How To Make A Great Latte Or Cappuccino Coffee
By Charles Hopkins
Published 01/2/2008 | Food & Drink
Imagine starting out your exciting day in Paris with a true continental
breakfast, consisting of a hot milky latte coffee accompanied by a
croissant served with plum jam. Or perhaps imagine yourself sitting
down to a foamy cappuccino as your morning coffee, while looking out
over the blue Mediterranean from high on the cliffs on Italy's Amalfi
If you make your hot milky coffee in the traditional French or
Italian ways you can let your imagination take you to all sorts of
romantic places while you enjoy your cup of coffee prepared in the
authentic style of the destination of your choice.
A latte made in the French style uses steamed milk, while the
Italian style cappuccino froths the milk. The difference is subtle, but
important. In both cases, an espresso machine gives you the best
results. Not long ago only commercial businesses could afford an
espresso machine, but today there are many affordable models available
for use in the home.
For both steaming and frothing the milk, you need to start with
cold milk. You can't expect good results trying to foam milk that has
already been steamed, for example. It is best to keep both the milk and
pitcher chilled in your fridge.
A stainless steel pitcher works best, and for foaming milk a bell shape gives better results than a straight sided pitcher.
To steam milk, you can fill the pitcher to around two thirds with
milk, but for foaming milk it should be filled to only about one third.
To match your servings, choose a smaller pitcher size for use at home
compared to the ones you see designed for making enough to serve
several cups in a commercial coffee shop.
Before starting, run a burst of steam through the steaming wand to clear the jets, and make sure the wand is clean.
To steam the milk, bury the wand in the milk to just above the base
of the pitcher, turn the steam on full, and hold the wand steady in one
position. You are aiming to heat the milk to 170 degrees Fahrenheit or
76 degrees centigrade. Above 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 93 degrees
centigrade the milk will scald, and the taste will alter sufficiently
to ruin your coffee. An expert barista or coffee maker is able to judge
the temperature by the sound of the steaming, but until you master this
art you may want to use a thermometer attached to the side of your
To foam the milk, the difference is that you place the wand just
below the surface of the milk, and move it about to combine air into
the milk to create a thick foam with fine and uniform sized bubbles.
You are aiming for the same milk temperature as when steaming. Again,
experts can judge the right temperature by the sound.
An ideal foam for a cappuccino can be assessed by waiting about 20
seconds, then taking some of the foamed milk in a dry spoon. The foam
should be thick enough that it will not fall off the spoon when it is
turned upside down.
To make the cup of latte coffee, add two thirds steamed milk to a
one third of a cup shot of espresso. For a cappuccino, hold back the
foamed milk to pour out one third steamed milk into the espresso, and
then add one third foamed milk to top off the cup. Sometimes a latte is
described as a flat white because it does not use the foamed milk.
A cappuccino is usually served with a sprinkling of cinnamon or chocolate to taste.
Then sit back and enjoy your coffee while you dream of distant places.