10 Best Cappuccino Makers | March 2017
- easy for beginners to use
- large illuminated buttons
- auto shutoff after 30 minutes
- compatible with nespresso pods
- half-quart milk reservoir
- heats up in just 60 seconds
- large steam pressure knob
- optional pod adapter kit available
- solid chromed brass portafilter
- bright color touchscreen
- removable coffee grounds collector
- adjustable coffee strength and size
- half-pound sealed hopper
- adjustable grind size
- clean me indicator light
- includes 3 types of portafilters
- powerful boiler heats up quickly
- marine-grade brass components
- allows for drink customization
- integrated conical burr grinder
- easy- to-use digital touchscreen
It's All In the Details
You've probably heard by now that it was the Capuchin (Cappuccini, in Italian) monks who first came up with the frothy cafe staple.
But some sources beg to differ, saying the drink's name was inspired only by the tan-brown color of the monks' rumpled garb. (Which is also how the Capuchin monkey got its name. But that's another story.)
At any rate, we can't really talk about the story of cappuccino without talking about the tale of espresso. The first espresso machine was patented in 1905 by Luigi Bezzera and Desidero Pavoni. It allowed cafes to prep the sought-after drink with almost scary precision.
In fact, coffee machine producer Illy defines the espresso-making process this way: "A jet of hot water at 88°-93° C (190°-200°F) passes under a pressure of nine or more atmospheres through a seven-gram (.25 oz) cake-like layer of ground and tamped coffee. Done right, the result is a concentrate of not more than 30 ml (one oz) of pure sensorial pleasure."
What's more, and this is all true, the Italian Espresso National Institute (INEI), "has defined the parameters under which a genuine espresso can be produced," according to a University of Hertfordshire (England) study.
"It’s all about precision and consistency and finding the perfect balance between grind, temperature, and pressure. Espresso happens at the molecular level," reports the Smithsonian Magazine.
Who knew it was all in the details? And that the details needed studying? And protection? It's kind of like Champagne-making in France. But hotter and with South American roots.
Despite their fierce protection of the brewing process, the Italian espresso powers-that-be are open enough to appreciate quality beans from other countries. And routinely import them for roasting.
The practice of frothing milk for cappuccino came about in the 1920s. In the 1950s, the drink grew popular in England. And of course, Americans got on board -- in a big way -- in the 1980s and 1990s.
So that's the quick and dirty history of cappuccino.
What's In A Roast?
A few simple pointers for rich, flavorful espresso...which results in the best cappuccino:
Start with the freshest beans. You're going for the richest, purest expression of the bean. If beans are stale, you'll get the fullest expression of staleness. Which, even with a frothy topping of steamed milk will probably not satisfy.
If there's no nearby purveyor of fresh whole beans, look for the beans online. This is one instance when high turnover is a plus. Product that's been sitting around in a warehouse somewhere is not ideal.
Stick with a medium roast. Of course, it's all subjective. But some top baristas maintain that darker roasts -- like a lot of what Starbucks has to offer -- will not produce a quality espresso. It's all about personal taste, on the other hand. If darker roasts don't taste bitter to you, then feel free to utilize them.
Serve immediately upon preparing. The word 'espresso' not only describes the prep process but also speed of delivery to the customer. Since you're your own customer, aim to please yourself. Don't let fresh espresso or cappuccino sit around for long before you drink it.
Wild About Pairings
They say, in Italy, espresso is never served after breakfast time. But hey, this isn't Italy. So here are a few suggestions to make the most of your espresso or cappuccino experience.
Pastries - Well, it's a good place to start. After all, what complements the intensity of the drink better than a mildly sweet baked good. Indulge in a croissant or pain au chocolat. Or get more creative, and pair cappuccino with a double-chocolate muffin or a breakfast fruit tart (apple, cherry, apricot) or coffeecake (cinnamon, cheese, crumb-topped).
Cakes - Chocolate or Devil's Food tops the list. Because coffee and chocolate go so well together. But for a departure, consider lemon cake or plain sponge. (Dipping sponge cake into coffee or tea is a tradition in some countries.)
Pie - Good ol' apple makes good ol' sense. But, if you have a sweet tooth, consider mince pie. At the milder end of the spectrum lies unflavored or vanilla custard pie.
Other Desserts - Who can resist a true chocolate mousse with straight espresso or cappuccino? You might be awake for more than a few hours afterward, so plan accordingly. Other rich matches include plain cheesecake and tiramisu. A true French millefeuille or an Italian millefoglie would also be lip-smackin' good.
Of course, a cappuccino could even class up a frozen Toaster Strudel or Eggo waffle! The idea is to choose a food that complements the robust intensity of your coffee drink.