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Cappuccino vs. Latte

Postby kiwi_barista on Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:25 am

...or is it a latte vs cappuccino? when i first started learning the art of coffee making i was told that a latte was 1/3 coffee 1/3 milk and a 1/3 froth i was recently told that this is actually the make up of a cappuccino. i was wondering what one it was latte or cappuccino.
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Postby HB on Wed Sep 28, 2005 7:42 am

I've often heard a cappuccino defined as a drink of thirds; searching the Internet, you'll have no trouble finding plenty of similar "1/3 espresso, 1/3 foam, 1/3 steamed milk" definitions. The SCAA competitions were recently held in our region and of course this question came up at the judges' certification workshop. You might expect that a competition would lay down rigid measures, but I was surprised that they simply defined a cappuccino as a harmonious balance of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. That leaves plenty of wiggle room for regional differences.

The Judges Rules & Regulations added some other criteria:

Visually correct cappuccino:
All styles of cappuccinos are acceptable. A cappuccino is a beverage of ratios, producing a harmonious balance of espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk. A traditional cappuccino is a five- to six-ounce beverage (150 to 180 ml.), served in a five- to six-ounce (150 to 180 ml.) porcelain cappuccino cup with a handle and a rounded interior base.

Consistency and persistence of foam:
Foam should be smooth, silky and free of bubbles. Judges will evaluate under the surface with a spoon for total perception of consistency throughout the drink.

Taste balance:
The taste balance should be a harmonious blend of the sweetness of the milk and the espresso as a building block. The drink should not be too milky: a distinct taste of espresso should be present.

Although it's not a part of the SCAA's definition, my purist definition doesn't allow for mondo-cappuccinos (e.g., a twelve ounce "double cappuccino"). Latte definitions are less disputed, with most agreeing it's a milk drink with a thin layer of foam. In my area, they are generally served in twelve ounce cups instead of the 4.5-5.5 ounce cups for cappuccinos. Due to the lower ratio of the espresso base, the predominant flavor is sweet milk.
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Postby Compass Coffee on Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:41 am

HB wrote:I've often heard a cappuccino defined as a drink of thirds; searching the Internet, you'll have no trouble finding plenty of similar "1/3 espresso, 1/3 foam, 1/3 steamed milk" definitions. The SCAA competitions were recently held in our region and of course this question came up at the judges' certification workshop. You might expect that a competition would lay down rigid measures, but I was surprised that they simply defined a cappuccino as a harmonious balance of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. That leaves plenty of wiggle room for regional differences.

Indeed! I wish I'd found this post before yesterday's NWRBC judges cert' workshop! :oops: I'd read the judge's & competitor's rules & regs multiple times before hand so was at the same quandary of having been led to believe a cappuccino was a beverage of 1/3 ratios espresso, steam milk and foam and couldn't figure out how that was supposed to work in 5 or 6oz cappuccino cups. One place I learned this 1/3 rule was the oft' referred Milk Frothing Guide on CG which states The cup itself should hold 5 to 7oz and no more. Sharing the space in the cup in one-third proportions is one shot of espresso, one-third steamed milk, topped by one-third foam. The only way that ratio would work would be a double shot but seems such is not the case in SCAA reality! One-third of a six ounce cap' cup is 2oz, that ain't no single shot!

So of course I brought question up in the workshop. And this caused me some problems in the practice taste calibrations finding the espresso in the cappuccinos very lacking. This morning did some more researching and now find at least one place Schomer referring to a cappuccino as a ratio of about 5:1, which makes more sense as presented by the SCAA competitions.

Seems what I've been making at home using a double shot is halfway between a cappuccino and ~1:1 ratio machiatto.
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Postby peechdogg on Fri Oct 20, 2006 11:28 am

Compass Coffee wrote:Seems what I've been making at home using a double shot is halfway between a cappuccino and ~1:1 ratio machiatto.


It seems my cappuccinos have been closer to what you describe, too.
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Postby Dogshot on Fri Oct 20, 2006 12:34 pm

I'm familiar with, but never understood the thirds rule for capps within the context of our North American use of microfoam. Microfoam is usually described as having a uniform consistency. Poor foaming results are often typified as having a marshmallow in the pitcher that does not want to integrate. So, does anybody make a more traditional drier foam for their capps, or is the milk supposed to separate out into equal parts foam and milk in a capp? Or is the free-floating definition of a capp listed in Dan's post above intended to incorporate the idea of microfoam into a modern capp?

