What are the best shot parameters for a cappuccino?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#1: Post by iploya »

This may be a question that is impossible to answer with so many variables along with the subjectivity of taste. But I've never really worked out what the "best" amount of espresso to start with in my cup when pouring a milk drink. In terms of (1) taste and (2) latte art.

Let's take a 6-oz cup (e.g., Lino Double Cappuccino) for example. The last several days I've been using a dark roast Saka Gran Bar as a ristretto, 17g in, 17g out. That has a bold taste that cuts through the milk and taste really good, the classic cappuccino. It also works OK for latte art but not sure if there is a more ideal shot volume.

This week I've switched to Kuma Classic, which is a totally different animal. They call medium but it's really quite light and I primarily want this for sipping straight (that "modern" type of espresso). But since I have it on hand I also want to use it for milk drinks. I tried it this morning and the taste is sort of buried in the milk. This one I am more uncertain of what ratio to do on the shot to make it shine in milk and also be able to do latte art (which is already harder with lighter roast).

Is there a more formulaic approach to optimizing shot volume to milk that someone has worked out or is it all just subjective trial and error like I've been doing?

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#2: Post by MB »

Re #2: Whether a dark or light roast, you can generally get more contrast in your latte art by starting earlier and getting super close to the surface. Your milk incorporation technique to get a smooth base also helps. Stay away from the cup edges, start incorporation low and immediately get high enough but not too crazy.
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#3: Post by ShotClock »

Personally - I find that grinding finer and pushing the shot toward being slower flowing and what you might consider slightly overextracted (when straight) can be a good approach. My theory is that this will create more intensity in the shot, at a cost of some bitterness, which is well hidden and/or complemented by the milk. I find that this approach works particularly well on the lighter side of medium, and with fruity naturals. Very light washed coffees that seem to do best as longer ratio espresso, I still struggle with.


#4: Post by SandraF »

Since the Kuma is a lighter roast, taste might be better if the temperature is increased slightly. My understanding is that, generally, people set temp lower within the range when using highly roasted beans &, to extract more from a lighter roast requires higher temps & a little bit longer time during the pull.

What temp are you set at, and have you tried adjusting temps accd. to roast level? What type of "milk" are you using?

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#5: Post by iploya (original poster) »

All good points, thanks for the replies.

I realize I did say "shot parameters" of which there are many, but I was thinking primarily of shot volume and ratio - e.g., something like 18/42 (as per Kuma recommended starting point*) that will put larger volume in the cup, but more dilute and less viscous to start, vs. something concentrated like 18/18 (thicker but less volume). I like the suggestion to err on the side of pushing the extraction a bit to cut through the milk.

As for temp, I'm at 200F. I've played around with Kuma in the past and (for my own, personal taste) never got clearly better results by going over 200F. Though I suppose I could try raising temp in keeping with the above suggestion of pushing the extraction to see if it helps in milk?

(*Incidentally, the 18/42 is tasting pretty good to me on this latest batch of Kuma for straight espresso but that's a different topic.)


#6: Post by LittleCoffee »

I recently asked the same question but from the milk end:

Grams of milk in a cappuccino

Basically I got to the conclusion that this isn't something that has ever been specified that rigorously, or at least in a way to become an accepted rule of thumb.

I was sort of half thinking of doing some standardised milk frothing experiment where I strech milk for different percentages of available steaming time and quantifying the volume change of the milk but life took over. I am convinced though that the best espresso shot is highly unlikely to be the best shot for a milk drink and so I do think the art could do with some standardisation!


#7: Post by Milligan »

Best capp in my opinion is one that is creamy and rich. Low shot volume, more cream. Darker roasts do better with low shot volume so that is the go-to. Next priority for milk drinks is lean bitter rather than sour. Bitter always goes better with milk compared to sour (chocolate milk vs butter milk.). So if you are going light then I'd do a longer ratio to get the needed balance/bitterness. You sacrifice a bit of creamy mouthfeel for balance when going light. A friend says he offsets this with half and half for some light roast drinks. I've yet to try it but sounds like it could work.

The reason light roasts are hard to do with milk is, in part, because of the long ratios needed to get out of sour. 40-60g espressos nearly fill up half the cup!

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#8: Post by iploya (original poster) »

I was sort of half thinking of doing some standardised milk frothing experiment
- I support you in this effort! Or maybe we can suggest the topic to one of the YouTube coffee ppl.
The reason light roasts are hard to do with milk is, in part, because of the long ratios needed to get out of sour. 40-60g espressos nearly fill up half the cup!
- Good point. I checked with the roaster and that's what they said too. For that reason they suggest 40+ on this coffee even in milk. Meanwhile I have more Saka on order so I can use that in milk and save this stuff for drinking straight.


#9: Post by kidloco »

Lately, for my cappuccinos, I use only dark roasts, even Italian dark with some % of robusta, it is so much better with milk. I have Cata Gran Bar on the way.