Last Updated on April 23, 2022 by John Moretti
That thin layer of golden froth on top of espresso is a sign of a well-brewed shot. It means that the water pressure, temperature, coffee beans, grind size, roast, and tamp were just right. If you are new to making espresso, achieving the perfect crema can be tricky.
If espresso has no crema, it either means that the beans are ground too coarsely, they are stale, or the water temperature and pressure weren’t right. Not tamping evenly or firmly enough can also cause a lack of crema. It is difficult to get crema with beans that were roasted in the last 48 hours.
If you want to step up your domestic barista skills and master the art of the perfect crema, you need to keep reading! Here, we discuss the reasons for thin, thick, or non-existent crema and how to address these issues. We also discuss what crema is and why it is important.
Reasons Why Your Espresso Has No Crema
You have to get a few things just right to get the perfect layer of crema on your espresso shot. The grind size has to be right, the coffee beans should be freshly roasted, not more than 3 weeks old, and your brewing setup has to be right.
If you are troubleshooting your espresso’s lack of crema, consider the following:
- Most often, espresso has no crema because the grind size is too coarse or too fine. The coffee should look somewhere between powdered sugar and table salt.
- Stale coffee, meaning more than 3 weeks since the date it was roasted, causes no crema. It should always be freshly ground.
- You need to use the right amount of coffee and water. Too little coffee or too much water will result in no crema.
- The settings on your espresso machine may need to be fine-tuned. Pressure that is too weak or water that is too cold will result in no crema.
- The way you tamp your coffee may be the issue. Not tamping firmly enough or tamping unevenly can cause a lack of crema.
Is Espresso Supposed To Have Crema?
When coffee is roasted, the beans give off carbon dioxide gas. As the pressurized water hits the ground coffee, the natural oils in the coffee emulsify. It becomes supersaturated with carbon dioxide, causing millions of tiny CO2 bubbles to form.
You may have had an espresso shot (or two) without any crema and still enjoyed the taste. No crema on top of espresso does not automatically mean that it doesn’t taste good!
However, if you get every element in every step to pulling a great brew just right, you will be rewarded with a perfect layer of velvety, golden crema on top of your espresso.
If you aren’t bothered by the taste of your espresso and were just curious about the lack of crema – go ahead doing what you’re doing. However, if you (like me) are obsessed with brewing the best possible shot of espresso, keep reading.
How Long Should Crema Last?
Crema dissipates over time, and it should generally last around 2 minutes. If crema disappears in under a minute, it means that the espresso is under-extracted. Perhaps the grind was too coarse or the pressure on your machine too low?
How To Get More Crema On Your Espresso
If you want to improve your espresso-making skills, follow these steps to get the perfect crema layer every time.
1. Use The Grind Size Right For Espresso
The grind size should not be too coarse or too fine. The grind size is just right when the coffee resembles powdered sugar or table salt.
Ideally, espresso should take between 20 and 25 seconds to pull. Less than this, and the grind size is too coarse. More than this, and it is too fine.
If you use a blade grinder, it takes 30 seconds to achieve a fine enough grind for espresso. In a burr grinder, use the first setting to get the finest grind.
2. Use Freshly Roasted and Ground Beans
The second most common reason why people have no crema on their espresso is that the beans they are using are stale. Three weeks after coffee beans have been roasted, they start to lose flavor and do not produce as much crema.
Buying coffee beans in bulk is counter-productive if it means they are spending weeks and weeks in your pantry going stale. Rather buy smaller batches of freshly roasted beans from your local café. Grind the beans just before you pull a shot of espresso.
3. Get The Coffee To Water Ratio Right
Make sure you use enough coffee and not too much water. You must use at least 7g for a single and 14g for a double shot. An espresso filter can hold up to 18g of coffee, so you can use a bit more.
Getting technical, if you had to weigh the amount of dry coffee you use and weigh the finished shot of espresso, the ratio should be 1:2. So, 18g of coffee would make 36g of espresso.
4. Ensure The Water Pressure Is High Enough
You need at least 7 bars of pressure to get a good crema on your espresso. However, the ideal pressure is closer to 9 or 10 bars. The optimal pressure varies between espresso machines, so check the instructions for your machine and make sure the pressure is right.
5. Adjust The Water Temperature
Around 200°F is the optimal temperature for pulling an espresso shot. The range of temperatures you should stay within is 195°F to 205°F.
6. Tamp The Coffee Firmly And Evenly
If you don’t tamp the coffee in the filter down using that little tool that came with your machine, you may not get any crema. Press the ground coffee firmly and evenly down before pulling a shot.
Hopefully, we have solved the mystery of your missing crema! We hope you feel you have learned how to improve your espresso-making skills and achieve the perfect crema. Just remember – use freshly roasted beans and a fine enough grind size!