If you frequently visit coffee shops, you will notice that most of the beverages on the menu are composed of espresso and milk–and one of the most popular among the bunch is the cappuccino.
However, the cappuccino you order may vary from one cafe to another. Some may come with chocolate or cinnamon powder on top, while others may just be purely made up of coffee and frothed milk. And if you're a newbie to the world of coffee, this may be a little overwhelming.
In this article, we will be discussing everything there is to know about cappuccino–its history, its differences from other espresso beverages, and even some recipes on how to make your own version of a cappuccino!
What Does Cappuccino Mean?
The exact cappuccino definition depends mainly on who you are asking. If we are to define cappuccino coffee, it's a beverage made with brewed espresso and steamed milk. This drink is similar to a latte and cortado, but there are a few differences in the method of preparation. The primary component that makes this beverage distinct is that it contains more foam.
American cafes usually use thicker foam in preparing a cappuccino drink as compared to the textured milk beneath. This is quite different from the preparation standards existing in Italian coffeehouses. In Italy, making a cappuccino requires an equal proportion of espresso, steamed milk, and microfoam.
While the cappuccino is usually served in its hot version by default, innovative cafes offer the beverage in an iced and blended format. This beverage, most of the time, replaces the layer of microfoam on top with cold foam or whipped cream.
The wide range of definitions and preparations for cappuccino makes the beverage a very confusing drink to cafe-goers.
American Cappuccinos Vs. Italian Cappuccinos
While these two preparation styles are nearly the same, the main difference lies within the amount of milk put in the beverage. In Italian coffeehouses, you won't see much difference in the sizes–typically 5-6 ounces with around 4-5 ounces of milk. Meanwhile, the weight of an American-style version ranges from 8-20 cappuccino ounces. The American version is the less concentrated of the two.
Wet Vs. Dry Cappuccinos
The ratio of milk to foam when preparing a cappuccino relies significantly on how you steam the milk. Once it's poured into the cup, the microfoam will naturally rise on top of the beverage since it's less dense than the milk. Most of the time, the amount of milk and foam should be equal to standard.
In some instances, some people may prefer getting a milkier beverage, while some may want a drink with more foam and lighter. If you're one of these drinkers, you should know what to call the particular beverage–a wet or a dry cappuccino.
When you order a wet cappuccino, it means that you're getting a drink that has 2 parts steamed milk for every part of the foam. A wet cappuccino is also much heavier, with a texture similar to a foamy latte.
Meanwhile, a dry cappuccino is the other way round–2 parts foam for every part of milk. This beverage is ultimately lighter in weight than the standard cappuccino and has a more pronounced espresso flavor. This is somewhat like a large-sized espresso macchiato, with a lot more foam on top.
Cappuccino Vs. Cafe Macchiato
Cappuccino and Cafe Macchiato are both layered beverages composed of espresso, steamed milk, and microfoam. The main difference between the two drinks comes down to the ratio and size.
A cafe macchiato contains one to two espresso shots, little milk, and a dollop of milk foam. The total volume of the drink is about 1.5 to 3 ounces. That amount also depends on how many shots of espresso you put in. In terms of flavor, a cafe macchiato is generally more intense and bitter since it has more coffee than milk compared to a cappuccino composition.
Cappuccino Vs. Cafe Latte
Both cappuccino and cafe latte are most commonly confused in coffee shops. Both are actually very similar to each other. You can order both in the same sizes, and they also go with the same components. However, a cappuccino has more foam as it uses equal parts of steamed milk and foam. On the other hand, a latte only uses a small layer of microfoam on top.
Cappuccino Vs. Cortado
The word cortado is derived from the Spanish word "cortar," which means "to cut." And that's one of the main differences between the two drinks–a cappuccino originated from Italy, while a cortado is from Spain.
In terms of the drink's composition and flavor, a cortado can be described as a smaller version of a latte. However, the milk is not steamed to a velvety consistency that has microfoam. Instead, it is just simply heated to a hotter temperature which means that the foam is only a very thin layer. Because of the size, a cortado is more likely to be more bitter than a cappuccino.
Cappuccino Vs. Flat White
The flat white was first made in Australia during the 1980s and gained popularity in the US very recently. A cappuccino and a flat white are generally of the same size, about 5-6 ounces.
The amount of foam added to the two drinks is the primary difference between the two beverages. While the steamed milk for both drinks is made the same way, a flat white is not textured into microfoam. In addition, it is steamed at a much lower temperature. The amount of foam you will get on your cup of flat white is minimum.
Furthermore, the espresso in a flat white is brewed in a shorter span–ristretto shots. These types of espresso are served more quickly, which results in a less bitter flavor and lower volume. This gives a cup of a flat white a smoother taste overall.
How To Make A Cappuccino
The technique in preparing a perfect cappuccino is knowing how to steam milk and create the beautiful foam. With that, this recipe may seem a little overwhelming, but most of the steps here are focused on texturing microfoam the proper way. This may take a lot of practice, so do repeat the process if you really want to master the skill.
Steaming Milk For A Cappuccino
- Place a damp cloth over the tip of the steam wand of your espresso machine, and purge it for a few seconds to remove water or old milk that's been left.
- Using a medium-sized steaming pitcher, pour your cold milk in. Do not go beyond the bottom of the pitcher's spot.
- Position your pitcher up to the steam wand with half of the wand submerged into the milk. Turn the knob to begin the aeration.
- When the steam begins, slowly lower the pitcher until the tip of the wand is on the surface of the milk. You will start to hear a hissing sound which will mean you're doing it correctly. Let it be in the same position for a few seconds. This is called the aeration process.
- Put the tip of the wand back to its previous position–fully submerged into the milk. Tilt the pitcher away from you at a 45-degree angle. If you observe the steaming, you will see a vortex forming around the wand.
- As the milk expands, slowly pull down the pitcher while still making sure that the tip is submerged into the milk. Continue steaming until you achieve 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Turn the knob off and remove the steaming pitcher. Tap the pitcher softly to remove large bubbles formed. The milk's appearance should be smooth and glossy.
- Swirling the steamed milk will ensure that the foam is incorporated well into your milk and make a velvety beverage later on.
- Wipe the steam wand with a damp cloth and purge it once more to remove excess milk particles.
Once you have your steamed milk ready, it's time to make your cappuccino.
- Prepare your perfectly textured milk using the steps above.
- Brew your espresso shots. How many shots of coffee in a cappuccino? Depends on how many you desire. Use more if you want your coffee to be more intense.
- Once the steaming is finished, swirl the pitcher to avoid the milk and foam from separating.
- When the espresso shots are done brewing, pour your desired amount into your vessel.
- Free-pour milk onto the coffee, ensuring that the foam is poured with the milk.
- Garnish with chocolate or cinnamon powder on top.
There you have it! We've shared with you the basic things to know about the popular drink and its differences from other espresso beverages as well. We hope that this knowledge can somehow help you identify what coffee to order once you go visit a coffee house.
Not only do you have more knowledge about cappuccino, but you also know now how to make your own in the convenience of your home. We are all fully aware that the process of steaming milk for this beverage is a little more complicated. But, with practice, you will be able to prepare a perfect cappuccino in no time!