It is one of the most popular coffee specialties that can be found on the menu in almost all cafés and restaurants – we are talking about the cappuccino. What you are served, however, is not always convincing. That is why today we are devoting ourselves to the question: what makes a good cappuccino and how to prepare a perfect one?
What is a cappuccino?
Cappuccino is an Italian type of coffee. But: what is actually in the cup? Coffee or (double) espresso? With milk foam – or cream? By definition, the popular drink is made up of espresso and frothed milk. The consistency of the milk foam is particularly important: it should be creamy to runny.
Outside Italy, cappuccino is often served with a cap made of firm milk foam. However, this development has been declining for a few years, so that cappuccino is now also available with the typical, still slightly liquid milk foam. Since then, cocoa powder and cinnamon have also been used less often on a cappuccino. This states that a cappuccino must consist of one third each of espresso, hot milk, and foam – but that would simply be too much coffee.
What are the best coffee beans for a cappuccino?
Every coffee can only be as good as the ‘raw material’ used. That is why choosing the right coffee beans is essential for a good result. For cappuccino, 60/40 mixtures (60% Arabica, 40% Robusta) are ideal. This mixing ratio is also used in Italian gastronomy. Sometimes 80/20 mixtures are also used. Pure Arabicas are not recommended, as they quickly ‘get lost’ in the milk and the coffee taste falls by the wayside.
Robusta: for body and crema
Contrary to their reputation, robusta beans are not fundamentally worse than arabica. In contrast to this, they have even more body and fullness. In coffee variants with milk, in particular, the spicy beans can optimally develop their potential and ensure a particularly well-rounded taste experience. A higher proportion of Robusta also ensures more crema, which ensures the light brown color of the milk foam in the cappuccino. Which type of coffee you ultimately choose is a matter of personal taste.
Preparation, step one: the espresso
The basis for the cappuccino is an espresso. It is traditionally made with a portafilter machine. However, a fully automatic coffee machine can also be used. The more settings of the device that can be adjusted manually, the more suitable it is. With more and more fully automatic machines, the milk is automatically frothed. The result is usually solid – even if it doesn’t usually come close to hand-frothed milk.
Coffee from a stove can also be used as the basis for the cappuccino. The result here is more of a very strong coffee and not espresso, but what is allowed is what you like.
To ensure that your cappuccino is at the optimum temperature to drink, it is essential that you preheat the cups before you begin the actual preparation. Then let the espresso run directly into a cappuccino cup (capacity approx. 125 ml). The rule of thumb for good espresso is: 7 g finely ground coffee (espresso roast ) results in 25-30 ml espresso with a brewing time of 25 seconds.
Preparation, step two: froth the milk
What type of milk? A good cappuccino depends not only on the quality of the espresso but also on the quality of the foam. In theory, any milk can be used for frothing – whether lactose-free, low-fat, whole, or UHT milk. However, the result is different: while reduced-fat milk produces more ‘dry’ foam, whole milk is particularly creamy.
Even herbal milk alternatives can lather. There are also differences here: soy and nut milk are more suitable, whereas rice milk produces very little foam. Compared to cow’s milk, the foam-based on plant-based drinks is less fine-pored and collapses more quickly.
Foaming properly – but how?
For a cappuccino, you need approx. 70 ml milk with a standard cup size of 125 ml. The frothing jug used should be about twice as big.
- Tip for beginners: take a little more milk than necessary – then it won’t overheat so quickly.
- Important: the milk should always be fresh and still cold when it is filled.
Now you can start foaming. To do this, the steam nozzle only needs to be immersed a few millimeters in the milk – before you start dispensing steam. This makes the milk foam more homogeneous.
- You can tell whether you are doing it correctly by the sound: vary the depth of immersion of the steam nozzle until you get an even slurp. This will work air into the milk – creating milk foam.
- Be careful: the milk should not get hotter than 70 ° C, otherwise, the foam will collapse again.
- Rule of thumb: if you can only touch the milk jug briefly, you are in the correct temperature range. A milk foam thermometer is of great help, especially for beginners, and removes any doubts. Another indicator that milk has become too hot is a low, grumbling sound.
Preparation, step three: the cappuccino
Slightly swiveling the jug makes the foam even creamier. Foam that appears dry in places is also removed by swiveling. The consistency of the ideal milk foam is reminiscent of semi-liquid cream. Now pour the milk into the cup with a gentle wave. This breaks the crema of the espresso and combines coffee and milk with one another. After a short time, the foam will settle on top. Advanced users can creatively design the milk surface by skillfully pouring it (latte art, e.g. flowers, hearts, etc.).
The best cups for cappuccino
If you want to enjoy the perfect cappuccino, you need the right cups – if only for an optimal drinking temperature. A classic cappuccino cup holds around 125 ml. The shape is secondary.
The traditional cappuccino cups are made of porcelain so that the coffee stays hot for a long time. For some time now, cappuccino glasses have also enjoyed great popularity. If you, too, have liked to drink the coffee in the glass, make sure that these are made of heat-resistant, double-walled insulating glass (and not, for example, plastic). Another argument in favor of the classic: cups have handles – most glasses do not.
Where was the cappuccino invented? In Italy of course … right? Not correct! The coffee specialty originally comes from Austria, more precisely from the coffee houses in Vienna. It originated from capuchin, a drink made from mocha and liquid cream. The name ‘ Kapuziner ‘ comes from the color of the coffee variant. Their light brown is reminiscent of the capuchin monks’ cowl color.
In all likelihood, the cappuccino originated during the First World War. Austrian soldiers who were stationed in Italy missed their usual Capuchin. This is how the cappuccino as we know it today developed over the years. In particular, the development of espresso machines with steam pressure contributed to today’s shape of the drink, as the cream was replaced by frothed milk. More so, the name Cappuccino comes from the Italian word ‘cappuccio’ (‘hood’).
In Italy and around the world
All coffee varieties that contain milk are only drunk for breakfast in Italy. So does the cappuccino. After lunch at the latest, nobody drinks it there. In Austria, capuchin and cappuccino are consumed to the same extent today. A cappuccino with cream is called a ‘ Franciscan ‘. In Italy, this variant is called ‘ cappuccino con Panna ‘ (‘with cream’).
What is the difference between cappuccino, latte macchiato, and milk coffee?
The difference between cappuccino, latte macchiato, and milk coffee lies in the mixing ratio and the milk foam. The latte macchiato consists of around ⅔ of hot milk. The milk foam is frothed separately and much more so that it becomes firm. With cappuccino, the relationship between espresso and milk is balanced.
The Latte Macchiato is visually different due to its clearly separated three layers, which are created when the espresso is added last. It is typically served in a long glass. The milk coffee is not prepared with espresso, but usually with straight coffee or filter coffee. The mixing ratio is half milk, half coffee.