 

If you have fully wetted the puck, it will flow fast, but you are fully extracting the coffee.

 

If your double spring makes the water flow very fast, fine, so long as you know you are fully wetting so fully extracting the puck?

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That makes sense BUT, how quick is too quick?

 

I think it was DFK that first gave me the “first drip” advice a year ago when I first got my lever. I tried, then found the pour too fast so gave up and went for the arbitrary PI time.

 

The pours are definitely a lot faster following a full puck wetting, but can you grind a little finer and try again?

 

This morning I was approximately at 35s PI then 20s for the pour to a ratio of 1:2.5. That PI was a little too long, but the pour tasted great and was much faster than I used to see under the old method (previously c. 5s PI then 30-35s pour).

 

I have found this method gives a much much smoother and more balanced shot. It has calmed excess acidity from some African beans

@rob177palmer thanks that's useful.

 

See I've been aiming for a PI of 10-15s to see the wetting. With this method is longer acceptable? Or do you experiment and adjust based on taste?

 

My head's becoming cluttered with all the potential variables and this isn't even a pressure profile mahcine, lol.

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Think of shot time as pre infusion plus extraction - then the "its too fast " will go away. It's only too fast if there is imbalance in the cup.....By this I mean your adjusting the grind due to bitterness or lack of sweetness , grind adjust will effect the taste and the time the shot takes, but it's where you judge the cup to be with a nominal reference to the time .

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