Cappuccino Woes

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I don’t know how long I’m going to survive my inability to make cappuccino without having a nervous breakdown. This probably says a lot that I don’t want to know about my character, particularly at my age when there’s not much hope of making any appreciable improvements.

Cappuccino at Alfreddo’s in Rome

I spend every solitary meal (Relationnel has gone back to Paris for a day or so) watching cappuccino videos on my iPad in English and in French made by people who get it right every time, each using a different method. Just to depress myself further, I watch cappuccino art videos as well which show how to make dragons and butterflies with rich creamy foam that appears like magic.

Cappuccino in Rue de Richelieu, Paris

I don’t of course have a suitable jug because it’s in my missing suitcase so I’ve ordered two new stainless steel ones from a specialist coffee accessory website. I check every couple of hours to see the progress of the parcel as it winds its way across France. I’m a little worried though that once I get the jugs, I still won’t be able to make the milk froth properly.

Cappuccino in Hong Kong

However, I’ve now found a coffee forum where professional baristas complain about not being able to make a proper cappuccino. I don’t know whether that is a good or a bad sign but I have learnt from them that frothing milk varies with the type of coffee machine which partly explains all the different methods.

Cappuccino on the Gold Coast, Australia

What is even more depressing is that I don’t even manage to make decent coffee every time with my outrageously expensive machine and I haven’t even tried grinding the coffee beans with it yet ! Before, I had a cheap-O one we bought (first-hand mind you) in a “quick cash” shop which at least systematically made good coffee.

Cappuccino in Armidale, Australia

It came however with a basic airtightness defect which Relationnel solved initially but it eventually leaked which makes it a little dangerous. I was convinced that its cheapness was responsible for my not being able to make creamy froth. I was wrong. What I’m making now is much worse. At least I used to get it averagely thick most of the time with the old machine.

Cappuccino in Madrid but you can tell it’s not a real one

It is obvious to me that it’s like mayonnaise. The day you understand what you’re really doing, you always get it right, regardless of the time of the month, as many French people believe. I need to see someone do it properly and practise until I get it right. I just tried three times in a row, to no avail. On the coffee forum, they tell you to use a large jug that’s been in the freezer so that you have more time to get the foam going.

Sort-of-cappuccinos with my cheap-O machine

Of course now I’m afraid my jugs aren’t big enough. I’m hoping the parcel delivery man will turn up soon and put me out of my misery. I also have to buy more fresh milk which means driving 5 K to the supermarket. Sigh.

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12 thoughts on “Cappuccino Woes”

  1. Poor you! There is an art to making a good cappuccino! It also depends on the milk you use. Now in Australia we can buy a “Barista Blend ” milk in a UHT pack which they say makes the perfect cappuccino. I’ve tried it and it is good. Skim milk also froths better than full fat for some reason. Coffee machines have really taken off in Oz recently. Everyone seems to have one. With ours we bought a separate milk frother in the supermarket for about $30. It’s electric. You put in the milk and just press a button for hot milk or frothed milk. Works perfectly every time without the hassle. Good luck in your search for the perfect cappuccino!

      1. Yes, I’ve been trying different types. The videos are divided on the advice they give. I’ll go back to skim milk then.

  2. I’m a latte girl myself and i’m not actually sure how cappuccinos are made. There’s more froth and less milk? It does look tricky and my cappuccino-drinking friends often complain about coffee shops not getting them right. My friend told me about a special milk frother that Nespresso makes. I think it’s for lattes and for cappuccinos. Apparently it’s quite expensive (70 euros), but it works really well. I’d like to get my hands on one at some point! I froth my milk using the device that came with my Nespresso machine and it works nicely for lattes but I have to admit it’s not quite the same as when I get one from Costa (my favourite UK coffee chain!).
    Found the accessories I was talking about:
    And what I have:

    1. Nespresso certainly seems to have the answers, but I have now been boycotting Nestlé and all its subproducts for 30 years due to their unsavoury practices in the third world countries where they supply free powdered milk to mothers in the hospitals (against the law, of course, but they just keep paying the fines). A month’s supply of powered milk is about equivalent to the household income so they dilute the powder and use ordinary, often contamined water. By then, their milk supply is down and they can no longer breastfeed their babies who die of diarrhoea or malnutrition. Sorry to say this, as I see you have a Nespresso machine yourself …

      1. Aussie, I was also going to mention Nestle’s frother as an option. They work really well.

        At some point, we’ll have to sit down and have a discussion about Nestle over a glass of wine because I know first hand that Nestle does a lot of good in developing countries. The story about the powdered milk is old anti-Nestle propaganda that’s full of inaccuracies.

        1. OK, it’s a date! I much prefer to think that Nestlé is no longer encouraging the use of powdered milk in third-world countries where the women need to breastfeed to survive.

  3. Yes, I suspected the milk makes a difference. I have fresh and UHT full cream milk and “demi-écrémé” UHT milk. I would love to have a Barista Blend milk! My outrageously expensive machine has an automatic milk frother which is one of the reasons I bought it but I can’t make it work any better.

  4. I didn’t know that about Nestlé. I knew that about another milk group. Well, I suspect as much anyway because they push formula in third world countries as well which just seems completely ridiculous to me.

  5. It is like an Irish coffee ! When you know how to do it ,you can easily do it !
    I can do it !
    Good luck you will be able soon !

  6. Just thought of something else. Do you use plain tap water or filtered/mineral water? Might help too. Also, your new machine might simply be too new tasting and might improve after a few trials. You could try buying Italian expresso coffee too, which is much smoother-tasting than French.
    One barista here reckons that the froth changes depending what the cows eat (ie, whether they’re eating grass or silage and hay). HTH!

  7. Hi Kiwi. I gather you’re back in Italy. Could you ask your barista whether the whole jug is supposed to be creamy and foamy or just the top half. I’m having success at last, you’ll be pleased to hear!

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