How much crema should espresso have?
The amount of crema on an espresso is a bit like the amount of head on a pint. Everyone knows there should be some, but we can never quite agree on what the right amount is.Fortunately, the Pumphrey’s baristas have put their heads together to provide a semi-concrete answer.
In this blog, we’ll discuss what coffee crema is, why it’s important, and what the ideal amount is for espresso.
What is coffee crema?
Crema is a layer of foam/bubbles that sits at the top of an espresso.It’s created during the reaction that takes place when gases are forced out of the ground coffee. Crema is made from a natural chemical compound called melanoidin. It’s a by-product of the sugars and amino acids in food combining, often due to high temperatures.
Crema appears as a brown layer that’s lighter than the liquid of the coffee below it. The shade of the crema will vary depending on the type of coffee that’s being used. Espresso crema, for instance, typically has a deep reddish shade of brown.
If your espresso crema is light yellow in appearance, this could indicate that the coffee isn’t fresh.
Why it’s important
Coffee crema is considered desirable by many as it’s an indication of fresh coffee, great grind, and a skilled barista. On top of this, crema adds another dimension of texture and flavour to the espresso. The froth is aromatic and allows the coffee flavour to linger for longer.
The ideal amount of crema for espresso
There’s still debate among baristas about what the perfect crema should look like. Factors include colour and consistency, as well as volume.The main reason for this is because the crema often varies from coffee to coffee based on the amount of oil. For instance, naturally processed beans produce more crema, while darker roasts produce less as a result of the increased oil evaporation.
That being said, it’s widely agreed that espresso crema should make up 1/10th of the overall volume of the shot.When it’s the right consistency and volume, the crema should remain on the shot for around two minutes.
How to make espresso with perfect crema
Now that you know how much crema your espresso should have, you’re probably wondering ‘how do I make sure my espresso has the right amount of crema?’.There are some best practices to ensure your espresso shots come out perfect time after time. At the same time, missing these steps can impact the colour, settle time, or even a loss of crema all together. Unfortunately, a good espresso machine doesn’t guarantee good crema.
With espresso, a fine grind is crucial to getting the best results. You can’t use the same grind size you’re used to for drip coffee in a regular coffee machine. For optimal crema, the grounds need to have time to mix with the hot water as it passes through. This process extracts the oils, leading to a luscious brew. If the grounds are too thin or too coarse, the water will pass through too quickly. The result is a flat shot that probably has little to no crema.
Old, stale coffee beans are guaranteed to negatively impact any coffee-making process. This is because the oils get broken down by the exposure to air. As a result, even the highest quality coffee will have its flavour greatly diminished.Lack of freshness is a common cause of flat coffee as beans can go stale quite quickly.
We recommend transferring the coffee to an airtight container immediately after being opened. Our bags come with a clasp that allows them to be easily sealed between uses.
Over or under extraction can affect the amount of espresso crema. To ensure extraction happens at the right speed, coffee grounds must be tamped with the correct amount of pressure. Too much pressure results in darker crema that can taste more bitter. On the other hand, not enough pressure can lead to a lack of crema.
It’s important to let your machine come up to temperature before you start the coffee-making process. A temperature close to 100°C (we recommend between 90-96°C) is usually best, as it causes the Maillard reaction that produces coffee crema.
In a similar vein, be sure to clean your espresso machine regularly to prevent overheating and disruptions to water flow. Many machines will come with standard settings that aren’t always ideal for producing the right amount of crema. Therefore, it’s worth checking settings like temperature and pressure.
The coffee variety itself can have a hand in how much crema is produced during the brewing process. Pumphrey’s Espresso Crema blend has been specially selected to produce a velvety shot with a billowing crema. It’s made from 100% Arabica coffee and freshly roasted using our open flame method.
Getting the right amount of crema doesn’t mean you’re necessarily drinking quality coffee. With Pumphrey’s Coffee however, you’ll be getting both. We’ve been operating as expert coffee roasters and suppliers since 1750, so we know a thing or two about espresso crema.
Contact us today.