A few years ago, while on a tourist day in downtown Seattle, Joan and I tasted our first cappuccinos. It was a day of firsts. We also rode the big wheel on the waterfront and ate Persian food at the Market for the first time. After a lovely visit to SAM we wandered across the street to Café Ladro for an afternoon pick-me-up. Since it was a vacation day, we thought we’d try something new and ordered cappuccinos. The bearded barista hooked us up and we were instant converts. The cappuccinos were the highlight of our day. Delicious, sophisticated and satisfying, we would never order lattes again!
A couple weeks later we thought we’d treat ourselves again and this is when we realized that making a cappuccino is an art. Just because it is on the menu doesn’t mean they will make it as perfectly as the Café Ladro guy. We had some disappointing cups. There must be a way to make a cappuccino at home without all the fancy equipment. What did Italians do before the advent of the espresso machine?
Flashback to Jessica Onetti telling a story about making espresso at the Bullock’s permaculture homestead on Orcas. She used one of those cute little Italian stovetop espresso makers that had been abandoned in the back of the cupboard because nobody knew how to make it work. We found a classic Bialetti moka express at the thrift store for about five bucks. It was easy to find operating instructions on the web, and soon we had shots of espresso but none of the delicious foam. We tried all manner of whisking and frothing but our experiments were disappointing. Then an unnamed YouTube genius showed us the secret to making thick, rich cappuccino foam using a coffee press. A quick dash to the thrift store and six bucks later we were ready to make a low-tech cappuccino. The results were delicious and so easy!
Here’s how to make two or three cups of cappuccino.
Warm 1 ¼ cups of milk in a sauce pan on medium heat to 150 degrees F.
Preheat coffee press with hot water, empty out water before adding milk.
Meanwhile, unscrew the moka express and take out the steel funnel. Fill the lower chamber with cold water up to the valve. Put in funnel and fill with finely ground coffee, don’t tamp down. Wipe any coffee grounds off funnel edge and screw on top carafe.
Put moka express on small burner set to high. Listen for the gurgling to crescendo. When the top carafe is full, remove from heat.
When espresso is done, pour hot milk into preheated coffee press. Pump the plunger up and down a dozen or more times to create rich, thick foam.
Pour 3 ounces of espresso into bowl-shaped coffee cups and spoon foam on top.