What causes the crema in my latte to appear so charred?

As a latte lover, there’s nothing more disappointing than eagerly anticipating the perfect, velvety crema on your latte, only to be greeted by a charred and unappetizing appearance. The appearance of the crema plays a crucial role in the overall aesthetics and enjoyment of your latte. So, what exactly is causing the crema in your latte to appear so charred? In this expert article, we will explore the factors that can contribute to the charred appearance of crema and uncover ways to achieve a more desirable result. Get ready to unravel the mystery and up your latte game!

Understanding crema and its formation

Before we delve into the charred appearance, let’s take a moment to understand crema. Crema is that luscious layer of foam that sits atop your espresso shot when properly extracted. Made up of emulsified oils, gases, and fine coffee particles, it is responsible for the rich aroma, smooth texture, and distinct flavor of your latte.

Factors that contribute to charred crema

  1. Over-extraction: A common cause of charred crema is over-extraction. If the espresso shot is extracted for too long, it can be exposed to excessive heat, causing the oils in the crema to break down and burn, resulting in a charred appearance.
  2. High brewing temperature: Another factor to consider is the brewing temperature. If the water temperature during the extraction process is too high, it can accelerate the breakdown of oils, resulting in a charred and bitter tasting crema.
  3. Stale coffee beans: The freshness of the coffee beans is critical to achieving an optimal crema. Using stale beans can result in a lackluster crema with a charred appearance. Freshly roasted and properly stored beans are essential for a vibrant and flavorful crema.
  4. Improper tamping: Improper tamping, where the grounds are not evenly compacted, can result in uneven extraction. This can cause areas of the espresso puck to be over-extracted, resulting in charred spots in the crema.

Tips to improve the appearance of the crema

  1. Optimal extraction time: Pay attention to the extraction time. Aim for a balanced extraction where the espresso is neither under-extracted nor over-extracted. Adjust your brew time to achieve the desired flavor profile.
  2. Temperature control: Watch the water temperature during the brewing process. Use a quality espresso machine that allows you to control and maintain the optimal brewing temperature for a smooth and appealing crema.
  3. Freshly roasted beans: Invest in high-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans and store them properly to preserve their freshness. Grinding the beans just before brewing ensures the best taste and appearance in your crema.
  4. Consistent tamping technique: Develop a consistent tamping technique to ensure even extraction. Apply consistent pressure and distribute the grounds evenly throughout the portafilter.


The charred appearance of the crema in your latte can be attributed to several factors, including over-extraction, high brewing temperatures, stale beans, and improper tamping. By understanding these factors and implementing the tips provided, you can take control of your crema for a more visually appealing and delicious latte experience. Experiment, refine your technique, and enjoy the rewards of a beautifully crafted latte with a creamy and inviting crema.


What causes the crema in my latte to appear so charred?

The charred appearance of the crema in a latte can be caused by several factors. One common cause is over-extraction, where the espresso shot is extracted for too long, exposing the oils in the crema to excessive heat, resulting in a burnt appearance. High brewing temperatures can also contribute to a charred crema, as the heat can break down the oils. Using stale coffee beans or improper tamping techniques can also affect the appearance of the crema. To improve crema, ensure proper extraction time, control brewing temperature, use fresh coffee beans, and maintain consistent tamping technique.

What causes dark crema?

Dark, uneven, and bubbly crema can be caused by over-extracted espresso. This can be caused by over-grinding the coffee or using too much of it. It can also indicate that the coffee was tampered too hard or that the water used was too hot.

How do you get perfect crema?

How to Get Good Crema

  1. Use fresh coffee, but not too fresh. Coffee that is about 1-2 weeks from the roast date is ideal to get good crema.
  2. Freshly grind coffee.
  3. Use a good espresso machine using enough pressure.
  4. BARISTA’S TIP: Make espresso in a small clear glass cup when you want to look at crema.


What should the perfect crema look like?

A brown colour is usually the correct colour for crema. The colour does depend on the coffee you are using however as some coffees will result in a lighter or darker crema. A light yellow and thin crema usually means that your coffee is not so fresh.

How do you get darker crema?

If you have an HX machine, you can darken up the crema by flushing a second or two less, if you have a home machoine, you can achieve the same effect by kicking on the steam button for the first few seconds while pulling the shot.

Why does my espresso have so much crema?

Freshly roasted beans form more crema on espresso. This is because the coffee bean oils are still out-gassing from the roasting process. If your local coffee house roasts their own beans, you may notice they have a more pronounced crema than one that doesn’t roast on-site.

What causes crema in espresso?

The espresso crema is comprised of microbubbles of CO2 gas that are suspended in water. The bubbles attach to the natural oils and fats present in coffee, then rise to the top of the beverage. The end result is a recognizable “Guinness” effect.

Why is my espresso not creamy?

The most common reason that your espresso drink has no crema is that you’re using the wrong coffee grind size to pack your espresso filter. The perfect coffee grind size for espresso is much finer than drip coffee or the pre-ground coffee you’d buy for a standard coffee maker.

Why can’t I get a good crema?

A lack of coffee crema usually means stale coffee grounds, the wrong type of grind on the beans, the wrong temperature of the water, or the wrong amount of pressure. Sometimes it means you need a bit more practice tamping.