The Cappuccino

The Cappuccino

If we were to say that brewed coffee is to be like wine, and espresso perhaps akin to creating an intense, complex spirit (like whisky), then I would say that the cappuccino is my favourite coffee cocktail. The combination of espresso and milk might seem a little simple, but calling a martini simple because it contains only gin and vermouth would be rather missing the point.

I’ve wanted to write about the cappuccino on here for a long time, for a lot of different reasons. The way I’ve thought about the cappuccino has changed a great deal over the years, but what has really prompted this post is pure selfishness. It is much easier now, in London certainly, to get a great espresso. If you enjoy milk in your drink then likely the best thing you’ll find is a flat white. A good cappuccino still remains pretty hard to find, and as I discovered when I logged my coffee consumption, I drink quite a lot of them!

Cappuccinos have never really been cool. It’ll be a long time yet before the word stops conjuring everything we hate about espresso based drinks gone wrong: badly brewed espresso, scalding hot milk, a looming, wobbly peak of milk froth all lovingly smothered in cheap cocoa. Delicious, no?

Around the cappuccino there remains a great deal of myth. One to get out of the way quickly: the name for the drink has nothing to do with the hoods of monk’s robes, nor the bald spot on their head. The original name for the drink was a kapuziner, and it was a Viennese drink was the 19th Century. It was small brewed coffee mixed with milk or cream until it attained the particular shade of brown that matched the colour of the Capuchin monks’ robes. Essentially the name implies the strength of the drink. If you want a genuinely traditional cappuccino then don’t even bother firing up the espresso machine. a

This moves me onto the next frustration I have with myths of the modern cappuccino. The strange mystery of the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is passed around to this day, and describes a traditional cappuccino as being a third espresso, a third milk and a third foam. I was taught this very early on, as were a good number of people reading this. It didn’t take long for the oddity of it to dawn on me. Are we saying then, that if a single espresso is 25ml then a single shot cappuccino ought to be 75ml total? Nonetheless I still see cappuccinos that are labelled as being traditional with a recipe of being a double shot in a six ounce cup. This certainly fulfils the rule of thirds, but outside of the last 5 years I’ve yet to find any evidence or history of a double shot six ounce cappuccino existing to give it any form of tradition. This doesn’t make this drink any less tasty – it is a very tasty drink done well – I am just saying that traditional isn’t really a word that is accurate in its description. Would one describe a 12oz cappuccino, with a double shot at the bottom pulled long to 4oz, as traditional? I’m not slavishly devoted to, nor infatuated with, tradition. I just think we ought to use the term appropriately.

I own a good number of coffee books, and I’ve gone through a lot of them. The first reference to the cappuccino recipe of thirds I’ve found was in the 50s and it was described as being “an espresso mixed with equal amounts of milk and foam.” This sentence appears, pretty much verbatim, a number of times. It is a little ambiguous as it could be saying that only the milk and foam are in equal quantities, or that all three are. So the recipe of 1:1:1 could easily be meant to be 1:2:2. The single shot, 5-6oz cappuccino does have a long tradition, and is incredibly easy to find through much of Italy and the parts of Europe that haven’t succumbed to more generous portions of coffee as retail. It is also, when done well, absolutely delicious.

I used to be a little resentful of cappuccinos, to tell the embarrassing truth, because they were really hard to pour nice latte art into. (Bearing in mind that for almost all of my coffee career I’ve worked for companies that didn’t have cups bigger than 6oz). Barista competition didn’t help. I was guilty, as most competitors are, of prioritising the six point box for appearance (latte art or traditional) over the 24 point box for taste. I’d keep the foam as close the 1cm line (that was then the minimum) as possible – despite this meaning I was adding more milk than necessary and diluting the espresso further. This spread into my coffee making outside of competition. I began to resent foam (for want of a better phrase) and the cappuccino as a result. When people would complain about the lack of foam I wouldn’t be receptive – I thought this implied being out of touch, old fashioned. The arrogance of youth….

This is not all coming to a conclusion where I detail out the perfect cappuccino (though I will share what I currently really enjoy) I’m all for interpretation and individual presentation. I’m also for differentiation and definition and all too often I see cappuccinos that are nearly identical in recipe to other drinks on the menu, and that in the hands of different staff the drinks become completely interchangeable. This is true across the entire coffee industry, regardless of city or nation, of independent or chain.

In an odd way this is a plea for foam. I love really well textured milk foam. I like a decent amount of it in my cappuccinos too. I am not ashamed of this, though a more youthful me might have been. I really don’t mind if all that can be poured in the top is a heart of maybe a tulip. I love Intelligentsia’s policy of no rosettas in cappuccinos. Latte art is a good thing, but it still carries more weight than it is worth.

