At work we have a coffee machine that makes 10 cups of coffee in about 3 minutes. Sometimes, 3 minutes is too long to wait for coffee :P So I will poach it as it comes out of the dispenser and then quickly replace the coffee pot so the rest is caught. However, I am not sure if I am getting the short end of the stick.

Should I wait for the entire process to finish before getting coffee? Is the coffee that is first dispensed from the machine the same quality as the coffee which is dispensed in the middle or end of the process?

5 Answers 5


It is not simply a matter of strong versus weak. Rather, different qualities are extracted from the coffee over different parts of the brewing process. The most volatile components are extracted early in the brew, and the less volatile components come out over the length of the brew.

So the distribution of flavors varies over the brew. Total brew time is carefully calibrated in quality coffee makers to extract the most desirable flavors possible, and minimize the least desirable.

By taking some out early, you are guaranteed a bad first cup, and are consigning the remainder of the pot to be less than it could be.

For best quality, you should wait for the entire brew, so that the flavors are balanced from the entire brew time.

  • 1
    Of course waiting for the entire brew will be superior, but that's not what was asked. Waiting for the entire brew renders the question irrelevant. Oct 10, 2013 at 1:13
  • @CareyGregory I also answered the specific question: the mixture of extracted solubles is different at the beginning than the end of the brew. It is the reason one should wait for the entire brew; to get a balanced cup.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Oct 10, 2013 at 1:16
  • Well, sure it is, but the question was how to sneak the best cup during the brew without waiting for the end result. If I thought the question was how to get the best cup, I'd have answered the same. Oct 10, 2013 at 1:18
  • 2
    @CareyGregory I don't know how on earth you get that it is about sneaking the best cup, even upon re-reading it. And there is no good way to sneak a good cup, for the reasons I have explained. I realize you disagree from reading your answer, but I cannot agree with either your premise or your conclusion. The OP must have felt I answered their question.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Oct 10, 2013 at 1:21
  • Well, not worth arguing about, but he begins his question by saying he poaches during the dispensing, as many people do. Without the poaching part, it's not even a question, or at least it's almost certainly an already answered one. I guess I just thought he was looking for how to poach best, rather than the obvious question of -- duh -- is it better to wait for the end result. Oct 10, 2013 at 1:28

Espresso machines (not your machine, I know) are balanced to extract the full flavour in about 30'. When extracting longer, more bitter flavour is extracted. Read more here

According to McGee, stronger coffee is not better coffee.

Getting the first cup will get you the strongest most flavourful cup, but will leave your cow-workers with a lousy drab. Not that strongest is best.

Your best trade-off between quality and strength, is probably to wait until the last minute before 'stealing' your cup. It's also more solitary with your colleagues.

Lastly, the best possible coffee is probably the most recently brewed. Coffee that's let to sit (on the heater) loses quality fast.


In my opinion (this is subjective) you should wait. I've noticed that the first cup is usually the best (strongest) and if you swipe it the rest of the pot is weaker by comparison.


The first coffee produced is very strong and the last coffee produced is very weak, so I would go for the middle. This is also the only way to be fair to others. If you take the first, the pot will be weaker than normal, and if you take the last, the pot will be stronger than normal.


You can tell when someone knows what he is doing is wrong when he says he poaches the first cup, and doesn't want to make it obvious to everyone else. In my experience the first part of the brew is the strongest, and if you take it the rest is noticeably inferior. It doesn't even have a pleasant smell or flavor anymore. All I can say is let it finish brewing because you are cheating anyone who takes a cup after you.

  • The description of the consequences for the next cup are exactly the kind of answer we are looking for, so this might have been a really good answer. But I see no reason for going into a rant or labelling strangers "selfish greedy person" based on a small example of behavior. So, -1 for being unnecessary rude.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 12, 2014 at 11:34
  • @sourd'oh thanks for editing. I'm removing my downvote.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 12, 2014 at 17:21

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