Crema… the beautiful, honeycomb-like foray of bubbles that dance on top of your espresso. Personally, seeing the warm, swirling colors of caramel and gold right after the shot has been pulled is a highlight for me. I’m sure many feel the same. But what is espresso crema and how important is it really?
So What is Espresso Crema?
Crema is the caramel-coloured foam that sits on top of your espresso. It’s a combination of hot water, the oils from your coffee beans, and CO2 released during the roasting period. It’s beautiful to look at and is a strong sign of the quality of your espresso.
How is Crema Made?
Crema is produced during the espresso extraction process. Espresso is derived from the Italian name for the coffee, caffè espresso, and it literally means “pressed out coffee.” Espresso is made by forcing hot, highly-pressurized water through finely ground compacted coffee.
Essentially when this hot, pressurized water is forced through the tampered, ground up beans, the water emulsifies with the oils in the coffee and gets supersaturated with CO2, resulting in lots of beautiful little bubbles that make up the crema.
The Perfect Crema
Several factors affect an espresso’s crema, from roast freshness to the type of machine you’re using. Although it doesn’t really affect the taste of your espresso, its generally considered a strong indication of an espresso’s quality. Several factors affect an espresso’s crema, from roast freshness to the type of machine you’re using.
The aim is to pull a shot of espresso that has a crema that is neither too thick nor thin. The crema should also last for around 2 minutes after being pulled. Most baristas generally agree that the crema should make up 1/10th of the espresso.
A light crema is an indication of a poor espresso – it should be golden-red in color. The crema should also consist of lots of small bubbles as big bubbles tend to prevent the crema from being smooth.
The 2 most significant factors that affect your espresso’s crema are the roast and freshness of the beans you’re using. Freshly roasted beans still give off the oils and gasses that begin to release during the roasting process and these oils play a big part in creating crema. Using beans 7 – 21 days after roasting is generally best, anything earlier than this has too much oils and after has too little. Espresso roasts are best because they have the right oils.
How Important is Crema Really?
For a long time it was thought that the presence of a healthy crema was the sign of a well-made espresso. However, crema is more an indication of the roast and freshness of the beans you’re using and doesn’t have as much an effect on the taste as we all originally thought. To demonstrate, at the World Barista Championships, the judges’ score sheet simply reflects whether crema is present or not, and that’s it. Shows just how much emphasis the judges place on crema.
Ultimately, having an espresso is about the full experience. Although crema doesn’t add much value to the taste side of things, it does look beautiful and is a strong indication of the quality of an espresso. If you rather forget about producing the ideal crema and focus on the quality of the espresso, you’ll find that a good crema follows naturally.
Thanks for reading,