Our aversion to foam has created our own worst customers. Every barista I know hates making “dry” cappuccinos. 9 out of 10 people who order one, when asked why they want a dry cappuccino, explain that they are sick of getting drinks that are basically caffe lattes with a little chocolate on top. The only way to get the amount of foam that they want (that they have found) is to order the cappuccino dry. If you don’t believe me then ask them yourself. (Not in an accusatory way, but be genuinely interested and they’ll be happy to tell you.)

So – my current cappuccino recipe. Be warned, it is detailed (though with tolerances).

– Brewed into and served in a 5oz (150-160ml) bowl shaped porcelain cup. b
– 15 to 17g of espresso c
– 80-90g of milk, steamed to around 50-55C. d
– The rest should be creamy, marshmallowy foam with bubbles so small they’re pretty much invisible. e

I’m not going to label this “the perfect cappuccino” because that sort of thing makes me angry. It is just what I am really enjoying and I’d be interested to know what people think and what they are enjoying too. I suspect some people might take my thoughts about “traditional” cappuccinos above as an attack on their menu/store/brand/business. They are not. Hopefully it will generate a little discussion instead. Now don’t even get me started on flat whites….

  1. If you don’t believe me, that’s ok – I haven’t linked to any information here to back up my claims. There is plenty of information but if you are genuinely interested in this then the person to speak to is Professor Jonathan Morris, who wrote The Cappuccino Conquests. More information is pretty easy to find with a minimum of google-fu.  (back)
  2. No tulip cups, though they are easier to find in the smaller size.  (back)
  3. One spout of a double basket, I am going to presume you’re making too because they ought to be shared, or the other espresso should be consumed to alleviate a lack of caffeination. This liquid dose is dependent on the amount of coffee brewed, so we’re going to say 20g of coffee, brewing time of approx 28s and an extraction of 19-20%  (back)
  4. The cooler the better really. UPDATE – original post suggested 45C, which might be too cool for general enjoyment  (back)
  5. This will give you a coffee strength of around 1.8-2.0% which means there is plenty of strength in your single shot coffee drink. Ironically an underextracted short double, in a 6oz cup without much foam isn’t much stronger than this – 2.0-2.4%  (back)

93 Comments The Cappuccino

  1. Mike Nunn

    Yup. That is my favourite milk drink too. Pretty much how you describe but I’ll vary the length of the espresso depending on how I’m feeling about the blend. I have one every morning.

  2. James Hoffmann

    I should probably have clarified that temp is linked to how many gulps it takes to finish it. I’m usually a 2 sip capp drinker…. (hence the cooler temps) Plus I usually want to drink it the very moment it is finished. So good!

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  4. Tumi Ferrer

    I’ve been waiting for this post since you wrote about cappuccino as conflict. I totally agreed with you there and I love how you tackle those myths in an understandable way in this one.

    I don’t see why you’re opposed (Ok, it’s a little too strong expression, I admit) to using tulip shaped cups. Seeing that you prefer more of the good stuff (the silky foam) I would’ve thought it would be easier in a tulip shaped one. But that’s just because I’m more used to the tulip ones; can’t wait to go and find bowl shaped 5 oz cups…

    Still, I feel like your neglecting some of the aesthetics. What are your thoughts, for instance, on how “full” the cup should be? I know a lot of customers that like their caps when they can see the milk surface exceed the rim of the cup. That’s another conflict, in my opinion, which could be solved with even smaller cups (4 oz maybe?)

  5. Majoggy

    I’m glad someone is talking about this! I don’t know what a cappuccino is anymore, and with the increasing emphasis on latte art as a mark of quality it is becoming more and more indistinquisable from other milk drinks.

    There should be a markedly different mouthfeel to flat whites and lattes – and in some coffeeshops I’ve felt a little disappointed that they have bothered putting it on the menu but not frothing the milk to a thickness that I feel the capp needs to set it apart from the others. I may as well have asked for espresso and milk ala prufrock

  6. Anonymous

    James,

    Thanks for this. We’re certainly guilty of not doing as much research as you on the third/third/third as we still propagate that recipe – because it works specifically to communicate to customers it a “different” drink than the latte and a bit more ‘romantic’ if you will.

    Here’s how/why it works, in our opinion. We have a fact sheet on our bulletin board that the cappuccino is as much a recipe as it is a drink – the ratios are important to the flavor/texture. For our purposes with our clientele, it’s the easiest, least aggressive/annoying way we can communicate that’s why we won’t add flavor, because it’s no longer a capp when you do – the “tradition”. Using an explanation that implies “Italian romance” gives us a great alibi for ‘no alterations’ on that drink, although we will do anything you want to a latte.

