Alright, I’ll continue slowly with this series. I again apologize if this is obvious for most readers, but for me it’s something I only delved into during the last year, and I thought it might be interesting. Fortunately this espresso tip, only requires the fancy instrument pictured to the right: a teaspoon. I show 2 different ones that I use – the big one for removing crema, the small one for stirring crema.

When I started off in espresso, it was easy to become a crema worshipper. Something easy to latch on to. This obsession was only furthered as I moved from Italian coffee and discovered fresh coffee with it’s fullness and great crema. An easy, but incorrect, conclusion was that lots of crema indicates freshness and great taste. This is true, but not always. You can have oodles of crema and a really bad espresso, and you can have a great espresso without tonnes of crema.

Last year, when I read new ideas about crema such as stirring it or removing it completely, I thought ludicrous. How could you disturb this holy component on top the espresso that we idolize?

Well fast forward a bit. As I went beyond the obvious, I read James Hoffman’s article on Coffeegeek as well as the post on his own blog video about crema.

I then actually tasted this component I idolized.

By itself, I didn’t like the taste of crema. This lead to experimentation. When I skim it off, I like the clarity in the cup, but find that it usually lacks in mouthfeel and body. When trying to figure out taste, I find skimming usually helpful. When drinking for pleasure, I usually like stirring in my crema. Although this reduces the amount of crema, I find the espresso to be less layered and more consistent tasting throughout. That not so great tasting crema does not hit you so harshly right at the start of the shot. Having said that, having layers provides a different experience that can lead to easier discoveries about the coffee in terms of different complexities in a particular coffee.

To me, it’s personal taste. I’ve heard some people pronounce that crema is a component of the espresso process and must be left on. I would be more liberal. When one makes chicken soup, the fat is usually skimmed off the top. Would you argue not to do this?

Bottom line for me: experiment, compare and do whatever tastes best to you. For me I usually stir, but I sometimes skim, and even once in a while do nothing.

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