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The Golden Rule of Espresso Coffee Making

By now you've probably studied my 9 steps to making perfect espresso coffee and the separate lesson on making perfect crema. In the lesson on making perfect crema, I made reference to "The Golden Rule" that you see frequently quoted, which is: "Extract 2 to 2.5 ounces of coffee into your cup in 20 to 30 seconds from the moment you turn on the pump."

I have a completely different Golden Rule for making perfect espresso coffee that I am going to share with you now.

Perfect Crema
New Zealand where I grew up has an even more deeply entrenched "espresso coffee culture" than the United States, and there is one significant difference in how espresso coffee is made in New Zealand cafes and coffee shops. That key difference is this: in the United States the espresso is typically brewed into a pitcher and then poured into the cup. In New Zealand, and many other countries for that matter, the espresso is brewed directly into the cup from which is will be drunk.  This one simple difference makes a huge difference in flavor. Why? The crema!

Crema is the caramelized coffee sugars and coffee proteins that float on top of a well-brewed espresso coffee, and carries with it immense aroma and flavor. If you've had espresso and not liked it, it may have been because the "barista" didn't do a good job of making the espresso and literally threw most of the crema down the drain!

How so? Quite easily; by using the technique popular in the U.S. of brewing the espresso into a pitcher and then pouring it into the cup, most of the crema is left clinging to the sides of the pitcher, to be washed down the drain. What a crying shame! But it happens millions of times all over the U.S. in almost every coffee shop.

Crema - The Liqueur of Coffee


Crema consists of caramelized coffee sugars and coffee proteins.  It will be formed only when you brew your coffee at the right pressure and right temperature. Read this lesson on how to make perfect crema.


Crema left behind
Here's an illustration of what I mean. I brewed an espresso into a glass demitasse cup so you can clearly see the caramel-like foam on the top called "crema". Sometimes it may even appear milky-white when looking down on it, hence the name "crema".  Then I poured the espresso out into another cup. Look at all the crema left behind on the sides of the demitasse cup! The same thing happens when the coffee is extracted into a stainless steel pitcher and then poured into a cup.

Why is it that here in America so many coffee shops wash crema down the drain?

So that's my Golden Rule: Make your espresso directly into the cup from which you are going to drink it!  Don't be guilty of washing your crema down the drain. You'll be amazed at the difference in flavor!

To be able to make espresso with great crema, several things need to come together. After your espresso maker, the next most important thing is the beans you use. You can raise your chances of success by using these Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans that I buy on standing order from Amazon every month.

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