    Maybe using this fanciful ‘cappuccino history’ is going about it the wrong way, but it works. Our capp sales have more than doubled as a % of total drink sales since we went to double shots in a 6oz three years ago. It tastes better to us and to customers as the contrast of brown/white is stunning visually (with a heart or tulip or monkshead).

    We’d like to not have to resort to semi-factual lore and fanciful storytelling, but that’s when we get into trouble because it’s always interpreted as “those pretentious bastards won’t let me order the same drink I get at Starbucks”. So using this “history” actually helps make the customer feel more comfortable about our stringency. (It also gets us out of doing a 7-shot 20 ounce capp, because nobody wants 7 shots!)

    This is suburbia in America in 2010. Gotta have a story, lol.

    Have to say we also feel some vindication on the latte art argument. We posted as far back as 07/08 that we felt a rosetta was impossible to do on proper capp and took some heat on that from the community.

    Now we’ll wait on your post about how a proper macchiato doesn’t have art either :-)

    Fire away.

    (sorry about the odd screenname – I signed up for disqus specifically for a sports forum, now stuck with this – for you Euros, it’s short for Pittsburgh Pirates World Series 2014.)

  7. James Hoffmann

    I like a bowl cup because with this recipe you get a pleasing layer depth of foam, whereas a tulip cup will create a deeper laye that I don’t necessarily enjoy as much. Plus tulip cups just remind me of competition!

    As for the other aesthetics – I am pretty open. I like a cup full, but not to the point of easy spillage because that looks utterly unacceptable to me.

  8. James Hoffmann

    I know exactly what you mean. I quite like the way it is dealt with at Prufrock, though it maybe isn’t a great solution if you are looking for something in particular (like a capp like this)

  9. James Hoffmann

    I think the macchiato thing came up a few years ago here.

    As for the traditional thing – as I said above, I wasn’t trying to pick on places that do this. I just wonder if there isn’t another way to achieve the same goals without slightly cheating our way there?

    Out of curiosity – did the increase in capp sales cannibalize other drink sales, or where they additional sales?

  10. Majoggy

    Prufrock is different. You put your total trust in the Barista making your drink – you know whatever they give you will be delicious. But if you put a capp up on the board I expect something different from a latte other than cup size!

  11. Daniel McDonnell

    At the suggested temperature your tongue and throat keep the flavor blooming in your mouth. Smoking hot is often used in marketing coffee and other hot drinks, but you should rather look for a cappuccino smiling with real warmth.

    The success of simple drinks is the strong availability, the short checklist and household ingredients, though we still fight about the flaws and fortunes of minimalism.

  12. Anonymous

    Surprised we missed that post on macchiatos. We thought we never missed a post.

    FWIW, we take absolutely no offense and we know we’re sort of “cheating” with the explanation, but as mentioned, it works for us and eliminates unwanted/unnecessary confrontations on being persnickety. If it were as simple as us saying, “We think it tastes better this way,” that would be ideal. But we have scars from doing that :-)

    As for cannibalization, we don’t think so as the business was growing steadily up until this past year. We promote the capp as our specialty. If anything we’ve seen more switching from milk drinks to drip since April/May or so when we started feeling the recession here. Which means less revenue, but all in all is a positive going forward for our positioning in this market now that we’ve added in-store roasting. We’re adjusting to that new reality.

  13. tonx

    cup temperature is another big factor. I tend to get the ceramic pretty hot when starting a cappuccino. allows me to pass off milk that is significantly cooler and I think holding a hotter cup is a nice experience with this drink. continuing the cocktail analogy, aesthetics matter greatly in the experience.

    great post James!

  14. Alex Redgate

    Glad to see someone talking about this. I’ve always felt slightly unsure about what is to be expected by the drink definitions and always felt a level of trepidation when asked to provide one. (In the end I just took what was general consensus and what I enjoyed)

    It’s always great to see idea’s being challenged.

  15. Ian (Editor, Coffee House)

    I don’t usually post on these things, but feel inclined to mention that durng an interview on cappuccino temperature in Italy some years back, you suggested to me that it should be ‘a comfortably warm’ drink. I’ve always been happy with that description (and have quoted it many times!)

