Latest Posts

  1. Moka Pot Brewing (Stovetop Espresso)

    Moka Pot Brewing (Stovetop Espresso)

    These are some basic instructions that you will, undoubtedly, adapt and refine to suit your purposes...

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  2. Espresso: Choosing the Right Coffee for Espresso

    Espresso: Choosing the Right Coffee for Espresso

    Usually, an espresso blend must be blended for balance, or particular varietal qualities that would be favorable in a drip coffee might overwhelm the espresso extract.

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  3. Espresso: The Grind

    Espresso: The Grind

    It's often said that a good grinder is the most important piece of equipment for making espresso, and I tend to agree.

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  4. Espresso: Almighty Crema

    Espresso: Almighty Crema

    The presence of crema, the foam on your espresso, means you are in the ballpark ...

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  5. Cona Vacuum Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's!

    Cona Vacuum Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's!

    Cona brewing is a wonderful visual experience that just happens to result in perfect coffee.

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  6. Chemex Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's

    Chemex Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's

    The Chemex Coffee Making System was developed by a chemist to achieve one result: brew a perfect cup of coffee every time.

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  7. Ibrik Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's!

    Ibrik Brewing Instructions from Sweet Maria's!

    These are intended as a "starting point" for Ibrik brewing - ultimately you will figure out the best and most convenient ways to use these brewing devices, so please remake, twist, turn, distort, decompile, torch, grind and brew these instructions to suit your own needs!.

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  8. Bodum Santos Brewing Instructions

    Bodum Santos Brewing Instructions

    Here are Bodum's instructions for using the Santos.

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  9. Clever Cleaning

    Clever Cleaning

    Here are a few ways to give your Clever Coffee Dripper the proper care it deserves

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  10. Espresso:  All Things Espresso

    Espresso: All Things Espresso

    Espresso is fussy. It is the pursuit for perfection by a person who is driven by minutiae.

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  11. Pasquini Espresso Equipment

    Pasquini Espresso Equipment

    We have decided not to continue stocking the Livia, or other Pasquini items. This page remains here as a snapshot of what we thought about the Livia (still, a very nice espresso machine!)

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  12. Clear or Cloudy Coffee? An Open Question.

    Clear or Cloudy Coffee? An Open Question.

    About clarity in brewed coffee as it cools

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Espresso: Almighty Crema

Espresso: Almighty Crema

Crema! A Sign of Good Espresso, or a Symptom of Bad Espresso

The presence of crema, the foam on your espresso, means you are in the ballpark ... within range of having the variables of temperature, pressure, tamping, etc. under control. That is, unless your machine has a crema-enhancing attachment. But even then, you might still have honest crema, and you should be able to tell by "diagnosing" it. Crema is a part of the espresso beverage. Espresso is not meant to be all crema, nor should it have less than 1/10th crema. Crema is part of the visual lure of espresso, the aromatics, the mouthfeel, the flavor and long-lasting aftertaste or espresso. In its technical definition, crema is gas bubbles suspended in a liquid film, that has high "surface tension" between the water molecules. Crema should be compact and persistent: it should last 2 minutes before the suspended water molecules drain, the entrapped gas is released and the liquid underneath shows through.

Crema Diagnotics: Hopefully this chart will help a bit. Oftentimes, symptoms that appear in crema might be several problems and treating one cause will simply reveal another problem. Also remember that the taste of espresso trumps appearance (duh!) so if you have a 15 second shot with fading, light cream, but you love the flavor, to heck with how the crema looks!

Is the crema a very light tan/yellow color? Did the extraction take under 15 seconds? (Light crema can also indicate low water temperature).

Problem: Underextraction.

Solutions: Increase extraction time by grinding coffee finer, or tamping harder. And did you use enough coffee? Increase fineness of grind to extend extraction timeTemperature: Check water teamperature. Was the machine, the group, the coffee handle all warmed up properly? Unlikely but possible cause is that you homeroast, and the coffee is too fresh ... was the coffee rested long enough to degas? Many people prefer 48+ hours of resting after roasting for espresso use.


Does the espresso have a very light tan dot in the middle of extremely dark crema color? Did it take 10 seconds for the first drops of espresso to appear? Did the espresso come out in drops, never becoming a stream? Did the extraction take over 30 seconds?

Problem: Overextraction.

Solutions: Make the grind a little coarser, back off on the pressure when you tamp the coffee. Did you use too much coffee? The range is 7 to 11 grams per single espresso.

Did the espresso have great crema color, then visibly drop 1/4 inch or more in the cup as it sat for the first 1 minute? Was the surface of the espresso marked by very large, unstable bubbles in the crema? Is the crema pale?

Problem: Fast extraction, or light roast too.

Solutions: This might be a combination of short extraction and lighter roast. You will also get a less persistent crema if you use robusta in your blend ... you have more crema perhaps but it fades sooner.

Does the crema have a rich dark color of tightly compacted foam? And/or does it have darker striations producing a "tiger skin" effect?

Problem: None!

Solutions: This is how I like my espresso to look. But remember, espresso is a matter of taste and my "perfect espresso" might be a bit overextracter for some people. In Brazil they like a quick extraction time and a lighter roast than most of us West Coast Californians would prefer... to each their own. But when I see the modest amount of dark speckling over substantial amounts of crema, tightly compacted and persistent crema, with perhaps a lighter swiggle in the middle from the last drops of the shot ... I anticipate something good.

Does the espresso have a thin crema with large oil globules? Did it take a really long time to produce 1 oz of liquid? Did it come out of the coffee handle one drop at a time?

Problem: WAY Overextracted

Solutions: Make the grind coarser, back off on the pressure when you tamp the coffee. Did you use too much coffee? The range is 7 to 11 grams per single espresso.

 

Does the espresso have grit in the cup after you finish?

Problem: Grind too fine

Solutions: Make the grind coarser.

The problems you cannot see: bad taste! Bitterness in espresso is a popular complaint. Before you blame the coffee, you need to make sure the machine is clean. A very bad, acrid bitterness results from machines/coffee handles that are dirty. A thorough cleaning of a neglected machine can be a considerable undertaking. I cleaned a La San Marco for 2 days straight trying to remove the cause of my bitter espresso. When the machine is clean, you should be able to do a dry-run with no coffee in the portafilter (meaning, run hot water into the cup through the coffee handle) ... then let the water cool and taste it. If it tastes good, your machine should be clean.