How To Make Perfect Espresso Crema? (The 5 Golden Rules!) • Bean Ground


Please note: If you decide to purchase a product through a link on the site, we may earn a commission without additional cost to you. Learn More >

If you want to learn how to make crema, this article is an excellent place to start for any aspiring home barista. A good crema is the holy grail of any espresso coffee, giving your shot of espresso that craved for the ‘Guinness effect.’

Without that creamy tawny-colored liquid on top of your espresso, you’re left with nothing more than a black coffee in a small cup and definitely nothing worthy enough to be called an espresso.

So we can all agree that getting the best espresso crema is a vital element of a great tasting shot. Also, once mastered, you’ll also get those much-deserved barista crema bragging rights – who doesn’t want those? 

In this post, I’ll share insights into what crema is, why it’s important, and how you, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned coffee enthusiast, can achieve that perfect crema in your espresso.

So, let’s dive into the delightful and delicious world of espresso crema!

✔ Quick Answer

Espresso crema, the golden layer atop a well-brewed espresso, is influenced by factors like bean freshness, grind size, and machine settings. While its thickness and flavor contribute to the overall experience, achieving the perfect crema involves experimentation and an understanding of the interplay between coffee beans, roasts, and brewing techniques.

What is Espresso Crema?

You’ve all seen it, that golden-brown froth resting on top of an espresso shot.

But what exactly is it?

Crema is the creamy, aromatic foam that forms when hot water passes through finely ground coffee under high pressure. It’s not just any foam though; it’s a collection of tiny bubbles mixed with coffee oils and solids, creating a rich, velvety layer.

This crema actually plays a crucial role in your espresso.

It traps the essence of the coffee, giving you a burst of flavor and aroma with each sip. I’ve observed how the presence and quality of crema can really transform the entire espresso experience.

Crema adds complexity to the espresso’s taste, offering a slightly sweet, rich, and smooth introduction to the underlying potent brew and Its texture and consistency can tell a lot about the espresso’s quality.

A good crema should be thick enough to linger on your lips and strong enough to support a sprinkle of sugar for a few seconds.

The Science Behind Making Espresso Crema

Let’s get a bit technical, but I promise to keep it simple.

When you brew an espresso, hot water forced through the ground coffee at high pressure creates a reaction. This is where our tiny, invisible friends – carbon dioxide and coffee oils – come into play.

Freshly roasted coffee is full of carbon dioxide, and during brewing, this gas escapes, fusing with the oils and water to create the coffee crema.

But there’s more to it. The right amount of carbon dioxide is crucial.

Too much, and your crema is overly bubbly, thin, and disappears quickly. Too little, and you might get a measly layer or none at all. It’s the oils in the coffee that actually contribute to the crema’s richness and longevity.

They’re like the glue that holds those tiny bubbles together, giving crema its beautiful, creamy texture.

How to Get the Perfect Crema on Espresso

As I’ve mentioned, a good espresso crema is made with the fat content found in the coffee combined with the high pressure of an espresso machine that can produce ideally 15 bars of water pressure to help extract the fatty goodness from your coffee beans.

Also, I find that a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are often the best coffee beans for espresso crema and tend to give you a far better crema than just using 100% Arabica beans alone.

However, when it comes to espresso foam,  it’s not just about the beans. A few other factors can also affect how your crema turns out.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Use Only Fresh Coffee Beans

One of the primary drivers of crema coffee is by using the freshest coffee beans you can get your hands on.

Coffee freshly roasted within 1 week before you grind will be the best bet, but getting your hands on coffee as fresh as this is hard for most of you reading this, and supermarket coffee just isn’t going to cut it!

If you’re struggling with getting fresh whole coffee beans, I recommend that you set up a coffee subscription so you can have fresh coffee delivered to your door – one of my regular coffee suppliers is Volcanica Coffee; they have a huge range and deliver directly to your front door.

Next is to check the labels on the beans you’re planning to buy and take note of the roast date (not the best-before date).

This will give you a good indication of just how fresh the beans are – you’ll want a recent roast date, ideally waithin the last 2 to 4 weeks.

The Fresher the coffee beans are, the better crema you will get; the older the beans are, the more time they have had to oxidize, which will damage the beans.

