GIVE THIS A CRACK WITH YOUR NEXT LONG BLACK
It felt controversial at the time, actually it feels controversial now, but a little whiles ago I wrote an article busting the myth that crema is the sign of a good coffee. I stand by this claim, that it isn’t a sign of a good coffee, or a bad one either, but merely a sign that the gases in the coffee released in the extraction process have been trapped by the oily film residue byproduct of the extraction process.
My apologies, that got deep for an opening paragraph. This is usually second date material, but I think you and I are hitting it off, no?
And because I trust you, you know where I’m coming from, I feel I’m in a safe space to say – I don’t like crema.* Sure it looks good, makes for delightful contrast in your seven leaf tulip, but in black coffee, crema is not my type.
And it’s not the coffee, it’s me. I gravitate towards lighter, brighter flavours, I love the fruits and florals that give way to smooth caramels as it cools. I love the aroma of delicate jasmine, the zest of an orange, or a tart green apple. I love the clarity of washed coffees and the juiciness of naturals.
I’m not against those classically ‘coffee’ flavours, not even a little bit. I thoroughly enjoy well rounded Brazilian coffee full of brown sugar, milk chocolate and hazelnut notes. I’m not even against straight out bitter things – I go to town on rocket and 80% dark chocolate. Not together, though it might be interesting… But in my coffee, I want nuance, I want flavour. I do not want a slap in the face.
As I mentioned, crema is formed by the coffee’s molecules and gases being trapped in the coffee’s oils, as a result of extraction under high heat and pressure. And the particular molecules released under this process tend to be bitter in nature. As they become exposed to air whilst trapped in oils, they undergo oxidisation, intensifying the bitterness further still. I realise I’ve vilified crema to be akin to a flock of angry penguins trapped in an oil spill. What are you gonna do.
Here’s what you’re gonna do. When you next make or order an espresso or long black, and it comes out with a gorgeous, golden crema, pick your spoons (it’s more efficient with two) and skim it off. Cast it aside. Flick it off onto your saucer, serviette or samoyed (don’t do that last suggestion. It’s not nice and you’ll never get the stain out. Dispose of waste responsibly).
That’s it! That’s the only step to hack your long black! Now see what the coffee has to offer without being browbeaten by gaseous byproducts more bitter than Leona Helmsley’s grandchildren.**
And in this new, fresh, slightly exposed cup, I hope you find sweetness, delicate and playful aromatics, characteristics and complexities that sparkles in the limelight.
It deserves it.
*I accidentally first wrote ‘cream’, which I also don’t like, but then thought best not say that in case you think me some kind of psychopath and throw everything I say out as the words of a crazy woman.
**When hotel magnate Leona Helmsley died, she left $5 billion to charity, $0 to her grandchildren, and $12 million to her dog Trouble. Trouble was promptly sequestered to an island by private jet after receiving several death threats.