Café Crème is a beloved French coffee drink that has captured the hearts of coffee enthusiasts and admirers of French culture alike. This rich and creamy beverage has a history as deep and complex as its flavor profile.
From its humble beginnings to its status as a symbol of luxury, Café Crème has become an integral part of French society. In this post, we will explore the origins, making process, and art of enjoying Café Crème, inviting you to immerse yourself in the luxurious world of this iconic drink.
Table of Contents
- Terminology: The term Café Crème has been used to describe two coffee types – a nomenclature for espresso from the mid-20th century and a long espresso cherished in parts of Europe since the 1980s.
- Texture & Appearance: Recognized for its creamy texture and distinct reddish-brown foam (crema), it offers a gentler coffee experience.
- Brewing Difference: This drink requires a coarser grind than espresso, more water, and takes about 20-30 seconds to brew 6-8 oz.
- Crema Foam: This foam acts as an indicator of a well-brewed Café Crème, formed from the coffee’s oils and gases released under pressure.
What is a Café Crème?
A Café Crème is a coffee drink that originated in Italy. It is a “long” espresso drink served primarily in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy1. It’s made by running 6-8 ounces of water when brewing an espresso, primarily by using a coarser grind, as opposed to 1-2 ounces for a normal espresso shot.
The term “Café Crème” is generally known in Germany as a type of black coffee served, unless there is a filter machine. It is similar to a caffè Americano or a long black, except that these latter are diluted espresso, and consist of making (“pulling”) a normal (short) espresso shot and combining it with hot water. By contrast, a Café Crème extracts differently, and thus has a different flavor profile.
The name “Café Crème” derives from the color resemblance between the drink’s pale cream hue and that of fresh dairy cream.
Origins of Café Crème
- The Gaggia Era: The term “Caffè crema” surfaced in the 1940s when Achille Gaggia introduced the modern espresso machine. This machine’s innovative brewing method birthed a creamy foam layer, the crema, prompting the drink’s name.
- Transitions in Naming: Initially synonymous with espresso, the term “Caffè crema” gradually faded, with espresso becoming the dominant term.
- Re-emergence: The 1980s witnessed the resurgence of “Caffè crema”, but this time it was associated with the long espresso popular in specific European regions.
The origins of Café Crème can be traced back to the rich history of coffee consumption in France. Coffee was introduced to France in the 17th century and quickly gained popularity among the French aristocracy. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that Café Crème emerged as a distinct French coffee specialty.
During this time, coffee houses started to flourish in Paris and other major cities across France. These establishments became social hubs where intellectuals, artists, and politicians gathered to discuss ideas and exchange knowledge. The popularity of coffee houses led to the development of various coffee brewing methods, including the creation of the café au lait.
The evolution of Café Crème over time reflects the changing tastes and preferences of coffee drinkers in France. In the early days, Café Crème was often served with a dollop of whipped cream on top, giving it an indulgent touch. However, as French society became more health-conscious in the late 20th century, this practice gradually faded away.
In recent years, there has been a revival of traditional brewing methods in specialty coffee shops across France. Baristas are experimenting with different bean varieties and roasting profiles to create unique flavor profiles for their Café Crème offerings.
Perfect Way to Make Café Crème at Home
To truly savor the essence of Café Crème, it is essential to master the art of making this exquisite French coffee. With the right ingredients, brewing technique, and attention to detail, you can create a Café Crème that embodies perfection in both flavor and consistency.
The foundation of a great Café Crème lies in its ingredients. To create this velvety smooth coffee delight, you will need the following:
- Freshly roasted coffee beans: Opt for high-quality Arabica beans with a medium roast. The aroma and flavor profile of these beans perfectly complement the richness of Café Crème.
- Grinder: Invest in a burr grinder to ensure consistent particle size. This will allow for an even extraction and bring out the best flavors in your coffee.
- Filtered water: The quality of water used can greatly impact the taste of your Café Crème. Filtered or bottled water is recommended to avoid any unwanted flavors or impurities.
- Espresso machine: A reliable espresso machine with a steam wand is crucial for creating the creamy texture that defines a traditional Café Crème.
Now that you have gathered all the necessary ingredients, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of brewing Café Crème:
- Preheat your espresso machine: Ensure that your machine is warmed up before starting the brewing process. This will help maintain optimal temperature throughout extraction.
- Grind your coffee beans: Measure out approximately 18 grams of coffee beans for a double shot of Café Crème. Grind them to a fine consistency, similar to table salt.
- Tamp the grounds: Distribute the ground coffee evenly in your portafilter and apply firm pressure with a tamper to compact it. This ensures proper extraction during brewing.
- Extracting the perfect shot: Lock in the portafilter securely and start the extraction process. Aim for a brewing time of around 25-30 seconds, with a volume of 30-40ml. The resulting liquid should have a rich, reddish-brown crema on top.
- Texturing the milk: While your shot is extracting, steam cold milk using the machine’s steam wand. Position the wand just below the surface of the milk to create a creamy microfoam texture. The ideal temperature for steamed milk is around 60-70°C.
- Combining coffee and milk: Pour the steamed milk into your Café Crème shot, aiming for a ratio of approximately 1:1 or 2:1 (coffee to milk). This will create a harmonious balance between the bold flavors of coffee and the smoothness of milk.
Tips for achieving the perfect flavor and consistency
To elevate your Café Crème experience even further, consider these additional tips:
- Experiment with different coffee beans: Explore various origins and roasts to discover unique flavor profiles that resonate with your taste preferences.
- Adjust grind size and extraction time: Fine-tuning these variables can greatly impact the strength and taste of your Café Crème. Play around with different settings until you find your perfect balance.
- Use freshly roasted beans: Coffee beans gradually lose their freshness over time. Opt for recently roasted beans to ensure optimal flavor in every cup.
By following these steps and incorporating personal preferences, you can master the art of making Café Crème at home. With practice, you’ll be able to replicate the luxurious experience found in French cafes right in your own kitchen. So go ahead, indulge in this exquisite beverage that has captivated coffee enthusiasts worldwide.
Relish the Café Crème solo, savoring its rich taste in a cappuccino cup or mug, or use it as a foundational base for other espresso variants like lattes or cappuccinos. For those who prefer a creamy touch, top it up with milk foam or cream, transforming it into a “Café au lait.” If you’re in the mood for something cold, mix it with milk and ice for a refreshing iced coffee experience. Additionally, for an added layer of complexity, embellish your drink with flavors such as vanilla, caramel, or chocolate, taking your coffee on a delightful flavor adventure.
In conclusion, Café Crème encapsulates the essence of French luxury and elegance. Its rich history, meticulous preparation process, and artful enjoyment make it more than just a beverage – it is an experience. So next time you indulge in this delightful concoction, take a moment to immerse yourself in its luxurious world and appreciate all that Café Crème represents: sophistication, pleasure, and joie de vivre.