"Crema is Rubbish" - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#11: Post by Endo »

Time for a new signature.........

I found it lacked balance since some bitterness was removed.

Also, I sometimes just prefer to taste the layers. Don't forget, it's also about mouthfeel.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't really get this "no crema" thing. The last few sips always have no crema so what's new here?
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#12: Post by another_jim »

malachi wrote: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?
Thank you, saves me the trouble posting the same thing.

I've tried three doubles today split into two singles, one skimmed, one regular. This isn't a gimme one way or the other, so I'll need to run more shots.
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#13: Post by Ken Fox »

The shots that I have seen that have huge amounts of crema tend either to have been pulled from coffee that is "too fresh," i.e. not sufficiently outgassed, or to have been pulled using "designer water," such as Cirqua promotes, or due to both causes simultaneously.

Designer water, either made from hard water with an RO system then adding back in calcite to about 3 grains of hardness (or made from very soft tap water such as in the Pacific NW, with Calcite added) tends to produce copious crema. Judging by the popularity of this approach in the marquee cafes, there are people who find this an attractive attribute; I'm not one of them, however.

Assuming that you are not dealing with one of the two above situations, then I would defer to what Jim has said about coffees that might not be suitable for use as SO espressos, being used in this way and then finding out that if you skim off the crema the result is "better."

My main point is that the water used to make the espresso is a huge confounding variable in any discussion of this topic.

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#14: Post by TimEggers »

malachi wrote: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?
I (sort of) asked the same thing (albeit a little less harshly :wink: ) in my original post. Interestingly enough Mark Prince has done some experimentation and offers some insights in a parallel discussion on CG (if anyone is interested).
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#15: Post by SlowRain (original poster) »

I gave it a try this afternoon with the TNT blend at Orsir. I ordered a double espresso and asked them to let it split into two cups. I tasted the crema on one, then scooped off the rest of the crema. I left the crema on the other one. I then mixed both of them. I tasted the one with the crema scooped off first, then I tasted the one with the crema.

1. Crema is bitter.
2. I liked the one with the crema scooped off better.
3. Crema is not officially "rubbish" as there are probably a good number of people who like the flavor it adds.
4. It's definitely worth it for people to give this a try.
5. Thanks to James and the Coffee Collective for bringing this up in the first place.
6. No comments on mixing. I'll have to try it again with one mixed and one not mixed.

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#16: Post by Alan Frew »

Every now and then one of these exercises is elemental stupidity pops up. Crema is a fundamental, distinct and necessary feature of espresso coffee, and until someone with a lot more chops than Illy & Viani comes along and writes their own book, complete with the decades of research to back it up, I'll continue to believe just that.

Espresso with the crema skimmed off tastes different to espresso with the crema on? Well Duh! You've just removed the emulsified oil soluble flavour components from your espresso. What's left is basically simpler, sweeter, blander and lacking in body. If you've grown up in a culture where sugar is 50% of your diet, it might even taste "better" ... to you. Some people like cold filtered coffee extract, go figure.

Effectively you're drinking just a fraction of the overall extraction, though. A bit like tasting just the centre portion of the shot after the ol' tripart separation test or a run through the Schecter EvaluSpromatic. You get some of what the coffee has to offer, but you certainly miss a lot. It is ALWAYS instructive to first just cup a coffee and then taste it as it is brewed by various methods. Insights in to the way the extraction method can emphasize or suppress elements of the overall flavour can be enlightening.


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#17: Post by michaelbenis »

I'm pretty much with Alan on this.

It's Homer Simpson reinventing Fred Flintstone's wheel.

How crema tastes depends on lots of different things.

I tend to like the taste of crema.

Sometimes I stir the espresso to bring the layers together. Sometimes I prefer the journey down through the cup. Sometimes I stir just the top parts, but leave the bottom for a nice tart finish. Sometimes I can't stop myself licking off the crema.

What I do will depend on the bean and machine I'm using. And my mood.

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#18: Post by King Seven »

Just want to weigh in on a few things here, because I am greatly enjoying this discussion. The point of the video was to generate it, as well as to get folks to try an interesting exercise.

