One of my pet hates is a cappuccino without good froth, especially one for which I’ve forked out my hard-earned readies.
After I dropped many a hint, Lenny gave me an espresso machine for Christmas. Determined not to replicate the work of dud baristas who have been fleecing me for donkeys’ years, I went to work quickly to perfect my frothing technique. Now Crash Test Kitchen is ready to go public with the cappuccino tips you’ll find in this episode.
Too many of the coffee chains get away with selling fraudulently priced beverages with coarsely bubbled, over-aerated scum on top that has absolutely no body to it. Carry a coffee like this across the room, or up the street to your job, and you’ll find the foam has burst its bubbles and collapsed into plain old milk again. Really, really bad foam will discombobulate under the weight of the mandatory chocolate powder or flakes alone.
Good froth, I reckon, should be dense and smooth with lots of fine bubbles. It should be a silky layer that you enjoy for its taste and texture – not just decoration or a reason to gouge you an extra fifty pence.
And I argue that a dense froth does a better job of keeping the heat in the coffee.
My espresso machine (thanks Lenny!) has a frothing spout with a “snorkel” that draws in air from above the milk-line using the venturi principle. I don’t think it’s the best set-up. It tends to pull in too much air too quickly, frothing the milk before it’s up to the right temperature, which is about 60-75 degrees Celsius (149-158 Fahrenheit).
My solution is to cover the top of the snorkel with my finger, letting in a short burst of air every second or two. The very small intake hole gets blocked sometimes and I clear it with a pin.
On some other machines, the air intake is incorporated with the end of the spout and you let in air by dropping the jug to bring the breather holes above the surface of the milk.
Good espresso, as any even half-baked barista will tell you, forms a nice “crema” on top as it’s expressed. Pour the milk right and you’ll get a tasty and aesthetically pleasing ring of this brown coffee oil around the perimeter of the froth layer.
A note on our coffee cups. They’re actually tea cups that Lenny got at Value Village in Edmonton, Canada, for next to nix.
We know they’re not _proper_ coffee cups, but when has Crash Test Kitchen been afraid to improvise, even when it comes to the holy grail of a perfect cappuccino?