Espresso Crema
Print this page

Espresso Crema: Important or Not?

Is a thick Crema a good indication of a great Espresso?

Espresso Crema refers to the trapped gas bubbles that make a thin layer suspended on the top of a cup of espresso. If it is the right color, consistency and thickness, crema is considered a hallmark of high quality espresso. It can also be a telltale sign of problems with the espresso.


Is Crema Important to Espresso?

Answering this question depends a lot on who you ask and how they like their espresso. It is true that good quality crema enhances the appearance of the espresso. When you think of the picture perfect cup, it has good crema on top. Since crema is composed of gas bubbles, it plays a great role in aromatics. As these bubbles pop and fade they release their rich coffee aroma. If you drink your espresso straight, while the bubbles are still on top, then good crema also enhances the feel of the drink on your lips. The taste of the crema is usually sharper than that of the espresso itself, so the crema can add an appealing flavor variance to the drink.

That said, there is no perfect crema for everybody. Changes in crema are often signs of differences in how the espresso was made. Sometimes there is an obvious problem, but other times it is simply a matter of taste. Since crema has a much greater effect on the appearance of the espresso than the taste, it is important not to dwell too heavily on the crema. If the espresso tastes the way you like it, then the appearance of the crema is secondary. If you mix your espresso with milk in a latte, then the crema will be overpowered by milk foam anyway, and will be largely irrelevant.



Common Types of Crema and Their Causes

  1. Light Crema

    A very light crema color that is almost tan or yellowish is an indication of under-extraction. The espresso was pumping faster than it should be. This can result in a weaker cup of espresso. You can fix this problem by using a finer ground or a firmer tamping that will make the coffee more solid.

  2. Thin and Dark Crema

    Crema that is noticeably thin or very dark is a sign of over-extraction. The espresso was not pumping out as fast as it should be; therefore the crema was not able to truly develop. This also results in a stronger cup of espresso that may be too bitter, but may also be just what you want. Just opposite of the treatment for under-extraction, use a coarser ground and a less firm tamping.

  3. Short Lasting Crema

    Ideally, crema should remain healthy and visible for about two minutes. If the crema is fading away after one minute, then this is usually another sign of fast extraction, but is also common when using light roasts. Remember that true espresso roast is very dark, but if you prefer light roast espresso go for it, and just keep in mind you will probably have short-lived crema.

  4. Oil Globules or Graininess

    These two conditions are the only ones on the list that represent a true problem with the espresso. If there are large globules sitting on top of the espresso, and it took an exceedingly long time to extract, then it was far over extracted. This type of espresso is usually undrinkable and must be redone. It looks ugly, and it tastes ugly. If you find granules of coffee in the drink, then the grind was so fine it was pumping through the espresso, and a courser ground should be used. Not many people like drinking coffee grounds.

The importance of crema is largely an individual preference.

How important is crema to you?

I would love to get some ideas of how people like their crema in the comments below.

 


Share Your Thoughts
We welcome your comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
This is a captcha-picture. It is used to prevent mass-access by robots. (see: www.captcha.net) Please enter Captcha code
from the image above

Previous page: Is Coffee Good for Us or Not? Next page: What Makes a Great Espresso?

5 thoughts on "Espresso Crema: Important or Not?"

1. Alice Young - July 2, 2015
I drink my coffee "Cafe Latte" style with lots of frothy milk, so for me Espresso Crema is unnecessary. I did however enjoy reading your post on Instant Coffee.

2. Max James - July 5, 2015 I think a thick crema is a sign of a great espresso. As the air bubbles collapse the rich coffee aroma is released, increasing the drinking pleasure.

3. Lindsay - July 9, 2015
I've enjoyed reading your earlier posts and I like the way you pose questions to seek the reader's involvement.

RE: Espresso Crema - Folk should not get hung up about it. The absence of a thick crema is certainly an indication of a less than perfect espresso. However, it's possible to create a crema that looks magnificent and still have an awful bitter tasting shot of espresso. I vote for aroma, taste and the delightfully thick and smooth feel (i.e. heavier than water) of drinking it ahead of a visually appealing crema.

4. Coffee Kid - July 17, 2015
A thick reddish-brown crema is one indication of a great espresso. To make a good tasting espresso at home you'll need a decent machine, freshly ground coffee, a firm tamp and fresh filtered water at the right temperature.

5. Larry Page - July 29, 2015
Yes, I agree a thick crema is one important aspect of a good espresso. However, a more fundamental requirement for making a great espresso is correct tamping. It's an art that's often overlooked. May I suggest you check out the following article from Coffee Research .org website ... Correct Espresso Tamping.

 Is a thick Crema a good indication of a great Espresso?