Does a good Espresso need Crema!? -

A nice reddish brown crema on the espresso of course signals correct preperation but… have you ever tasted the crema itself?!? To us it seems to be kind of dry and bitter!

Try to take some crema with a spoon from the top of a good espressoshot and taste it!

After having tried this we sometimes skim the crema of the espresso right before drinking the espresso using two small spoons. This seemes to give a more clean and less bitter cup which is finishing of extremly soft. On the down side the cup also looses some body. But it is definitely a good way to drink coffee if you wan’t it to be soft and intense!

19 Responses to “Does a good Espresso need Crema!?”

  1. flyingthud April 16, 2008 at 09:14 #

    Interesting, was it dry and bitter with just one coffee or did you try it with a few?

    London calling.

  2. James Hoffmann April 16, 2008 at 11:39 #

    I remember tasting crema alone for the first time a few years ago and thinking it was just plain horrible.

    Some time later Anette got me into the habit of really stirring up the espresso beforing drinking it.

    You lose some crema (no bad thing) but you do get a good snapshot of the whole espresso in a single sip.

  3. Simon Gate April 16, 2008 at 11:43 #

    Yes, interesting indeed. I’ve got to test this.

  4. Emily April 16, 2008 at 13:15 #

    interesting.. Instaurator talks about this very topic in his new book…

  5. musslan April 16, 2008 at 16:47 #

    I say, always stir. The espresso tend to be in layers. The layer on top, just under the crema, tastes rather thin and unbalanced to me.
    Or, drink the whole espresso in one sip and blend it in your mouth for a couple of seconds before you swollow.

  6. Ben Kaminsky April 17, 2008 at 06:37 #

    Not a big crema fan either/have never understood the people who really swoon over it… I usually swirl in the demi, but I’m going to have to try that stirring business you keep recommending, James.

    “[Crema] is bitter if you’re using a bitter coffee.” -Klaus


  7. Brad April 17, 2008 at 08:08 #

    As Emily has said ini touches on this in his new book which is fantastic btw. I have been using the back of a teaspoon on the rim of the cup to form a tiny gap which sprays the coffee when sipped and the spoon also pushes back the crema.

  8. Simon Gate April 17, 2008 at 14:22 #

    Tried to remove the crema on a espresso and compared it to a stirred. The espresso lost alot of aromas and it felt a little pale in the mouth. Even thou the crema is bitter it added alot to the whole when it was stirred before drinking i think.

  9. Klaus Thomsen April 18, 2008 at 09:57 #

    I must admit I’ve probably been the most skeptical about this. Espresso without crema just seems … well … wrong. But I do find the crema alone tasting dry and bitter (yes, on a non-bitter coffee, Ben, thankyouverymuch!) ;-)

    Yesterday I had one of the best espressos I’ve had in a long time, and it was stirred right before drinking.

    Some people like the layers, though. They like to start with the bitter sensation and end with that sugary-syrupy-balsamico-like sensation at the very bottom. I have never understood, though, when people slurp espresso like you do in a cupping – to me that just brings the bitterness out too much.

    Well, what this experiment has done for me so far, is 1) to prove how wrong this quest-for-crema is, that some people seem to be obsessed with and 2) that the aromas are not as much trapped in the crema, as I have thought so far. I definitely think there are some aromas you’ll loose by skimming compared to stirring (as Simon also says) but not as many as I’d have thought.

    On a side note, does the espresso without crema remind anyone a lot of the Aeropress done with a tight grind?

  10. Brad April 19, 2008 at 09:04 #

    I think your right there Klaus with straight slurping. In essence you’re sucking the coffe up into your mouth the crema is obviously lighter because it is on top of the liquid underneath so you get straight trapped co2 bitterness sucked up when slurping because it is the lightest part. Where as in cupping the crema is usually removed before slurping. this is why i use the teaspoon.(hope this made sence;)

  11. Klaus Thomsen April 19, 2008 at 09:21 #

    Yes Brad, I didn’t really get the spoon trick the first time, but now it makes sense. I’ll try that the next time I’m at work. I only wonder if our spoons will fit into the demitasse while I’m drinking too…
    Thanks for the tip!

  12. Matts April 19, 2008 at 18:26 #

    it´s just like moka, tesr and compare

  13. Klaus Thomsen April 19, 2008 at 20:40 #

    Hi Matts.
    Do you mean like the Bialetti pots that you put on top of a stove? If so I find it very different to that.

  14. Kiril April 21, 2008 at 05:16 #

    I’ve taken your experiment on board, i find that overall espresso lost a lot of smell but definitely has a cleaner mouthfeel and finish. I am trying to retain the crema but instead of removing it i am purposely dissipating it

    I am not sure if you can relate disepating of crema to this post, here is my little blog about it…

  15. The Coffee Collective April 22, 2008 at 08:19 #

    Matts, I can follow your parallel to a well prepared moka. The mouthfell seems to be very similar – oily but not as voluminous as espresso with crema. To me though the aromas are somewhat more complex in the skimmed espresso and the finish is more smooth and less bitter!?


  16. Lene April 22, 2008 at 19:04 #

    Hi Guys
    Thank you so much for great coffee today and it was so nice to see your place -cool!!!!!!!!!Jeppe wished he had been there as well but we will come in May.
    About the discussing on crema we have “studied” our own espresso blend and it was very interesting to taste the crema alone and the espresso without. But we definately preferred the espresso with crema and stirred with a spoon before drinking. Do you get me – stirred eventhough you do not use sugar.
    Take care you all – Lene

  17. Klaus Thomsen April 22, 2008 at 21:51 #

    Hi Lene
    It was great to see you again. What a nice surprise!
    I´m glad you liked the place. Next time Jeppe just have to come and you´ll have to keep the shop running.

    Kiril. We tried your recommendation on brewing the shot onto a saucer. I have to try it again tomorrow. I was still ‘coffee lagged’ from a serious caffein intake during the Dutch Barista Competition yesterday, so I couldn’t really make any sound judgement. I think Peter liked it though.

  18. Phil April 25, 2008 at 03:09 #

    I certainly agree with most peoples observations regarding crema and the crema-less espresso underneath, and certainly some of the very best espressos i’ve had have been stirred or drunk in a single sip. Espresso just needs all it’s components to acheive balance.

    This all reminds me of something that Tim Wendelboe (i think), wrote quite a while back, regarding competitions in general, and specifically a point he made about obsessing over crema. He said that the coffee he’d used for WBC had been chosen over his preferred coffee (tastewise) because it produced better crema.

  19. mattias nilsson, sthlm July 8, 2009 at 20:08 #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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