Cappuccino at Home - The Key to Success!

Had a customer come into our store on Friday buying Coffee for a dinner party over the week-end. As the conversation developed it became apparent that despite having a fancy built in espresso machine in his kitchen he'd never really been that happy with quality of drink he was achieving - this had been going on for 2 years! I then proceeded to give him the following advice which hopefully will mean that his guests got something special (waiting on a report!)

1. Ensure machine has heated up properly - once temperature reached run at least a cup full of water through the group head with the group handle in place, but no coffee. This will hopefully get everything up to temperature and correct extraction will occur. 

2. His machine had its own built in grinder. Assuming coffee is fresh (absolutely in this case) monitor the speed at which the water is passing through the coffee. Should be looking at 20 seconds minimum for an espresso quantity - 1 fl.oz. Much faster and the flavour won't be picked up which in turn means that the grinder will need adjusting. Manufacturers hand book comes into play. 

3. Keep the "shots" of coffee short. Try not to run an excessive amount of water through the coffee. After around 1 fl.oz. all the best flavours have been extracted. In my view if you want a longer drink, just add water. You'll retain the sweetness of the coffee this way. So ask yourself how big the cup is, how strong do I like my coffee and finally do I therefore put in 1 shot or 2? 

Now assuming you want to make a cappuccino, just as much care needs to be taken over the foaming of the milk. 

4. Start with fresh cold milk and a good quality pitcher appropriate to the amount of milk you wish to foam. Fill to about 1/3rd; you'll need the additional space for the foam. 

5. Get rid of any excess moisture in the steam wand by venting it prior to placing in the milk. 

6. Position steam wand in milk and open up steam vent. Immediately raise steam wand to just 1mm above the surface of the milk. Tilt the pitcher so that you create a "whirlpool" effect in the milk. The milk should start to "stretch" and the foam you create should have "micro" bubbles - appears very creamy. 

7. To help you monitor the temperature of the milk place your hand on the base of the pitcher. Once you can only just touch the metal surface the milk is ready. You may need to drop the steam wand into the foamed milk for a bit to raise its temperature. 

8. Try "free pouring" the milk onto the espresso coffee moving from a high pour to a low pour as you fill the cup. This will help lift the "crema" of the coffee and allow you to achieve the classic cappuccino appearance.

The key to great cappuccino - keep everything short!