Why Does My Coffee Have No Crema?

pour over black coffee

QUESTION: I’ve noticed that at one coffee shop I go to, my drink has no crema. What does this mean? Will the coffee not taste as good? — Trevor S.

ANSWER: There are a few different reasons why your coffee might have no crema, and not all of them are bad. For example, if your drink has coffee and not espresso, you shouldn’t expect there to be crema in your cup. Alternatively, if your coffee is made from beans with a very light roast, there may not be any crema. 

This is because the crema is made up of carbon dioxide that gets trapped in the beans during the roasting process. Darker roasted beans have a longer roasting time, so they get more carbon dioxide, which will eventually become crema. As you can see, though there are several reasons your drink could have no crema that result from how it was prepared, a lack of crema is not always an indication of a lower quality drink.

More Reasons Why Your Drink Could Have No Crema

  • If your coffee beans have gone stale because they were roasted a few weeks ago, it may be hard to get any crema. To get crema, you should use beans that were roasted between 2 days and 21 days ago.
  • On the other hand, if your coffee beans were roasted within the last two days, it will be difficult for you to get crema.
  • An under-extracted shot of espresso will result in no lasting crema and a sour taste to the shot. It comes from the coffee being ground too coarsely, making the water move through the machine too quickly.
  • Problems with tamping can result in a drink without crema. If your tamp is uneven or lacks firmness, you can end up with an under-extracted shot of espresso. As we mentioned above, this will cause a sour taste as well.
  • Failing to use enough coffee can cause problems with crema. Double check that you’re using 7 grams or, in the case of a double shot, 14 grams.
  • If your coffee is ground too finely, you can pull shots without crema. When your coffee is ground too finely, the water struggles to move through the nearly solid block of coffee grounds, and your machine produces a tiny trickle of espresso with no crema.
  • Crema that just doesn’t stick around, disappearing after less than a minute, can happen due to a light roast or an extraction that’s too fast.
  • If you use pre-ground coffee instead of grinding your own coffee beans, particularly if the pre-ground coffee is old or dried out, you may end up with espresso that’s lacking crema. Using old pre-ground coffee can also result in crema that’s just not as high in quality as it would be with freshly ground coffee.
  • Having no crema whatsoever isn’t the only problem you might have with your crema. If your crema “drops” or disappears after less than a minute, there are two potential reasons for it. Either the roast level on your coffee beans is too light or the extraction was too fast, resulting in under-extracted coffee that may also taste sour and watery.
  • A cold machine can cause your crema to disappear, too. Before you use it, make sure your machine is warmed up. Once the machine has warmed up, then you can pull your shot without needing to worry that the crema will be absent or disappear.
  • Where do you store your coffee? If your coffee is within the best-by date to grind the beans but you still get no crema, it’s possible that how you’re storing your coffee is to blame.This is especially a possibility if you store your coffee in a warm place or in the refrigerator. Your coffee should be stored in a cool, dry spot.
  • Finally, it’s possible that the way you clean your cups is contributing to your problems with crema. If there is any detergent residue on your cups, you may end up with no crema. Just give your cups another cleaning to make sure there’s no detergent residue on them.

Another potential issue has to do with how much room your crema is taking up in the cup. If your crema takes up too much room, you won’t have enough room for espresso. For best results, your crema should take up only one tenth of your coffee cup. If you find that your crema is taking up much more or much less room than one tenth of your coffee cup, you’ll need to make some adjustments.

Although we’ve warned you about the possibility of light coffee beans preventing you from pulling a shot with crema, be aware that the darker the roast on your coffee beans, the less crema they will make—up to a certain point. This means you’re stuck looking for a Goldilocks coffee bean that’s roasted not too little and not too much. You may look for espresso roast beans, which companies offer when they’ve found the perfect amount of oils to make an excellent shot of espresso, crema included.

Whether you are preparing to make the perfect espresso shot or you’re wondering why the shots you’re pulling have no crema, this list has all the possibilities you need to know about. You may need to try them one by one to find out which one is the culprit. Before you know it, you’ll be drinking coffee topped with delicious crema again.

Learn More About Coffee Crema




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