  16. skadttam

    loved the read james, and appreciated you going back to your comp days. i have been a huge fan of the capp for a long time. in my mind it is the quintessential job a barista can perform. it requires all of the skills a good barista needs in order to be done well.

    while i have been enjoying capps for many years, i have to admit to rarely finding a capp that was improved through latte art. either beautiful or horrific. it is my honest opinion that the drive to create beautiful latte art has taken away from the pleasure of a well made cappucino.

    as a former chef, and barista, i understand the importance of aesthetics. a well plated dish can make even mac and cheese seem fantastic. the truth of the matter though is if the mac and cheese wasnt done well to begin with, it wont matter how well it is plated. while it may “seem” fantastic, it is just mac and cheese on a pretty plate.

    again, in my honest opinion the ability to pour a rosetta et al into a capp is easier than pulling a great shot, steaming perfectly textured milk, and combining them in such a way that the flavors and textures of the 3 combine to create something ethereal. it distracts too many new barista. and it is to the dismay of many a cappucino, that too many barista focus on the surface of the drink as opposed to the what lay beneath. which of course, we all (ok, maybe you and i) know can be heavenly…

  17. Jonathan Aldrich

    Thought provoking and interesting post as always, James.

    I was unaware of Intelligentsia’s “no rosetta” policy, but independently came to that conclusion several months ago. I had just been pouring tulips on my caps, however the buzz around my shop was “back to perfecting the rosetta”, which I had been reserving for lattes. I tried pouring a few and quickly realized that the foam depth I enjoy(and it appears we share a preference in this regard), simply is not conducive to pouring a rosetta without getting clumped leaves, etc.

    Since I came to this realization, I am always slightly disappointed when I receive a cap with a rosetta on it. They are often tasty, just not quite as tasty as I know they could be.

  18. Jordan

    James,

    Logistical question: assuming from your final beverage weight that you are achieving a much “frothier” beverage, then say a flat white poured into the same vessel; How are you achieving the extra froth without over stretching?

    I would love to produce cappuccinos with more foam, but I find I run out of time I can stretch the milk before reaching 38c. Unless of course that it is a myth that you shouldn’t stretch beyond that point.

    Any tips…

  19. James Hoffmann

    I think it is possible to double milk volume before reaching 37C, assuming a commercial machine/decent steam pressure/proper steam tip. I tend to stretch very aggressively for a short period at the start to try and spend as long in the churn phase as possible.

  20. James Hoffmann

    I think it is possible to double milk volume before reaching 37C, assuming a commercial machine/decent steam pressure/proper steam tip. I tend to stretch very aggressively for a short period at the start to try and spend as long in the churn phase as possible.

  21. Daniel McDonnell

    If you can do it on a amateur machine, it should be a walk-in-the-park with a better machine.

  22. Espresso911

    Interesting article on my favorite and daily drink. Yes, I am a milk drinker.

    I have made it my habit to walk into cafe after cafe to order a cappuccino and use it as the measuring rod to judge the quality of the establishment. If they give me a 16 oz drink with 3 shots of espresso at 180 degrees F, I know this is not the place for me.

    My current recipe of choice is a double shot of espresso (21 grams, about 1.5 oz of espresso) in a 8 oz cup, with about about 5 oz of milk. I try to temper the foam, but nonetheless because of its size the milk tends to be thicker than a latte. Temperature at around 140 degrees F. I truly do like the Intelli model (see http://thurly.net/0ie9 a great and beautiful HD video with Kyle Glanville). Kyle does say 1/3 espresso to 2/3’s milk ;)

    Al

  23. Melody

    I’ve worked at a place where aesthetics overtook the quality of taste, that as long as it is visually pleasing — meaning it must be with latte arts, except the “traditional” kinds — a drink can be put out. To that end I’ve always had a complex about latte arts, not wanting to do as well as I can because it subconsciously made me feel that the aesthetics will overshadow everything else about the drink, “distracts” drinker from the taste. But at the same time I must say I enjoy doing arts, presentation is important, and attention to details pretty much is the thing that elevates a task to an art other than genuinely having fun while doing it, right?

    I don’t think I resented foam, that said, I don’t resent it when it’s integrated perfectly, I find a well made cappuccino has a texture and intensity that I prefer out of all espresso-based drinks. The ratio is a guideline… I would steam milk about doubled in volume so it does have the half-milk-half-foam ratio, but I guess the key here is to have milk and foam superbly integrated so it has a velvety mouthfeel throughout. The execution of it differs from the froth and coffee flavoured thin milk combination that most people associate cappuccinos with.

    Besides the 5-6oz size and proportion debate, I’ve been seeing some trend that latte and cappuccino have became the same thing at certain cafes, which essentially there are only lattes, not necessarily in small-ish sizes either. Now that’s just confusing.

