Since I wrote a post on How To Make a Cappuccino On a Budget Espresso聽Machine I got a stovetop espresso maker and manual milk frother for Christmas 2008. I see that my How To post gets a lot of hits from the question “I to make cappuccino with a stovetop espresso maker”, so I decided to write a post about it.

To make cappuccino with a stove top machine you will need two appliances:

Stovetop Espresso Machine and…聽聽 Manual Milk Frother

A Stovetop Espresso Machine and a Manual Milk Frother

Further you will need a medium ground coffee and full cream milk… and some kind of heat source (a stove works better than a blow dryer 馃檪 )…

Stovetop Espresso Machines

Stovetop Espresso Machines comes in different sizes and qualities/price brackets. I have a budget machine in the R130($15) range bought from @Home made from aluminium that can make up to 4 espressos. A good site to look for reviews on different machines is

The machine consist of a lower part you fill with water, a funnel/coffee holder combo, a rubber seal, top strainer and a top part into which the espresso is delivered.

stovetop-fill stovetop-coffee
Figure 1聽聽聽 聽 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Figure 2
Stovetop Strainer Seal Stovetop Machine Full
Figure 3聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Figure 4

Stovetop espresso makers uses the pressure of steam created by the heated water in the bottom part to force the water from the bottom part, through the coffee held in the funnel/coffee holder to the top part thus making espresso.

How to…

  • Unscrew and remove the top part of the espresso maker.
  • Remove the funnel/coffee holder.
  • Fill the bottom part of the espresso maker with water to just under the steam pressure safety valve (The brass thingy on the side of the bottom part) as in Figure 1.
  • Put the funnel/coffee holder back into place.
  • Fill the coffee holder with a medium ground coffee of your choice as in Figure 2. Fill it so that it is slightly heaped above the rim.
  • Stovetop PressTamp the coffee lightly down. Don’t tamp it down as hard as with an automatic pump machine as it might block the holder causing the water not to filter through the coffee.
  • Stovetop WipeWipe the rim of the the coffee holder clean of any coffee so that it will seal properly.
  • Make sure that the strainer and seal is properly seated in the top part of the espresso maker. The seal should hold the strainer in place as in Figure 3.
  • Screw the top part onto the bottom part tight enough so that it will seal properly.
  • Place it onto the stove and turn on the heat. Turn the espresso maker so that the steam safety valve is facing away from you.
  • While waiting for the espresso, pour full cream milk into the milk frother up to the maximum mark. My frother makes enough for one cup.
  • Heat the milk to just under milk’s boiling point in a micro wave oven. For this you will need to know your micro wave oven’s power output and it may take some experimenting. If you do not have a micro wave oven you can heat the milk on a stove before pouring it into the frother.
  • Use the plunger to froth the heated milk. Start by making fast, small movements on the surface of the milk and then gradually increasing the size of the movements until the volume of the milk is about doubled.
  • Back to the espresso…
    As the water heats up the coffee will push up through the funnel into the coffee holder and then up into the top part. The steam safety valve might relieve some of the pressure from time to time.
  • As soon as the top part is filled with espresso you may switch off the stove and remove the espresso maker from the heated stove plate.
  • Stovetop EspressoUsing a preheated cup, pour the espresso into the cup. Fill about one third of the cup with espresso.
  • Stovetop Adding MilkPour the heated and frothed milk on top of the espresso making small side to side movements towards the end of filling the cupo. This will push the froth out of the frother.

Stovetop Cappuccino

Enjoy your cuppuccino!


I am the fortunate owner of a Kambrook espresso machine given to me on my last birthday by my beautiful wife and my brother in law. Wow, I feel loved… 馃檪 Since I got it I have been making an average of 2 to 6 cappuccino’s with it per day. I consider myself now quite an expert on this particular machine (Please pray for me to repent of this pride!). I would like to give a few guidelines about cappuccino making. If this gets you interested I recommend the website

Budget Machines

The Kambrook machine I have is a low budget machine costing only R699-00 ($100) at Clicks. When using budget machines you have to keep a number of things in mind. They are not made to make huge amount of cups of coffee in a short time like the machines you would find in a coffee shop. The steam the budget machines produce聽is not even close as strong as the more expensive machines. But if you are patient you can still get satisfactory results.

When buying a budget聽machine, make sure the pump pressure is at least 15 bar. Also have look at the steam wand and see that it has a small opening that can create a strong steam jet, and that it can move around enough to facilitate easy access.

The machine should have two removable stainless steel聽strainers that clip into the filter holder, one fore making a single espresso and one for a double espresso. I have seen machines with only one聽strainer and with聽strainers that doesn’t clip into the holder and keep on falling out while working with it – very frustrating.

