Tips to Make Espresso - Crema Espresso

The shot of espresso is at the heart of most good coffees today, and making an excellent espresso is the bread and butter job of a coffee maker. Here are the six key steps to make a successful espresso.

  • Clean your shot holder completely of the previous shot's coffee grounds
  • Make sure you have enough ground coffee ready
  • Release 7 grams of coffee from the grinder hopper into your shot holder, making sure you get a full pull
  • Even out the espresso grounds with a hand tamper and tamp once without twisting. This ensures an even extraction of the coffee by the hot water. A hand held tamper helps you to gauge the pressure correctly. With one swipe of your hand, clear any excess espresso grounds from around the edges
  • Place the shot holder in place and tightly lock the handle in the espresso machine to ensure no leaks when the water is passed through the coffee under pressure
  • Place a warmed espresso cup under the spout, and press the button to operate the espresso machine. Monitor the flow of the brew, and it's color and consistency. This step should only take 15 -20 seconds and 1.5 ounces of water should pass into the cup.

A well brewed espresso coffee has a crema on the surface. This is a creamy honey colored foam about a quarter of an inch thick on the surface of the coffee. One test is said to be whether a teaspoon of sugar can rest on the crema, but that is usually a very demanding test in practice!

The crema results from a combination of factors. It starts with the blend, which may be best if it includes some Robusta beans. The fineness of the grind, the length of the extraction time, the temperature of the water and the correct amount of coffee are all vital ingredients in the formula.

A darker crema color suggests too much espresso coffee was used for the shot. It may also be because the extraction time was too long because the tamp was too hard, the grind was too fine or there was too much water.

Not enough crema suggests not enough coffee was used, or possibly that the extraction time was too short because the grind was too coarse, there was insufficient water, the tamp was too light or that the temperature of the water was too low. A cold espresso machine, shot holder or cup may also contribute to the low crema.

Attaining the optimum mix of these factors to produce a perfect espresso consistently every time comes with experience.

The traditional Italian espresso may be served as it comes, or it may be enhanced in some way. Topped with whipped cream it is an espresso con panna, topped with foamed milk it is an espresso macchiato and served with hot water it becomes an Americano. A shot of espresso also forms the base for specialty coffees like the cappuccino and latte.