You may have heard the term “krema” while at a coffee shop before, but might not be sure what the baristas are talking about. What is spoken of as krema is widely regarded as the gold standard in espresso making. However, there is also often a difference of opinion on the importance of krema.

The relationship between krema and espresso has a long history. Therefore, krema has a position of its own. Curious about krema and its importance for espresso? Let’s dive deeper into krema!

What is Krema?

Krema is a thin layer of dark yellow to dark brown foam found on the surface of a glass of espresso during espresso extraction. Technically, krema does not affect the flavor of espresso, but experts generally agree that it is a good indication of the quality of the beans used. Krema started to get noticed when Achille Gaggia in 1948 started selling modern espresso machines using lever-driven pistons to push water through coffee grounds with greater pressure than before.

Crema is formed during the extraction process when water and coffee bean oil are emulsified. Once the coffee beans are roasted, they begin to release CO2. Most of the gas is released into the air, but the rest is released inside during grinding. When hot water hits the coffee grounds with the high pressure of an espresso machine, the water emulsifies the oils in the coffee and then becomes saturated with CO2. It is from this process that many small bubbles are generated and eventually form a frothy crema layer. Simply put, krema is formed from the collision process between lighter liquid and darker liquid.

A Brief History of the Relationship between Espresso and Krema

The first patented espresso machine in 1984 was a model designed by Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy. The Moriondo engine model was quite revolutionary. This machine has been able to use 1.5 bar pressure, two separate boilers, and steam and water to produce espresso.

In the early 20th century, Luigi Bezzera made some improvements to the Moriondo design. He lowered the temperature to around 195 F which resulted in a better tasting espresso. Starting from Moriondo’s design, Bezzera figured out how to brew espresso directly into the cup in seconds. However, he didn’t understand how to market his design so a man named Desiderio Pavoni bought his patent. The two collaborated to create an improved engine with a pressure relief valve and steam wand that they introduced at the 1906 Milan Exhibition. To this day, the brand is called “La Pavoni”.

Finally, in 1948, Giovanni Achille Gaggia invented the lever-driven machine that would become the modern espresso machine. Of course, these original machines were manually operated, but they basically used the same mechanism as today’s espresso machines. Gaggia’s invention not only gave us the modern espresso machine, but more so the modern espresso. High pressure can create froth on top of a glass of espresso. This froth is referred to by Gaggia as “caffe creme” which gives the espresso its high quality identity. Since then, krema has been considered an indicator of espresso quality.

Good Krema vs Bad Krema

There are several characteristics that determine whether a krema is good or not. Even more importantly, there are some aesthetic indicators of an ugly or poor crema, which may be a sign that the quality of the coffee beans in your espresso is not good either. There are at least three indicators of a good crema or not.

First, the crema must have the right color balance. A crema color that is too dark is not a problem, but if it is too light, it is not good. The crema should be yellow-brown or red-gold in color.

Next, the crema should be smooth. If the crema is gritty, you might have a problem. A good crema is made of thousands of tiny bubbles that create a foamy and soft surface. In a good crema, there is no room at all for big bubbles.

Also, a good crema has staying power. Ideally, the krema should last about two minutes before disappearing into the rest of the espresso. A crema that lasts less than a minute may indicate a problem with the coffee beans used. An ideal crema also means that it is neither too thick nor too thin. Generally, baristas want krema to be 1/10th of the espresso.

Factors Affecting Crema

Crema is not only influenced by the CO2 release process and the vegetable oil content in the coffee beans. There are various factors that affect the color, duration, thickness, and overall appearance of the crema. Some of these include the coffee process, the temperature of the brewing water, the roasting date of the coffee beans, the extraction time, and the type of coffee beans used. For more details, here are some of the factors that affect krema.

1. Coffee Process

Freshly roasted coffee beans will form more crema in espresso. This is because the coffee beans still release gas from the roasting process, so the crema obtained will tend to be thicker.

2. Coffee Bean Color

In general, the darker the roasted beans, the more edible oil that comes out on the surface of the coffee beans. Vegetable oils can be released when seeds are exposed to heat, packaged, and ground. Therefore, the darker the beans are, the less crema they produce and the less optimal it is because much of the vegetable oil has come to the surface.

3. Engineering and Machinery

Many espresso machines sold have automatic controls. While these espresso machines are convenient to use, they usually have an unstable extraction intensity and the process may limit crema formation compared to semi-automatic espresso machines. Therefore, if you want a more stable extraction, you can use a semi-automatic or manual espresso machine.

Is Krema Important for Espresso?

While it may seem that a good crema is the definition of a perfect cup of espresso, it’s actually not as important as some people make it out to be. Krema does add a desirable espresso flavor. However, this does not mean that a good crema will necessarily give a good espresso flavor. in fact, it is quite possible to enjoy a good cup of espresso without the perfect crema.

There is some disagreement among coffee experts on how important krema is for espresso. If you’re an experienced barista or coffee enthusiast, you might have your own opinion on how important krema is. However, if you’re just starting out on your coffee journey, you might be confused by the position of this crema.

Like most debates about anything else in the coffee world, the conversation about krema will most likely come down to personal preference. Krema can indeed add an inherent flavor to espresso, but it is unlikely to be the only factor that makes espresso enjoyable. Coffee beans, roastery, and espresso machine also play a big role in making a good espresso.

One of the reasons why krema has become the standard of quality in the espresso world is because of tradition. Much of coffee culture is actually a continuation of a rich history that spans hundreds of years. Also, another reason coffee experts have an obsession with getting the krema right is that krema, in many ways, gives clues about the espresso we are about to drink, such as the age of roasting, the quality of the beans, and the temperature of the water. Even if it doesn’t give us the full picture, krema can still tell us what to expect from an espresso through it all.


Krema is the dark yellow layer that sits on top of the espresso. As explained earlier, this crema is formed during the extraction of espresso. Similar to tasting a new wine or beer for the first time, krema is part of the initial experience of a new espresso.

Krema can be seen as the first impression of espresso because krema will be the first thing you can observe and feel when tasting espresso. However, whether or not crema is the highest quality evaluator is not really important. You can decide for yourself what you want from an espresso, you can enjoy an espresso, and decide for yourself what you like from an espresso – apart from the crema.

Well, what do you think? Is crema important in espresso?

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