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Hi there fellow coffee lovers! So, I recently decided to purchase my first ever espresso machine (well, kind of)! Its a steam espresso machine made my Mr. Coffee®. I know its a beginner machine, so I plan on upgrading to a pump machine in the future.

So, it surprisingly makes pretty good espresso! It takes really pleasant, but its missing on major element of a good espresso shot: the crema!! I simply fill the portafilter with espresso ground coffee up to the appropriate level. It seems like I grind about 2 and a half tablespoons for two ounces of water. I then "tamp" the coffee down with a flat spoon. I put it into my machine, turn it on, and wait like a minute for the hot espresso to come out. It sort of gives something similar to crema, but it seems for just like foam, and it doesn't last very long either.

Is there a way to generate crema using a steam espresso machine, or is it really not possible? Am I doing something wrong? Any feedback is appreciated! Thanks!

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There are a few reasons why you might not get a good crema:

  • Stale coffee
  • Coffee not ground fine enough
  • Pressure too low

With a steam-powered espresso machine (especially if it's an entry level machine), you will typically not reach high enough pressure to get a proper crema. The crema is formed by oils extracted from the ground coffee, which needs high pressure (something like 9 bars). Your steam-powered machine will probably not produce more than ~3 bars of pressure.

Tamping with a spoon also seems not ideal, because it will be very difficult to achieve an even tamp. I cannot comment on how important that is for this particular machine, but with higher end pump machines it might lead to channeling and uneven extraction.

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You are doing everything perfectly to spec. The problem is neither with your machine, nor with your use of it. It is with the nature of your expectation. Steam espresso machines simply do not produce the crema you are looking for. I would suggest adjusting your expectation to fit the current result, or adjusting the result to fit your expectation. Either buy a pump espresso machine, or make do with what you have.

  • Welcome to Coffee SE! Can you pls elaborate on the "adjusting the result to fit your expectation" part? – Ivan Kapitonov Oct 19 '15 at 11:33

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