Foolproof Guide To Perfect Cappuccinos and Lattes

Cappuccinos and Lattes

The espresso should be brewed into a pre-warmed demitasse.

The freshly frothed milk should reach a temperature of about 145º Fahrenheit and then be given a few moments to rest so the foam can come to the top, with the milk on the bottom.  This will also help you layer the milk and espresso.

To ensure that you create very creamy and velvety milk, make sure and closely follow the directions for Steaming Milk/Aerating Foam.

For a Cappuccino, pour the steamed milk into the cup, filling the bottom third of the cup. Next, slowly pour the espresso into the steamed milk. Then spoon the frothed milk onto the top until the cup is full.
Done correctly, the espresso will settle nicely between the milk and the foam.

For a latte, use a double shot of espresso and about 5 ounces of steamed milk—use a spoon to hold back the foam as you pour.  Then top it off with just a very small amount of foam.  Lattes are best served in a large bowl-shaped cup.

Making Flavored Gourmet Coffee Drinks

When using flavored syrups, add the syrup directly to the espresso and then stir thoroughly before adding steamed or cold milk. This will help the syrup dissolve and mix thoroughly.

Many high quality flavored syrups are available to flavor any kind of gourmet coffee drink. Some of the more common flavors are vanilla, hazelnut, Irish crème, caramel, peppermint, and butter rum.

Steaming Milk/Aerating Foam

The steamed milk for your espresso drink should be creamy and velvety, and the foam should be tasty and rich—not large-bubbled, and not dry like a meringue that just floats on top.

If the steaming and aerating is done right, the silky and frothy steamed milk and smooth, high quality foam will create a harmony of flavors in your espresso. To experience this true delight follow the steps below:

Step 1: Preparation
Fill your steaming pitcher to 1/3 full with cold milk, which should double or triple in volume if frothed properly.

Use milk just out of the refrigerator—1% or 2% milk creates better foam than whole milk, and with a better taste than low fat. The more fat there is in the milk the less the volume will rise, though a higher fat milk or cream can provide a richer taste and texture.

Purge the Water—Place a damp towel over the top of the steam wand and release the valve for a few seconds to purge the water so you don’t get any in your milk.  Be careful—the steam is hot!

Step 2: Steaming
Submerge the steaming wand into the milk and turn on the steam power—try not to let the tip of the wand come out of the milk because it will cause splattering and create large, tasteless bubbles.

Point the wand slightly off center so the milk begins to flow rapidly in a circular motion.  Keep this vortex circulating with the tip of the wand just below the top of the milk.

You should hear a hissing noise like something frying on the grill—this is the place that is optimal for injecting air into the milk.

If your pitcher is positioned properly you won’t need to move it at all—the pressure and angle will keep the milk moving in a circular motion.  As the milk’s volume expands and rises you will need to slowly lower the steaming pitcher.

CoffeeMan Dan says, “Remember the tip of the steam wand should always be just below the surface.  The rapid flow of the milk should cause any large bubbles that form to roll back into the milk and disappear. Remember, the trick to a creamy quality milk is aerating as you steam—the bubbles should be so small you barely see them.”

Step 3: The “Sweet Spot”
Find the “sweet spot” that causes a layer of foam to form without creating big bubbles in the milk. For tiny, velvety bubbles make sure to continue the rolling action of the milk with the wand tip just “kissing” the surface as evidenced by the hissing noise.

When the milk reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, stop steaming because overheating (scalding) the milk will create a bad taste.

Step 4: Troubleshooting
If you are getting too many bubbles and not enough foam then submerge the steam wand a bit more to build up more steam pressure.  When you hear a high-pitched sound, then begin to aerate.

For a cappuccino, which needs lots of foam, let the steam wand stay at the surface longer.

You can tap the bottom of the pitcher (lightly) on the counter a few times to get rid of any large bubbles.

Step 5: Cleaning Tip
Wipe the Wand—After steaming milk, use the folded, wet towel to wipe off the steaming wand. Then give the wand a quick blast of steam into the towel to remove any remaining milk.

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Coffee Fun Fact:  The resemblance of the peak of foam atop a cappuccino drink to a Capuchin friar’s habit led to the name of the popular espresso drink.

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