World Barista champion James Hoffmann created quite a rumble this past week with a series of videos he put together on his jimseven coffee blog. Starting the week off with Video 1 – Crema, inspired by the crema conversation over at the coffee collective, Hoffmann challenges the espresso community, stirring up our beliefs and acceptance of even the most fundamental espresso best practices that we tend to accept without question.
James Hoffmann is an established, thoughtful and talented leader in the specialty coffee community. More currently, his attention is focused on his company Square Mile Coffee Roasters. When he shares his thoughts about coffee folks tend to pay attention.
So Do You Really Love The Taste Of Crema
In his characteristic polite and respectful manner, Hoffmann asks the question, “do you really like the taste of crema”?
We’re all consumed, chasing the elusive espresso technique, aspiring for that perfect shot. We focus on the crema, it’s all about the crema.
We learn to gauge the quality of the espresso shot by the color, consistency and volume of crema we can produce.
In fact, the quality of the espresso is ultimately in the taste of the coffee, but we rely on the crema as a visual clue of whether or not the shot will hit the mark.
And challenging further, Hoffmann asks whether you have ever bothered to taste the crema by itself, skimming off a spoonful from the top of your espresso.
Try isolating the crema as a stand-alone component of the espresso. It’s not exactly a pleasant taste. Rather bitter and chalky, actually.
So is it really all about the crema?
As an experiment, keep spooning the crema off the top until you remove as much of the crema as you can.
Now, what do you think of the taste of the espresso with the crema skimmed off the top? A little smoother and sweeter? A little less astringent?
In the ongoing pursuit of better coffee, I most definitely appreciate James Hoffmann for his honest challenge, questioning the conventional thinking.
For me, I must admit, I like the extra body and mouthfeel as well as the edge that the crema adds to the espresso.My preference, I prefer to stir the espresso to better distribute and mix the crema throughout the drink. This provides a more balanced and consistent espresso from first to last sip.
As Hoffmann points out, the espresso stir is becoming more common place, and you’ll find more coffee houses serving a well crafted espresso with a demitasse spoon if your preference is to stir.
By the end of the week, Hoffmann finishes with a recap on the “crema is rubbish” challenge. Fortunately, he’s not suggesting we need to abandon our love and worship of crema. That’s a relief! And after all, stirring up some controversy is good marketing.
Here’s to challenging the conventional wisdom and stirring it up. Oh, and by all means, keep stirring your espresso too!