Sipping a cappuccino at a local coffee house is a great way to start or end your day. But what if you don't feel like leaving home? Luckily, it's possible to create your own favorite coffee drinks from home, including a cappuccino.
So how can you make a cappuccino at home? Just gather a bit of advice, your equipment, and ingredients to recreate a coffee shop favorite from the comfort of your kitchen. Learn more about the drink and how to make a cappuccino at home below, whether you have an espresso machine or plan to use other methods.
What Is a Cappuccino?
A cappuccino combines bold espresso with steamed milk and milk foam. Traditionally, the drink includes equal parts of all three components, but a stronger cappuccino includes a double shot of espresso. For a milder flavor, add more milk and foam — that gives you a richer tasting drink that's sometimes known as a wet cappuccino. If you want to go bold, try a dry cappuccino instead. This version includes less milk mixed in and more milk foam on top.
The flavor of a cappuccino is bold, rich, and warming. It has an enjoyable flavor that's a bit sweet, thanks to the addition of steamed milk. The milk froth on top gives it an indulgent and airy texture. While a traditional cappuccino only includes hot milk, milk foam, and espresso, you can customize yours with sugar, sweeteners, flavored syrups, or add-ins.
If you want an authentic drinking experience for your cappuccino, serve it in a bowl-shaped porcelain cup that holds around five to six ounces. Preheat the cup for an even more authentic and comforting experience. Prefer cold coffee drinks? Try an iced cappuccino. In Italy, this variety has cold milk froth on the top. In America, we add ice or blend the drink with ice to create a cold version.
The popularity of cappuccinos in America has risen within the past few decades, but it's been a classic in Italy for a long time. Cappuccinos, or "cappuccini" in Italian, are a morning or mid-morning drink in Europe. In America, we're happy to drink them any time of day, especially after dinner. No matter when you drink your cappuccinos, learning how to make them at home is a fun and convenient experience.
How to Make a Cappuccino at Home without a Machine
Cappuccinos are easy to make if you break them down into their three components: espresso, hot milk, and milk foam. While an espresso machine will make this process easier, it's still possible to learn how to make a cappuccino at home without a machine. You even have a few options for how to make your cappuccino with a variety of methods and gadgets.
How to Make Espresso at Home
First, let's start with making espresso at home without a machine. To make espresso for your cappuccino at home, you'll need:
- Whole espresso beans or whole dark roast coffee beans
- A burr grinder on a fine setting
- Water and a way to heat it
- A thermometer to make sure you heat the water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit
- A kitchen scale or measuring utensils
With the equipment and ingredients in mind, consider these methods for making an espresso at home without a machine:
- French press. Remove the lid of your French press and add the ground coffee. Add some of the heated water to the coffee and let it bloom for a few seconds. Then, add more water until you reach the halfway point of the French press. Using less water will create a more concentrated brew. Next, secure the lid, and leave the plunger up while the coffee steeps. Then, use even pressure to lower the plunger slowly.
- AeroPress. This device is similar to a French press, but you'll need filters for your AeroPress. Weigh out the desired amount of coffee and water. Rinse a filter and put it on the filter cap. Add your coffee into the AeroPress chamber and slowly pour in the heated water. Swirl the device for a few seconds to combine the water and the coffee. Attach the filter cap, invert the device over a mug, and quickly plunge the espresso into the mug.
- Moka pot. This stovetop device will get you as close to authentic espresso as you can. Add cold water to the lower chamber. Place the funnel in the pot and fill the filter with ground coffee. Attach the upper and lower chambers, then heat the Moka pot slowly over low heat on your stovetop. Boil the water until you hear gurgling, which means water is going into the upper chamber. Carefully check for foam at the funnel spout, and once the chamber is full of coffee and foam comes out of the spout, your espresso is ready. Take the Moka pot off the stove, so your espresso doesn't brew too long.
Before you pour or extract your espresso into your mug, warm it by filling it with hot water and letting it sit as you prepare the espresso. When you're ready, empty the mug, dry it, and pour your espresso in, making sure you have enough room for the milk and foam. Heating your mug will keep your tasty espresso hotter for longer.
How to Make Cappuccino Foam and Steamed Milk
Now that your espresso is ready, you need to steam and foam the milk. Espresso machines have a wand attachment for this process, but there are many ways to froth and steam milk at home.
Measure out an equal amount of milk to the water you used when making espresso, or play around with the ratios to get what you like. Whatever you use, you'll want to heat the milk between 140 and 155 degrees Fahrenheit, then make cappuccino foam with one of these methods:
- Mason jar. With this common household item, all you have to do is add in the hot milk, secure the lid, and shake. Don't fill the jar too much, so you have room for the milk to froth. If the jar is too hot to hold on the outside, wrap it with a dry kitchen towel to help protect your hands. Shake until large bubbles form.
- Whisk. This other common item helps make frothed milk with a bit of effort. You can also use an electric mixer for an easier way to make better quality foam than the jar method. Put your heated milk in a bowl then mix with a back-and-forth motion for the best results.
- Blender. Use either an immersion blender or a countertop blender to froth milk. Mix heated milk in your countertop blender on medium speed until it's frothy. If you're using an immersion blender, put the warm milk into a deep pot. Submerge the stick blender into the milk, ensuring the milk covers the blades. Run it on a low speed until the milk is frothy.
