Cafe Crema Definition: What It Is and How To Make It

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Dive Into the Delightful World of Café Crema

Welcome to a captivating exploration of café crema – your guide to understanding this unique coffee experience. We’re unwrapping the secrets of its history, distinct features, and how it stands out in the coffee universe. Let’s embark on this flavorful journey together!

What Exactly is Café Crema?

Imagine sipping on a luxurious coffee blend that’s smoother and richer than your average cup. That’s café crema for you! Originating from Italy’s espresso culture, it’s evolved into two forms: a classic espresso from the 1940s and a ‘long espresso’ popular along the Italian-Swiss and Italian-Austrian borders since the 1980s.

In essence, café crema is espresso’s creamy cousin. It’s crafted by adding hot water to a double espresso shot, creating a silky, indulgent drink. Known as café crème or caffè crema in different locales, it’s a hit in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Northern Italy.

The Story Behind Café Crema

The journey of café crema is as rich as its taste. Tracing back to Italy’s espresso origins, the term “espresso” emerged in the early 20th century. But it was Achille Gaggia’s invention of the modern espresso machine in the 1940s that brought café crema into the limelight. His technique created that iconic creamy layer – the ‘crema’ – making café crema a symbol of sophistication.

Creating the Perfect Café Crema

Crafting the ideal café crema involves a delicate balance. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Use high-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans.
  • Aim for a fine, consistent grind.
  • Extract for 20-30 seconds at 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C).
  • Ensure your espresso machine delivers about 9 bars of pressure.
  • Keep your equipment sparkling clean.
  • Tamp the coffee grounds evenly in the portafilter.
  • Use the right coffee-to-water ratio for a balanced flavor.
  • Choose quality water for a pure taste.

Café Crema vs. Other Coffees

Understanding café crema is easier when compared to its coffee cousins:

  1. Caffe Crema vs. Espresso: Espresso is more concentrated, while café crema uses more water for a milder taste.
  2. Caffe Crema vs. Americano: Americano is diluted espresso. Café crema involves a different brewing method, using more water and a coarser grind.
  3. Caffe Crema vs. Lungo: Lungo is an extended espresso shot, but café crema uses more water and coarser grounds for a distinct flavor.
  4. Caffe Crema vs. Cappuccino: Cappuccino combines espresso, steamed milk, and foam, offering a stronger taste compared to the milder café crema.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Caffè Crema the same as espresso? No, it’s a longer version with a distinct brewing method.
  • Can you make Caffè Crema at home? Absolutely! With an espresso machine and a coarser grind, you’re all set.
  • What’s the volume of a Caffè Crema? Typically, it ranges from 4–8 oz (120 ml–240 ml) for a double shot.
  • How does Caffè Crema taste? It offers a unique flavor, sitting between a lungo and non-pressure brewed coffee.
  • Is Caffè Crema popular in English-speaking countries? It’s less common, with Americanos or long blacks being more prevalent.

Key Takeaways

Café crema is a beloved alternative to traditional espresso in places like Northern Italy. With its rich history and unique brewing process, it stands out for its smooth, creamy texture. Whether you’re a coffee aficionado or a casual sipper, café crema offers a distinctive taste that’s worth exploring. So next time you’re craving a coffee adventure, remember the delightful world of café crema!

In this blog post, we will explore and define café crema, uncovering its origins, characteristics, and how it differs from other coffee beverages. Join us on this delightful journey into the world of café crema and discover a unique and cherished coffee experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Café Crema has a rich history, dating back to the early espresso days in Italy.
  • Caffè Crema refers to two coffee drinks: one for espresso in the 1940s-1950s and a long espresso drink in the Italian/Swiss and Italian/Austrian border in the 1980s.
  • Café Crema is a popular espresso alternative in Northern Italy, also called “café crème” or “caffè crema.”
  • Popular in regions such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy.

What is a café crema?

A café crema is a “long” coffee drink created by adding hot water to a double espresso shot. It goes by different names such as café crème, caffè crema, or crema caffè, depending on the region. The term “Caffè crema” originally referred to espresso in the 1940s and 1950s. However, it later came to represent a specific type of long espresso drink commonly served along the Italian/Swiss and Italian/Austrian border from the 1980s onward.

