The Italian coffee tradition over the centuries has become a system of rituals and behaviors about coffee and its most famous preparations: moka coffee, espresso and cappuccino.
Espresso is recognized as a coffee with unique properties that cannot be found in any other preparation. It is the Italian coffee of excellence and is the most loved, most widely consumed beverage in the world.
“Espresso” means “made at the time“, with the typical speed of preparation of our concentrated coffee.
Its essential characteristics:
- the compact crema
- the full body
- the intense aroma
result from the brewing method under pressure of the coffee machine.
What exactly is crema
and what are its characteristics?
The crema is the chemistry between the four basic elements: water, temperature, pressure and coffee.
With the espresso system, water is forced through 7 grams of finely ground coffee at a pressure of 9 bar for 25-30 seconds.
First, we obtain a solution of caffeine, acids, proteins, sugars and other substances followed by intangible elements composed of particles of coffee and micro-bubbles of gas.
This emulsion of microscopic droplets of oils and water, with a fine and dense texture, discrete thickness and hazelnut brown color that in the cup covers the surface of the espresso.
This natural golden froth that graces the surface of a well-made tazzina of straight espresso is an almost mystical obsession among Italian espresso lovers. Even if its practical role is to help hold in some of the aroma until the coffee is drunk, its cultural connotations are legendary.
For Italian espresso professionals, the crema is the key to diagnosing the coffee underneath.
Visual analysis alone provides clues of what lies beneath.
A darker-colored crema may be due to a blend heavy with Robusta coffees. Be mindful since a too dark crema indicates an over-extracted espresso. While a golden-colored crema may reveal a blend based on fine Arabica coffees. Be careful because a too light crema indicates an under-extracted espresso.
But that’s not all…
A crema made up of a few, large bubbles indicates a coffee that has been brewed too quickly and is probably thin-bodied. Dense, clotted crema indicates a coffee that has been brewed too slowly and may be burned.
What are the expert’s tips for the perfect crema?
Above all, if your espresso tastes good but has little crema, enjoy the coffee first and worry about how it looks later. Given that advice, here are a few steps to take if you continue to be concerned about crema-less espresso.
The coffee blend is the right one?
Blending is an art and quality raw coffee is fundamental in creating this daily masterpiece.
However, the more rare ingredient is the knowledge needed for blending a steadfast balance of aromas of the coffees in the blend.
The key is the full knowledge of the cup characteristics of each individual variety and origin, how they respond to roasting (with proper timing and temperatures), how aromas and flavors interfere and balance each other, the compatibility and complementary nature of the various species, types and processes.
For this reason in the coffee blend, GRAN CREMA, SpecialCoffee artfully blends the best Brazilian and Central American Arabica and fine Asian and African Robusta. Slowly roasting the blend enhances its natural qualities resulting in a cup of an espresso with a full flavor and intense aroma.
Perfect crema? It takes a good technique!
If you are using a good espresso coffee machine, begin your pursuit of crema by reviewing your brewing technique.
Make certain that:
- your grind is a fine grit
- you use sufficient coffee
- the coffee is evenly distributed in the filter
- it has been tamped hard, with a twisting motion of the tamper, to polish the surface of the dose
A very fine and uniform grit is paramount. The grind is even more important than technique and a good espresso coffee machine.
The coffee must always be fresh
Make certain your coffee beans are fresh. Store the whole coffee beans in a sealed container in a cool, dry place and grind it as close to the moment of brewing as possible.
How much coffee? Lots of coffee!
This may qualify as cheating, but often the only way to achieve good crema is by using a little bit more than the recommended amount of coffee per serving.
Last but not least… the cup!
It must be small (espresso size) and pre-warmed
Brew directly into a pre-warmed espresso size cup. The warm, narrow cup will help build up and hold the crema.
Let’s try to follow our tips: you just have to manage and dose with care and attention a few simple details to give your espresso a truly perfect crema!