Take a look at this article on tips for buying better espresso beans.

Also, only buy whole coffee beans and keep them whole until a few seconds before you are going to use them.

Don’t pre-grind and keep the ground coffee for days; grind your coffee right before you pull your espresso shot.

2. Make Sure to Use a Good Espresso Machine

Having a good espresso machine is an essential component of nailing a decent crema.

I recommend investing in a pump-driven coffee machine that can achieve temperatures as high as 192F-200F and consistently deliver water pressure to at least 9 bar (about 130psi).

You can buy espresso machines for under $200, but from my experience, they often cannot hold a suitable temperature or deliver the adequate pressure needed for crema.

Once you have a decent espresso machine, make sure it’s well maintained, especially around the brew head and portafilter; a dirty machine will often struggle to make a good crema – so don’t set yourself up to fail.

3. Don’t Forget to Tamp!

Tamping your coffee is another factor that plays a significant role in achieving the perfect crema. Many coffee enthusiasts recommend a 30 lb.

Tamp on your coffee; the book Espresso Coffee, The Science of Quality (excellent book, by the way) also suggests heavy tamping of your coffee for the best cup and overall drinking experience.

So how the hell do you know what 30 lbs. of pressure is?

There isn’t any crazy science involved here or a fancy machine that’s going to tell you how much pressure to use; it boils down to a good old “guesstimate,” or using a precalibrated tamper might be a good starting point. 

If you don’t have a precalibrated tamper, you can practice the force required for the perfect tamp by using regular bathroom scales. 

Take your espresso tamper and portafilter to the bathroom and by using your regular weighing scales, push down with your tamp and try and get a good feeling of what 30 lbs. of pressure actually feels like.

Ok, great, but why 30 lbs.?

Why not 20 lbs. or less? As I’ve mentioned, many experts agree this is the best tamp, but there are a few other reasons why 30 lbs. is a good starting point.

For example, if you use only 20 lbs. or less pressure, the water will find the “path of least resistance” around your coffee grinds – aka coffee channeling.

Instead of fully saturating your grinds, the water will essentially miss some compacted ground coffee, which in turn will produce a weaker brew due to less extraction.

4. Get Your Grind On

The grind size of your coffee and the tamp go hand-in-hand; get one of these two wrong and your crema will probably suffer as a result. 

Getting your coffee grind size correct is key to making the best crema. Ideally, you’ll want to have your grind fine enough that when tamped, you’ll deliver roughly a 25-second shot.

If you are struggling with getting this part nailed, as a rule of thumb, grind your coffee finer if your shots are coming out quicker than the recommended 25 seconds, and grind your coffee slightly coarser if they take longer than 25 seconds.

This is called “dialing in your espresso” and needs to be done with every new bag of coffee and even with a bag that’s been opened for a few days as the coffee begins to degass.

You’ll need to experiment with this process as different variables, such as espresso machines and coffee brands, will play a role in crema creation.

If you find that you are struggling to get your coffee fine enough with the coffee grinder you currently have, you will have to invest in something with a bit more power and probably more expensive too.

A conical grinder like the Baratza Encore Conical Burr or the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder are both excellent entry-level coffee grinders that I have found to be perfect for getting the right grind for home-brewed espresso.

5. Fresh Filtered Water Only

And lastly, the water might be pretty obvious to some, but I should still reiterate the need for good clean filtered water when brewing any type of coffee at home – not just espresso.

Please don’t use tap/faucet water; if you do, all of the above tips will be a waste, and the chances of getting a good quality crema will be dramatically reduced. 

Making crema really relies on following all of the above steps, and using the cleanest, best quality water plays a significant role.

After all, espresso is 97-98% water!

less crema espresso due to bad quality coffee beans

The Role of Good Quality Coffee Beans And Crema

You might wonder if the type of coffee bean matters. Absolutely!

Because the quality of your coffee bean plays such a significant role in producing a good quality crema, I think it deserves talking about a bit more. 

Let’s compare Arabica and Robusta – the two most popular beans.

Arabica beans are known for their smoother, sweeter flavor, while Robusta, as the name suggests, has a robust, stronger taste. When it comes to crema in an espresso, Robusta generally produces more because of its higher natural oil and caffeine content.

