To me a cappuccino is like a business card. The way a café prepares its cappuccino can tell if the owner really cares about me. Good beans and good equipment is important. But the staff behind the machine is always the key. They decide which quality of beans is used. They are setting the goals for an espresso. They (should) have the knowledge to bring everything perfectly in the cup, because coffee is a diva. Last but not least they care about service and make me feel welcome to their place.
Have you ever noticed that a cappuccino is rarely ever the same? First of all, a cappuccino is an espresso-based drink with steamed milk. Easy, isn’t it? But often you find totally different recipes for the same drink, a cappuccino. Especially in the U.S. it seems to exist kind of a 1/3 rule: 1/3 espresso – 1/3 steamed milk – 1/3 milk foam. To me, that makes no sense. Furthermore many coffee shops don’t know or don’t care about the way they steam the milk. Sometimes the consistency is too fluid (which is better for a flat white) and way too hot (which is never good). Sadly, a cappuccino is quite often a terrible dark roasted and bitter tasting shot of espresso with burned milk. On the other hand there are creamy cappuccinos with delicious nutty or fruity notes and a beautiful latte art. The range in quality and preparation is huge.
The cappuccino secret
Typically a cappuccino contains approximately 6oz (180 ml) or a bit less of beverage. One espresso shot (about 1oz) on the ground and steamed milk on top of a beautiful looking cup. To put it in other words: about one part of espresso and four parts of milk. That’s the whole magic. The little secret for a good cappuccino next to a great espresso shot is to steam milk very aerated and not too hot. In the end you should have a semifluid texture (not to fluid, not to solid). After pouring the milk into the cup, the milk and the foam are separating after a short while.
How do you know that the milk is not too hot?
Put a hand under the steaming pitcher and start to steam cold milk. At almost 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) the pitcher is getting so hot, that most of us (maybe not professional chefs) want to remove their hand. That might be the right temperature. Double check with a kitchen thermometer to make sure the temperature is between 65 and 69 degrees Celsius (150 – 157 degrees Fahrenheit), when you try it for the first time. It is very important not to steam the milk above 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit). Otherwise the proteins get burned. Please be aware that different types of milk have different burning points.
If you want to know more about cappuccino and how to find the best coffee and milk, optimized for your individual needs, please feel free to contact me.