Everyone’s favorite, or second favorite, coffee drink on the menu appears to be a cappuccino. But, of course, it’s understandable, given that it’s such a milky and delicious way to start the day.
However, most of us go about our lives without knowing exactly what goes into our favorite beverage.
So, let’s speak about cappuccino for a minute. What it is, how to construct one, and a few important aspects to completely appreciate it are all covered.
So, what exactly is a cappuccino?
A cappuccino is a specific blend of espresso and steamed/frothed milk.
Cappuccinos are typically served in 5 or 6 oz/150-180 ml cups, with a specific espresso-to-milk ratio. The espresso-to-milk ratio is 1:5, so there’s plenty of espresso flavor shining through the milk.
Cappuccinos are now available in nearly every coffee shop on the planet. Likewise, on every restaurant menu, most likely in fast food establishments.
The quality of the cappuccino varies greatly from the establishment to establishment, but one thing remains constant: plenty of milk in your coffee.
Some establishments now serve brewed coffee with lots of milk on top and call it an espresso. That is, in fact, a cafe au lait (literally milk coffee in French).
It’s just that some people don’t understand that cappuccino is only made one way, and anything else that resembles it is just that: a resemblance.
So be cautious about where and how you obtain your cappuccino. Otherwise, you could get one as I did a few days ago: a shot of espresso with just a splash of cold milk.
It’s drinkable, but it’s not espresso.
Is cappuccino a type of coffee?
Yes, cappuccino is coffee because it is made from the same beans used to make drip coffee, French press coffee, or any other type of regular coffee. It is, however, made entirely of espresso.
Some people consider espresso to be distinct from coffee.
This is most likely owing to their notion of ‘coffee’ as brewed coffee in the form of drip, French press, Moka, Aeropress, Chemex, and other similar methods of brewing coffee (for example).
Is it possible to make a cappuccino with any coffee?
It is not possible to make a cappuccino without using a shot of espresso.
This is due to several factors, which I will explain.
First and foremost, the proportions will be incorrect. Even if you followed the recipe exactly, you’d end up with something different.
The flavor concentration and texture difference in an espresso versus any other coffee will affect the final taste of your drink.
Second, your cappuccino’s overall texture will be too watery/thin. Third, even if you manage to foam the milk perfectly, the important coffee solids found in espresso will not be present in other versions.
There are ways to brew regular coffee very strongly, but there will be no crema you require.
Go to a coffee shop and get yourself a shot of real espresso to work with.
How does a cappuccino taste?
Given that cappuccino is primarily a milky beverage, I’d say it’s muting a significant portion of the espresso.
Espresso indeed has a powerful flavor. It’s a tiny but potent cup of coffee. Especially if you order a double shot of espresso, you’ll be able to taste it through the milk.
A cappuccino will taste more like coffee than a latte.
But it’s the frothed and steamed milk that will soften the harshness and give you a nice, caramelized milk flavor.
Not enough to completely silence the espresso, but just enough to make it enjoyable without sugar.
How to Make a Perfect Cappuccino
It’s not easy to make the perfect cappuccino.
One method is to order it from a knowledgeable barista and study its composition and pouring technique.
You could order one, take it home, and use it as a standard to judge your ability and see where you might need to improve.
We’re going to attempt to make our own, so let’s see how well we do.
1. Keep in mind the espresso-to-milk ratio.
Keep in mind that a cappuccino is mostly milk with a shot of espresso on top.
The milk-to-espresso ratio will vary slightly depending on where you go. For example, cappuccinos are available in ratios ranging from 1:3 espresso to milk to 1:5.
There is no such thing as a wrong or correct answer. The most popular version is a 1:14 espresso to milk ratio, which also appears to have the best flavor balance in terms of flavor balance.
So, when gathering your supplies, keep in mind that one shot of espresso (1 oz/33 ml, crema included) requires four times the amount of steamed/frothed milk.
So we’re figuring out how much milk there is after it’s been processed. Keep in mind that the milk will nearly double in size when frothed.
2 oz/66 mL of cold milk should yield 4 oz/120 mL of steamed and frothed milk, not in terms of weight but of volume.
2. Prepare your espresso shot
Begin by preparing your espresso shot however you prefer.
Make a typical shot.
If you want a ristretto or a lungo, adjust the milk accordingly.
If the grouphead on your espresso machine has a lot of space underneath, brew the shot directly into the cup you’re going to drink from.
Given that we’re making a 5 oz/150 ml drink, this should be a breeze.
Before adding the espresso, check to see that the cup is already heated before adding the espresso.
Set aside the espresso and begin working on the milk.
3. Steam and froth the milk
Pour your two oz/66 ml of cold milk into a pitcher or cup large enough to hold up to 8 oz/236 ml.
Turn on the espresso machine’s wand and insert the tip as close to the bottom of the milk as possible.
Because you’re getting more microfoam at the bottom, the milk will become creamier as you get closer to the bottom.
The milk will be heated and aerated as the wand releases steam into it. It is your responsibility to move the pitcher up and down so that the top and bottom milk is heated and aerated.
After you’ve doubled the milk, remove the wand and wipe it down with a damp, clean cloth.
Suppose your espresso machine lacks such a wand, other methods for steaming and frothing milk at home. Less efficient, but certainly worth a shot.
4. Use caution when combining them.
You now have your milk and espresso.
If everything went as planned, heating the milk should have taken about a minute, and the espresso should still be hot. Pour the steamed milk into the espresso slowly and carefully.
Hold the espresso cup at an angle so that the hot milk runs directly beneath the crema without disturbing it.
Once you’ve reached the bubbly part of the milk, begin tilting the cup back to its original position.
You can begin practicing your latte art from here.
Pour all the frothed milk and microfoam into the crema to make a simple white cap.
Alternatively, you can experiment with the milk and shake the cappuccino cup as the milk pours in. You’ll notice that it makes small patterns.
Experiment with it and see what you come up with; it could be something really lovely.
Cappuccino, both dry and wet (short explanation)
You’ve probably heard of dry and wet cappuccinos.
When you first hear this, it may sound strange. But, cappuccinos are always wet because they’re liquid.
As strange as it may appear at first, the explanation makes (some) sense.
We all know and enjoy a wet cappuccino most of the time.
The one with steamed milk, microfoam, and a ton of milk.
On the other hand, a dry cappuccino is made without steamed milk and only contains frothed milk. But not just any frothed milk, but the kind with big bubbles and a lot of air in it.
So, a ‘dry’ version instead of a ‘wet’ one.
If you want to be a skilled home barista, you should be aware of these details.
Making cappuccinos isn’t difficult, but there are a few details to keep in mind if you want to get the best version possible.
You may need to practice a little, but you’re making coffee anyway.