The Cappuccino.

Author: george Posted: February 9, 2008

Picture the following:

It’s busy. It always is. You’re handing out drinks left and right, as if you have Octopus genetics inside you which enable you to use your 2 hands as 8. People are waiting at the bar – ready to take on the day after their daily, or sometimes bi-daily, intake of caffeine. Time is money. You hand someone their Cappuccino. It’s to-go. The one’s who comment always are. They lift it up – it’s a bit heavier than they are used to.

Rush Hour
Rush Hour

“Is this a capp?” they ask, lifting it up and down in a confused manner.

“You bet!” you say.

“Oh ok… Well what’s the difference between this and a latte/can I have more foam/why is it so heavy/I don’t want any milk just foam/insert anything here.”

You take it back politely, saying you will remake it for them, and steam the milk creating enough foam to wash your and your whole family tree’s clothes.

Pop Quiz: Which of the following exist?

a) Unicorns
b) An incredible Monday morning
c) A 12 or 16 oz Cappuccino.

The answer: None of the above.

I know some of you reading may be shocked to find out that Unicorns indeed are an animal of fiction, but it is true.

This being said, we now have to deal with c), the dreaded Tall and Grande (or sometimes even VENTI) Cappuccino. Now I know some people are out there reading this who have indeed, with their very own mouths, consumed a Tall Cappuccino. Perhaps you are even sporting a foamy milk moustache as we speak, fresh off your Capp.

Give me a moment. Allow me to explain.

First, the word: Cappuccino – It comes from the italian word “cappucio” which is the word for frock of the Franciscan Minor friars. In italian, when you add “ino” to the end of a word, it makes it smaller, in a cute kinda way. So, the word actually means a little “hood” so to speak. Anyone cluing in yet? If not, this is exactly why a Traditional Cappuccino (the only kind) has a “hood” like appearance on top of it, thanks to extra thick milk.

There are 2 types of Cappuccino milk. Dry/scooped and wet/poured. Scooped and poured are sort of barista slang, and more or less the same as dry and wet. The first is the milk that probably comes to mind when you think of a Cappuccino, in that it is very creamy and almost soft-pillow like.

The Perfect Cappuccino Milk
The Perfect Cappuccino Milk

It could also resemble dish washing soap at some cafe’s, but this is not good. It is the opposite of good. A perfect example of a great Trad Capp (the city’s best in my opinon) is any JJ Bean location. If you want to be more precise, go to JJ Bean Park and Tilford on a weekday at night. (you’ll either get that or won’t.) As has been my experience every time I’ve gone, JJ always does their trad capps the scooped way. The milk will be so thick and creamy that it won’t even know what to do with itself, so instead of trying to figure it out, it just decides to defy gravity and stand proudly a half inch over the top of the cup. Something to look for in properly scooped milk is a perfect circle in the crema.

Gravity Defying Scooped Capps
Gravity Defying Scooped Capps

The other type of Cappuccino milk, which is becoming quite trendy, is the wet. Basically the milk is done just a bit thicker than a latte (or in some places just the same) and the milk is poured out of the pitcher, usually making a beautiful design inside your cup.

Trendy Poured Capp Milk
Trendy Poured Capp Milk

People reading are probably saying to themselves right now, “So what? I get Tall Capp’s with Dry/Wet Milk all the time!” – Well here is the key fact about the Cappucino.

It’s a 6 oz drink. No less, no more. Always. No excuses. (ok fine, maybe an ounce or 2 give or take, but that’s it!)

It has 2 shots of espresso, (some will argue it has only 1. They are wrong.) and is then filled to the top of the cup with the barista’s choice of wet or dry milk. You may be given the choice if he/she likes you. The cappuccino is a perfect tried and tested ratio of milk to coffeea coffee of thirds, if you will. One third Espresso, and two thirds milk. When made correctly, it is also one third awesomeness. When you add more milk, the ratio get’s hurt. Hurt bad. If you want more milk, then get a latte. The very word Latte means milk in italian, hence the predominant ratio of milk to espresso in the drink.

I can’t verify it for sure, but I believe the confusion started when places like Starbucks started giving out any size Cappuccino people wanted. I guess the logic was that bigger is better, but in actuality bigger is latte. So what are you actually getting when you order your tall capp?

A foamy latte. Yes, it’s true.

Author’s Note: I have nothing against making you, the customer, any drink you want. As a matter of fact, as long as you’re happy with your drink, I’m happy. Tall capp’s all around, on me! I do, however, want to educate and give you the best experience possible every time you come while I’m on bar. Knowledge is Power. Now you know.

