Creamy, luxurious, delightful and packed with espresso flavor, cappuccino is a classic Italian coffee drink that has earned its place in history as the favorite of many coffee lovers.
Its origin is uncertain, but whether cappuccino was invented by an Italian friar belonging to the order of the Cappuccini or by a veteran soldier in Vienna, the recipe has been perfected to our days and has become a beloved drink all over the world. If you're perfecting your barista skills, it will come a time to learn how to make the perfect cappuccino at home. Keep reading and find everything you need to know.
What's in a cappuccino?
Before we start, here's a simple rule to keep in mind when preparing this unique drink: cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam.
To prepare a perfect cappuccino, you'll need medium to dark roast coffee beans, ground to a fine size. If you'd like to know more about how to choose your coffee beans and how to grind them to the right size, take a look at the Barvivo Coffee Beans Guide.
How to make a cappuccino
There are several options to make a cappuccino at home, either with an espresso machine or with other equipment. While getting an espresso machine is a great addition to your home bar or kitchen, in the following lines we'll explore every possibility to make a great cup of cappuccino at home.
With an espresso machine
This is the perfect way to prepare a cappuccino and the one you should learn if you truly want to impress yourself and your guests.
Ready the portafilter of your machine with a double-shot dose of coffee and distribute it evenly, setting it on a table or countertop and tamping the coffee as evenly as you can, applying consistent pressure.
Remember, you’re aiming for a double shot of espresso for your cappuccino, which is about 2 ounces of coffee. Turn the espresso machine on and time your shots of coffee: it will take around 30 seconds to pull the right amount of espresso.
After the coffee is ready, it's time to foam the milk. Keep in mind that this is all about getting more foam than steamed milk. Add ¾ of milk to a glass or pitcher, insert the espresso machine's steam wand into the milk, just under the surface, keeping the tip of the wand close to the side of the recipient.
Move the glass or pitcher up and down to thoroughly oxygenate the milk, until it has doubled in size.
Then, carefully top the espresso with foamed milk and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon or cocoa powder.
Without a machine
You might not need a machine to make espresso, but you will need another sort of device. There are manual espresso machines such as Aeropress Espresso, and you can also use a french press to make espresso at home.
To foam the milk without a machine, you can use a handheld milk frother, which gets the milk to the absolute perfect texture, simply froth the milk with a whisk, or again, use a french press (as you can see, it's a wonderful piece of equipment to have at home due to its versatility).
The process to serve a cappuccino, whether you use a machine or other methods, stays the same: pour about 2 ounces of espresso in a cup and top with milk foam, then sprinkle with cinnamon or cocoa powder.
Oh and, sure, there are instant coffee recipes of cappuccino that are best left out of the question. Nothing beats the smell of a freshly made, genuine cup of coffee. To best put it in words, just picture this quote from Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’: “The fresh smell of coffee soon wafted through the apartment, the smell that separates night from day.” Surely he didn't mean store-bought, cheap coffee.
How to pour a cappuccino
Pouring the foamed milk over the coffee is what makes or breaks the cappuccino. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for a perfect result:
- Tilt the cup 45 degrees before pouring
- Pour from a low height for precision and to get a smoother drink
- Try to pour the milk as gently as you can: this is the secret to a great pour
- Aim for the center of the cup when pouring the foamed milk, then move the milk container in a circular motion toward the rim of the cappuccino
- Before you finish topping the cup of espresso with milk, gently wiggle the milk container to incorporate the foam into the liquid and add a delicate, bubbly layer to your cappuccino
Cappuccino vs. Latte: what's the difference?
As you already know, a cappuccino is made of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam. A latte is made of espresso and steamed milk, with a bulkier texture similar to wet paint, the one that allows for fantastic latte art that any coffee lover can appreciate.
This means that cappuccino has more foam in it and therefore is a lighter drink, and it is usually served in a smaller cup. Caffe latte was invented in the US as opposed to cappuccino which was invented in Italy (or Vienna, depending on which story you believe).