In Switzerland, café crème is the Swiss German term for café crema, and it’s considered the schweizerisches pendant (Swiss equivalent) to the Deutschen Filterkaffee (German filter coffee).

The name “Caffè crema” derives from the Italian word for “cream coffee,” highlighting its smooth and creamy texture. It’s important to note that café crema can have two distinct meanings depending on the context: as a term for espresso and as a specific long espresso-based drink.

The appearance of crema is a big part of what sets café crema apart from other coffee drinks. Crema is the thin layer of foam that forms on top of a shot of espresso. It’s created by the high pressure of an espresso machine, which forces hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high temperatures. This process extracts the coffee bean oils and carbon dioxide, creating the creamy texture and reddish-brown foam characteristic of good crema.

The History of Café Crema

Café crema has a long and storied history, dating back to the early days of espresso in Italy. The term “espresso” was first used in the early 20th century to describe the fast brewing method used to make coffee, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that the concept of espresso crema really took off.

Macchina Gaggia
A modern Gaggia espresso machine | Wikipedia

The man credited with inventing the modern espresso machine is Achille Gaggia1, who introduced a new roasting process that helped to create the thick, creamy layer of foam that we now know as espresso crema.

Gaggia’s machines2 used high pressure to force hot water through finely-ground coffee beans, which resulted in a rich, flavorful espresso shot with a layer of crema on top. Over time, café crema became a popular alternative to traditional espresso, especially in Northern Italy.

The term “café crème” or “caffè crema” was often used as a more colorful term to describe the drink, quickly becoming a symbol of good taste and sophistication.

The Significance of Crema: a Key Indicator of a Perfect Espresso

For many coffee aficionados, café crema is the holy grail of espresso drinks. A good café crema should have a thick, creamy layer of foam that signifies a perfectly extracted espresso shot. It’s a visual representation of the quality and craftsmanship that goes into making a great cup of coffee.

In fact, some coffee shops even use the appearance of the crema as a way to gauge the quality of their espresso shots. A thin layer of foam can indicate a poorly extracted shot, while a thick layer of crema is a sign of a perfectly brewed espresso.

So whether you call it café crema, café crème, or caffe crema, this classic coffee drink is a good place to start for anyone looking to experience the beauty and complexity of a well-made espresso shot.

What Makes a Perfect Café Crema?

Achieving the perfect café crema involves using high-quality coffee. If you’re making an Americano, opt for a less intense but aromatic coffee, ensuring the coffee doesn’t lose its aroma when diluted. For café creme, focus on the roast to create a good crema. The coffee beans should be ground coarser than espresso but finer than filter coffee. Baristas can experiment by tamping less or using larger portafilter baskets for a consistent flow.

To achieve a perfect crema on espresso, here are some key factors:

  1. Fresh coffee beans: Use recently roasted beans for better crema.
  2. Fine grind: Grind the beans finely and consistently.
  3. Extraction time: Aim for a 20-30 second extraction for optimal crema.
  4. Brewing temperature: Keep the water temperature between 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C).
  5. Pressure: Make sure your espresso machine generates enough pressure (around 9 bars).
  6. Clean equipment: Keep your machine and portafilter clean to avoid residue affecting the crema.
  7. Tamping technique: Firmly tamp the coffee grounds in the portafilter for an even extraction.
  8. Freshness: Use freshly ground coffee for each shot.
  9. Coffee-to-water ratio: Use the right amount of coffee and water for a balanced flavor.
  10. Quality water: Use clean, filtered water to avoid any unwanted flavors.

The typical serving size is 6-8 ounces, which takes about 20-30 seconds to brew. Some people consider the Lungo to be essentially the same drink as a cafe crema.

Breve Vs Coffee

How to Make a Cafe Crema

Kelsey Todd
To make a café crema, you’ll need an espresso machine, fresh coffee beans, and some know-how.
5 from 1 vote
Total Time 2 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine French, Italian
Servings 1 person
Calories 10.8 kcal


  • 4 oz espresso (click on "espresso" for my bean recco)


  • Grind your coffee beans a bit coarser than for making espresso.
  • Pack the grounds into the portafilter basket and tamp it down.
  • Brew a long espresso shot, 25-35 seconds.


