Crema is the term coffee connoisseurs use to refer to the tan-red froth that lies on top of a shot of espresso. It is created when air bubbles combine with the ground coffee’s soluble oils. Widely considered as the crown of espresso, coffee experts typically use it as a key factor to diagnose and judge an espresso shot even before taking a sip from it. So, how much crema should be on espresso? Let’s find out!
What’s An Espresso?
Before we go through how much crema should be on espresso, let’s first learn what an espresso actually is. Espresso is a highly complex drink that is typically used as a base for different coffee-shop favorite drinks such as cappuccino, latte, macchiato, and more. While espresso is arguably the most widely drank coffee beverage, there is still a huge number of consumers that do not exactly know and understand the complexities of an espresso shot. It is a sophisticated blend characterized by a strong and robust flavor. Unlike an equally strong and robust brew of coffee, the difference lies in the process of making and brewing it.
How to Make an Espresso Shot
Since we’re already on the topic of the process of pulling an espresso shot, let us discuss it as well. But first, I want to clarify two terms used in the previous sentence: the words ‘pulling’ and ‘shot.’
What does it mean to pull an espresso shot? The word pull or pulling is the term typically used when coffee lovers want to refer to the process of espresso making simply because the act of pulling actually occurs in the brewing process itself. On the other hand, the word shot is typically used in describing a serving of espresso because the yield of one cycle of brewing espresso fits within a normal-sized show glass.
With that all cleared out, here are the steps on how to properly pull a perfectly good shot of espresso:
- Preheat all necessary equipment and materials you would be using in the brewing process. This includes your coffee machine, your portafilter, and your shot glass. You can warm your coffee machine by simply running a blank brew and let it complete one cycle.
- While waiting for the machine to heat up, prepare your coffee grounds by having your coffee beans grounded into a fine grind. Keep in mind not to grind your coffee beans too fine or too coarse as it will have on your espresso’s crema.
- Once you have your ground coffee ready, the next step is to dose the right amount of ground to use for your brew. Generally, a single-shot espresso would need about 7 grams of ground coffee while a double-shot requires twice as much.
- After filling your portafilter with the right dose of ground coffee, it’s time to tamp it to create an even, level, and compact surface for your ground. Tamping is the method of adding pressure on the coffee grounds in order to let your coffee ground have an even and polished look. By doing so, there will be a consistent water contact in the grounds and create a more efficient pull.
- Keep in mind to tamp your ground coffee properly. This means to tamp not too tight and not too loose, as it will also have an effect on the outcome of your brew.
- After tamping and clearing your portafilter of excess coffee grounds, it is time to brew your coffee. Insert your portafilter to the machine’s group head, lock it in place, set the timer, ready your serving glass, and start pulling the shot. Generally, pulling a decent shot would take some time between 20 to 30 seconds, and anything less or more would likely result in an under-extracted or over-extracted brew.
Factors That Affect How Much Crema Should Be On Espresso
The crema at the top of an espresso shot is often used as a basic parameter of the quality of the espresso shot as it is easy to determine if the shot is under-extracted or over-extracted. While it is not accurate to base the flavor profile of the shot solely on the crema, it is still important to keep notice of the quality of your crema. When it comes to the amount of crema present on a shot, the results would also differ depending on the quality of the extraction when the shot was pulled.
Generally, freshly roasted coffee beans will result in thicker espresso crema because it produces more oil that would interact with the air bubbles in the brewing process.
The level of darkness of the coffee bean also has an effect on the thickness of the crema simply because darker roasts lose a lot of oil during the grinding and packaging process. However, it is also faulty to say that lighter roasts would produce more crema. Therefore opt for a product that is prepared with the right level of oils.
Most baristas would aim for a crema thickness that takes up about 10% of the espresso; results that are notably thinner with lesser staying power means an improperly pulled espresso. Learn more about espressos.
A good looking golden crema would create an amazing first impression for any coffee lover. While it is not an accurate measure of taste and quality of the actual espresso shot, the crema on top somehow serves as the initial experience for any espresso drinker and would all in all set the tone for the rest of the experience. While it doesn’t exactly matter how much crema should be on an espresso, it is still important for any budding barista to perfect this to polish the skill, technique, and knowledge further in making a perfectly good shot of espresso.