September 2, 2008

La crema poverina: true and fake espresso

It is always easy for an Italian to recognize a good espresso. It has to be full of flavor and aroma (aroma, corpo, gusto and retrogusto), and it has to have hazelnut-colored foam on top. This foam is called crema in Italian. When your espresso has crema, it means that the barista (the guy who works in an Italian bar with the necessary skills to make a flawless coffee) did a good job: the temperature and pressure on the espresso machine was set in order to perfectly extract the natural oils present in the coffee beans. These oils are extracted only with the right high pressure and temperature combo, which ensures emulsification of the coffee in a very quick brewing process. And these oils are the real difference between espresso and a regular cup of coffee. It’s not how concentrated it is, or how tiny the shot is: it’s all about the oils. And when the oils are present, the crema is there too!

I’m always surprised when I see that some corporate cafés in America offer espresso that are huge and – worse – without crema!

Well, all these things being said, I already told you that nobody in Italy has a huge and expensive espresso machine in their homes (well, maybe some do), but Italians always have their moka pots! One of the FAQs about moka pots is how to obtain crema in your espresso. And I told you. You can’t. Some people have tried everything: hot water instead of cold water, mineral water, pressing the coffee in the funnel, more coffee in the funnel, less coffee in the funnel… And no, you can’t. I know it can be very frustrating. Above all, because when the coffee is coming out, you can actually see some crema coming out. But this crema is too weak to survive, poverina!

So, you have to learn to live with the fact that stovetop espresso doesn’t have crema… OR you can use a little Italian trick to trick yourself. In an espresso cup put some sugar (about 6 tsp for 4 shots of espresso). Use the first drops of coffee that begin to come out in your moka pot. Pour a couple of drops in the cup with the sugar. Stir quickly until a dense caramel-colored cream forms (the sugar has to partly dissolve, use another couple of drops of coffee if you need to). When your coffee is ready, use this cream to sweeten your coffee and to give a nice touch of fake crema!
Posted by Daziano at 8:40 PM |  


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