What is crema in coffee?

Rachel Thomas

UK

It’s considered the mark of a perfect espresso, but what is crema? And why is it so sought after? We reveal the secrets of that elusive rust-coloured espresso foam and how to achieve it with an espresso machine at home.

What is crema?

Crema is the creamy, reddish-golden froth on the top of your espresso shot. Not only does it look inviting, it’s full of flavour, texture and aromas.

This beautiful foam layer appears when hot water is forced through the coffee grounds at high pressure, emulsifying the coffee bean oils and forming tiny, smooth bubbles. It adds a level of quality and richness that you do not get with other brew methods.  That’s why it has become a sign of the finest authentic-tasting espresso. 

How to get the perfect crema

The perfect crema is smooth, foamy, even in colour, and should last for about two minutes before it disappears into your espresso.

To recreate expert espresso crema in your own kitchen, it’s all about the beans, the grind and the tamp. You'll also need an espresso machine that gives you enough pressure from the pump, while also maintaining temperature in the brewing process.

Discover the Espresso machine - Artisan >

What are the best beans for espresso crema?

Freshly roasted beans give off oils and gases that help form lovely, thick espresso foam. It’s not always possible, but using the beans shortly after roasting is ideal for perfect crema consistency. More and more coffee houses are roasting their own coffee beans to be able to serve customers espresso with the most desirable crema.

Even at home though, you can grind your beans just before brewing to keep all their precious ingredients, oils and aromas intact.

Did you know Robusta coffee beans give you the richest crema? Try mixing some with sweet, smooth Arabica beans to find your dream blend.

Explore the types of coffee bean >

Tip: Make sure your water isn’t too soft. If you live in a soft water area you may want to use bottled water.

Choosing the right grind

Coffee bean grind size is key to producing natural crema. Too coarse and the water flows through too quickly, the coffee is under extracted and the crema is thin and weak. Too fine and the coffee is over extracted, and the crema uneven and dark.

Try out different grind sizes to get the right one for your espresso machine and the type of coffee you’re using. Our KitchenAid coffee grinder has 70 settings, from very coarse to extra fine, so you can experiment with the finer espresso grinds, to get the correct flow.

Go to the coffee grinder >
Discover how to grind coffee at home >

Your secret to a firm, even tamp

tamp coffee near grey espresso machine

Tamping is the process of pressing down on the ground coffee in the espresso machine’s portafilter, with a tool called a tamper. The reason it's done is to make sure you get an even and consistent flow of water through your coffee.

The portafilter for our espresso machine is specially designed with a unique flat base, so your tamp will be impressively uniform and dense. It has recessed spouts and a commercial-grade 58mm diameter to help maintain optimal heat throughout extraction. You’re fully equipped and ready to pull the tastiest espressos with flawless espresso foam.

Learn how to make espresso at home >

The perfect pressure for espresso foam

You only get crema with an espresso machine, as it's a fast, high pressure brewing method. Experts recommend a pump machine, with at least 9 bars of pump pressure. 

What’s a bar? Good question. It’s the measure of atmospheric pressure exerted on the coffee grounds. Hot water is pumped into the pressure chamber, where it gets compressed to around 8 to 10 times that of normal atmospheric pressure. This pressure is essential for flavourful bean extraction, and thick, rich espresso foam. The espresso machine from KitchenAid provides low pressure pre-infusion and has a 15-bar Italian pump to give you optimal pressure for beautiful crema. That means you can effortlessly create a shot of espresso topped with crema. Definitely something to add to your list of skills.

Keep it hot! Maintaining temperature throughout

The final piece in the espresso crema puzzle is temperature. The water has to be warm enough to caramelise the sugars in the coffee, but not so hot that it spoils the gorgeous flavours. The optimal temperature range for espresso is between 92 and 96 °C. 

Dual, smart temperature sensors on our espresso machine monitor the water heat during brewing, keeping it at just the right temperature all the way through the process.  Fast-heating technology heats up water to ideal brewing temperature in less than 45 seconds. So you don’t have to wait for your espresso. 

"No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness."

Sheik Abd-al-Kabir

 

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