Nothing feels more luxurious than enjoying a rich, foamy cappuccino at your favourite coffee shop. The thick, bubbly milk and strong dark coffee make a tantalizing duo that satisfies any coffee craving in an instant.
The cappuccino is often considered a tricky drink to make as every barista will assure you that an espresso machine is an essential piece of kit to get this drink made correctly. Whilst this is true, an espresso machine is the best option for the classic cappuccino, you can actually make this drink without one.
There is a huge range of options to brew a cappuccino without an espresso maker from using a stovetop set-up to simply shaking it up with a mason jar, I guarantee there’s a method here that you can try without having to purchase any equipment.
We’ll start with looking into the basic elements that make up a cappuccino and then there’s a range of methods to pick and choose so you can give it a go at home. Let’s get brewing!
What Is A Cappuccino?
A cappuccino is pretty commonplace and appears on most menus in coffee shops and restaurants. It’s a speciality coffee made from espresso, steamed milk, and topped with milk foam.
Due to the light, airy texture of the milk, it has a darker taste when compared to a latte as the rich coffee flavours shine through quite intensely.
How To Make Cappuccino
To make a cappuccino you need two ingredients. Espresso coffee and steamed milk. The drink volume is made up of ⅓ espresso to ⅓ steamed milk and topped with ⅓ milk foam.
You brew the espresso first, gently pour in the liquid milk, and then top with the foam by spooning it on top or pouring it gently onto the surface. A cappuccino can be garnished with a sprinkle of cocoa or cinnamon if you like.
The typical way a barista will make this drink is by using an espresso machine to brew the coffee and then a steam wand to steam the milk. If you don’t have an espresso maker at home then don’t worry.
There are loads of adaptations you can choose to make this delicious drink from the comfort of your own home without splurging on an expensive espresso machine.
To make ‘true’ espresso you really do need an espresso machine that can create around 9-10 bars of pressure as it brews the shot. This high-pressure system takes engineering and this is why these machines end up so expensive.
Thankfully, there are ways you can create espresso-like coffee at home and you’ll barely notice the difference once the cappuccino is all layered up.
The Italian Moka pot or stovetop espresso maker makes an espresso-like drink using steam pressure. It only manages around 1 to 2 Bars of pressure so isn’t ‘true’ espresso but works extremely well to make a dark, concentrated shot of coffee that tastes delicious when made into a cappuccino.
These coffee makers are inexpensive to buy, easy to use, and will last you a lifetime.
Another fantastic option to make espresso-like coffee at home is to use an Aeropress. This coffee maker works a bit like a large syringe and creates a small amount of pressure, around 1.5 Bars, to brew the coffee as you press the plunger.
Again, these coffee makers are inexpensive, very easy to use, and last a long time. They make a rich, yet sweet, cup of coffee that’s similar enough to espresso. You will never tell the difference in your cappuccino.
Cold Brew Concentrate
We’re getting a bit further away from espresso now but cold brew concentrate can make a really great, low effort, espresso substitute if you don’t mind waiting a while. Cold brew is the process where coffee is extracted slowly (over 12-18 hours) in cold water to give a lovely depth of flavour and a coffee that’s very low in acidity.
It’s usually brewed at a ratio of around 7:1 water to coffee but if we’re using it for cappuccino I’d recommend upping it to a 4:1 ratio so there’s a lot more coffee in there.
Stew the coarsely ground coffee beans in cold water for at least 12 hours or overnight and then strain away the coffee. You could use a cheesecloth, tea strainer, or french press to do this. This leaves the cold brew concentrate and you can heat this up (do not boil!) to use as an espresso substitute.
The final option for an espresso substitute is to just brew very strong coffee. You can do this by simply upping the ratio of coffee to water and use a French press, pour-over, drip machine, or any other brew device you have to hand. As with cold brew, it’s not espresso-like coffee but it will make a lovely strong coffee that will go well in a homemade cappuccino.
Now we have our coffee brewed and ready to go the next ingredient we need is foamed milk. Although full-fat dairy milk or half and half foams really well, any kind of milk can be used.
If you do decide to go nut or plant-based then try to choose a barista blend as these contain ingredients that help the milk to hold the microfoam bubbles after it’s been frothed.
How To Froth Milk
The gold standard when it comes to making cappuccino is to use a steam wand. These use pressurized water to create a jet of steam that aerates and heats the milk creating a thick, foamy texture. You can buy steam wand machines or even stovetop options but they are pretty expensive.
Milk Frother Jug
A milk frother jug is an ideal investment if you love a cappuccino. The jug swirls and mixes the milk to give it that thick microfoam effect at the simple press of a button. Some jugs will heat the milk as well which is a good feature to look out for.
Milk Frother Wand
The foam wand is a bit like a mini electric whisk that works to froth the milk when it’s submerged. They are very easy to use and not too costly to buy. These don’t heat the milk for you so you need to warm it first on the stove or in the microwave.
French Press/Manual Milk Frother
If you don’t have any fancy milk frothing equipment to hand but you’re craving a cappuccino then you’ll be pleased to discover that you can use a humble french press to create foamy milk.
All you need to do is add cold milk to around halfway, press the plunger up and down quite fast for around 20 seconds, or until the milk has doubled in volume. The milk can be heated in the microwave to help set the foam and then you can scoop it out to layer on your coffee.
A manual milk frother jug works in exactly the same way as this by using a mesh plunger to aerate the milk. These devices are designed with a fine mesh and are often safe to use on the stovetop to heat the milk as well.
A very easy DIY way to froth milk at home is to grab a mason jar or any clean, empty jar with a secure lid. Add your cold milk and fix the lid in place. Shake the jar vigorously up and down for up to a minute to get plenty of air incorporated into the liquid. Remove any metal lids and heat the milk in the microwave to set the foam.
A hand-held blender, stand-up blender, or food processor works to incorporate air into milk in a similar manner to the french press or jar method. Blend the milk on high speed for 20-30 seconds to get it really foamy, then heat it up before adding to the coffee.
Whisk It Up
The final method for creating a foamy texture in your milk is to use a handheld or electric whisk. You can whisk the milk as it heats in a saucepan over a medium heat. It’s best to use a spiral whisk as these create a better frothy texture to the milk.
The whisking method doesn’t thicken the milk very well and works better if you use double or single cream.
There we have it. Loads of really adaptable ways to make a cappuccino at home, no matter what equipment you have to hand. All you need is coffee, some milk, and a little bit of know-how and you can enjoy this delicious drink from the comfort of your own kitchen!
This was a guest post from Kieran MacRae resident coffee expert at Above Average Coffee