Espresso crema Is it important?

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What is espresso crema?

The crema becomes like the Holy Grail in the world of espresso. Baristas talk about it all the time, they look for it, they develop new techniques, they try some equipment and coffees, among others.

Oddly enough, the espresso crema comes with controversy and competition. It is the sign of a perfect espresso or an overrated foam that is great if you get it.

The crema is a tasty, aromatic, reddish-brown foam that rests on the surface of the freshly extracted espresso. The crema is formed during the extraction process when water and coffee oils are emulsified.

After roasting the coffee beans, they begin to release carbon dioxide (CO2). Most of that is released into the air between roasting and grinding.

When the hot water comes into contact with the finely ground coffee added to the high pressure of an espresso machine, the water emulsifies the oils in the coffee and then it is supersaturated with CO2, which generates many micro-bubbles that form the layer of crema.

The strong presence of crema in the espresso indicates a well ground and quality coffee and an expert barista. The crema helps give the espresso a fuller flavor and a longer flavor than drip coffee.

crema in two espresso shots

Espresso crema.

How is the perfect crema?

Baristas will have different opinions about what they consider the perfect crema. The goal is to create an espresso with a crema that is not too thick or too thin, with a uniform color with striped nuances and that remains for a couple of minutes.

It is very difficult to obtain the perfect crema, it is a technique that takes a long time to be perfected and there are some things to keep in mind:

If you have too much crema in your cup, you will have less espresso. Many baristas strive for a crema that is approximately one-tenth of espresso coffee.

Over-extraction, under-extraction and milling degrees can affect the crema.

If the crema disappears in less than a minute, then the extraction was too fast or the coffee roasted too light.

The extraction of a quality espresso machine should take between 25 and 35 seconds, although this may vary from machine to machine.

espresso crema

Appearance of the ideal espresso crema.

Factors that affect the crema

You may not have full control over the espresso crema. Beyond practicing until perfecting the technique, the crema can be affected by some factors:

Grain process: Processed beans naturally / dry or honey will naturally keep more sugar and oil, which will result in increased crema production during extraction. Grains from wetter climates (such as Sumatra) will have a very different flavor and oil content because they are more often processed wet.

Roasting time: Freshly roasted beans form more crema in espresso. This is because coffee bean oils are still being degassed by the roasting process.

Toast Type: The darker the grain, the less crema it will create. This is because darker toasts will have a good part of the natural grain oil on their surface. These oils are removed when grains are handled, packaged and ground.

Machine: Many espresso machines for domestic use have automatic controls, this makes them easy to use, however this can limit the formation of crema. Some machines will use technology that will produce the appearance of crema without actually emulsifying oil, water, and CO2, but this kind of trick does that the espresso does not taste as rich and complex as those made with the traditional extraction method.

Espresso extraction

Espresso extraction where you can see the crema.

Is the crema important?

While it may seem that a good crema is the definition of a perfect espresso cup, it is not as critical as some people think it is. It integrates with the taste of espresso and is desired. However, in reality, it is possible to have a cup of great-tasting espresso without the perfect crema.

Do not feel bad or think that you somehow failed in your attempts to make a good espresso. Remember, espresso is about flavor. If you enjoy your drink, that’s all that matters.


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