There are millions of posts with this title but know well that what in Italy we consider normal, it is in reality a touch of art the world envies us!
The Cappuccino has a fairly recent history, starting in the 20th century, thanks to the creation of the first espresso professional machines. Those machines were italian and therefore we were the first and quickestto create it and to let it become a little work of art!
I had and I still have it, the luck to work in hotels; this made me taste and prepare tons of cappuccinos! I can assure you that it is really difficult to prepare it properly,
In Italy the barman is not a cocktail mixer but also a cafeteria master, leading to quite a big number of skilled cappuccino makers! Altough when I went abroad, specifically in London I totally got the chills down my spine!
The worldwide famous Starbuck Coffee advertizes his “perfect cappuccino” like this: 400 ml of “stuff” divided in 3 parts which are respectively coffee, milk and milk foam. As it was not enough it was served at ultra high temperature making it impossible to drink even after 10 minutes! And it is not all: everything was covered with a holed lid in order to keep it hot and drinkable through the hole…just how many mistakes can be done in only one cappuccino?
In my very modest experience I still can point the ideal form and rules to prepare a good cappuccino at the best of our possibilities!
Let’s start with the dosage: The cappuccino cup can contain roughly 150ml of liquid, definetely not more than that! The cup MUST (it is NOT an option) contain a shot of expresso coffee which is 25ml, mixed with steamed milk made with the steam “lance”.
When you look at it it is creamy, soft and with so little bubbles they are almost invisible. The surface is amber striped and the taste is sweet with a hint of bitterness and caramel. Whenever a cappuccino is made it must be immediately drinkable and its temperature should never surpass 55°. The milk cream we obtain has to be mixed to the coffee to the point we cannot distinguish it from milk and coffee!
We can guess when a cappuccino is NOT correctly made when:
- when we drink it we see through the foam the caffellatte
- the foam has big bubbles in it
- the barman beats the steel mug on the counter in order to burst the bigger bubbles
- its temperature is so high you must add cold milk to drink it
- the barman drops the foam in your cup with a spoon
Ideally a cappuccino is so creamy that once drunk the cup should have a layer of its cream on the borders. Lastly the cappuccino should not be separated easily by our spoon that mizes in it some sugar.
In Italy is fairly simple to find proper barmans and this somehow lets people think it is a guaranteed feat of a professional cafeteria.
The thing we must keep in mind is that a sufficient cappuccino is at the reach of almost everyone, totally different is a GREAT cappuccino! Ingredients must be of high quality, good coffee, good machines to powder it and to make the expresso, fresh full fat milk and a lot of practice! We would all like to have it at home but believe me that it is impossible to make it without a professional machine!What are therefore the steps to take into consideration for an awesome cappuccino?
Let’s start from the expresso. It is the simplest part to a certain degree. Most of the expresso quality is obtained through the choice of the coffee and the strict following of the procedures to powder it and to use its expresso machine. Basicly we have to put the coffee in the dispenser, press it lightly and put it in the machine. The expresso has to show a golden brownish foam over its black colour. The best coffees can make it almost dense. If we fail to press it correctly or to follow the product instructions we may end to burn it, to make it extra long and extra light or extra short AND burned. It is not a tough task but everything has to be taken care of.
And now let’s speak about the milk cream! The first thing to know is that to make a proper cream we have to use a steel mug in order to feel the temperature of the milk through all the process. We can fill maximum half of it with cold milk (roughly 4° celsius) and we immerge the steaming “lance” in it after we take out the condensation. We turn it on bringing its tip nearby the milk surface. The sound we must hear is almost a deep whistle and the soft sound of air through liquid (the practice will help you identifying them). When the temperature is about to be hot we immerge deeply the lance so the cream is well mixed and turn it off. We must remember that is must NOT be piping hot or the cream will not be well dense and its taste will noticeably change!
Now we drop it into the cup filling till the border. A good practice will give our cappuccino the perfect amberish shape. The greatest barmans can even shape drawings on them!
Do you know WHY the milk becomes like a cream? High pressure air introduces in the milk extremely tiny bubbles. If the temperature does not go too high the fats and proteins in the milk will keep them well separated creating the creamy sensation. Raising the temperature will make the fat more liquid anf the bubbles will unite and go towards the higher part of the milk separating. Almost the same thing happens when we beat the mug on the counter: the bubbles will tend to go up and burst, actually wasting all our work!
I dared to post MY cappuccino I made in the hotel but I perfectly know it is well far from perfect also because I do not have the very best ingredient for it! I can assure you thou that every satisfied client for my cappuccinos are a delight!
If you want to aromatize your cappuccino please DO NOT add any powder over it! It will just burst all the milk cream! If you cannot avoid it add the powder after the expresso and before the milk cream! It will help keeping the cappuccino with proper structure!