When I think back to my days learning how to drink espresso, I would always hate the intense bitterness that the crema provided. My answer was to chuck three sugars into the cup and stir vigorously till dissolved. If only my mentors had of directed me to great coffees plus told me to skim the crema off the top, could that have helped speed up the development of my pallet? Or instead, why did I never try and take the crema off myself?
When I was a full time barista trainer back in Australia, I would teach budding baristas or begrudged employees to stir in their crema on the top of their cappuccinos so that their first sip would not be over powered by the bitterness that is crema. Anything to just get them to taste what they were serving, I say.
So when Klaus from the Coffee Collective took the time to show me how he skimmed the crema of an Americano, why did I not take that ball and run with it? I remember Kyle Glanville and I sitting their bemused by the whole process and then being sat back as it actually tasted nice. I think he served us a Gethumbwini back at the World Barista Championships in Copenhagen.
All we did with that information is head back to our daily grind, tell a few co-workers and go about our day, are we stupid? Why did we not spread the love and tell all within ear shot or blog spot? Mind the pun (it will get ya!).
Maybe it was because it was not that exciting to us at the time? Was it because I had calibrated out that crema taste, essentially over time had painfully learned to appreciate it? This morning, I had to try the side by side again again to remind myself.
I will not go into the fact that crema is a good visual key when brewing espresso, we all know that don’t we?
Here it is, although I do agree with James and Klaus crema on it’s own is dirty, it seems to carry more roast related notes. The difference in the cup when doing a side by side, might really only amount to 1 point difference at best. I also imagine that the scores could very well be closer when you start to loose points on body and mouth feel when minus crema.
Interestingly, where I found a resounding difference was in the finish, after about a minute or so after I had consumed the beverage and was left with the lingering aftertaste, the cup without the crema was definitely cleaner.
What does this mean, assuming that the coffee you are drinking is roasted with a goal to mantain the intrinsic flavors of the bean intact ie, no roasty notes. I would say go about your espresso drinking day as normal, making sure that you do infact stir your espresso thouroughly so as to ensure a balanced beverage.
On the other hand there are mornings where I find drinking espresso to be a daunting proposal, I might just find myself reaching for two spoons and skim that “rubbish” crema right the f#$@ off!
P.s. I found out today that Intelligentsia Venice has been offering a skimmed Americano since it opened, a best kept of the menu secret, that you will have to just ask for, FYI.