Where for art thou, crema?

We stole that title from an email we received a while back.  While it was definitely one of the more original email subject lines we've received, the email's question was something we see quite frequently.  Something along the lines of "Hey, I thought you could make espresso in the AeroPress.  Where's the crema?"

Wait, what's crema?

Perhaps you've never heard of crema and this is your first introduction to the term.  If it is, you should totally check out this article by our dear friends, Seattle Coffee Gear.  We're just going to leave their definition right here below for those of you who can't get to the article right now.  (Bookmark it for later.)

Crema is the initial light/tawny colored liquid that comes out during an espresso extraction. It is what causes that ‘Guinness effect’ that folks sometimes reference. As the lighter liquid infuses with the darker liquid that comes after, it filters up and ‘settles’, leaving a tan colored layer on top of the darker espresso below.
— https://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/learn/coffee-101/articles/what-is-crema

So if you've looked at your coffee post-AeroPress press and thought "Hey this looks like a good stout beer" then you've probably created crema.  (And thanks for reading this even though you already know what you're doing.)  If you've wondered how you did that or you're trying to do that, read on.

So how is crema formed?

We assume you are asking for the scientific explanation.  Crema is formed as water is forced through the coffee with pressure.  This then emulsifies the natural fat/oil content in the bean, suspending it in tiny microbubbles of air.  (Thanks again Seattle Coffee Gear!)

No, I meant how do I do it in the AeroPress?

Oh, sorry about that misunderstanding.  First thing we need to clarify is that the AeroPress is not a mechanized espresso maker.  While I'm sure that tidbit surprised exactly no one, it is important to point out that unless you are the Winter Solder or Iron Man there's no way the average person can produce enough pressure in the AeroPress to replicate the results of an espresso machine. 

Really, you know with the types of parties that Tony Stark has that he needs a good strong cup of coffee in the morning.  Also, no one should face Nick Fury when they're groggy.

That's just something to keep in mind as you experiment with your crema creating.  Along those lines, you should remember that the AeroPress instructions say to press gently so don't go imitating any of Bucky's scenes from Captain America 2 just yet.  (Ooops...retroactive spoiler alert there.)

You'll need:

*Typically the fresher the roast, the better your results will be.  However, if your roast is less than 72 hours old, it might not have let off enough carbon dioxide for the emulsification of the natural fat/oil content in the bean.

**The darker a bean is roasted, the more of it's natural oils are brought out.  It's easier for these oils to then transfer to containers, grinders, or AeroPress/S Filter parts, which could result in less crema.

The Technique

Keep in mind that this technique is just a starting point for creating crema.  The serious crema lovers out there will probably want to do some experimenting until they are satisfied with the results.  Anyway, without further ado, here's our favorite technique:

With your AeroPress inverted, add your finely ground fresh coffee.  (We used about 17g for this exercise.)  Next, add a small amount of water - we used about 60 g.  Let it bloom, give it a stir, flip it and start pressing.  (Gently!  Press gently.)  Once you've started pressing (gently - did we mention that already?), press quickly all the way through the hissing sound at the end.  Behold crema!

See that foamy line there?  That's what you're trying to accomplish by this exercise.

Is crema an important part of your coffee routine?  Tell us in the comments about your technique!