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What is Pre-infusion? Explained & Compared

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Pre-infusion is the process of soaking coffee grounds before brewing. Doing so helps reduce espresso channeling and extract more flavors from coffee. Some espresso machines include automatic pre-infusion. Otherwise, it’s something you must do. Keep reading to learn more.

I’ve spent tens of hours researching pre-infusion because I kept seeing it pop up when searching for espresso machines. That inspired me to write a piece about it.

This guide will cover what pre-infusion is, how it differs from other similar features, and espresso machines that include it.

Keep reading to learn more. 

Key Takeaways

  • Pre-infusion gently wets coffee grounds prior to brewing.
  • Soaking grounds early helps extract more flavors.
  • Pre-infusion can take between 2 & 8 seconds.
  • Some espresso machines include automatic pre-infusion; otherwise, you do it manually.

What Is Pre-Infusion for Espresso?

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What is Pre-infusion? Explained & Compared 5

Pre-infusion is soaking the coffee grounds with water at a lower pressure than the normal extraction pressure of 9 bars [1]. This helps to evenly distribute the water throughout the coffee grounds and prevent channeling.

Channeling is when water flows through the coffee grounds unevenly, resulting in a sour or bitter shot.

Pre-infuse manually by turning on the water to the group head and letting it drip into the portafilter for a few seconds before turning on the pump. Some espresso machines have a pre-infusion function that automatically does this.

Pre-infusion can improve the taste of espresso by making it more balanced and flavorful. It can also help to reduce the bitterness of the shot.

Let’s see how long you should pre-infuse your espresso for.

How Long Does Pre-Infusion Take?

The length of time for pre-infusion can vary, but 2–8 seconds is a good starting point [2]. Experiment with different times to see what works best for your coffee and machine.

Some machines, such as Breville machines, have a pre-infusion time of around 10 seconds [3].

But why’s pre-infusion critical for great-tasting espresso?

Why Is Pre-Infusion Important?

Pre-infusion helps evenly distribute the water throughout the coffee grounds and prevent channeling.

Here are some of the other reasons why pre-infusion is important:

  • Helps to break up the coffee grounds & create a more even bed.
  • Helps to remove air from the coffee grounds, which allows the water to flow more freely.
  • Creates a more stable extraction, which results in a more consistent shot.
  • Can help to reduce the bitterness of the shot.

If you are looking to make the best possible espresso, pre-infusion is a technique that you should consider.

While we’re manipulating espresso pressure, let’s discuss another technique.

What Is Pressure Profiling?

Pressure profiling is the process of varying the water pressure during espresso extraction. Perform this manually or with digital profiling machines.

The standard pressure for espresso is 9 bars. Pressure profiling can vary the pressure throughout espresso extraction. Such a change can give your espresso a better taste.

Here’s an example.

Increasing the pressure at the beginning of the extraction can help to break down the coffee grounds and extract more flavor. Leading to a more even extraction. Decreasing the pressure towards the end of the extraction can help to prevent bitterness.

Pre-Infusion vs. Pre-Brewing vs. Pressure Manipulation

Here are some of the differences among pre-infusion, pre-brewing, and pressure manipulation:

Pre-infusionTo evenly distribute water throughout the coffee grounds & prevent channeling.Introduces water at a low pressure.
Pre-brewingIncrease movement of contact between coffee & waterDrops small amount of coffee over puck.
Pressure manipulationTo control the flow of water during extraction & achieve a desired flavor profile.Manipulate brewing pressure to achieve shot styles.

I’ve already talked about pre-infusion. Meaning, the following sections will talk about pre-brewing and pressure manipulation. They’ll cover the differences among the previously mentioned features and pre-infusion.

You wouldn’t choose one of these features over the other when brewing. This section’s purpose is to show the differences among the 3.

I’ll also provide examples of the best machines that each feature has.

1. Pre-Brewing

Pre-brewing helps eliminate carbon dioxide from coffee cells by introducing water to them before brewing. It’s not the same as pre-brewing, which introduces a low amount of pressure. Instead, you’ll slightly wiggle your lever to apply some water.

2. Pressure Manipulation

Pressure manipulation is the process of varying the pressure of the water during the extraction of espresso. This can be done manually or automatically by the espresso machine.

Baristas will use time-based, visual, or weight markets to indicate when they should make changes in pressure. For instance, some people will do 3 bars, 6, 9, 6, then 3 bars again to ramp pressure up and down.

You’ll need to tinker to find a technique that best suits your taste preference.

Best Espresso Machines With Automatic Pre-Infusion

Are you looking for an espresso machine with automatic pre-infusion? The following sections will provide examples of the best devices that include this feature.

Read on to learn more.

1.Breville/Sage Bambino Plus: Best Entry-Level Machine

Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine
Dimensions12.6 × 7.7 × 12.2 in (D, W, H)
Boiler TypeThermoJet
Warranty1 year
Water Capacity / Enough for64 fl oz = 64 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel


  • Compact.
  • Heats within 3 seconds.


