Espresso is a delicate drink that is consumed all over the world. But it can be quite difficult to perfect when making it at home.
Getting the ideal extraction for your perfect cup with a foamy layer of crema isn’t always easy.
In this post, I’ll explain what crema is, what to do if your espresso has no crema, and some of espresso brewing tips for your next drink. Let’s get started.
What is Espresso Crema?
Espresso crema is the golden brown foam that you see on top of your espresso shot, latte, or cappuccino. It’s a result of the oils from ground coffee beans being released during brewing. If it is not present, then this means that something went wrong when making espresso in your machine or with your recipe.
How is Espresso Crema Made?
Espresso crema is produced from the pressure in the espresso machine pushing hot water through the ground coffee beans. The oils in your espresso are released when this pressure is applied to force them out of the tiny holes in the portafilter in your espresso machine.
What Does Crema Taste Like?
Crema tastes like a caramelized, liquid version of the espresso. It’s flavor can be described as a mix of sweet and bitter, with a slightly syrupy texture.
Crema has the appearance of a light brown, tan head. It’s thickness is somewhere between cream and foam.
How Much Crema is Right?
Now that you know what crema is, how much is the right amount?
The optimum amount of crema is between .75 and two millimeters in thickness.
If you have too little crema, your espresso shot may taste bitter or weak. If you have too much crema, it can become oily-tasting or even watered down from being mixed with cream or foam.
If you want less crema, you can use a finer grind or higher tamp pressure. This will make it harder for the oils to escape and create crema.
If you want more crema, use a courser grind or lower tamp pressure. This will result in an easier release of oils and more crema on top of your shot.
What To Do If There’s No Crema on Espresso
If there’s no crema on your espresso, I recommend that you adjust your grind size or pressure.
If the coffee is very fine, it will be difficult for water to pass through under pressure and produce crema. On the other hand, if the grind is too coarse there won’t be enough resistance to build up high pressures inside of the espresso filter.
This can lead to an espresso that has no crema with air bubbles on top instead of a head – also known as “espresso with holes.”
Reasons You Might Not Get Crema on Espresso
Below are some of the most common reasons you aren’t achieving the perfect crema. You can adjust these settings to get the perfect crema on your espresso.
Wrong Coffee Grind Size
The grind of your coffee is essential to producing crema.
If the grind is too fine, it may not be able to pass through under pressure. If the grind is too coarse, there won’t be enough resistance and water will just flow straight through – creating a poor tasting shot with no crema.
The right grind will be somewhere in the middle. It should have some resistance but not too much, so it creates a good flow rate for water to pass through under pressure inside of your portafilter basket.
Some espresso machines will have an attached grinder to help you get the grind you need. If not, you can easily purchase burr grinders if you want a finer grind.
Incorrect Pressure Settings
Crema is made from the water pressure pumping through the coffee bean. If your water pressure is too low, it can make producing crema impossible.
To get the right pressure you need to have your espresso machine’s pump pressure set between 80 and 100 PSI.
The easiest way to get your PSI is by using a coffee tamping tool to compress ground coffee inside your portafilter basket. This will give you an accurate read out of exactly how much pressure there is in the basket at that moment.
If you have too much pressure, it can be worse than not having enough. The water will just pass through the coffee grounds with no resistance and you won’t get any crema.
The water pressure may also make your espresso too bitter or cause it to taste watered down when the pressure is too low.
Not Using Fresh Coffee Beans
Using stale coffee beans can make producing crema for your espresso much more difficult. Be sure that your coffee beans are fresh to get the perfect crema.
The reason stale beans won’t produce crema is because of high acidity levels and a lack of flavor.
How do you know if you have stale coffee beans?
You can tell if your beans are stale by their smell. If they don’t have a discernible coffee-like aroma, they are probably stale and need to be replaced with fresh beans.
Coffee beans normally last around two weeks when stored properly in a cool, dry and dark place. You’ll need an airtight containers to ensure no air reaches the beans to avoid stale coffee.
Another way to tell if your coffee beans are stale is by the color of their grinds. If your coffee grinder has a setting for “espresso,” then use it to check if you have some stale-looking espresso grinds in your portafilter tray.
If they look more brown than black, they’re probably bad and should be replaced with fresh ones.
Disproportionate Water Ratio
Not having the right ratio of water to coffee beans can be one reason your espresso might not have any crema.
Too much water can make it difficult to produce crema because the water doesn’t have enough resistance.
On the other hand, too much coffee can make achieving a good espresso with crema impossible as well. If you put in more than 18 grams of ground coffee into your portafilter basket for one shot, you’ll probably never see any crema on top of your espresso.
Wrong Amount of Coffee
Just as you could have too much or too little water, you could also have to much or to little coffee grind. If you want a perfect shot of espresso – you need to have the right size coffee puck for quality espresso.
The correct ratio of pre ground coffee to water is between 18 and 22 grams for one shot of espresso.
If you’re using a double-shot portafilter with two coffee pucks, you’ll need to have 36-44 grams of coffee grounds.
Be sure that you tamp down your ground coffee nice and firm so it has an even density. If your coffee puck is too loose, you won’t get as good of a shot and it will be harder to produce crema.
Use the Right Type of Beans and Roast
Finding the right beans for making espresso is the best way to get a good shot of crema.
The most common types of beans used for producing crema are Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica beans are the most popular choice for espresso because they’ve been cultivated to produce a lot of flavor with lower acidity levels.
Robusta beans are less expensive and have higher caffeine content, but they don’t taste as good or produce crema as well as Arabica beans.
Robusta beans are also more difficult to grow and produce than many other types of coffee beans because of the harsh environment they need to grow.
The roast of your coffee grounds will also affect the flavor and amount of crema. Darker naturally processed beans, sometimes referred to as espresso roast, can result in a stronger and more bitter taste than medium roasts.
The lighter the roast, the less flavor it will have which can make crema hard to come by.
Using the right temperature of water is key in having the best crema. Your water should be between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the temperature of your espresso shot is too low, it will lack crema. If you have water hotter than 205 degrees fahrenheit it could burn your grinds and cause bitter tasting coffee with no crema whatsoever.
Another way to get a good idea of what temperature your water should be at is by using a thermometer. Or you can use your espresso machine’s built in temperature gauge to give you an accurate reading of exactly how hot the water is.
The water should be 200 degrees Fahrenheit to get a good crema on your espresso shot.
Can You Make Crema Without an Espresso Machine?
Making crema without espresso machines is possible – but more difficult.
If you have a French Press, however, there are ways to get creama coffee even if you don’t have an espresso machine at your disposal.
You’ll need finely ground coffee beans and water that is just off the boil (195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit).
Brew your coffee like normal, then simply pour it into another cup. This will cause the crema to float on top of your coffee.
Final Thoughts on No Crema on Espresso
There are many reasons your fresh coffee may not be producing crema. A perfect espresso shot will have the correct amount of coffee grounds, water ratio, and pressure to get the proper extraction and create crema.
To avoid the unsatisfying coffee experience – be sure to use a coffee grinder or espresso machine to get the correct grind.
If you’re having trouble creating a more stable crema, check your pressure settings and brewing process to ensure your shot of espresso tastes heavenly.