What is Coffee Cream? (Ultimate Guide)

You may have heard the word “cream” before, without understanding what the baristas were talking about. You may be curious to understand what causes an espresso to sometimes mimic the frothy aesthetic of a Guinness beer. What you see, and what all these deep fans of the L dream about, is called “crema” and is …

You may have heard the word “cream” before, without understanding what the baristas were talking about. You may be curious to understand what causes an espresso to sometimes mimic the frothy aesthetic of a Guinness beer.

What you see, and what all these deep fans of the L dream about, is called “crema” and is considered the benchmark in making espresso.

The thin cream coating that covers your espresso has a long history and can tell you a lot about the coffee you are about to enjoy. Let’s get to the heart of the matter!

What is coffee cream?

In short, the crema is what we call the light cover of dark brown foam that is in the area of ​​a coffee mug.

In practice, the crema itself does not clash with the taste of the espresso, but coffee professionals generally agree that the crema is a good indication of the quality of the rest of the espresso.

The cream is formed throughout the extraction process when water and coffee oils are emulsified. After the coffee beans are roasted, they begin to release CO2.

Most of it is released into the air between roasting and grinding, but the CO2 remaining in the cells is released throughout grinding. When the burning water hits the coffee beans with the high pressure of an espresso machine, the water emulsifies the oils in the coffee and then becomes supersaturated with CO2, causing the formation of many tiny bubbles that form the frothy coating of the crema.

However, crema didn’t makeup part of the espresso until 1948, when Achille Gaggia started selling the updated espresso machine, which uses a lever-operated piston to move water through the coffee grounds with a higher pressure than what was previously feasible.

Brief History Of Espresso And Crema

The first patented model of espresso machine was designed by Angelo Moriondo in Turin, Italy, in 1884. His machine was capable of using two separate boilers, at a pressure of 1.5 bars, and both steam and water. to produce espresso.

Then, at the beginning of the 20th century, Luigi Bezzera created a technique to make an espresso directly into the cup in terms of seconds. It achieved numerous updates to the Moriondo design and lowered the temperature to a setting that resulted in a tastier espresso – close to 90 ° C. However, he had no initiative on how to market his project.

So a man named Desiderio Pavoni bought their patents and the two men worked together to make an even more advanced machine – with a decompression valve and a steam jet – which they presented at the Milan Fair in 1906. Today, the brand carries simply the name “La Pavoni”.

Finally, in 1948, Achille Gaggia, owner of a Milanese café, created the lever machine to bring us the updated espresso machine. Of course, these authentic machines were manually operated, but they used essentially the same mechanisms as all espresso machines today. In fact, the advent of the espresso machine lever gave rise to the term “getting laid.”

The new Gaggia project is credited with having given us not only the updated espresso machine but also the modern espresso: high pressure could at this time make a crema in an espresso bowl.

Historical anecdotes suggest that customers were suspicious at the beginning of the foam cover of their espresso until Gaggia began to call it “cream,” implying that their espresso was of such quality that it produced its own cream.

Since then, crema has been considered an indication of espresso quality.

Good Cream And Bad Cream

There are some tell-tale characteristics that determine whether a cream is “good” or not. The most relevant thing is that there are some aesthetic indicators of a poor crema, which may be a sign that your espresso is also poor.

First of all, a cream must have an optimal color balance: a fairly dark color is not a drawback, but a fairly light color is unlovable. A cream should have a red-gold color.

Second, the cream should be slow. If it is grainy, this can be inconvenient. The cream rests on a massive amount of tiny bubbles to make a foamy, yet velvety area. There is no place for huge bubbles in an acceptable cream.

A good cream has an extended life. The best thing is that the cream lasts about two minutes before hiding in the rest of the cup. A cream that lasts less than a minute can signal a downside.

The ideal cream is neither too thick nor too thin: most baristas point to a crema that takes up about 1/10 of the espresso.
It is considered to point out that good coffees have the possibility of producing bad cream and bad coffees have the possibility of producing good cream.

The production of an acceptable cream is not only dependent on quality. Among other things, some Italian coffee companies are known for deliberately integrating Robusta coffee beans into their coffee blends simply because they produce better crema.

Robusta and Arabica are both primary coffee bean species used by coffee developers worldwide.