I think the fact that crema tends to have quite a lot of suspended material in it strongly influences my perception and enjoyment of it (especially on its own). By suspended material I mean tiny pieces of coffee that we enjoy (aesthetically) as tiger flecking.

Crema is a result of CO2 leaving water, that became supersaturated with the gas under pressure. It is not (as far as I can find in genuine research) the place to find the emulsified oil in an espresso. There is a little bit there, only because the foam is the liquid coffee wrapped around a bubble. The vast percentage of the oil is where the vast percentage of the beverage is: under the crema. The foaming happens due to a melanoidin acting as a foaming agent (illy's research, kindly sent to me by Marino Petracco). The emulsified oil fraction actually inhibits crema formation - one of the reasons robusta produces more stable crema is that it usually contains only 50% of the lipids of arabica.

It would make sense that stirring the crema in would increase the mouthfeel - due to an increase in suspended material in the drink. The actual flavour of the crema (mouthfeel, and taste aside) is pretty much correlated to the shot below.

I suspect that the grinder will have a large impact on how the crema alone tastes - influencing the size and quantity of fines that may be suspended there. I am aware much of the above (on the suspended materials front) is conjecture, and I hope worthy of further discussion.

On a final note - the coffee I was using was pretty lightly roasted. I shall brew up a press of it now - it is very hard to communicate roast degree online.

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#19: Post by zin1953 »

OK, I have refrained from commenting this morning until I had a chance to "perform" the experiment. (Lord knows, I don't want to be talking out of the wrong orifice (though, technically, aren't I typing?). :wink:

As many of you know, I spent a lifetime in the wine trade, so I attempted to conduct the experiment much like a wine tasting, albeit not blind. (I am alone at home, at the moment, my wife having left for work; I may have to repeat the exercise when she returns, have her remove the crema and taste the two samples with eyes closed/blindfolded and in a random order.)

Using Espresso Vivace Dolce, I prepared a double, split into two cups. As with James' video, I skimmed as much of the crema as I reasonably could in three "swipes" with a demitasse spoon from Cup A, and took a small sip, followed by the rest of the shot. Then, with Cup B, I did not stir, but took a small sip, followed by the rest of the cup.

To my palate, Cup A tasted much more like a great sip or two from a press pot, and not like an espresso. Yes, it does lose some body; yes it is lighter and a bit sweeter on the palate. But it also misses something on the mid-palate and has a more delicate, cleaner finish. Cup B, on the other hand, was a classic, rich, full-bodied espresso -- not overly bitter, yet there is a detectable, balanced note of bitterness to compliment the inherent sweetness (no sugar added; both cups were consumed "straight"), the mouthfeel was fuller, more velvety than silky, and the finish much longer, richer, and more lingering.

Personally I can see how some people may prefer "skimming" the crema, but a) this strikes me as waaaaaayyyyyyyy too much trouble -- especially in a café setting, and b) the results in the cup, after skimming, do not strike me as espresso. To me, however, Cup A seems to be lacking its core.

Now, it needs to be said that this is based upon ONE tasting. Certainly this is NOT definitive in any way, shape, or form. Furthermore, it's based upon a sample using only one specific coffee bean/blend. In other words, I have only done this once, and I have only done it with one roast. This is a single snapshot, not a movie.

I've not yet tried stirring; that comparison will wait for another day.

Finally, I would like to thank James for his video, and indirectly, thank the Coffee Collective. It certainly is food for thought, and a fun "experiment."

A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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#20: Post by RapidCoffee »

Interesting discussion, but the entire assertion is ill posed. When using freshly roasted coffee, under "standard" espresso brewing conditions, espresso pours as virtually 100% crema. How much are you supposed to skim off? Should you wait a minute for it to settle, and then skim, as demonstrated in the video?

typical Spaz S1 pour

I just tried this (waiting and then skimming), using Klatch House Blend. Preliminary tasting results (with stirring): loss of complexity and mouthfeel when the residual crema is skimmed off.