    (Intelligentsia’s policy is interesting, I tested it out when I approximated James’s recipe. I discarded my first steam because it wasn’t ideal, the second steam was bang on for both temperature and texture, it did produce a chubby looking rosetta…. well it could have been me. It’s not impossible, just difficult to be consistent. But when wiggling creates definition, hearts or tulips are just as cumbersome…)

  24. Jay C.

    As I like to say: “Simple, but not easy.”

    Which really is the point of all this foolishness we call “Barista Craft.” Doing what we do, at its essence, is simple: we add water to coffee and brew it. However, doing it well is not easy.

    But I’m a bit confused. You make the statement that “Rule of Thirds” is not “traditional” yet you also acknowledge a 1950s era recipe dictating exactly that. Considering that Luigi Bezzera patented the steam pressure brewing system in 1901, this tells us that the “Rule of Thirds” has been in existence more than half of the lifetime of espresso.

    I don’t know about you, but I certainly think that qualifies “The Rule Of Thirds” as “traditional” – especially since it’s been in practice for over fifty years now.

    Then to say that a group of coffee “Johnny Come Latelies” (in the guise of this so-called “Third Wave”) are to simply disregard this history more than smacks of, well, arrogance.

    And we wonder why these traditional Italian types look upon us with such disdain?

    After a quick, weekend trip to Italy at the beginning of the month, I finally got a look into the world of Italian Espresso – a world where tradition very much is in the realm of coffee production. In Italy, I never found a place with stellar espresso/cappuccino – certainly nothing on the level that I can find in the United States.

    However, what I did find was a seeming nation of tradition and standards. A nation where I can reasonably expect to find a certain standard of beverage. The cappuccinos I had across Firenze, Scarperia, Maranello and Piacenza were never stellar, but they weren’t bad either. What they were was what I called “evenly consistent.” That is, wherever I went, the drinks were about the same quality level.

    And this is a feat that I’ve not found elsewhere in the world.

    I, for one, am a proponent of this Rule Of Thirds thing. We’re talking a six ounce cappuccino with a double shot of espresso and equal amounts of milk and foam – a simple Rule Of Thirds. But a Rule Of Thirds by volume and not by weight.

    A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who was out to challenge the Barista Think and one of those targets was the Cappuccino’s Rule Of Thirds. He started out with weight – and based on the weight, the average cap tested out to 12% espresso. It was an interesting discovery but one that also delivered a tasty cappuccino.

    The foam thing is interesting too. Our community is too focused on latte art – as though it is some sort of panacea for that which ails us. It is also the reason why latte art has never been a priority with my own staff of baristas.

    I find Intelligentsia’s policy of No Rosettas to be a curious development – and one indicative of our craft’s over emphasis on latte art instead of quality beverage. Kudos to Intelli for seeing the problem within their ranks but it’s certainly not a rule that I would ever “love.”

    Regarding the latte art in competition, this is the one area that I always found most curious. The official party line of the WBC is that they don’t promote latte art, yet the scoresheets clearly reward latte art and judges are expected (though not necessarily trained ) to recognize the difference between a “2” in latte art and a “5.5” in latte art. This is a case of one hand saying one thing and the other saying another. If latte art is not pertinent to the competition then eliminate it altogether.

    Like me, you celebrate diversity within the community, and I like the ideas you put forward. My question to you is: when are we finally going to see these standards put into practice? I’m looking forward to a real James Hoffmann coffee experience!

  25. James Hoffmann

    Finding a grammatically ambiguous phrase in literature from the 50s does not a tradition make. I’ve simply struggled to find evidence of this actually being accurate to what was served in Italy and much of the world (who were achieving a base level of quality in espresso based drinks).

    If I find that evidence I’m more than happy to change my mind – but the double shot six ounce drink belongs absolutely to the “Johnny Come Latelies/Third Wave” you speak of. If you have any evidence of that recipe outside of that group I’d be interested to see it.

    As for a retail outlet for Square Mile – because you are unlikely to find a coffee experience based around me rather than a team – I don’t have an exact date. It is pretty high on the priority list, but there are a couple of things just higher that need to be dealt with first.

  26. Anonymous

    James. great topic you are so right in that the average cappuccino consumer is more impressed with the latte art than a beautifully micro textured cup.
    A question if I may, point 5 of your footnote states that the coffee strength will be 1.8 – 2%.
    My estimation taking the mentioned 20g coffee and an ext yield of 20% it seems the concentration will be closer to 11%, am I missing something ?

