It’s called the crema, and it’s perhaps the most important thing that distinguishes espresso from other types of coffee. Crema is actually caramel. The high temperature and pressure in an espresso machine caramelise the sugar naturally present in coffee, aerate it and expel it with the espresso.
Perfect crema should be thick and stable, and preserve the coffee flavour, aroma and temperature. The state of the crema can help you diagnose where your espresso-making may be going wrong.
Steamed milk sits in the jug in layers: the most finely-textured milk is at the bottom whereas heavier textures are towards the top. The quality of flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes is often determined by the blend (or separation) of these textures.
Espresso with lightly-frothed milk.
Espresso with less milk than a latte, and little froth.
Espresso with a mix of finely-textured and frothy milk.
A mini-latte, served in a 100ml glass or cup.
Espresso with the tiniest "mark" of milk.
With so many designs, features and technologies on offer, there’s heaps to consider when choosing an espresso machine. We’ve tested 33 models and explain what to look for.