www.compasscoffeeroasting.com: coffee is culinary

"Crema is Rubbish"

Postby SlowRain on Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:24 pm

That is, potentially, a sacrilegious statement for some but, in the ever-evolving world of espresso trends and opinions, it could be an interesting idea to test out.

http://www.jimseven.com/2009/07/06/video-1-crema/

http://coffeecollective.blogspot.com/20 ... crema.html
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Postby TimEggers on Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:41 pm

In general terms I'm with James on this one. I've never been a fan of crema on my espresso and still prefer a low brew pressure that minimizes crema and (to me) offers a more subtle balanced shot.

But I'm curious as to what coffee's and/or roasts this mostly applies too? Is this a universal thing?

Certainly more testing is needed and I'm curious if anyone else has tried this yet? After all we do remove 'bloom' from the press...
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Postby timo888 on Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:46 pm

The claim that "espresso is rubbish" is an oversimplification based probably on a narrow set of espresso brew parameters. If you said "Espresso is sometimes rubbish" I could agree. Though mine is not. 8)

The crema produced on domestic spring levers operating at ~6 bars of brew pressure is syrupy and viscous, compared to the more mousse-like crema of machines that brew at 9 bars or higher.

Flecked crema isn't always a sign of good-tasting espresso. Often such pretty crema is an indication of too high a brew temperature.

When the espresso is not brewed at temperatures that are too hot, I find the crema adds no unwelcome tastes. Sometimes I drink the (layered) espresso though the crema, as one drinks a lager through the head. Sometimes I stir with a spoon and create a homogeneous blend.

When I see fizzy bubbles in the crema in espresso-porn videos, I think the coffee must not have rested enough.
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Postby TonyJ on Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:17 pm

Wow. I never thought of skimming the Crema off. Gotta give it a try, I guess.
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Postby another_jim on Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:38 pm

As much as I love tipping sacred cows, I think skimming off the crema, as if it were the foam left after breaking the crust when cupping, may be going in the wrong direction.

So here are my two questions to James and the Coffee Collective:

How did the coffee used for espresso in the experiment taste as a regular brew?
When a coffee tastes better as espresso than brewed; is it still improved by skimming the crema?

My point is obvious. In our rush to try coffees never before used in espresso, we occasionally end up pulling decent shots with coffees that taste flat out spectacular when brewed. If skimming the crema on these improves them to the level of their brewed counterparts, more power to you. If it improves them, but not as much, you are still not putting that coffee to its best use.

I have a couple of interesting test cases on hand:
-- the Fraijanes Agua Tibia which Sweet Maria is selling. In the cup, it's a perfectly good 87ish, clean washed central. But as an espresso, it very unexpectedly turns into a low 90s chocolate-cherry bomb. So my feel is that this coffee is pretty much in line with the SO discoveries being sold by the best roasters.
-- the Yemen Anesi sold earlier this year by the Green Coffee Coop. Unlike many Yemens, this brews to a lovely, exceptionally clean, strawberry-wine cup, scoring in the low to mid 90s, when done as a light cupping roast. As a light-medium roast espresso, it's temperamental. The best shots are perfect little Belgian chocolate-strawberry truffles; the worst shots are either dust and leather, or sour. Like all Yemens, it has the red, congealed super-crema that makes even Robusta's look sick.

Lay your bets; report tomorrow.
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Postby werbin on Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:58 pm

I tasted some Coffee Collective espresso recently at an espresso tasting at the Intelligentsia tasting lab in New York City. The beans had been hand carried back from Scandinavia. It was by far the best of the espresso blends I tasted that day. Maybe the best ever.

Does anyone know how to order Coffee Collective beans?
I have looked at their web site, http://www.coffeecollective.dk/coffees.htm but don't see any way to order the beans. Does anyone import them into the United States?

I like the taste of crema. But, the fact that the very excellent Coffee Collective is suggesting that skimming crema improves the taste of espresso is very intriguing.
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Postby JmanEspresso on Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:05 pm

Its tough to say one way or the other on this, because I dont want to say, "yeah, I agree" and look like im running the catch the bandwagon, but I also dont want to disagree just to disagree.

But I will say this...

Ive never been a fan of shots that have a copious amount of crema... those pretty pictures of shots that are 100% crema.. not really want Im after. I do agree with James about being more interested in balance then a "journey" of the cup, however. Over time, I have adjusted my brew pressure to the point where the crema to coffee ratio is where I like it.. Crema about 20-25% of the cup.

And Crema, mottling, flecks.. Doesnt mean you pulled a good shot at all. Some of my best shots Ive ever pulled had waning crema, not even able to cover the whole top of the cup. Granted these were washed centrals and africans, but hey.. Its the espresso Im after, not the crema.

Also.. Bitterness is NOT a bad thing. Lots of bitterness is not enjoyable, but bitterness, in the right amount, can do wonders for lots of things. The trend in America toward bitterness is that if its bitter, its bad. Not true in my book. Anyone who has worked as a bartender(or attends bars a lot :) ) will tell you, "Bitters" are often added to a drink, and without it, some drinks would not be nearly as good.
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Postby bgn on Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:37 pm

timo888 wrote:The claim that "espresso is rubbish"

The OP actually talked about "crema" being rubbish. I'm glad for the tip to stir espresso. I've always assumed that the spoon that i'm given when ordering an espresso was to stir in sugar and so I've always put the spoon back on the counter before taking the cup. I will try stirring, at least, if not stripping crema.
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Postby Endo on Mon Jul 06, 2009 9:46 pm

I've always felt stirring is sufficient. No need to skim crema.

So if no crema is a good thing, and aging improves the taste, does this imply if I let my beans de-gas for a few months in an nitrogen rich (oxygen-free) environment, I'll have the perfect espresso?
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Postby malachi on Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:51 pm

Have any of you actually tried this (ie pulling a shot "standard" and tasting it, then pulling a shot, skimming it and tasting it -- and then comparing the two)?

Or is everyone just talking out of their a**es?
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