However, this doesn’t mean Arabica falls short.

It can create a wonderfully aromatic and flavorful crema, just slightly less voluminous.

Roast level is another crucial factor.

Generally, a medium roast is ideal for a balanced crema. Dark roasts may produce a thick crema, but be wary – they can often also introduce a burnt flavor.

And light roasts? They might struggle to produce much crema at all.

Remember, the fresher the roast, the better the crema. A bean roasted two to three weeks ago is in its prime crema-producing time.

drink an espresso with a rich tiger flecked crema

Below I’ll share my personal tips and tricks, gathered from years of experience, to help you brew the perfect cup every time. So keep reading!

A Guide to Making Espresso with Beautiful Crema

Brewing espresso with that perfect crema is a combination of art and science. It can be tricky for anyone new to home espresso brewing, so let’s break it down into manageable steps. 

First, your equipment – the espresso machine and grinder.

A good quality espresso machine that can maintain consistent pressure and temperature is crucial.

And your grinder? It needs to offer fine, consistent grind settings, which can only be achieved with a burr mechanism. Both of these tools set the stage for crema excellence, and for anyone serious about brewing any type of coffee, it’s a must.

Now, the brewing process. Start with freshly ground coffee. Remember, grind size matters – aim for a fine grind, like table salt. Next is tamping. Apply even pressure to compact the grounds, ensuring an even extraction.

When you start your shot, aim for a 25 to 30-second extraction. This timing usually hits the sweet spot for a balanced shot with a rich crema.

Fine-Tuning Your Technique

I did touch on this at the beginning of this article, but let’s explore this a bit more, I think it’s important.

Achieving the ideal crema often requires fine-tuning your technique. If the crema is too thin, try a finer grind or a firmer tamp. If the crema disappears quickly, it might be a sign your coffee is too old, or the grind is too coarse.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with grind size and extraction time. Each coffee blend might need slight adjustments.

For baristas and home brewers alike, here’s a tip: pay attention to your coffee’s roast date. Coffee used within two weeks of roasting will generally produce the best crema.

Also, consider the water temperature – too hot, and you risk burning the coffee. Too cold, and you won’t extract all the flavors.

Next, I will explore some common myths and misconceptions about espresso crema.

You might be surprised at what’s true and what’s just coffee folklore. 

Myths and Misconceptions About Espresso Crema

In the coffee world, myths about espresso crema are as common. Let’s clear the air and set the record straight.

For starters, crema is often seen as the ultimate indicator of espresso quality. While it’s true that good quality crema can signify a well-prepared espresso, it’s not the whole story.

The presence of crema doesn’t always guarantee a top-notch shot. The flavor, aroma, and balance of the espresso are equally important.

One common myth is that thicker crema means better espresso. Thickness can be influenced by factors like the type of bean and the machine used.

A thick crema might look appealing, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to better taste. In fact, overly thick crema can sometimes be a sign of over-extraction or coffee that’s too fresh coffee, which can lead to bitterness.

Another misconception is that crema should always be dark. Crema color varies depending on the coffee bean and roast.

A lighter crema might come from a light roast or single-origin Arabica, while darker crema could be from a robust blend or darker roast. The color is less about quality and more about the characteristics of the bean itself.

Remember, espresso is a personal experience. What matters most is how much you enjoy the cup in front of you. 


If you’ve got this far, thanks for sticking around, I hope to have shared some insights on achieving the best ways to make espresso with crema.

I encourage you to experiment with different beans, roasts, and brewing techniques. Each variable you tweak brings a new dimension to your espresso. Try different grind sizes, adjust your tamping pressure, or experiment with new coffee beans – each cup is an opportunity to discover something new.

Keep exploring, keep tasting, and most importantly, keep enjoying the rich and delightful experiences that coffee brings.

Whether you’re a home barista or a professional, there’s always more to learn and enjoy in the pursuit of the perfect cup of espresso.


🔥 Grab your 15% discount off ANY coffee over at Volcanica Coffee. One of our favorite online specialty coffee roasters. Use Code: BEANG15 >Click Here


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *