May 31, 2021

Three Ways to Fake a Crema in Stovetop Espresso

Cuban Crema, just like Abuela used to make

If you’re a moka pot owner, it’s likely you’ve hit on making a pretty good espresso on your stove. But many find a stovetop espresso feels naked since it has no crema. Below you’ll find a few tricks for adding the crema effect and a little sweetness for an aesthetically-pleasing look and tempering bitterness.

What is crema?

Crema is a foam of air and CO₂ micro-bubbles that form in the emulsified oils that floats on top of a fresly-made, high-pressure espresso. There’s a controversy as to whether crema makes espresso taste better or worse. Seem to me it’s more personal taste.

Back in the day crema wasn’t a thing

Espresso was around for 60 years before crema was possible. Even the moka pot itself was invented before crema. But after World War II, espresso machines started adding more pressure that had a side effect of creating crema. While crema may or may not have improved the taste of espresso, it’s a signal of quality, since it help reveal a fresh roast and a finer grind.

Faking a crema

These methods rely on dairy fat and/or sugar to create a crema. They’re excellent for espresso served with dessert or afternoon coffee for guests.

1. Cuban crema

This non-dairy method produces a tawny crema. The separate tastes of sweet crema and bitter espresso give your tastebuds something marvelous to ponder. In a 2-cup measuing cup:

  • Place 1/4 cup of bartender’s, caster or quick-dissolving sugar and 2 tablespoons of hot espresso.
  • Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture become foamy and tan. (The more you whip the better, since more air gets into the mix.)
  • Spoon onto a hot cup of espresso.

2. Reddi-Wip macchiato

This trick makes a macchiato that’s only slightly sweet and a touch creamy with a nice froth. Works best in a cup that holds at least 3 ounces.

  • Almost fill cup with Reddi-Wip.
  • Slowly add hot espresso, stirring constantly.

3. Whipped crem(a)

If you’re avoiding sugar this method fits into a keto lifestyle. In a 2-cup measuing cup:

  • Place 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1 teaspoon of espresso.
  • Whisk the whipped cream until it forms soft peaks.
  • Spoon a tablespoon into each cup.
  • Slowly add hot espresso, stirring constantly.

My take

These methods are fairly simple and produce an impressive result. Tip: You can avoid the drudgery of hand whipping small batches like this with a battery-powered milk frother.

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