Nearly everywhere in the world, espresso is one of the most popular types of coffee. Even if you don’t ask for espresso by name, you might be drinking it. The majority of coffee drinks at Starbucks, for example, contain shots of espresso. Espresso is so common that it raises a lot of questions, especially for people who are trying to make it at home.
If you’ve ever tried to make espresso at home and were wondering why your espresso didn’t have crema, you’re in the right place. If there is no crema in coffee, it is typically due to stale grounds, to the wrong type of grind on the beans, to the wrong temperature of the water, or to the wrong amount of pressure. Often it means you need to practice tamping a bit more.
Below you’ll find more information and details about all of this. We also discuss what cream is and why it’s important. Additionally, there’s a discussion regarding some types of espresso machines and other ways that espresso might be a bit unique.
What Is Crema?
The crema is a tan or reddish-brown foam or froth that sits on top of an espresso shot. Sometimes it’s called the “Guinness effect” because the foam resembles the head of a good pour of Guinness.
It’s the same thing with espresso crema; if you pull your espresso right, you’ll end up with that foamy layer on top. On a more scientific level, cream is tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide in coffee compounds, specifically oils.
When creating espresso, the pressure partially breaks down the water, causing these perfect little bubbles. If you get the components of the espresso just right, you get plenty of bubbles, as well as a drink that has the right consistency to hold the bubbles for a while.
What Makes Crema Important?
Crema is generally regarded as important since it can only be achieved with the appropriate combination of coffee beans, roast, grind, tamp, water temperature, and water pressure. Although it’s difficult to achieve, it’s often a sign that you pulled a great shot of espresso. There’s some debate over whether the crema enhances or detracts from the taste of the espresso.
The crema is quite bitter, but it can be used to balance other flavors in the espresso shot. Additionally, for many, the foam has a light and sweet mouthfeel, even if the taste is not sweet.
For those who find their espresso too bitter with foam, experts offer two simple solutions. You can either stir the crema into your espresso or skim it off with a spoon, completely removing it from the drink.
What If My Espresso Have No Crema?
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Whether you (or your barista!) have no crema or you find your espresso tasty, you’re always welcome to make it the way you already do! Nonetheless, if you’re reading this article, then you probably want to know how you can make an espresso shot that looks perfect on demand or to show a friend.
When your coffee is stale (roasted longer than a few weeks ago), you’ll have a much tougher time getting crema. Similarly, if your beans were roasted within the past 48 hours, you might not get any crema. If you are going to use coffee that is over two to 21 days old, make sure it has not been roasted yet.
If the coffee is ground too finely, it will choke the machine, but if it is ground too coarsely, the water will run through the machine too quickly. The result is under-extracted coffee, which contains too little coffee content to form lasting crema. A shot of espresso with this problem is also likely to be sour. Be sure to tamp your grounds before pulling the espresso shot. The little tool that came with your espresso machine should be used for tamping.
It’s best to make sure your grinds are nice and level in the portafilter before packing them. You’ll end up with under-extracted coffee if your tamp isn’t firm enough or uneven. Last but not least, you may not have used enough coffee. Check the size of the basket in your portafilter. You’ll need 7 grams of coffee grounds for a single shot.
It will take at least 14 grams for a double shot, but some specialty coffeehouses may use a bit more than that.
If I Have Very Little Crema, What Should I Do?
When you don’t have much cream, but do have some, first check the steps above. After that, you should check the temperature and pressure of your water. It may throw off your espresso shot if these are close but not quite right. You should have water around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and your portafilter shouldn’t be too cold to affect this. You should set the pressure at 9 to 10 bars, but this can vary depending on the machine, so check the instructions for yours.
Is There Such Thing as Too Much Crema?
Due to cream’s bitter taste, you could theoretically have too much cream for a drink to taste good. It is hard to get too much of a true cream, however. You may notice that some espresso machines add air after the shot to produce what looks like crema but is actually just bubbles. The pop will occur very quickly compared to true cream.
What Causes Crema to Disappear After a Few Hours?
As with any bubble, cream too eventually dissipates. Depending on whom you ask, this will take different amounts of time. Generally, however, it lasts around two minutes. A creme that disappears quickly indicates that the espresso shot was probably a little too thin. You shouldn’t expect cream to last for hours, despite Google suggestions that suggest the opposite.
Can I Get Crema Without an Espresso Machine?
Crema can be made without an espresso machine. While it’s more difficult, it’s not always worth it, depending on why you want the cream. Attempting it will require another pressurized method, such as the AeroPress. You’ll need a way to increase the pressure, then you’ll need to invert it without burning yourself. We also have compiled a guide that will help you choose the best coffee beans for espresso, in case you need it.
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