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How to get more crema

This article was written in an effort to help espresso newbies get better shots and more crema.

To ensure good shots with lots of crema you should follow these rules:

Fresh Beans
Beans roasted 12-24 hours before you grind them are the freshest possible beans you could have, and definitely fresher than almost any bean bought in a coffee store. Most beans need to "degas" a bit after roasting during about 12 hours. Beans begin to oxidize almost immediately which in turn damages them. This means that beans capable of producing great crema a day after they were roasted might produce no crema at all 7 days after they were roasted. Fresh beans are key - and keep them whole until just before you want to brew. Don't pregrind.

Adequate machine
This means you have a pump driven machine (or a piston lever or spring lever machine) capable of heating water to desired brew temperatures (approx 192F-200F, or 90 to 96C at sea level). Further, the machine must be capable of delivering the water at least 9BAR (about 130PSI) of pressure in a consistent, sustained manner. It must also be able to maintain the brewing temperature during the shot. The machine should be well maintained and clean.

Adequate tamp
Tamping espresso ground coffee is really necessary. You must control tamping on your own to get consistently great shots. One noted expert, David Schomer, recommends a 30 pound tamp. How do you know what 30 pounds of pressure is? Take your tamper and portafilter to the bathroom, and tamp on the scale - see what 30 lbs of pressure is like. Why tamp at 30 pounds? 20lbs or less allows too much water to find a "path of least resistance" around your grinds, instead of fully saturating it. The result is less extraction from your grounds. More than 30 pounds shouldn't be necessary, unless you're compromising for a coarse grind (see below). Note, Schomer's commentary is based on commercial grade machines, but is a good rule for home machines as well.

Adequate grind
You should grind to a fineness that, tied in with a 30 lb tamping pressure, delivers you a 25 second shot. If your shots are too short in time for 2.5 oz in a double, grind finer. If your shots are too long in time, grind coarser. If you aren't capable of grinding fine enough, you need a newer, probably more expensive grinder, preferably a conical grinder like the Solis Maestro, a flat burr model like the Saeco M2002 models, semi-pro flat burr models like the Rancilio Rocky or Innova grinders, or the Mazzer Mini.

Fresh water
This one is a given, and quite obvious. Use fresh filtered water. Espresso is 97-98% water after all. Why use something less than perfect?