  • Doesn’t support ESE pods.
  • Drip tray doesn’t hold much water.

The Breville (or Sage) Bambino Plus is best for anyone who needs a high-quality espresso machine for a smaller kitchen. Whether in a studio apartment, tiny home, RV, or other.

This machine’s well worth the money due to its competitive price point and inclusion of features.

However, the lack of support for ESE pods is a bummer for anyone who was hoping to eliminate the need for a grinder. Easy Serve Espresso (ESE) pods are pods filled with pre-ground coffee that makes life easier and conserves space.

If you’re having trouble finding a compact grinder, explore our recommendations.

The Bambino Plus heats much quicker than most machines due to its ThermoJet heating system. This’ll allow you to brew drinks much quicker, which could prove helpful if you’re entertaining guests.


It’s not a dual boiler; nor does it use a heat exchange system. That means you can’t brew coffee and froth milk simultaneously. Less-than-ideal if you wanted to make drinks like lattes for guests quickly.

But it’ll save you time on milk-based drinks differently. The steam wand will automatically froth drinks, which is helpful for beginners who don’t know milk-frothing techniques.

The machine doesn’t take up much space, which makes it a perfect companion for anyone living in tight spaces. The small coffee machine results in a tiny drip tray, which means you must frequently empty it.

Otherwise, this machine doesn’t have much else that’s good or bad. If you’re looking for a Breville with more features, consider the next pick.

2. Breville/Sage the Barista Touch: Best Mid-Range Machine

Breville Barista Touch Espresso Machine
Dimensions15.9 × 14.88 × 14.8 in (D, W, H)
Boiler TypeSingle boiler
Warranty2 years
Water Capacity / Enough for2.4 l = 84 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel


  • Digital display for customized drinks.
  • Heats up in a few seconds.


  • Requires a lot of space.
  • No dual boiler.

The Breville Barista Touch is ideal for anyone who frequently serves guests espresso and wants a hands-off approach to making coffee.

Breville’s a reputable brand known for its high-quality, durable machines. That fact alone makes this machine worth the cost.

This is also a semi-automatic machine like the Breville Bambino Plus, but it almost acts like a super-automatic machine due to its inclusion of a grinder and touchscreen temperature adjustments. Let’s talk about the latter, first.

The touch screen allows you to select a pre-programmed drink, which then automatically adjusts your machine’s temperature, strength, and milk texture. For instance, select “flat white,” and it’ll automatically froth milk to match the small amount of microfoam required.

The Barista Touch also lets you pre-program settings to your temperature, strength, and milk texture preferences. A great way to have presets and not have to adjust the machine every use.

It includes a stainless steel conical burr grinder, which grinds beans faster than any blade grinder. But it doesn’t have as consistent grinds as flat burr grinders, which could affect espresso taste in a minuscule way.

The lack of a dual boiler on a machine at this price point was shocking. Because that means you can’t brew coffee and froth milk at the same time. However, it’ll heat coffee in 3 seconds, which makes it an excellent choice for brewing drinks quickly.

The inclusion of all these features makes this machine demand a lot of space, which isn’t ideal for smaller kitchens. But it’s great if you have a lot of counter space or a coffee cart.

Here’s a machine with more features.

3. ECM Synchronika: Best High-End Machine

ecm synchronika dual boiler espresso machine
Dimensions18.7 × 13.25 × 16.25 in (D, W, H)
Boiler TypeDual boiler
Warranty3 years
Water Capacity / Enough for101.4 fl oz = 101 solo shots
MaterialStainless steel


  • Features PID.
  • Includes a rotary pump.


  • May develop a rattle.
  • No mobile app.

The ECM Synchronika works best for anyone who wants the best-tasting espresso possible and a means to brew drinks for guests quickly.

While pricey, this machine’s worth the cost due to its inclusion of the highest-end features possible.

First off:

There’s the rotary pump. Most machines include vibratory pumps, which last half as long as their robust counterparts and don’t produce as great of espresso. However, rotary pump machines usually demand much more space, which is the case with the Synchronika.

This pump is also quieter, which will make for a more pleasant brewing experience.

Then, it includes Proportional Integral Derivative (PID), which will constantly monitor your machine’s temperatures and make minor adjustments. This helps with the temperature consistency of your drink.

The dual boilers also help with that; they’ll heat up much quicker than single boilers. Meanwhile, they allow you to froth milk and brew drinks simultaneously. Great for brewing lattes and such for guests.

There’s no mobile app, which may make this device a bit less convenient to use for folks obsessed with smart home integration.

And it may develop a rattle during its lifespan. However, that complaint could have come from folks with faulty machines.

You could also connect this machine directly to your home’s water line, which is ideal if you want the cleanest-tasting water possible and are tired of constantly refilling your machine’s water reservoir.

That’s all for the recommendations.


Pre-infusion extracts more flavor while preventing espresso channeling by introducing pressure before brewing. Many machines will automatically do this, while the rest allow manual input.

Need more machines that include pre-infusion? Sift through our espresso machine recommendations.

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Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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