Champagne Without the Bubbles
In the August/September 2009 issue of Barista magazine, former World Barista Champion, James Hoffman, extended a dialog with reference to the role of crema on (and in) espresso. His suggestion is with crema by itself being “ashy, powdery and bitter” (mouthfeel), it could (should?) be removed, and the espresso stirred. This prompted experimentation at the Cravens Tasting Bar.
I am a staunch proponent of espresso retaining its primary structure of “flavor in suspension” through as little agitation in the beverage building process as is feasible. So to stir the crema-less espresso shot, albeit gently(!), was contrary to the very nature of my being (too melodramatic?..maybe…). The “stirred shot” was okay. More like a very strongly brewed, high acidity Central or South American single origin. The unstirred crema-laden shot was intense, complex, full-bodied and effervescent (think champagne).
In summary, espresso without crema is like champagne without the bubbles.