How to Make the Perfect Cappuccino

J Shepherd/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
  • 10 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield: 1 serving
Ratings (41)

Light, foamy cappuccinos are a favorite drink for many a coffee lover. With two basic barista skills (pulling shots and foaming milk), you can learn how to make cappuccinos yourself.​

Starbucks describes a cappuccino as "Dark, rich espresso lies in wait under a smoothed and stretched layer of thick foam. It's truly the height of our baristas' craft."

A cappuccino is an Italian coffee drink that is traditionally prepared with double espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam on top. Cream may be used instead of milk and is often topped with cinnamon. It is typically smaller in volume than a caffè latte, with a thicker layer of microfoam.

Cappuccinos are usually made using an espresso machine. The double espresso is poured into the bottom of the cup, followed by a similar amount of hot milk, which is prepared by heating and texturing the milk using the espresso machine steam wand. The top third of the drink consists of milk foam; this foam can be decorated with artistic drawings made with the same milk, a growing trend called latte art.

Cappuccino is traditionally small with a thick layer of foam, while 'latte' traditionally is larger. Caffè latte is often served in a large glass; cappuccino mostly in a small cup (5 or so ounces) with a handle. Cappuccino traditionally has a layer of textured milk microfoam exceeding 1 cm in thickness; microfoam is frothed/steamed milk in which the bubbles are so small and so numerous that they are not seen, but it makes the milk lighter and thicker. As a result, the microfoam will remain partly on top of the mug when the espresso is poured correctly as well as mix well with the rest of the cappuccino.

What's in a Name?

In Italian, cappuccino literally means "little cap," which perfectly describes the head of foamed milk that sits atop the drink's espresso base.

It also allegedly derives from a religious sartorial inspiration: With their iconic brown hooded cowls and shaved heads, the monks of Capuchin are a pretty close human resemblance to the ring of crema and white foam that tops the classic beverage. An offshoot of the Franciscan Catholic order, these friars struck out on their own in 1520, adopting the coffee-colored cloak, or cappuccio, as an imitative sign of gratitude to the Benedictine Camaldolese monks, who offered Capuchins refuge while they dodged persecution from church officials.

When expertly poured so that a circle of white is perfectly encircled by the darker coffee, the design on a "traditional" cappuccino is called a monk's head.

What You'll Need

  • 1 double shot of espresso pulled into a cappuccino cup
  • Several ounces of foamed milk at about double its original volume (Start with around four ounces of milk to make this.)

How to Make It

  1. Top the espresso with foamed milk right after foaming. When initially poured, cappuccinos are only espresso and foam, but the liquid milk quickly settles out of the foam to create the (roughly) equal parts foam, steamed milk and espresso for which cappuccino is known. 
  2. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 73
Total Fat 4 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Unsaturated Fat 1 g
Cholesterol 11 mg
Sodium 55 mg
Carbohydrates 6 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Protein 4 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)