13 Responses to “The Cappuccino.

  1. Meredith says:

    I just have to say… that is some effing crazy foam on that scooped capp! I need to see it to believe it

  2. Florian says:

    Can the two thirds milk be separated into 1/3 hot milk and 1/3 foam? For example, pour 1/3 milk into the cup, add 2 shoots of espresso and top it of with 1/3 foam.

  3. Derek says:

    unicorns don’t exist?

  4. Jeremy Butler says:

    Interesting, I wasn’t aware of that, and now I have coffee related knowledge to silently mock people who order tall Cappuccinos!

  5. George says:

    @Florian -

    That is exactly what you want to do – only you’ll want to pull the shots of espresso directly into the cup first, then add the poured milk followed by the foam. To make the foam rise above the cup like the pictures, after you finish scooping the foam on top, slowly pour some more milk into it. You will know you are doing it correct if it rises in an elevator-like manner out of the cup. If you want to really be pro, scoop off one more teaspoon worth of foam to cover the hole you created by pouring more milk onto it to make it rise – Now sit down with it and enjoy.

  6. Sean says:

    Ah, the truth comes forward, doesn’t mean the pretentious bastards will actually care though, they like ordering something overpriced and over sized, even if it doesn’t exist, oh, by the way, I’m referring to you, pretentious West Van customers

  7. Florian says:

    Hey Geoarge. thank you for the response. I will try that technique tomorrow morning.
    Any good advice for whole espresso beans? I am on the east cost and I enjoy counter culture, Larrys Beans, some european brands like Illy, Segafredo and I just ordered the championship winning bean from Klatch coffee.

  8. george says:

    @Florian -

    I live in Vancouver, Canada and so I have not tried any of those beans that you have named, except for Illy. I honestly can’t say much good about my experience with it, except that it is a fun word to say. “Illy.”

    At Crema (the cafe I am from) we use espresso from JJ Bean – local roasters located in the heart of Vancouver. You can see their site here: http://www.jjbeancoffee.com. If you’d like, send me your mailing address and I will gladly send you over a pound of beans (really), for you to try out.

    My email is getg86atgmaildotcom

    One thing you should take note of is that the bean you choose is just one of very many (at least a dozen come to mind) important and incredibly picky details in making a great espresso. I have been to plenty of cafes that use a great bean but still can’t seem to pull it together (no pun intended). Perhaps the greatest detail in the taste of the bean itself is freshness. As a rule of thumb, buy small batches more regularly.

    Good luck and do email me!

  9. florian says:

    George: I sent an email yesterday.

    Where did you try Illy?

    I like JJ bean’s website. Very nice. However, the menu doesnt seem to work?

    Yeah, so many factors come into play when pulling a shot of espresso. Water, weather, grinder, etc etc

    Any advice on storing the beans? I usually only buy one lb. This way I dont need to store in air tight container etc because I go through the benas pretty fast.

  10. Mike says:

    I appreciate where you’re coming from, but I think you’re being too much of a volume nazi. The important thing is that it’s in 1/3’s. When Cap’s were created I can’t imagine people being too delicate in their measurement of the espresso, rather they’d run it til they got the right amount of creme and enough to give them a good drink. Then adjust the rest accordingly. So I’m going to take your hatred and frustration and schooch it over a bit to the crowd asking for a Cap. with no foam.

    p.s. These should be issued to everyone that orders coffee:

  11. Dawn says:

    That’s how we made them at a cafe I used to work at. But in a town like Guelph, Ontario, where the only cappucino people know is the stuff from Tim Horton’s, it’s never what people expect to get when they order one.

  12. Kyle says:

    Wait… 1/3 Milk+1/3 Foam+ 1/3 Espresso+ 1/3 Awesome=… Ok, I see it now.
    I agree with the JJ comment. They make good caps.
    I’m glad you’re setting people straight with this, I have a lady coming in ordering a 20 oz ‘capp’ and I bite my tongue every time and charge her for a large latte. Safe to say I’m not incredibly courageous enough to tell her how wrong she is before her daily caffeine fix. Maybe after.
    Anyways, I enjoyed the wit of this post, as well as learning the Italian derivatives.
    Cheers.

  13. Julian says:

    I’d like to see more coffee shops downsize all of their drinks. No more 20 oz latte’s or cappuccini…
    I work at Delany’s in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver, and we always scoop cappuccini incredibly dry… more like 1/2 foam, 1/4 milk, 1/4 espresso, and the owner always gets an 8 oz near-bone-dry cappuccino. Whenever I scoop my foam, however, the top always seems to resemble the Rockies rather than the beautiful plateau in the picture. What’s the secret to scoop an amazing dry “capp”?

Leave a Reply