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The cappuccino isn’t just a wave of creamy milk and bold espresso; it’s the art of foam.

Though not quite as popular a drink order as its sibling espresso drink the latte, it has its own unique legion of caffeinated followers who wake up in the morning craving this slight drink with an emboldened espresso flavor and frothier mouthfeel. All thanks to the careful creation of foam.

Overview of the Cappuccino

Whittled down to the basics, the cappuccino is made up of three components: espresso, milk, and milk foam. Some add a cube of sugar for sweetness, but otherwise the cappuccino prides itself on being a back-to-basics espresso beverage that’s typically without flavoring and has a more espresso-forward taste than the latte.

The cappuccino was popularized in the United States in the 1980s and was first referenced—as we know it today, anyway—as “Kapuziner” in Vienna, roughly translated to “coffee with cream and sugar” but doubling as a reference to the Capuchin (“hood”) friars, who wore brown, hooded robes similar in color to the drinks. When the drink evolved in Italy circa 1900, Italians dubbed the drink the “Cappuccino.”

In the early days of the espresso machine, this drink was, alongside lattes, a hot commodity in cafes that cultivated a culture of relaxing with coffee and engaging in conversation. At this point, the cappuccino was served with whipped cream and toppings, like shaved chocolate or a dusting of cinnamon.

By the end of World War II, espresso machines had advanced to the point they could better balance and froth milk, and the drink became simplified, ditching the added toppings. In Europe, the drink was popularized early, partly thanks to the English custom to drink coffee with milk anyway. It has largely been considered—and more or less continues to be—a morning coffee drink.

How to Make a Cappuccino with an Espresso Machine

How do you make a cappuccino? For best results, it’s ideal to have an espresso machine and steaming wand to make a cappuccino. Below, how to make the perfect cappuccino.

  • Gather materials. What you’ll need: enough coffee for 2 ounces of espresso (about a tablespoon ground), a 2 percent or whole milk of your choice, a streaming wand, a metal pitcher, a ceramic cup, and a spoon.
  • Measure the milk. You’ll want about 4 ounces of milk. If you would rather eyeball it, measure out enough to fill the metal pitcher about one-third of the way to the top. The milk should be cold.
  • Insert the tip of the wand into the milk. When the milk starts to foam to the top, tilt the pitcher and the wand so that there’s a vortex. The temperature should be 65 degrees when finished; swirl the milk side to side, gently.
  • Brew 2 ounces of espresso. Pour this into a cappuccino cup. (Anything larger and the drink will appear … underwhelming.)
  • Pour the foamed milk on top of the espresso. Pour from the center and in a circular motion.
  • Enjoy! You now know how to make homemade cappuccino.

How to Make a Cappuccino at Home

Making a cappuccino without a steaming wand at home won’t offer the best result, but it will certainly tackle a craving in a bind.

For those wanting to know how to make cappuccino at home without a machine, here’s the DIY fix for proud microwave owners:

  • Gather a jar. Fill it approximately halfway full with milk. A 2 percent milk is preferable.
  • Shake. Place the lid on the jar and then shake it for about a minute. The milk should be frothing.
  • Heat. Microwave with the lid on for 30 seconds. Take the lid off and then microwave again for 30 more seconds.
  • Pour. By now, the top half of the jar’s milk should be foam and you should be able to pour the milk into the coffee and spoon the lingering foam on top. Do this quickly. If operating without an espresso machine, try using an espresso blend anyway but using an AeroPress.

How to Make Iced Cappuccino

The process for making an iced cappuccino will look a lot like that for making a hot cappuccino—only, it’s important to get the order of the ingredients correct. Start by adding your desired amount of ice, then add the espresso and any flavoring and stir. Finish with foamed milk. For the sake of filling the glass, you may want to add more than the usual 4 ounces of milk to your metal pitcher, though it’s entirely a matter of preference.

For a milkier cappuccino, add a splash of milk to the espresso and ice before pouring the foam. This same effect can be accomplished by frothing the milk less, resulting in a “wet cappuccino.”

While there are definite basics to a cappuccino, there are different ways to adjust it to your personal palate. Ultimately, it’s all up to you and your preferences!

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