Cappuccino is along with espresso the typical coffee drink of Italian culture and lifestyle, appreciated and imitated – often unsuccessfully – all over the world. It is a perfect mixture of coffee and milk – a morning must for some, a pleasure to be enjoyed at any time of the day for others.
But why is Italian cappuccino so good? Let’s learn how to prepare it.
INEI (Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano, the national institute for Italian espresso) has set the rules to prepare a Certified Italian Cappuccino by defining ingredients, recipe and the characteristics cups should have.
Coffee – or rather the Certified Italian Espresso – is the very first ingredient, the one which can absolutely not be left out. Milk is obviously the other basic ingredient: fresh cow’s milk at a temperature of 4°C (never use milk at room temperature!), preferably whole milk because it offers the right organoleptic quality and enables a velvety foam to be produced. Ideally, milk should contain at least 3.2% protein and 3.5 % fat for better results. Water also plays an important role in the preparation of cappuccino; it must be odourless, contain no chlorine and be rich in minerals to taste fresh and enhance the coffee aroma.
The ideal ratio of ingredients is 1/5 espresso coffee, 2/5 hot milk, 2/5 foam. Therefore, the quantities for a perfect cappuccino are as follows:
- 25 ml espresso coffee
- 100 to 140 ml creamy frothed milk
- 125 ml foam
STAGE 1 – Frothing
Frothing consists in two phases: firstly, incorporating steam and heating milk; secondly, emulsifying and reaching the ideal temperature.
At this stage, the goal is to get a milk cream, i.e. a soft, smooth, thick foam. The perfect froth is made using cold milk – as milk gets frothed, volume increases and temperature rises (ideally to 60°C, never exceed 70°C!). The “whirlpool technique” allows to refine the emulsion and make the froth softer (a vortex of air and milk is produced within the pitcher).
Tools for the milk frothing process
- Pitcher: ideally, it is made of stainless steel (because of its thermal shock resistance and easy washing) and shaped like a truncated cone with a narrow spout so as to allow steam to be better incorporated and milk to increase in volume.
- Steam wand to froth the milk: it froths and heats the milk by producing dry steam. It must be ergonomic and have a four-hole steam tip.
STAGE 2 – Resting time
Let the milk rest, get aerated and turn into a soft, whipped cream. In the meantime, coffee can be made.
STAGE 3 – Completion
Cappuccino is now ready to be poured and served. Pouring speed, height and pitcher tilt are pivotal to avoid spilling the milk and create the characteristic “coffee ring” on the surface with a disk of creamy foam in the middle.
The cappuccino cup is to be made of white china. Porcelain is not only pleasant to the eye because of its high gloss, it also wears well and is a good conductor of heat. The outer side of the cup should be shaped like a truncated cone, while the bottom should be egg-shaped to enhance the aroma and allow the froth to be homogeneously distributed. The cup – especially the bottom – must be thick enough to adjust the temperature of the cappuccino (by lowering coffee temperature slightly) and keep the drink warm during tasting. On other hand, the upper part must be thin for improved comfort while sipping. The handle has to make sure the cup can be easily lifted and carried with one hand. The right cup capacity is 150-180 ml to be filled with 25 ml coffee and frothed milk to the brim. Cappuccino is to be poured and served in a pre-warmed cup at 40°C. It is recommended to use high-quality cups so that they will last longer and resist to frequent washing cycles.
If all these recommendations are followed, success is guaranteed. But wait, the expertise of the barman always makes the difference!