How to make a Cappuccino

A Photo of a cappuccino with the text How to Make a Cappuccino

Coffee lovers everywhere enjoy the light, foamy cappuccino they get at their favorite coffee shops.

Some cafes serve extra-large, or iced drinks they claim are cappuccinos, but those arent real cappuccinos. A cappuccino is an Italian drink made in thirds. It needs to have a third espresso, third steamed milk, and a third foam.  A traditional cappuccino is always served warm and is only 6 ounces. But when done well, those 6 ounces are all you need.
If you have decided to invest in an espresso machine, the next step is learning how to craft your cappuccinos at home.

A clear glass illustrated the 3-part ratio of a traditional cappuccino

Tips to Get Started:

  • Turn on your machine about 20 minutes before you make your drink.
  • Pour between 3 to 4 ounces of cold milk, or milk alternative, into your steam pitcher.
  • Purge the steam wand before frothing. This will heat the wand and get rid of any excess water.
Be sure to steam the milk before you pull your espresso shot so that your espresso shots dont turn. Espresso will begin to lose its flavor and become flat if it sits out too long.  

Steaming milk with an espresso machine

Heating the milk

The key to constructing your delicious and gorgeous cafe-worthy Cappuccino is microfoam.

Microfoam is foam thoroughly incorporated into the milk instead of just the top layers. This foam has a glossy shine and sweetened taste. You wont master your milk frothing technique on the first try, but give it a little time and practice, and you will be an at-home barista in no time. During the frothing process, you need to keep the end of the wand just below the surface of the milk so that you occasionally hear a ripping, sucking sound.  You will also need to have the tip in the correct horizontal position.
If your steam wand has one hole, keep it to off-center and at an angle to swirl the milk; if it has 3 or 4 holes, keep it in the center and pointed straight down. When done correctly, your milk will create a vortex that incorporates larger air bubbles into the milk until a velvety smooth microfoam is achieved.


Steps for the perfect frothed cappuccino milk.

  • Keep the pitcher straight.

  • Keep the tip of the wand just below the surface of the milk half-way between the center and side of the pitcher at a 45-degree angle.

  • Turn on the steam wand to full blast and create a vortex with the milk. To get the foam you want, you should aim to hear a ripping and sucking sound as air is incorporated into the milk.

  • When the milk reaches room temperature, submerge the tip fully and keep the cyclone going in the pitcher. This is where you create your microfoam. (Forgetting this step will cause large, aggressive bubbles).

  • Your milk is ready when the pitcher is hot to the touch. The perfect cappuccino is served between 150-160 degrees. You dont want to heat your milk hotter than 160 degrees, or you risk scalding the milk which changes the flavor and texture.

  • Immediately wipe the wand and purge.

  • Gently swirl the milk and give the pitcher a couple of taps against the counter to remove any large bubbles.

pulling an espresso shot

Now it is time to pull your shot.

Espresso Grind

Always use fresh roasted coffee when crafting your beverages. Fill the portafilter with 14-18 grams of espresso-ground coffee for a double-shot. Remember to grind the espresso beans in a burr grinder for added freshness and consistency. Check out our blog to find tips on the perfect espresso grind.

three portafilters filled with coffee beans, ground coffee, tamped coffee

 tamped coffee in a portafilter

Tamp the espresso

  • Level the grounds. Put the measured coffee into the portafilter.

  • Tamp your grounds in the portafilter with an even 15-30 pounds of pressure.

  • Insert the portafilter and pull a 1 -2 oz shot.

  • Check your timer. The ideal brewing time for your espresso is between 20 - 30 seconds. Experimenting with the grind and dosage of your coffee will let you control the flavor.

pouring steamed milk into cup with espresso

Mixing your drink

With your milk frothed and your shot pulled, all that is left is to craft your cappuccino.

  • Swirl your milk to reincorporate the foam with the milk.

  • Pour your espresso shot(s) in your 6 oz cup.

  • Pour your frothed milk over the espresso in your cup to incorporate it into a cappuccino

  • If you like a Dry cappuccino (more foam and less milk) you will spoon the foam on top of your espresso shots. First you will tap the pitcher a few times, which will help separate the foam from the milk. Then with a large spoon scoop the foam out of your pitcher and gently plop it onto your espresso shots.



You have your cappuccino.

Let us know how your first at-home cappuccino turned out by leaving a comment below, on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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