- French press. If you use this device to make espresso, why not use it to make milk foam, as well? Pour in a bit of hot milk, not filling the French press chamber too much. Attach the lid and pump up and down. You may want to wrap the French press in a kitchen towel to help you hold the chamber. Work quick enough to make foam, but be careful not to spill the hot milk. A French press makes foam that's ideal for basic latte art if you want to get fancy with your cappuccino.
- Frothing wand. This small, specialized tool makes it easy to make foam. Heat milk in a mug, then use the small frothing wand to create the foam. If you plan on making a lot of cappuccinos and coffee drinks with foam and steamed milk, it's worth the purchase. You can even use it to whip or froth small amounts of other liquids, like cream, for different drinks.
With your espresso, steamed milk, and foam ready, simply add the milk to the espresso. Pour in the steamed milk if you have a spouted container, or spoon the foam top onto your cappuccino.
How to Make a Cappuccino with an Espresso Machine
While there are plenty of ways to make a cappuccino at home without a machine, the job gets much easier if you have one. Espresso machines are ideal for at-home coffee fans who want to make more complex drinks than the usual drip coffee, but it takes a bit of experience to make your perfect espresso and cappuccino. Remember, even if you use an espresso machine, a cappuccino only consists of three basic parts, so don't let using a machine intimidate you.
Every machine is different, so you'll want to read your equipment's manual and understand how it works. It may take a few tries to get used to your machine and making espresso. In general, here's how to make a cappuccino with an espresso machine, starting with the espresso:
- Fill your espresso machine with clean water.
- Let it preheat.
- Measure and grind the coffee on a fine setting.
- Add the ground coffee to the portafilter, smoothing it out and filling gaps with your finger.
- Use the tamper to press down straight onto the coffee grounds, twisting the tamper before you remove it.
- Tamp the coffee grounds about four times to create a puck of coffee.
- Attach the portafilter to your machine.
- Pull the shot.
Tamping ground coffee for your espresso will take the most practice. To get an idea of how you did, check the puck after brewing. It should look even, solid, and dry. If you notice any water on top, you'll have to tamp with more pressure next time.
Once your espresso is ready, prepare your steamed milk and milk froth. If your espresso machine has a milk frother component, you likely have a milk jug, as well. That's often a metal container that has a handle and a spout. With those on hand, all you'll need is milk or a non-dairy alternative. Here's how to make a cappuccino at home with a milk frother:
- Fill the milk jug a third of the way with cold milk.
- Clean the steam wand with a cloth and clear it out by releasing steam for a few seconds.
- Dip the steam wand about half an inch into the milk.
- Once you begin aerating, it will take a few seconds for the milk to increase in volume by about half.
- Lower the steam wand deeper into the milk — the popping should stop and the milk should stop rising.
- Steam the milk until it warms to around 140 degrees.
- Swirl the milk to ensure the foam is holding together.
- Clean the steam wand and clear it out again by releasing steam once you're done.
You'll then have to pour the steamed milk and foam into your espresso. Pour from a low height, gently wiggling the milk jug. Tip the jug more once you get to the foam, and you're ready to enjoy your homemade cappuccino.
How to Make a Cappuccino with a Nespresso Machine
Of course, a full-fledged espresso machine isn't the only equipment you can use to make espresso for your cappuccino. A Nespresso machine makes espresso that's bold and flavorful, with similar results that you'd get in a Moka pot with minimal effort.
To make your cappuccino, you'll first have to use your Nespresso machine to make the espresso. Just pop in a Nespresso pod and brew away. Nespresso has plenty of machines out there, so be sure to check your manual and learn how yours operates.
Some Nespresso machines make the espresso and froth the milk, but that depends on your machine and its attachments. You can always use one of the at-home methods we described to foam milk without a machine. Combine the components, and you have a simple yet delicious homemade cappuccino.
Our Favorite Cappuccino Recipe
Our favorite cappuccino recipe is the drink in its simplest form. Use four ounces of water for brewing your espresso, and four ounces of milk to steam. Use two tablespoons of coffee, ground on a fine setting, with the four ounces of water for your espresso. Steam the milk with your method of choice, and add to your espresso for a classic, simple cappuccino.
If you want to treat yourself or impress guests with an addition to your cappuccinos and basic latte art, sprinkle on some cinnamon or cocoa powder. Play around with your pour when you add the steamed milk and foam to create basic art, like the classic leaf design. It'll take some practice to create, but it gives your cappuccino a nice finishing touch.
Try Real Good Coffee Co's Pods for Nespresso in Your Next Cappuccino
Based in Seattle with more than 30 years of experience, we at Real Good Coffee Co know coffee — and we love good coffee drinks as much as you do. As coffee purists but not coffee snobs, we focus on the quality of our products instead of fancy labels. Our attention to delicious coffee means you'll make the perfect cappuccino with Real Good Coffee Co's pods for Nespresso. Have another setup for your cappuccino and espresso cravings? Check out our whole coffee beans, available in different naturally flavorful roasts.
Shop our pods for Nespresso and coffee beans to make real good coffee and cappuccinos in your own kitchen.