Crema: What It is and Steps to Make Espresso with Crema

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Crema is the golden brown, foamy top layer of an espresso. See what causes crema to appear and how to make espresso with the right amount of crema.

Small glass of espresso with crema.

What is Crema? 

  • Crema is the light brown, golden colored foam that sits on top of a shot of espresso. Crema appears when coffee is made using pressure, like in an espresso machine or a Nespresso.
  • There’s no crema in coffee made in a drip coffee machine or cold brewed coffee since it’s not made using pressure.
  • Crema is made up of tiny bubbles and it provides balance to an espresso, giving espresso its syrupy, full mouthfeel.
  • Good crema is when there is a thin layer of it (about ¼ of the drink) and it lasts for a couple of minutes. Bad crema is when it’s too thin or too thick (more than ½ of the drink), too light in color, disappears within a few seconds, and has a lot of big bubbles.
  • It’s pronounced CREM-AH

RELATED: Espresso, Blonde Espresso, Lungo, Ristretto, Americano, Cortado, Breve

How to Get Good Crema

Use fresh coffee, but not too fresh.
Coffee that is about 1-2 weeks from the roast date is ideal to get good crema. This gives the coffee enough time to release gasses (including CO2) produced by the roasting process. Most bags will tell you when the coffee was roasted and if it’s not labeled with a date, it’s most likely old coffee. Coffee that’s too fresh and roasted just a couple of days ago will have too much CO2 and will result in too much crema, leaving the espresso unbalanced.

Freshly grind coffee.
Crema is a sign of freshness, and coffee begins to go stale once it’s ground.

Use a good espresso machine using enough pressure.
Cheaper espresso machines in the ($100-$400 range) don’t get the water hot enough or create enough pressure to pull a good shot of espresso with bad crema.

Crema at Starbucks

To see crema on Starbucks drinks, order an espresso shot or two without anything else added. Once you add ice or milk, the crema is harder to see since it gets mixed in with the dark liquid of the espresso.

The darker the roast of coffee, the less crema it’ll produce and Starbucks uses very dark roasted coffee for their espresso drinks. To get better crema, order a blonde espresso, which is a lighter roast.

What You’ll Need to Get Crema

  • Espresso machine 
    An espresso machine is needed to make crema, but you can also use a Nespresso which will give you similar results. 
  • Coffee grinder
    If your espresso machine doesn’t come with one, you’ll need a good coffee grinder.
  • Whole coffee beans
    You can use any kind of coffee beans you like but a lighter roast will give you a little more crema than a really dark roast. Use coffee that is about 1-2 weeks past the date it was roasted.
  • Filtered water
    Always use good quality water to make coffee.
My Espresso Machine Pick

Photo Credit: crateandbarrel.com

Makes great espressos at home, but it is a splurge. Good pressure and water temperature for the price.
SEE PRICE ON CRATE & BARREL

How to Make Crema at Home

  1. Fill and tamp your portafilter with finely ground coffee.
  2. Pull 1-2 shots of espresso.
    You can stir to mix the crema with the espresso, but it’s completely up to you.

BARISTA’S TIP: Make espresso in a small clear glass cup when you want to look at crema. You can see the crema very clearly and watch as it fades away over time.

Expert Tips

  • You’ll get the best crema using good quality coffee that’s about 1-2 weeks from the day it was roasted so always check the roast date. The tiny hole in every coffee bag is not there to sniff the coffee beans, but to allow the coffee to degas the CO2 that’s in freshly roasted coffee.
  • Latte art can’t be made without crema. The contrast between the crema and steamed milk is what creates the design.
  • Most coffee shops will serve an espresso shot with a spoon so that the crema can be stirred into the rest of the drink. You don’t need to stir if you don’t want to and the spoon is only there as an option.
  • The crema can tell you a lot about an espresso, whether it’s been pulled too long (the crema has white flecks) or too short (it’s dark and thick).

Questions You May Have

Can you get crema from a Nespresso? 

Yes, Nespresso uses pressure to create espresso shots.

Why is there no crema on my coffee? 

There’s two big reasons why your coffee has no crema: one, your coffee is very old, or two, your espresso shot wasn’t well pulled.

Can you get crema without an espresso machine? 

Any machine that uses pressure will make some crema, but not always. A Moka pot will make a very thin, almost bubbly looking crema, and an Aeropress might have a noticeable top layer, not not a beautiful crema. Brewed coffee doesn’t produce a crema. 

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How to Create Crema in Espresso

Author: Jee Choe
See how to make espresso with crema.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 3 mins
Total Time 3 mins
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving

INGREDIENTS
 

  • 15-18 grams freshly ground coffee
  • filtered water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Remove portafiter and run the water through the machine (grouphead) to remove any leftover coffee grounds.
  • Fill portafilter with finely ground coffee. Level and tamp filled portafilter. Remove loose ground coffee off the portafilter.
  • Put portafilter into the grouphead and place a cup under the portafilter. Pull shots.
  • After pulling shots of espresso, remove the portafilter and flush grouphead.

NOTES

  • You’ll get the best crema using good quality coffee that’s about 1-2 weeks from the day it was roasted so always check the roast date. The tiny hole in every coffee bag is not there to sniff the coffee beans, but to allow the coffee to degas the CO2 that’s in freshly roasted coffee.
  • Make espresso in a small clear glass cup when you want to look at crema. You can see the crema very clearly and watch as it fades away over time.
  • Latte art can’t be made without crema. The contrast between the crema and steamed milk is what creates the design.
  • Most coffee shops will serve an espresso shot with a spoon so that the crema can be stirred into the rest of the drink. You don’t need to stir if you don’t want to and the spoon is only there as an option.
  • The crema can tell you a lot about an espresso, whether it’s been pulled too long (the crema has white flecks) or too short (it’s dark and thick).

How to Get Good Crema

Use fresh coffee, but not too fresh.
Coffee that is about 1-2 weeks from the roast date is ideal to get good crema. This gives the coffee enough time to release gasses (including CO2) produced by the roasting process. Most bags will tell you when the coffee was roasted and if it’s not labeled with a date, it’s most likely old coffee. Coffee that’s too fresh and roasted just a couple of days ago will have too much CO2 and will result in too much crema, leaving the espresso unbalanced.
Freshly grind coffee.
Crema is a sign of freshness, and coffee begins to go stale once it’s ground.
Use a good espresso machine using enough pressure.
Cheaper espresso machines in the ($100-$400 range) don’t get the water hot enough or create enough pressure to pull a good shot of espresso with bad crema.

NUTRITION

Sodium: 4mg | Calcium: 3mg
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