I absolutely love Spirit Animal Coffee’s Espresso Roast (dark) and Bourbon Blend (light). They are perfect for this recipe!

Spirit Animal Coffee


Serving: 4ozCalories: 10.8kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 16.4mgPotassium: 136.2mgCalcium: 2.4mgIron: 0.2mg
Keyword café crema
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Different Coffee Drinks Use Café Crema as a Base

Both Caffè Crema and Americano can be prepared using espresso roasts. This flexibility allows the preparation of larger cups of coffee without additional equipment. For those hot summer days, an Iced Americano can be a refreshing choice. It’s made with ice, espresso, and chilled water – remember to add the cold water first to create more crema.

Comparing Caffè Crema to Other Coffee Drinks

Caffe Crema vs. Espresso

Caffè crema and espresso are both coffee drinks but they vary in preparation and flavor. Espresso is a concentrated shot made with finely-ground beans and a small water volume, resulting in a strong taste. Caffè crema uses coarser grounds and more water, yielding a larger, milder coffee shot.

Caffe Crema vs. Americano

When comparing Caffè Crema to an Americano, the main differences lie in the grind of the coffee and the amount of water used. A Café Crème employs a coarser grind and uses approximately four times the amount of water than an espresso. On the other hand, the Americano, which originated post-World War II in Italy, involves diluting a double espresso with hot water in a 1:3 ratio. Ideally, to preserve the crema, hot water should be poured into the cup first, followed by the espresso.

Caffe Crema vs. Lungo

Compared to a lungo (a long shot of espresso), caffè crema uses coarser coffee grounds and more water during brewing. Lungo extracts a longer espresso shot using the same quantity of grounds but more water, altering the taste and strength.

Caffe Crema vs. Cappuccino

Caffè crema and cappuccino differ in preparation and taste. Caffè crema is milder and brewed with more water and coarser grounds. Cappuccino is a strong drink with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and foam.

EspressoFinely-ground coffee beans under high pressureStrong and boldSmall cup
Caffè CremaCoarser coffee grounds under high pressureMilderLarger cup
AmericanoHot water added to espressoMildVaries
LungoLonger shot of espresso with more waterMilder than espresso, stronger than caffè cremaVaries
CappuccinoEqual parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foamStrong and creamyVaries
Caffe Crema vs. other coffee drinks

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Caffè Crema the same as espresso?

A Shot Of Espsresso

No, while “caffè crema” was an old name for espresso, it now refers to a long espresso drink. It differs from espresso in the amount of water used in brewing and the coarseness of the grind. It’s also different from a caffè Americano or a long black, which are diluted espresso.

Can you make Caffè Crema at home?

Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine

Yes, you can make Caffè Crema at home, especially if you have an espresso machine with a built-in grinder. However, the grind will need to be coarser than for regular espresso, and the shot should be stopped when it blonds, as is usual for espresso.

What is the volume of a Caffè Crema?

A Caffè Crema is significantly longer than a lungo, generally twice as long. The volumes of Caffè Crema can vary significantly, from 4–8 oz (120 ml–240 ml) for a double shot, depending on how it is brewed and personal taste preferences.

How does Caffè Crema taste?

Due to the differences in brewing process and volume compared to espresso, Caffè Crema has a different flavor profile. It’s midway between a lungo and non-pressure brewed coffee in terms of solubles concentration.

Is Caffè Crema popular in the English-speaking world?

Caffè Crema is not a common drink in the English-speaking world and is rarely available in cafés due to the need to significantly change the grind compared to standard espresso. Cafés instead serve Americanos or long blacks.

Is there an iced version of Caffè Crema?

Yes, in Italy, during the summer, traditional cafés commonly serve an iced, creamy variant of espresso called crema caffè, crema fredda di caffè, or “Caffè del nonno“.

How is an Americano different from a Café Crème?

The key difference lies in the amount of water and the grind of the coffee. Café Crème uses a coarser grind and more water, while an Americano is essentially diluted espresso.

  1. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, December 16). Gaggia. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:05, March 24, 2023, from ↩︎
  2. ↩︎
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.

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