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Postby cannonfodder on Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:10 pm

I have always understood the 'traditional' cappuccino to be a drink of 1/3's and that is how I make them at home. While my microfoam is incorporated with the milk as one homogeneous mixture, I stretch cappuccino's about another 10 degrees F more than latte milk. When I pour I get the rolling crema effect in the milk, the microfoam separates out over 30 or so seconds giving me a drink of thirds.

Lattes settle out to more like ¼ microfoam using the same procedure but with a shortened stretch. My lattes are still 6-7oz, say 2oz espresso 3-4oz steamed milk with 1oz of microfoam. Those 12oz latte drinks are best left to the big cafe chains that cant make a decent tasting espresso.
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Postby King Seven on Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:42 pm

Working my way back through my coffee literature I have come to the conclusion that the definition of thirds has come from poor punctuation.

Often you see the following phrase:

"A cappuccino is an espresso mixed with equal parts of foamed and steamed milk."

This would imply that all ingredients are there in equal quantities but what they are often trying to communicate is that the milk and foam are equal, and only the milk and the foam are equal. This would change the ratio from 1:1:1 to perhaps 1:2:2 or maybe 1:3:3 (should you like a weaker drink). The 1:2:2 is what I enjoy, and what I tend to find when in Italy. Problem is, for coffee houses whose focus is retail not coffee, that 5oz isn't really the best size of drink to sell and hence the lovely 5oz capp is rarely found.

You can serve a great drink of thirds (a 6 oz double shot capp) and call it a cappuccino if you like but often you see it called Traditional or Classic and I don't really believe that to be the case, as I am unaware of any tradition or history of a drink with that recipe. (I am not picking on those that do it - it really is a great drink that I am delighted to see people serving it!).
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Postby jrtatl on Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:56 pm

King Seven wrote:Working my way back through my coffee literature I have come to the conclusion that the definition of thirds has come from poor punctuation.

Often you see the following phrase:

"A cappuccino is an espresso mixed with equal parts of foamed and steamed milk."

This would imply that all ingredients are there in equal quantities but what they are often trying to communicate is that the milk and foam are equal, and only the milk and the foam are equal.


Agreed.

Granted, I'm not perfect with punctuation. However, I see so many people play fast and loose with punctuation, either through ignorance or laziness that it hurts. Either way it causes a problem. (especially in the legal profession)

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Postby HB on Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:53 pm

cannonfodder wrote:While my microfoam is incorporated with the milk as one homogeneous mixture, I stretch cappuccino's about another 10 degrees F more than latte milk.

I don't drink many lattes, but when I prepare them for my wife's friends, I stretch them to 70-80F and then texturize the milk to ~150F. For cappuccinos, it's more like 100-110F for stretching, or just about the point that the sides of the pitcher feel warm. For awhile I tried stretching the milk as high as 140F. It made for beautiful white caps just like I remember from Rome, but they were drier and lacked sweetness.

On a related note, one of our site sponsors, Chris Nachtrieb, mentioned that he gets several calls a week asking him for suggestions on how to properly stretch / texturize milk to produce sweet microfoam. In looking over the site's threads, I found lots of fragmented suggestions, but no one "in a nutshell" thread. If I get a free moment, I'd like to bring them together into a nice digest similar to your tamp and dose techniques digest. A missing piece is good videos to convey the sound with the motion. It's hard to appreciate how small a difference in movement makes in the stretching phase. Your video is the only one I found in the HB forums.

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Postby Compass Coffee on Tue Oct 24, 2006 9:30 am

HB wrote:I don't drink many lattes, but when I prepare them for my wife's friends, I stretch them to 70-80F and then texturize the milk to ~150F. For cappuccinos, it's more like 100-110F for stretching, or just about the point that the sides of the pitcher feel warm. For awhile I tried stretching the milk as high as 140F. It made for beautiful white caps just like I remember from Rome, but they were drier and lacked sweetness.

It's finally sinking in. It's not so much the ratio of total milk but rather the milk consistency. Talking to a NWRBC competing barista last weekend she commented one the the pairs of cappuccinos she served the judges she thought were lattes. Same size beverage served but she had challenges steaming on the LM and didn't get good foam but mostly steamed milk.
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