  27. mike phillips

    Prior to my infatuation with getting better at all of these pour over methods and my recent slight physical aversion to milk, a solid cappuccino was certainly my go to drink at home. While my experience with what is “traditional” is certainly limited mostly to reading materials and hearsay from Stephen, I cant help but poke at the idea a little, especially with the comparison to cocktails. Take for example a fairly classic drink like the old fashioned. If you were to order this in a bar how would it be prepared? Would there be fruit in the cup(gasp!)? If so what kind? would it be muddled? what kind of bitters? What kind of whiskey? what ratios? Its possible to look back through the oral and written records and find references that indicate a birth before 1895 for this drink, a measly 100 plus years. In that time an almost insurmountable number of variations have crept into the light commanding the title of what an old fashioned is for different segments of the population. I dare the most worldly of drinkers to go to Wisconsin and debate the bartenders in each city as to what a traditional old fashioned is! There would be more black eyes than muddled maraschino cherries… With this in mind I think comparing the cappuccino to cocktails is very appropriate as over the course of time things like coffee to milk ratio, temperature, froth depth and style, cup shape, etc… are all elements that will slip and slide a bit with culture. Just as with mixing drinks, working with espresso is in a vein of rogue culinary professions lacking enough actual time on earth and structured education to have the very solidly developed traditions found in cooking, beer or wine. You can call what we do modern to separate it from the past but in the long view, espresso culture at a little over 100 years is still an infant.
    All this for me points to a name defining the spirit of a drink more than details. I think that spirit for a cappuccino is a smaller milk drink with enough froth to coat your mouth and make you smile. It shouldnt last too long but there should be enough to warm your belly. I would also second that plea for a bit more foam at the cost of detailed rosettas ( I call it froth as it seems to lessen the resentment for some reason even if it mildly grammatically incorrect). Fun post James.

  28. Jordan

    “defining spirit of a drink […] make you smile” I think this could be said about most coffee drinks (I definitely agree with you Mike). And though I would like to be able to produce frothier cappuccinos more consistently, I have no issue with being served a double ristretto more of a flat white than a cappuccino as long as the barista is aware of what they are doing and they’re doing it with purpose. Who’s to say what the ideal cappuccino really is. I think James is just commenting on his preferred experience.

    Splitting hairs isn’t going to get our industry anywhere. Serving an experience that you can communicate to the people you serve, will.

  29. Espresso911

    I like the barista having the ability to pour latte art on my cap as proof that the milk is properly textured and stretched. I hate seeing a barista (sorry to offend some) hold back the “froth” with a spoon and then adding the foam at the end as a dollop. I want to taste coffee and well textured milk with each sip. Take it slow and drink it slow is my motto.

    I appreciate the back and forth and the time that James takes to speak on these issues that are so important to our industry. It helps us newcomers who are still trying to figure all this stuff out.

    Maybe it is time for a book to begin our new “traditions” entitled the” Hoffmann Way”, or even the “Intelli Way” :) I will pony up the money.

    As to this quote,

    “The cappuccinos I had across Firenze, Scarperia, Maranello and Piacenza were never stellar, but they weren’t bad either. What they were was what I called “evenly consistent.” That is, wherever I went, the drinks were about the same quality level.”

    Sounds strangely similar to the descriptions given by many about Starbucks in these parts. . .

    Al

  30. Daniel McDonnell

    Nice touch. Would be beautiful to have a book defining extravagant coffee brewing, instead informal reading (like Perfect Cup) on the subject. Just a complete book with small trivial facts, and then blow it up with carefully constructed recipes and how-tos.

    The net many times seem to go out of sync, so a publication may be the paramount move.

  31. Jay C.

    I don’t know James, but if there was a recipe in existence sixty years years ago and a continuing trend of cappuccino making in Italy that has spread across the world, then it seems to me that a tradition has been in existence.

    If we’re really pursuing dogma then perhaps we ought to look to the source of espresso: Italy, and see what their traditions are. Quite frankly, knowing first-hand Italian espresso making techniques is where I am deficient so I would have to refer to those more knowledgable than myself.

    From my recollections of my weekend Italy excursion earlier this month, cappuccinos were served to me in 5-6 ounce cups and what I presumed were double-shots of espresso (I didn’t actually pay attention to the people making the drink because I was preoccupied with other things) – and this was a standard that seemed to be followed as I careened across middle Italy (Firenze, Scarperia, Maranello & Piacenza). In the one or two instances when I did pay some attention, the baskets looked like doubles to me and the barista did not discard any shots and used the complete espresso pull in my cappuccino.

    Honestly, I don’t have any sort of recipe detailing any sort of history of espresso and coffee. Perhaps that comes from a lack of interest in pursuing the history of coffee, perhaps it comes from learning coffee in the old method of being handed down the craft and technique from one person to the next and perhaps its also due to the fact that the documentation of coffee technique over the years has been poor, sporadic and very un-uniform (ask people what a “cortado” is and you’ll see what I mean).

