My two cents for the crema debate…

So there’s been a lot of buzz in blogs about what crema is, and whether it detracts from the taste in a shot of espresso. Some industry professionals call it “rubbish” while others say it’s integral to a shot of espresso. I’ve always personally had a distaste for crema myself, but have just thought it was an unavoidable part of an espresso shot. My first experience with someone removing the crema from a beverage was at the Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, and it was fantastic! Top five drinks I’ve ever had. Now, I can’t decide if that was because the crema was gone, or if it was just simply because it was a 5 ounce single origin Americano made with Ethiopian Aricha, which was excellent last year. Either way, by the time I got back state-side I had forgotten about it until it started popping up on blogs again. I began scooping the crema from 5 oz americanos and Macchiatos and noticed a huge difference in the cleanliness and smoothness of the shot. I made a few for discerning customers to see what they thought with similar results. My conclusion is that crema does take away somewhat from the taste of the shot. Solution? Not so easy. We pull very short ristretto shots that come out mostly dark crema, and scooping every production drink would be too time consuming and take  away from the volume of the shot, thus the ability of the espresso to cut milk.

This made me look at what makes the crema so bitter, and to do this I looked at the blooms in other methods of brewing, including french press, and pourover. I noticed that the blooms that were the largest and wildest came from very fresh coffees and Indonesians. How this relates to espresso is that coffee is very volatile in its first few days out of the roaster, and seems to directly translate into the cup. If your coffee is volatile, the taste will be too. This taste doesn’t translate necessarily into a cup of coffee that you french press 3 days out of the roaster, but when you take the same coffee and extract it under extreme pressure, and drink it right away, you can expect some issues with the taste. It will still be good, but the volatility in the soluables translates into bitter crema. We went from letting our espresso sit for 4 days, to 6 days recently, and it has made a world of difference as far as taste and crema is concerned.

In conclusion, I definately understand and respect the professionals debating this issue, but I think the issue should also be from a practicality standpoint, “how do we make our crema taste better?”


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