Bitterness is the peculiar sensory characteristic of coffee. But why is coffee bitter and why do we like this typically unpleasant taste in our favorite drink?
Water, coffee, air and milk. These are the four essential elements in the Italian caffetteria recipe and cappuccino is one of its hallmarks.
As it passes through a pad of finely ground coffee, softened water absorbs the quintessential features and is transformed into an elegant espresso topped with the signature nut brown crema while accompanied by the classic aroma.
Meanwhile, the steam wand blows hot air through the milk generating a whirlpool which modifies its structure and turns it into a soft, fine creamy milk.
When combined, espresso coffee and frothed milk are a perfect twosome of colors, flavors and fragrances resulting in the distinctive Italian cappuccino.
The cappuccino is an icon of the Italian caffetteria
Simply by adding milk, cappuccino is the first beverage ever created by altering the character of one of the most ingenious Italian creations – the espresso.
Millions of consumers worldwide have fallen victim to the charms of the cappuccino. Cappuccino with a “cornetto” (Italian croissant) is a classic of the Italian breakfast.
In Italy, million of espressos are prepared each morning with nearly half being served as cappuccinos.
Considering the total daily espresso consumption, the Italian cappuccino number hovers around 20% because in Italy, cappuccino is only a breakfast beverage!
In other countries, these statistics skyrocket since more than 80% of the espressos are served as cappuccinos.
Even if in many countries, the biggest mistake is made with the milk-to-espresso ratio.
Together with espresso, the cappuccino takes its rightful place among the standard-bearers of Italian food abroad.
Their popularity is also confirmed linguistically. The terms “cappuccino” and “espresso” top the list of the most important Italian words, historically and culturally.
From “frappuccino” onwards, the terms “cappuccino” and “espresso” are often used to evoke the Italian tradition up to the improper phenomenon of Italianization.
Origins of the cappuccino…
It appears in 1660 when exotic, hot beverages such as tea, cocoa and coffee were gaining popularity. Johan Nieuhof, world traveler and Dutch ambassador to China was the first to try adding milk to coffee mimicking the way tea was consumed.
The clear lines of history, legend and folklore blur with the many stories recounting other possible forefathers of cappuccino.
There can be no cappuccino without espresso
What is certain is that no blend of coffee and milk can be called cappuccino as we know it before the invention of the espresso coffee machineThe classic Italian cappuccino is composed of 100-140ml of fresh, whole milk that has been perfectly frothed and poured, equal parts liquid and foam, over 25-30ml of espresso held in a 150-220ml cup.
There can be no cappuccino without a “barista”
“Barista” is another coffee oriented word originating in Italy.
Used when you ask for a cappuccino, to advise the barista to don’t do it too small.
(Cit. Dizionario Moderno 1938)
“Barman” was commonly used until 1938 when fascism introduced “barista” as a more “Italian” word.
The barista is fundamental in the preparation of the cappuccino, as well as the espresso.
He knows ingredients, parameters and equipment (espresso coffee machine, steam wand and milk pitcher) for preparing the Italian cappuccino and other alternative preparations such as frothing techniques, as well as processing the milk foam.
But above all, the barista knows how to choose the raw materials (coffee and milk) which requires a careful consideration both in terms of type and professional use.
Italian cappuccino starts out with the preparation of a superb espresso and then continues with the meticulous frothing of the milk.
What coffee blend makes a perfect cappuccino?
When speaking of cappuccino, we must first remember that besides coffee, milk constitutes most of the beverage.
We must keep these two essentials in mind when determining the composition of the most appropriate blend and the best roast.
Milk is sweet and this has a marked effect on the flavor of the beverage. Therefore, creating only a generic blend (even if an aromatic one with a good classic medium roast) does not guarantee a good cappuccino.
In the end, to guarantee a good final result that meets the tastes of many and takes into consideration the various preferences of consumers worldwide, we must find a symbiosis between the appropriate blend and ideal roast for the cappuccino.
This is when it’s paramount to remember that consumers in Northern Europe prefer a sour-sweet flavor while those in Southern Europe and North America prefer a sharper and more well-balanced flavor. Asians favor a stronger, even bitter-caramelized flavor.
Therefore, an ideal cappuccino that all consumers will appreciate must abide by the following:
The coffee used must have high acidity that’s able to penetrate the alkalinity of the milk; and this must be supported in the blend by a full-bodied coffee that adds strength to overcome the barrier milk erects against the typical coffee flavor.
The roast must be adequately intense to give great aromatic body and make its mark on the beverage which enables the flavor and aroma of the coffee to emerge from the milk ensuring that they are dominant and more persistent
remember that it’s wrong to think that a mediocre blend of coffee can be hidden: its defects cannot be masked simply with milk and sugar.
Even a magnificent latte art decoration cannot fool all one’s senses at the same time.
SpecialCoffee’s blend for a perfect cappuccino?
Morning – A blend of coffee beans for espresso machines at the coffee bar with a rounded and aromatic taste. Made up of a balanced proportion of Arabica and Robusta coming from selected plantations growing the best Brazilian, Central American, Asian and African coffees.
SpecialCoffee has developed the ability to fine-tune the roasting process according to the blend and based on the specific use, market and country where the coffee will be used.
For handling such a difficult task, besides specific competence, one also needs a great deal of experience.
Varying the milk-to-espresso ratio from a few drops of milk to a few drops of coffee results in a macchiato, caffelatte or latte macchiato.With cappuccino we have known many alternatives. Prepare with a lot of foam or without. Flavor with cocoa and cinnamon or not. Prepare with different types of milk including alternative milks such as soy, rice, oat and almond.
There can be no “latte art” without the barista
In the late 1970s, the eclectic creativity of an Italian barista produced ingenious decorations on the cappuccino based on the heart, leaf and apple.
Later this art form was dubbed “latte art”.
We Italians immediately associate the term “latte art” with everything related to the decoration of the cappuccino and really take it for granted that it literally means “the art of milk” or “art with milk“.
In reality, however, this expression derives from English as spoken in the United States.
Today, thanks to the training offered to thousands of baristas worldwide, the “latte art” technique has been reviewed, broken down and reassembled creating hundreds of new figures providing daily joy for millions of consumers.