    As with anything for me, it comes down to taste. Does it taste good? Does the drink have balance? I’m less obsessed in recipes or refractometer standards than most people here because I’m concerned about flavor, taste and exciting the guest with those parameters rather than percentages and how many grams of this went into that.

    As I said, I too am interested in personal interpretation and standards. I’m not interested in drinking the same coffee prepared exactly the same way and tasting exactly the same from shop to shop. To me, that refractometer by the numbers approach is boring and uninspired. Give me that regional/shop difference. I may not like it, it may not be how I would do it, but I certainly can appreciate it.

    Kind of like how a macchiato in Piacenza is quite a bit different than a macchiato in Seattle. They’re both still “macchiato” but the interpretations are slightly different.

    As for Team Square Mile Retail, I think that’s a shame. People didn’t go to The Penny University because they heard it was run by Team Square Mile, they went there to see the personal interpretation of coffee by World Champion James Hoffmann – one of the most celebrated baristas in the world. That was the excitement. That was the interest. It is the very reason why we trekked across London for coffee when we didn’t go anywhere else for coffee that week. We made one stop – and that was to see TPU.

    I encourage you to develop the retail end in your vision with you firmly at the helm – much as a chef leads a restaurant. In the end, the results are very much a collaborative effort, but a collaborative effort pointed to the standards of a leader – not leadership by committee. Think The Fat Duck. You’ve been there. You’ve seen the back of the house workings. You should know that while Heston Blumenthal is at the forefront, the work is completely collaborative. And it’s exciting. Give us something exciting. Give us James Hoffmann as a coffee experience. Give us a real reason to jet to London and put up with all the rude people.

    Otherwise, it’s about as appealing as coffee at Tessco.

  32. Jay C.

    I don’t know James, but if there was a recipe in existence sixty years years ago and a continuing trend of cappuccino making in Italy that has spread across the world, then it seems to me that a tradition has been in existence.

    If we’re really pursuing dogma then perhaps we ought to look to the source of espresso: Italy, and see what their traditions are. Quite frankly, knowing first-hand Italian espresso making techniques is where I am deficient so I would have to refer to those more knowledgable than myself.

    From my recollections of my weekend Italy excursion earlier this month, cappuccinos were served to me in 5-6 ounce cups and what I presumed were double-shots of espresso (I didn’t actually pay attention to the people making the drink because I was preoccupied with other things) – and this was a standard that seemed to be followed as I careened across middle Italy (Firenze, Scarperia, Maranello & Piacenza). In the one or two instances when I did pay some attention, the baskets looked like doubles to me and the barista did not discard any shots and used the complete espresso pull in my cappuccino.

    Honestly, I don’t have any sort of recipe detailing any sort of history of espresso and coffee. Perhaps that comes from a lack of interest in pursuing the history of coffee, perhaps it comes from learning coffee in the old method of being handed down the craft and technique from one person to the next and perhaps its also due to the fact that the documentation of coffee technique over the years has been poor, sporadic and very un-uniform (ask people what a “cortado” is and you’ll see what I mean).

    As with anything for me, it comes down to taste. Does it taste good? Does the drink have balance? I’m less obsessed in recipes or refractometer standards than most people here because I’m concerned about flavor, taste and exciting the guest with those parameters rather than percentages and how many grams of this went into that.

    As I said, I too am interested in personal interpretation and standards. I’m not interested in drinking the same coffee prepared exactly the same way and tasting exactly the same from shop to shop. To me, that refractometer by the numbers approach is boring and uninspired. Give me that regional/shop difference. I may not like it, it may not be how I would do it, but I certainly can appreciate it.

    Kind of like how a macchiato in Piacenza is quite a bit different than a macchiato in Seattle. They’re both still “macchiato” but the interpretations are slightly different.

    As for Team Square Mile Retail, I think that’s a shame. People didn’t go to The Penny University because they heard it was run by Team Square Mile, they went there to see the personal interpretation of coffee by World Champion James Hoffmann – one of the most celebrated baristas in the world. That was the excitement. That was the interest. It is the very reason why we trekked across London for coffee when we didn’t go anywhere else for coffee that week. We made one stop – and that was to see TPU.

    I encourage you to develop the retail end in your vision with you firmly at the helm – much as a chef leads a restaurant. In the end, the results are very much a collaborative effort, but a collaborative effort pointed to the standards of a leader – not leadership by committee. Think The Fat Duck. You’ve been there. You’ve seen the back of the house workings. You should know that while Heston Blumenthal is at the forefront, the work is completely collaborative. And it’s exciting. Give us something exciting. Give us James Hoffmann as a coffee experience. Give us a real reason to jet to London and put up with all the rude people.

