RECIPE FOR THE PERFECT START FOR THE DAY
Do you love a great cappuccino? This small but mighty cup is one of the most famous espresso drinks of all! It stars that perfect combination of steamed milk, espresso and frothy foam. (For us, the macchiato tops our list of espresso drinks, but we’ll get to that later!) Guess what? You can make a barista-quality cappuccino in the comfort of your own home. In our Barista Series, we’re teaching you all the tricks you need to know to make your favorite coffee drinks…homemade! Here’s how to make a cappuccino that states like it’s straight out of an Italian café.
What is a cappuccino, exactly?
A cappuccino is an espresso drink with steamed milk, milk foam and espresso. It’s very similar to a latte (cafe latte), but the proportion of steamed milk is different. Here’s the breakdown of a latte vs cappuccino:
- A cappuccino has equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foam (⅓ each).
- A latte is ⅓ espresso and 2/3 steamed milk, with a thin layer of foam on top. Here’s a chart that breaks it down!
The differences between the two drinks are pretty subtle, and so is the flavor. But you’re in luck: the cappuccino is the easier of the two to perfect at home. With a latte you’re looking for microfoam, steamed milk with a wet-paint like texture that’s almost impossible to get without an espresso machine. A cappuccino can easily be made with frothed milk using various tools: even a whisk!
First, you’ll need espresso!
You’ll need to make espresso for a cappuccino: simply strong coffee will not do! This means you’ll need the following:
- Espresso roast coffee: The roast is important to get the right dark, bitter flavor. Also make sure to use a fine grind on the espresso when you make it.
- Espresso machine, manual espresso maker, or Aeropress: There are several ways to make espresso. We use an espresso machine, which sits on a countertop. Or you can use a small manual espresso maker: it’s cheaper and portable! The cheapest option is an Aeropress: it doesn’t make nearly as good of espresso, but it does the job. Go to Aeropress Espresso.
The best milk for a cappuccino
What’s the best milk to use for a cappuccino? Here’s what to know:
- Use milk that’s as fresh as possible! Milk that’s nearing its expiration date does not foam as well. Trust us: we learned that the hard way!
- The best milk for a cappuccino? Whole milk. Whole milk froths the best because it has the highest milk fat.
- You can also use 2% milk. It works fairly well, but you lose a bit of the richness.
- Use oat milk for a vegan cappuccino. The best non-dairy milk to use is oat milk: it froths up the best and has great flavor. Go to How to Froth Milk for more details.
How to steam milk with an espresso machine (perfect cappuccino)
The tool you need to steam milk? An espresso machine with a steamer! This makes the best foam for a cappuccino, and steaming milk also adds a sweet creaminess to the flavor. You don’t have to worry about the technique of microfoam like for the perfect latte, but it’s still nice to have an espresso machine for this coffee drink.
The downside? Espresso machines can be pricey. Here’s the espresso machine we use: it’s middle of the road price-wise and works great. But you can also make a cappuccino by simply frothing milk with a whisk: see below! Here’s how to steam milk for a cappuccino:
- Hold the steaming wand just below the surface of the milk until it doubles in size and is very foamy.
- Lower the steaming wand slightly until the milk reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit: use a thermometer or judge by when your hand can’t hold the pitcher for more than a few seconds.
How to froth milk: without an espresso machine (cheater method!)
Don’t have an espresso machine? No problem. For a great homemade cappuccino you can simply heat and froth the milk. There are a few different tools you can use to froth milk (see more at How to Froth Milk). Here are the best tools we’ve found for a home barista to froth milk:
- Handheld milk frother. A handheld milk frother is economical and works well. It gets the milk extremely frothy, which is great for a macchiato or cappuccino.
- French press. If you have a French press for making coffee, it’s great for making foam! It makes a nice frothy foam with bubbles a little larger than the frother.
- Whisk. A whisk works too! It whips up the milk pretty well: it also has a bit larger bubbles and generates a little less foam than the other methods.
How to make a cappuccino at home!
Got your tools, milk and espresso? Great. We can move on to the fun part: how to make a cappuccino! You’ll combine all the learnings you read about above to make this tasty espresso drink.
- Make the espresso using an espresso machine, espresso maker, or Aeropress (see above).
- Steam the milk (espresso machine method): Use the notes in the section above to steam the milk and get it nice and foamy.
- OR, heat the milk on the stovetop then froth it. A temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect: that’s where the milk is hot to the touch but not simmering. Then froth using your desired method to froth the milk until it’s very foamy. For a cappuccino you’ll want a good amount of froth: you’re going for ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk and ⅓ foam.
- Serve. Pour the frothed milk into the espresso and serve! It’s nice to use a latte cup, which holds the perfect amount.
And that’s it! How to make a cappuccino at home. Let us know if you give it a try, what tools you use, and how you like it!