Cappuccino is one of the most popular and well-known coffee drinks in the world. A combination of espresso, steamed milk, and foam, the drink is a coffee house staple. While there are many different assertions about what makes a perfect cup, the allure of the drink is at least partially its atmospheric capabilities, which can give the lucky drinker a cozy and brief trip to a European cafe.
The drink is named for an order of Franciscan monks called the Capuccini. Despite being the established origin of the name, experts argue about why the beverage is named for the monks. Some suggest it is because the espresso matched the color of the monks’ robes, while others insist that a monk invented the drink in the 17th century and named it after his order. Most origin stories are thought to be apocryphal, but for one reason or another, the drink is named for the monks.
A basic cappuccino is made with a single shot of espresso. What makes the drink unique is the proportion and texture of the added steamed milk and foam. Correctly steamed milk should have a glossy and silky appearance, and should be free of large bubbles. The hot milk is poured into the espresso, usually with a generous scoop of foam on top.
These drinks can be made to fit individual tastes by varying the foam and milk content. A dry cap, or cappuccino scuro has less milk and usually only a hint of foam. Alternatively, a wet version or cappuccino chiaro can be made with extra foam, although adding too much milk will turn the drink into a latte, which may be a serious affront to coffee-drinking purists.
Putting toppings on the drink has become popular in modern times, and can make it look elegant and beautiful. Some people sprinkle cinnamon or cocoa powder on top, or other spices like cloves and nutmeg. Especially skilled baristas are capable of pouring the foam into graphic designs, often to form initials or hearts.
Occasionally, coffee shops will attempt to market an iced or frozen version of this coffee. While this drink may be tasty in its own right, it does not actually fit the profile of the drink. Usually, these drinks are just iced lattes in disguise, as frothing cold milk is complicated and rarely used to top drinks that claim to be iced cappuccinos.
To make a cappuccino at home, a person will likely need a standard espresso maker. Not only will this brew the espresso for the drink, most include a frothing wand for steaming and foaming milk. If the machine does not have a wand, drink foamers can be purchased separately and used on heated or microwaved milk. With this equipment, making perfect drinks is a matter of practice, patience, and discovering the drinker's personal preference.