Among the elements that indicate a good espresso extraction, the crema is probably one of the easiest to observe. Here are our tips for making it nothing short of perfect.
First, what is crema?
Crema is that caramel-coloured layer of cream on top of your espresso. It gives it texture, taste and – most importantly – it shows that the coffee beans have been properly extracted. In short, crema is the oil in the coffee that has been extracted by the machine. If the machine did not do a good job (lack of pressure, too low temperature, etc.), if the grind was not the right one or if there was not enough coffee in the filter holder, the crema will be affected.
Also, the characteristics of the coffee beans used are reflected in the crema. As a general rule, the better the coffee, the better the crema, and vice versa. On the other hand, coffee blends that are more oily due to the roasting process or the origin of the beans will produce a thicker crema.
Crema is also essential in the creation of latte art, those little designs made by your barista at the coffee shop around the corner. No crema, no latte art (or at least it gets a lot harder).
How do you get the perfect crema?
Basically, if you extracted your espresso properly, you should get a nice crema. Now, you shouldn’t expect the same quality of crema at home as you would at your favorite coffee shop: the power of a commercial machine can’t compare to what your home machine can offer you. The pressure of the machine is a key point in obtaining a beautiful crema, so it is normal that your result at home will be a little less impressive than in a commercial setting.
So, to extract a perfect crema in your kitchen, you just need to make sure you produce a perfect espresso as well. The basic rules: get the right grind, choose fresh quality coffee, use the right amount of coffee and press your coffee well in the filter holder. You will find all our tips here.
Achieving the perfect crema can take some practice, but here are some tips on how to get the perfect coffee crema:
- Use freshly roasted and ground coffee: To get the perfect crema, it’s important to use freshly roasted and ground coffee beans. Old or stale coffee beans won’t produce a good crema, no matter how well you brew the espresso.
- The right grind size: The size of the grounds is also important. If the grounds are too fine, the water won’t be able to easily pass through the coffee, resulting in a weak or no crema. If the grounds are too coarse, the water will pass through too quickly, resulting in a thin crema.
- Correct amount of coffee: Use the right amount of coffee to get the perfect crema. Typically, a double shot of espresso requires about 14 grams of coffee. Using too much or too little coffee will affect the quality of the crema.
- Proper tamping: Tamping is the process of firmly pressing the coffee grounds into the portafilter. This step is essential for a good crema. The coffee should be tamped evenly and firmly, but not too firmly, as this will result in a weak crema.
- Water temperature: The water temperature is critical when brewing espresso. The water should be between 190°F to 200°F (88°C to 93°C). If the water is too hot, it will produce a burnt taste, and if it’s too cold, it won’t extract the crema.
- Correct brew time: The ideal brewing time for an espresso shot is about 25 seconds. If it’s too short, the crema will be weak, and if it’s too long, the taste will be bitter.
- Clean the machine: Keeping your espresso machine clean is essential for producing a good crema. Old coffee oils and residue can clog the machine, making it difficult to produce a good crema. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the machine will keep it running at peak efficiency.
What does the perfect crema look like?
You’ve got all the variables in place to make the best crema possible; now you still need to know what that perfect crema looks like! This will help you determine if there is anything you need to adjust in your machine or preparation.
The texture of the crema should be foamy, but dense and fairly thick. Right after extraction, the crema is about ¼ to ⅓ of the volume of liquid in the cup. It will then reduce in volume to about 1/10 of the total. If you tilt that cup to 45° and then level it again, the crema should stick to the espresso and return to its shape, much like a rubber band.
To find out if your crema has an optimal texture, you can do the sugar test: pour a little sugar on the surface of the crema. It should stay on the surface for a few seconds, then break through the foam and sink to the bottom. If the sugar seeps through the crema instantly, the crema is too liquid, which may mean that your coffee is ground too fine.
When extracted, the espresso shot will look a bit like a Guinness-type beer: you can see the “fall” of the crema, that is, its separation from the espresso itself, which produces small descending waves.
In terms of color, the spectrum is wide: it can go from a pale caramel, almost yellow, in the case of a very light roasted coffee, to a very dark brown if – you guessed it – the coffee is dark roasted. What is certain is that no matter what color it is, the crema will reveal small tigerish patterns, which are a sign of good extraction.
The taste of crema is an essential aspect of any well-brewed espresso shot. Crema is the light, creamy layer that forms on top of the espresso and adds a unique flavor to the drink. The taste of crema can vary greatly depending on the coffee blend, brewing method, and other factors. However, there are some general characteristics of the taste of crema that are worth exploring.
First, the taste of crema should not be too aggressive or overpowering. While it can add a bold flavor to the espresso shot, it should not be saturated with aggressive flavors. Instead, it should have a sweet side that balances any bitterness in the coffee. The sweetness can come from the natural sugars in the coffee beans that are caramelized during the brewing process.
Second, the taste of the crema should have a smooth and velvety texture. The texture of the crema is a crucial aspect of the overall taste of the espresso shot. It should be light and airy, with a creamy mouthfeel that complements the rich, bold flavor of the coffee. The texture of the crema is influenced by the brewing method, the temperature of the water, and the type of coffee beans used.
Finally, the taste of the crema should leave a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth. A good crema should not leave a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, but rather a subtle, lingering flavor that enhances the overall experience of the espresso shot. The aftertaste of the crema can vary depending on the coffee blend used, but it should be smooth and balanced.
The first images of the bottomless filter holder would have appeared fairly recently, around 2004. Barista Guild of America co-founder and coffee expert Chris Davidson had developed a bottomless filter holder with his colleagues to see what extraction looked like.
It is also known as the “naked portafilter“. It is aptly named because it allows baristas to analyze the extraction of espresso more accurately than with a spouted filter holder. In particular, one can observe if there is duchanneling, if the grind is correct or if the coffee has been badly pressed.
In addition to this ability to observe the espresso, the bottomless filter holder also allows the crema to be retained in its entirety instead of losing a small portion in the transfer to the spouts. This comes in handy for latte art, but it also improves the taste of the coffee. It is used like its cousin with spout(s).