Arabica is often used by perfected roasters for its superior taste and quality, but Robusta produces a richer head. However, this foam is at the expense of taste. The result is an espresso that looks good but has a less pronounced taste.

This is among the many reasons why you will find various coffee professionals who will encourage you to neglect the crema and concentrate only on making the best espresso. What is really possible is that an acceptable cream follows naturally.

What Components Affect The Cream?

There is a sequence of components that affect the color, duration, thickness, and overall appearance of the cream. These components contain the temperature of the brewing water, the roasting date of the coffee beans, the extraction time, and the type of coffee beans used.

Many things happen simultaneously in your espresso cup. A better way to understand what is damaging to the crema is to go back in time: what does the appearance of the crema tell you about the espresso you are about to drink?

The three main things you can see from your cream are the color, the quantity, and the shelf life.

Cream Color

There are gigantic variations in the colors of the creams, and not all of them are bad. Colors vary depending on whether the brown is lighter or darker. However, there are other color variants that indicate a downside, such as dark circles on the rim of the cup or fairly light cream.

Unusually light coffee creamers are a sign that the espresso was poorly extracted. In this situation, the cream may also be thinner or may not stay as long.

Under-extraction can be the result of a sequence of inconveniences that occur between grinding, setting, and brewing, and it simply means that the coffee grounds do not give off enough flavor.

When under-extraction is not the drawback, a faster crema can also be the result of a fairly cold espresso machine. Check that your machine is always at the perfect temperature for brewing beer (between 90 and 96 ° C).

On the other hand, a darker crema is commonly the result of coffee being over-extracted. This is fundamentally the opposite of the drawback with the faster cream. This can be due to a fairly fine grind, a lot of pressure throughout the establishment, or a fairly long extraction time. If none of these issues are seen to be the culprit, then a fairly dark crema may also be a sign that the coffee machine is quite hot.

Amount Of Coffee Cream

Freshly roasted coffee beans generally produce a more pronounced crema. This is caused by freshly roasted beans still releasing several of the oils and gases that begin to dissipate after roasting. These oils and gases, as you have learned, play a considerable role in building the creamy foam in coffee. This is why you might notice a higher creamer at a coffee shop that roasts its own beans.

Another aspect that affects the thickness of the cream is the color of the bean. Darker roasts generally create less cream because many of the oils disappear throughout bagging and grinding. However, faster roasts are not special for espresso creams either. Look for distributors who sell espresso coffees made especially with the correct amount of oil.

Finally, the texture of the cream varies in relation to how the roasted beans have been processed: dry processing is the most common procedure and produces beans with a higher proportion of natural oils. These oils result in higher quality and denser cream. On the contrary, the wet or washing regime is increasingly common among artisan roasters and does not give the beans as much natural oil: the final cream has no thickness.

The Life Of Coffee Cream

If the coffee is fairly freshly roasted, it still releases enough gas and oils to produce quality espresso, so the final drink produces a frothy crema that evaporates quickly. The perfect time to grind and brew the coffee is 7 to 21 days after roasting. However, this is debatable and quite a few people advocate the 12-24 hour rule, which is to let the beans rest for a day or half a day before grinding and processing them.

If the coffee is freshly roasted but not freshly ground enough, the crema should remain for about 2 minutes. The over or under extraction can also affect the duration of the cream and will be the first sign that the espresso you have on hand may not be the most remarkable.

Finally, many novel super-automatic espresso machines create a “fake” crema that looks like the real thing but is not an emulsion of CO2 and coffee oils. These false creams are not going to have the same taste or the same difficulty as those obtained with a semi-automatic or manual espresso machine.


Coffee professionals disagree on the consideration – or lack of consideration – of crema for an espresso. So much so that some say it is the Holy Grail of quality while others think it is sheer nonsense.

If you are a seasoned barista or a coffee lover, you probably have your own opinion of the creamer placed on the consideration palette. If you are new to the coffee business, you are probably confused and unsuccessful.

Like most of the heated debates on the planet of coffee, it may depend entirely on your personal choices. The crema adds body and persistent taste to the espresso, but it is understood that it is not the exclusive aspect that influences the elaboration of a coffee that is enjoyed