Coffee beans and grind

I like to use freshly ground coffee, as its flavour is much better than the ground coffee bought from your super-market. Masterton’s (+27 41 585 4044)聽in Port Elizabeth has a wonderful range of blends and flavoured coffee beans (The connoisseurs will crucify me for using flavoured coffee). My favourites are their Salvinia blend and Irish Cream flavour.

It is important to note that espresso machines use a finer聽grind than percolator machines and when buying ground coffee you should ask for espresso grind.聽 As I have said, I like to use freshly ground coffee. I got hold of a Russell & Hobbs grinder from Macro for R250-00. I find the second setting from finest to work best for me, but you should experiment with your machine.

Cappuccino’s Formula

So what makes a cappuccino a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is usually made in a cup 200ml to 250ml in size. It鈥檚 made up of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk and 1/3 milk froth. The espresso gets poured in first and then the milk so that the froth floats on top.

Making the Espresso

Let’s start with the single espresso. Make sure there is enough water for at least one cup in the machine’s reservoir. Turn the machine on and wait for it to warm up. Most machines have an indicator to tell when it is ready to use.

Place聽the smaller聽strainer into the holder. Scoop聽the ground coffee聽into the strainer (one heaped scoop should do it). Now tamp the coffee firmly into the strainer. I use the edge of聽a counter top or table聽to support the holder while I do it. The more compacted the coffee is, the stronger it will be, so play around with this step till you are satisfied with the strength of your espresso.

Wipe off any loose coffee on the edges of the strainer and holder. Place the holder with strainer into the machine, twisting it and make sure it seals well. The machine should be hot, ready to use by now. Place聽a cup under the holder’s outlets and turn the machine’s espresso function on. Fill the cup about 1/3 with espresso.

If you want to make a double espresso or two singles simultaneously, use the bigger strainer. When making two cups it is possible that the one cup might fill up faster than the other. As soon as the first reaches 1/3 full move the other over to catch both streams flowing from the holder’s outlets.

Frothing (Steaming) the Milk

Now we come to the part that separates an average cappuccino from a great cappuccino. I like using full cream milk, because it just tastes better, but you can use low fat or skimmed milk as well. Most machines come with a pitcher (milk cup) made of stainless steel. If your machine didn’t come with one, try buying one, it is worth the effort. As for the steam wand and froth enhancer – I don’t like using the froth enhancer that comes with the machines, because it makes the bubbles too big, so I remove it from the wand. Now follow the instructions:

聽聽聽聽 Fill the pitcher with the amount of milk that would fill a little bit more than 1/3 of the cup you are using.

聽聽聽聽 Aim the steam wand towards the waist tray and turn the steam on to get rid of any water that condensates inside the steam unit.

聽聽聽聽 When the steam starts blowing out strong turn it off, place the pitcher with milk under the wand with the nozzle dipped well into the milk.

聽聽聽聽 Bring the nozzle tip to surface of the milk as quickly as possible without blowing the milk all over the place.

聽聽聽聽 Keep the nozzle only just under the surface, getting the milk to swirl around in the pitcher.

聽聽聽聽 As the milk swirls around get the steam to make a tsst, tsst, tsst聽sound. (Best I can describe it)

聽聽聽聽 Keep doing this and you’ll see the froth forming with very, very tiny bubbles. Medium bubbles are bad. Big bubbles can be mixed into the froth again or broken up afterwards by banging the bottom of the pitcher on a counter top.

聽聽聽聽 The milk should swell to about double its initial volume. When double the volume is reached, dip the steam nozzle into the milk while keeping the milk swirling.

聽聽聽聽 Best is to use a thermometer to get the milk to the right temperature. I don’t have one yet, so I touch the bottom of the pitcher until it is uncomfortably hot.

聽聽聽聽 Turn off the steam.

聽聽聽聽 Your froth should be smooth, fooling people into thinking it is cream. (I had that once 馃檪 )

Now there is two ways you can add the milk to the espresso:

The first: Scoop some of the froth onto the espresso until the top is almost covered with the froth. Now add the rest of the milk and froth till the cup is filed up. If you want you can sprinkle chocolate, cinnamon or cappuccino spices over the froth. Serve with pride.



The second method takes a bit of practice and I am not there yet. The idea is to pour the milk and froth into the espresso so that the froth rises to the top making patterns. This is called latte art. Have a look on

Bang the bottom of the pitcher on the counter, breaking any larger bubbles. With the bottom touching the counter top, make circular movement with it swirling the milk a few times until the froth becomes slightly shiny. Hold the cup slightly angled towards you. Pour the milk into the espresso making pendulum movements while keeping a steady flow. You should see a pattern forming on top of your cappuccino. This takes a lot of practice. I get it right 1 out of 10 times…

Enjoy your cappuccino!


I see that this post gets quite a bit of hits. I hope this helped you with your cappucino making or at least gets you excited about coffee. Please let me know about what you have learned so far in your search of the perfect cup…