What is Crema? 

The Secret to the Perfect Espresso

Here are Casabrews, we’re always striving to create the perfect, most delicious shot of espresso. Even with the best espresso machines available, brewing the ideal blend requires a delicate balance of deep, dark espresso and light and bubbly froth — crema.

These beautiful little bubbles are far more than an aesthetically pleasing decoration. In fact, crema is considered by many to be one of the most important indicators of a high-quality cup of espresso.

What is crema?

Crema is the fine layer of delicate, creamy foam bubbles atop a fresh cup of espresso. It is created when your espresso machine presses hot, boiling water through coffee grounds, which releases tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. These bubbles attach themselves to the oils present in the coffee, which float to the top of your espresso shot for a delicious and fragrant layer of crema.

For most espresso enthusiasts, crema is a great indicator of the quality of the espresso, as it gives the taster an idea of the freshness and degree of the coffee roast. Additionally, crema is what helps give espresso such a robust flavor that lingers long after that first sip.

How can I achieve the perfect crema?

Whether you’re an espresso beginner or an experienced taste tester, you know that brewing the perfect cup often proves difficult — and you can’t achieve it without crema. Most expert baristas recommend that the ideal crema is roughly only a tenth of the cup’s volume and lasts roughly two minutes.

While home espresso machines can take some of the guesswork out of crema creation, it is important to choose wisely. Not all espresso machines are created equal, as some home brewers can actually hinder crema’s formation.

However, crema is largely dependent on the type of coffee beans used. 

Generally, darker coffee beans generate less crema, since they go through additional processes that result in more of the oils being rubbed away, but those on the opposite end of the spectrum are also not prime candidates. For this reason, it’s recommended to use beans that are specifically designated for espresso, as they have been designed to contain the optimal oil levels for crema production. 

If you are having issues with very little crema forming on your espresso, try brewing naturally processed or freshly roasted coffee beans. These types of beans typically contain more oils, giving the bubbles produced during the brewing process more to “grab” onto, forming more crema. That being said, it is possible for these blends to create too much crema, resulting in a cup of espresso that is mostly frothy foam and less of the dark, energizing liquid, so it’s important to find a balance.

Can I create a delicious cup of espresso without crema?

Though crema may be an important factor for many baristas, the perfect cup of espresso is all about your personal taste.

If you love crema and think it adds that special something to your espresso, then by all means, experiment away. If you prefer your cup sans crema, worry not — we won’t judge you!