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

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Have you ever heard of a coffee drink called caffé crema or Café Crème? If you’re from the UK or the US, you might not have, but it’s pretty popular in places like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy.

A Cafe Crema Being &Quot;Pulled&Quot;
A cafe crema being “pulled”

Key Takeaways

  • Café crema has a rich history, dating back to 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.”
  • The crema thickness indicates espresso quality in café crema, with a thick layer showing a perfect brew.

What is a café crema?

Here is the cafe crema definition: A café crema is essentially a “long” drink made by adding hot water to a double espresso shot. It’s also known as café crème, caffè crema, or crema caffè, depending on the region.

The term “Caffè crema,” which means “cream coffee” in Italian, refers to two distinct coffee beverages.

Originally, it was a term used to describe espresso in the 1940s and 1950s. Later on, a long espresso drink primarily served along the Italian/Swiss and Italian/Austrian border in the 1980s and onwards also came to be known as Caffè crema.

Cafe Crema In Mug, Cafe Crema Definition
A cafe crema

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, which create the creamy texture and reddish-brown foam that is 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, which quickly became a symbol of good taste and sophistication.

The importance of crema as a sign 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’s a sign of 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.

Cafe Crema
Cafe crema | Photo by REGINE THOLEN on Unsplash

What Makes a Perfect café crema?

Coffee experts have different opinions on what makes the perfect cafe crema, but in general, it should have a strong crema and a bit of extra water to show it was extracted well.

A good crema should be thick enough to support a spoonful of sugar but not so thick that it’s difficult to stir. However, don’t be fooled by the appearance of the crema – it’s not always a sign of quality.

Some fake cremas can be made with low-quality beans, darker roasts, or a coarser grind. Also, lighter roasts and robusta coffees produce less crema, but they can still be good quality.

Brewing process

To make a café crema, you’ll need an espresso machine, fresh coffee beans, and some knowledge. It’s similar to a double espresso but with more hot water, resulting in a longer drink with a frothy top.

The key is to control the process by using the right grind size, properly tamping the grounds, and adjusting the brewing time and pressure. Baristas can get creative by making adjustments such as tamping less or using larger portafilter baskets.

The typical serving size is 6-8 ounces, and it takes about 20-30 seconds to brew. Some people consider the Lungo to be essentially the same drink.

Breve Vs Coffee

How to Make a Cafe Crema

To make a café crema, you’ll need an espresso machine, fresh coffee beans, and some know-how.
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Total: 2 minutes
Yield: 1 person

Instructions

  • 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.

Your Own Notes

Nutritional Information

Serving: 4oz, Calories: 10.8kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 0.2g, Fat: 0.2g, Saturated Fat: 0.1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Sodium: 16.4mg, Potassium: 136.2mg, Calcium: 2.4mg, Iron: 0.2mg

The Golden Lamb provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietician.

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Different coffee drinks using café crema

Café crema can be enjoyed on its own or used as the base for other coffee drinks, such as latte or cappuccino. It can also be used as a substitute for filter coffee, with a milder taste and smoother texture.

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).


Coffee BeveragePreparationTasteSize
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
Cafe Crema vs Espresso vs American vs Cappuccino Comparison Table

Frequently Asked Questions

cafe crema vs espresso

Caffè crema and espresso are both types of coffee beverages, but they differ in their preparation and taste.

Espresso is a concentrated shot of coffee made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans under high pressure. It is typically served in a small cup and has a strong, bold flavor.

Caffè crema, on the other hand, is made by brewing coarser coffee grounds under high pressure to produce a larger, more diluted shot of coffee.

It has a milder flavor and is often served in a larger cup than espresso. While both drinks are made using a similar process, the key difference is the coarseness of the coffee grounds and the amount of water used, which result in a different taste and strength of the coffee.

café crema vs americano

The main difference between caffè crema and Americano is the method of dilution: caffè crema is made by brewing a larger amount of coffee with coarser grounds, while Americano is made by adding hot water to espresso.

cafe crema vs lungo

The main difference between caffè crema and lungo is the method of brewing: caffè crema is made by brewing a larger amount of coffee with coarser grounds, while lungo is made by extracting a longer shot of espresso with the same amount of coffee grounds but more water. This results in a different taste and strength of the coffee.

cafe creme vs cappuccino

The main difference between caffè crema and cappuccino is their preparation and taste: caffè crema is a milder coffee made by brewing a larger amount of water through coarser grounds, while cappuccino is a strong coffee made with equal parts of espresso and steamed milk, and milk foam.

References

  1. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, December 16). Gaggia. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:05, March 24, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gaggia&oldid=1127703962
  2. Gaggia. (2022, December 15). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaggia
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
Kelsey may not know everything about coffee, but after two decades as a barista in Seattle and Santa Barbara, he knows a thing or two. When he's not obsessing over the perfect cup, you can find him hanging out with his wife and daughter or sharing his java gems on this here blog.

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