Crema is rubbish - or is it?

My recent adventure in stirring coffee was launched by looking for a blog post by james Hoffman where he declared “Crema is Rubbish.”  I had heard about this declaration and perhaps even read his blog about it before, but I had never checked to see if I agreed or not.  

The basic idea is this – when coffee is used pulling stale coffee, there is very little crema.  When coffee is pulled on bad equipment there often is very little crema.  The conclusion seems obvious – crema is the key to great coffee.  We see pictures of people pulling crema laden shots and assume they know what they are doing.

In the video he wrote up about this he challenged this closely held belief and proclaimed not only that crema is not at the heart of good espresso, but that it degrades the taste.  

He suggests tasting the crema by itself and points out powdery ashy, bitter, unpleasant.

In the video he mentions that he always stirs his coffee and that struck a chord so I decided to try stirring it.  I also wanted to try scraping off the crema like he did and see what I think.  He in particular mentions trying it for light coffees that you want to turn into Americanos.  I have only tried it once and only with dolce, which is not a light roast.  

I followed his example and pulled the shot, splitting it and then using a spoon to scoop out the crema from one of them.   The cup with crema did taste very different from the cup without it.  I did not instantly, however, have a preference and I want to drink more of these to see if one becomes the clear winner.

After sipping them noticing they were different I also noticed that towards the end as I was about to rush out the door one of them had a much better aftertaste.  The only problem is by then I lost track and don’t know which one it was.  I’ll have to experiment some more!

You can see Jim’s take on this first hand in a video he put up here

update: I tried this again and yet again they did taste quite different.  I put together a tasting panel (aka I called my wife over to try them too) and the gathering agreed that the traditional coffee was better than the scooped out coffee.  

I’m glad Hoffman pointed this out and the taste transformation is interesting and I will continue to try it upon occasion, but at least so far I prefer espresso with crema myself.  (On the other hand the answer might be different for a lighter roast and I will try that for the next light roast I order).

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