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 http://www.coffeegeek.com.

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.

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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 www.coffeegeek.com.

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!

*UPDATE*

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…

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