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So following on from the flat White recipe we published two weeks ago, we had planned on doing another 3 minute recipe going over a cappuccino.

But a cappuccino is actually quite difficult to define, with the same name being given to a number of different drinks. For example, a cappuccino at an espresso bar on the streets of Venice might vastly different to the cappuccino you normally get at your local specialty coffee shop in the UK or US.

If you have seen our ‘coffee shop drinks menu explained’ video, we briefly touched on the fact that there are kind of two broad categories of cappuccino. So today you’re going to get two recipes in one, inspired by both traditional Italian and modern specialty coffee cultures. First up, the traditional Italian Cappuccino.

How to Make an Italian Cappuccino

Typically featuring a dark roast coffee and heavy foamed milk, a traditional Italian cappuccino is a small breakfast drink that is definitely worth trying. If you go on holiday to Italy, it can unfortunately be quite easy to receive a low-quality cappuccino. It could be a poorly extracted and watery shot of espresso, with milk that has been steamed far too hot and tastes of cooked egg.

A lot of the time it’s safer to order an espresso but, when done properly, a traditional Italian espresso can be quite delicious. So here’s how to make one yourself.

For a true traditional Italian cappuccino you’ll want to use a dark roast coffee, one where you can visibly see some oils on the surface of the beans. These will have more roasty flavour notes like chocolates, caramels and nuts, and can be quite delicious when made with high quality raw coffee.

You’ll want to brew a ristretto style shot to make a small and very concentrated base for your milk, so I’m going to go with an 18 gram dose to 27 grams of espresso meaning a 1:1.5 ratio. Extract separately into two small cups and just serve one of these.

Next you’re going to steam the milk and focus on quickly injecting a lot of air into jug, we’re really trying to get thick dense milk foam here. Inject the air quickly so that you then have time to break down any big bubbles into creamy microfoam.

Grab a spoon and use it to slow down the flow out of your pitcher, then when your cup is nearly full you can scoop a thin layer of the dense milk foam left in the pitcher. And there you’ll have a traditional Italian style cappuccino.


Modern Specialty Coffee Cappuccino Recipe

And following on from that we have the modern specialty coffee style of espresso. The main points of differentiation here from the Italian style is a lighter roast and typically higher quality coffee, with a thinner milk texture and less foam. I’d guess that this came about naturally as skilled baristas still wanted to show off their latte art when serving a cappuccino rather than serving the thick foam we saw in the Italian version.

For a specialty cappuccino you’re going to go for a medium or light roasted, traceable and high-quality coffee which will typically be lower in bitterness, be a little sweeter and might have some sweet and fruity flavour notes. The final size of the drink stays roughly the same, but we’ll be brewing a larger double shot of espresso and using a longer ratio recipe typically between 1:2 and 1:3.

So using 18 grams of coffee we’ll be aiming for a 40g double shot of espresso in 28 seconds, poured into a 6 ounce cup. You’ll want to steam your milk using a medium amount of air, which isn’t too helpful but if you pour into a glass you’ll want to see about a centimetre of foam above the milk. This is just thin enough to still allow you to pour latte art.


Should you Add Chocolate Powder to a Cappuccino?

There’s another point to mention that people will disagree on, whether you add chocolate powder to your cappuccino or not. This is one of those things for me that just comes down to personal preference, so if you’re serving a cappuccino I’d recommend asking the customer what they would prefer.

For the traditional Italian version, I would add a light dusting of chocolate powder over the top of the milk foam. However, for the specialty version, I like adding the chocolate on top of the double shot of espresso before pouring the milk, which adds an interesting effect to the latte art. Either way I think chocolate powder is a nice addition to a cappuccino but especially so with the traditional version to enhance and balance out the flavour of the darker roasted coffee.