    Otherwise, it’s about as appealing as coffee at Tessco.

  33. Jay C.

    Al –

    No doubt there’s similarities there to Starbucks.

    However, the impressive feat here wasn’t necessarily that these were all “evenly consistent” but rather that they were evenly consistent over disparate shops. In other words, these were results achieved by independent shops in Italy and not one, unified company.

    It’s something that we haven’t achieved in the Indie market in America.

  34. Jay C.

    Al –

    No doubt there’s similarities there to Starbucks.

    However, the impressive feat here wasn’t necessarily that these were all “evenly consistent” but rather that they were evenly consistent over disparate shops. In other words, these were results achieved by independent shops in Italy and not one, unified company.

    It’s something that we haven’t achieved in the Indie market in America.

  35. Lams

    Really inspired by your article as always. I’m trying to just serve one type of milk based espresso at my cafe in Cape Town even if people constantly ask for a flat white (a trend I think). Long live the cappy. I do find however that at 55C (132F) you’ll get less fruity but more cocoa tones with a sleek creamy finish.

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  38. Vanessa Peters

    I was trained as a barista in Italy. I also exchanged two emails recently with two Italian coffee bloggers regarding this exact topic, because I consistently find that even a good 6 oz cappuccino here in the US is stronger than I remember my Italian ones being, and I wondered if I was correct or just suffering from Italy-nostalgia.

    What both of them said, and what I was taught as well:

    * a cappuccino is served in a 20 cl cup (6.7 oz to the brim, so closer to 6 oz serving size)
    * it is prepared with 1 7g shot of espresso (half of a 14g double basket).
    * it should be between 45-55 degrees celsius
    * cocoa is added only by request of the customer

    Neither of them paid much attention to the rule of thirds, though it was mentioned briefly. In Italy there is less separation between the idea of “milk” and “foam” and more focus on serving a creamy milk where the foam is well integrated. To quote one of them:
    Il vero cappuccino è fatto con un caffè espresso di 3cc (30 ml) fatto con circa 7/8 grammi di caffè, in una tazza da 14 / 20 cc, riempita con latte schiumato per bene senza bolle.
    or:
    A real cappuccino is made with 30 ml (1 oz) of a 7-8 gram shot of espresso, in a 14-20 cc cup, filled with milk that has been frothed well and is without bubbles.

    Like you James, I tend to drink my cappuccino quickly and so prefer a lower temperature (as is true with most Italians who are elbowing for space at the small bar counter where they drink it).

    What Jay says is partially true in my opinion. I lived in Italy for 5 years and often had STELLAR cappuccinos… but he’s right in that even a mediocre one was good, and far better than most of what I find in America.

    We are considering offering a traditional Italian cappuccino at our shop, following the guidelines above, as well as what as become the accepted standard of a 6 oz cap with a double shot of 15-18 g.

    Interesting discussion, so glad you posted on it!

  39. Rip Rowan

    It is a fact that a “traditional” Italian cappuccino has only a single espresso shot in a 6-7 oz drink. The dosing also tends to be lighter (7g per shot) and finer than we do it in the USA. However the roast, while lighter than the (IMO burned) typical Seattle roast, is definitely darker and punchier than the 3rd wave roasts we’re using in the States. IMO if we’re interested in formulating the “traditional” Italian cappuccino, we must not be so prejudiced against a full-bodied roast.

    I had a few Italian cappuccinos while I was there last spring. The worst one I had was still a perfectly decent drink. The best ones were amazing. And here’s the magic: one of the best ones I had was in a mob-scene stand-up bar in Firenze where the barista was cranking out probably 100 drinks per hour.

    I also never saw anyone bothering to pour latte art.

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  41. Daniel Markham

    “Latte art is a good thing, but it still carries more weight than it is worth.”

    Thank. You.

    This “mark of quality” is too rife for abuse, i.e. “look, it must be good, look at that latte art”. It’s too easy for a sub-par coffee bar to simply mimic the art on top, co-opting what too many rely upon as a mark of quality. Taste. It is all about taste. If it tastes good, damn the tulip or lack thereof.

    This has nothing to do with my, as yet inability to produce said art… not at all…

  42. Varady Tibor

    wow. now that is something I never thaught about, but sounds link it makes sense.
    milk temp variations can enhance or de-hance some of the tasting tones?

    i feel my capps vary, I find some incredibly delicious, and I’m looking at what makes the magic.

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