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Why Your Espresso Is Too Foamy And How To Fix It

Why Your Espresso Is Too Foamy And How To Fix It

You love your espresso coffee.

It makes you feel more energized and fills the house with its delicious aroma that boosts your mood. Your espresso should be foamy, but not too foamy, as the latter can be a sign that something’s gone wrong with its brewing method. 

What, exactly, is espresso foam?

Sometimes referred to as crema, foam is that layer of caramel-colored foam on top of a shot of espresso. It not only looks tasty but boosts the flavor of your coffee

With that in mind, let’s explore espresso crema and how you can make some changes to the way you brew your coffee to eliminate problems with it, therefore enhancing the quality of your cup. This will prevent your espresso from looking like a bubble bath in future!

What Different Espresso Foam Means

What Different Espresso Foam Means

In order to successfully eliminate foam-related problems from your espresso, you first have to identify the type of foam that you’re dealing with and what could be causing it.

It sounds really technical, but don’t worry – the research has already been done on this matter so your job to fix your espresso will be really easy!

What It Means If Your Foam Is White With Large Bubbles 

This is quite a common espresso foam, but it can be a sign that you are over-extracting your coffee. This means that you made the mistake of letting your espresso brew for longer than 30 seconds. 

What happens during over-extraction is that too much of the soluble flavors of your coffee are removed, and this leaves some unpleasant flavors behind.

If this is what happened, your espresso will not only have lots of white foam but taste bland and bitter. While espresso coffee should be a bit bitter, you don’t want the bitterness to overpower its other flavors.

Other factors that could be culprits for why your espresso has lots of white foam with large bubbles on it include using water that was too hot for your espresso. You should always ensure your coffee brew reaches the ideal temperature – this is said to be between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

What It Means If Your Espresso Foam Is Pale

If your espresso has foam and it’s pale in color, this points to how the coffee was under-extracted. Under-extraction refers to brewing the coffee in such a way that the flavor of the beans isn’t properly drawn out. This means that the flavor doesn’t reach your cup. 

Under-extraction can be as a result of not using water that’s hot enough or brewing the coffee for a shorter time than it requires. Different coffees will require different brewing times. To make a delicious espresso, you want to aim to brew it for only 20 to 30 seconds!

Other things that can cause your foam to be too pale include if your coffee granules are too coarse.

Since espresso coffee needs to be brewed quickly to ensure that the water rushes over the granules and extracts their flavor very fast, you want a much finer coffee grind. This ensures that the granules can dissolve and their flavor, as well as aroma, can be drawn out successfully.

Foam aside, you can tell that your espresso was under-extracted by noticing how it tastes. If it’s sour, salty, or has a lack of sweetness, those are tell-tale signs of under-extracted coffee. 

What It Means If Your Foam Is In The Center Of The Cup

If the espresso you’ve just made has white foam in the center of the cup, this could also be a sign that your brewing time was much too long (via Food Biophysics) Make sure you shorten that time in future so that you don’t ruin your cup of espresso!

What It Means If Your Foam Is Very Dark With White In The Middle

If your espresso coffee always comes out with dark foam but it has a bit of white in the middle, this points to a problem with the coffee granules you’re using – they are too fine! Another possibility is that you used too many coffee granules and this has darkened the foam. 

Why Is Your Espresso Foam Different Colors?

Have you ever noticed that the espresso you make at home has a foam that’s of a different color to what you see in espressos made at coffee shops?

This isn’t actually a hint that you’re doing something wrong when making the espresso (unless, as pointed out earlier, your foam is dark with a bit of white in it), but it points to the coffee blend you’re using.

This could be different from what is used at the coffee shop where you love to enjoy espressos on the way to work.

For example, as Food Biophysics reports, pure C. arabica, which is generally known as Arabica coffee, will produce a reddish-brown foam and what’s known as a “tiger tail” pattern on your coffee. By comparison, a pure C. canephora, or Robusta coffee, has a dark brown color with a bit of grey in it.

It’s worth pointing out that neither one is right or wrong! 

What Coffee Beans Produce More Espresso Foam?

What Coffee Beans Produce More Espresso Foam?

Another thing to point out is that having a lot of espresso foam isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. You might like having a lot of foam, in which case you’ll want to know which coffee beans will produce more of it.

It’s not just the type of coffee beans you use that will influence the type and quantity of espresso foam in your cup, but also how they are roasted! Here are some interesting tips to bear in mind if you want more – or less! – foam.

If you make use of beans that are freshly roasted, this will increase the amount of foam in your coffee. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, you might not like it.

The reason why this happens is because just after the roasting process the coffee beans are still releasing gas that formed inside them during the process.

Darker coffee beans will produce less foam in your coffee. This is as a result of how the coffee bean oils are rubbed off when the beans are handled or packaged.

To make matters a bit complicated, this doesn’t necessarily mean that lighter coffee roasts will produce less foam, even though they don’t have an oily surface. 

Interestingly, using coffee beans that have been produced naturally will give you the best foam (via The Spruce). The reason? More of their oils are left intact. Now you have another good reason to switch over to natural coffee! 

How Does Espresso Foam Form? 

How Does Espresso Foam Form?

Espresso foam is usually called crema because it is actually like a cream. When espresso coffee is made, water pressure pushes down onto the coffee beans. This causes oils from the beans to be released into the coffee liquid.

These oils, as well as plant carbohydrates, help to stabilize bubbles in the liquid – and these are also responsible for creating foam.

But, there’s something else that also contributes to a foamy cup: CO2. The water pressure dissolves CO2, which was produced in the coffee beans when they were roasted.

When the coffee returns to its normal atmospheric pressure, which happens when it’s directed into a cup, it can’t maintain all the CO2 so this causes it to form little bubbles on the surface of the liquid. These bubbles produce foam (via Perfectly Daily Grind).

Related Questions 

Can coffee foam tell you how fresh the coffee is?

It can – if the coffee isn’t that fresh, it will have a thin foam that separates from the coffee easily and it will also disappear very quickly. Fresh coffee will look like foam as it brews, then it will settle out and separate.

Why do some people say that you should scrape off the espresso crema?

It’s been found that although crema can enhance the taste of your espresso, it can also make it a bit more bitter so some people prefer to remove it or mix it into the espresso. 


If your kitchen drain consumes more espresso than you do because you have to keep throwing out your coffee as a result of how it’s either over- or under-extracted, you don’t have to worry about wasting coffee in future.

After reading this article, you now know how to prevent espresso foam-related problems – and how to tell when the foam is a sign of a bigger problem with your coffee – so you can enjoy espresso in the best way possible.

Start your day with a delicious cup of espresso – with the perfect amount of, and tastiest, foam! 

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