The cappuccino is iconic in the world of coffee. Combining espresso, steamed milk, and microfoam; it’s actually been around for centuries.
It has evolved over time and today variations exist which are a far cry from the original made using brewed coffee rather than the concentrated espresso we see today.
The name comes from the order of the Capuchin monks, whose brown robes were likened to the colour of the coffee.
Today, the cappuccino is generally made up of three parts: espresso coffee, steamed milk, and milk foam. However, the ratios of these three components is often disputed. Many Barista’s suggest that for a Cap to be correct the layer of foam needs to be substantial enough, i.e over the depth of say 1.5cm.
There will be some degree of variation from coffee shop to coffee shop with any beverage you order, no matter where you are in the world. This will depend on several different things, from the freshness and quality of the coffee to how well it is extracted.
The flavour and texture of a cappuccino will also depend on the milk that each coffee shop chooses to use. Whole milk, for instance, will provide a thicker, creamier texture and a more stable microfoam than semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
Recipe variations may tweak the exact ratio of espresso to microfoam and steamed milk, however. As mentioned previously, this is not a universally-agreed point, and tweaks should be made to achieve a balanced, consistent flavour in the cup.
REGIONAL CAPPUCCINO VARIATIONS
These variations have evolved over the years purely because of the cappuccino’s age. Any 200-year old recipe will naturally change over time.
However, as well as tweaking the ratio of milk and foam to coffee, some regional variations have also come to add different ingredients or alter the specific method used to prepare the beverage.
For instance, in some parts of the world, coffee shops add spices to their cappuccinos. Cinnamon is a popular addition in many European countries, while adding cardamom and clove is popular in the Middle East.
It doesn’t stop there, either. In many Austrian coffeehouses – which are believed to be the true origin of the cappuccino – customers can order a “kapuziner”. This classic version of the cappuccino is made with coffee, sugar, whipped cream, and spices (including cinnamon).
Similarly, the Viennese “Wiener Melange” is a staple among classic coffeehouses in the country’s capital. Much like a cappuccino, it is made with steamed milk and foam, but either with less espresso or a slightly lighter roast.
In Brazil ther variation known as the “cappuccino mineiro” is found often in the state of Minas Gerais. This beverage is made by adding dulce de leche (known in Portuguese as doce de leite) instead of milk – a sweet, caramelised milk product with a thick, jam-like consistency.
The cappuccino has a long and rich history, and remains a café staple to this day. Because it is so well-known and beloved by so many, its traditional roots have given rise to coffee shop owners developing their own signature versions of the beverage.
However, coffee shop owners should be wary when developing a variation of the cappuccino. Focusing on blending the flavours of delicious coffee with the smooth, creamy texture of steamed milk and microfoam will be a great place to start – no matter where the beverage ends up.