Exploring the Cappuccino World

As the largest coffee-consuming nation, it was only a matter of time before this obsession led Americans directly to the satisfyingly rich flavor of Cappuccinos. Its popularity has never been higher and is a trend not likely to run out of steam.

Cappuccinos are typically prepared with a demitasse full of espresso coffee and roughly equal parts of steamed milk and frothed milk. The key to making a fabulous cappuccino lies in learning how to properly steam the cold milk so that it produces dense froth.

Nearly every espresso machine is equipped with a steaming nozzle. Cold, whole milk is used to make a cappuccino, although 2% reduced fat milk works equally well. A container or pitcher that is wider on the bottom than at the top is considered the efficient shape for the job. The vessel should be no more than half full with milk at the beginning of the procedure.

Place the tip of the nozzle just under the surface of the milk and slowly release the steam. To prevent scalding the milk, the pitcher should be moved in a circular motion. When done properly, the bubbles of the frothed milk should be compact, tightly knit, and long lasting, similar to the head of a well-crafted beer. Once the milk is frothed, carefully pour some of the steamed milk—about 3 to 4 ounces—into the espresso, and then spoon on the frothed milk.

Should you field the request for a dry cappuccino, it is prepared with a larger percentage of frothed milk. A brevé cappuccino is made using half & half instead of milk. On the other hand, a skinny cappuccino is prepared with nonfat milk.

There are several popular variations of the cappuccino. The café au lait is served in an over-sized cup and made with a demitasse of espresso coffee—or strong, freshly brewed coffee—that is highly diluted with steamed milk. The proportion of milk to coffee is often made with one part espresso to four to eight parts steamed milk. A thin layer of frothed milk is often floated on top.

The caffè latte originated in Italy and is similar in most respects to the café au lait. In Europe the caffè latte is typically prepared using one demitasse of espresso and four parts steamed milk with no froth. In America, the drink is popularly served as one part espresso diluted by four to six parts steamed milk and one part frothed milk.


Creative Variations of the Cappuccino

One obvious twist on the cappuccino is to make it with decaf espresso. Cappuccinos can be ordered as “tall” (served in a 12 ounce cup), “grandé” (served in a 16 ounce cup), or “short” (served in a 6-8 ounce cup). A double cappuccino is made with two demitasses worth of espresso

The mochaccino, which is also known as the café mocha, is a cappuccino made with either frothed chocolate milk or a healthy portion of chocolate syrup or powdered cocoa. The drink is called a Vienna cappuccino when made with equal parts of espresso, hot cocoa and whipped cream. The caramella is a cappuccino with added caramel sauce.

Both the mochaccino and caramella can be modified with a splash of vanilla (café vanilla) or orange syrup (mandarin mocha). The butterscotch cappuccino or latte is made with a dose of butterscotch syrup. Since the taste of coffee and chocolate works equally well with any and all of these three flavors, why not experiment with the various syrups and create your own specialty mochaccino.

So go ahead, add a scoop of French vanilla ice cream to your cappuccino. Splash in some chocolate syrup or caramel sauce. Drop in a dollop of whipped cream and crumble a fudge brownie on top. The creative possibilities are only bounded by one’s imagination.

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