How to Make a Cappuccino with an Espresso Machine

How to Make a Cappuccino with an Espresso Machine: A Detailed Guide

Cappuccino is an espresso-based drink perfectly blended with milk foam. This traditional Italian drink has been incredibly popular among coffee drinkers for over a hundred years and brew it has become an art. According to a research statistics, 54% of America’s population over the age of 18 drinks coffee. That means about 100 million Americans.

And 30 million of which consumes at least a cup of espresso coffee – based drinks, including Cappuccino, Lattes, and Mocha.

No wonder, people wanted to master the art of how to make a Cappuccino at home beside their regular coffee.

In this post we are going through all the steps and all the details, from how to brew the espresso coffee to how to prepare the froth, so that at the end you will have a complete understanding of all you need to do and make, how to do it, and how to enjoy a great cappuccino using your espresso machine.


What Makes a Great Cappuccino

The composition of Cappuccino is:

  • 1/3 espresso coffee
  • 1/3 steamed milk
  • 1/3 milk froth.

A well-made cappuccino has a nice balance of flavours.

The espresso taste is recognizable, not dominated by milky taste. It has creamy sweet foam, with low acidity, and rich structure.

It is usually served in a pre-heated porcelain coffee mugs or cups. And for take – out, establishments use paper cups with plastic lids.

Cappuccino have major variations which bring to different ways on how to make it all over the world. Some people add flavoured syrups, like vanilla, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, and peppermint to it. Some like to make it with a sprinkle chocolate or cinnamon powder over the foam, while others just add sugar or sweetener. There is also something called Cappuccino art!


How to Make a Cappuccino with an Espresso Machine

The Three Types of Cappuccino

If you want to know how to make a cappuccino, you must first know which specific type you want to make.

Here are the 3 types of Cappuccino:

Traditional Cappuccino

Cappuccino started in Italy around the twentieth century, upon the invention of espresso machine. At that time espresso coffee machines were very large and complex. There was no way to make it at home, thus people could only enjoy a cup of espresso in a cafe or coffee house.

Until Italians started adding milk to their espressos. And that is how cappuccinos and lattes became extremely popular.

The traditional cappuccino has equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and froth.

Usually, it uses double shots of espresso in every cup. Then, equal parts of milk and froth. The froth serves as an insulator that keeps the drink hot for a longer period of time.

Wet Cappuccino

This is also called the Light Cappuccino (Cappuccin0 Chiaro).

Wet cappuccino is creamier than the traditional one. Instead of having equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and froth, it has more steamed milk than froth.

And the super wet cappuccino is called “latte”. It’s just a mixture of espresso and steamed milk, with little to no froth at all.

Dry Cappuccino

On the other hand, a dry cappuccino is called Dark Cappuccinos (Cappuccino Scuro).

Compared to traditional, the dry cappuccino has more foam. Its liquid is also darker because the steamed milk is lesser.

The taste is also stronger than the traditional cappuccino.

And to make it more complex, a “bone dry” cappuccino is just a mixture of espresso and foam, without steamed milk.

Things You Need to Make Cappuccino at Home

Now that we know what cappuccino is, and how the different types differ from each other, it’s time to learn how to make cappuccino.

Listed down are the cappuccino ingredients and things we need to make our perfect cup. See the cappuccino recipe below:


You might ask, what is espresso coffee?

Espresso is a coffee made from water pressure – brewing finely ground coffee beans, for about 25 to 30 seconds. It is usually served in a pre – heated demitasse cups, white small cups that can hold 2 – 4 ounces of liquid.

A good quality espresso coffee has a rich, dark, golden crema on top.

Despite its rich flavor and body, espresso coffee has lower caffeine content compared to drip coffee. This is because of the quick method of brewing.

Espresso coffee has to be consumed immediately, but not in one gulp. You have to sip it slowly to fully appreciate its flavor, aroma, and strength.

It is said that a good shot of espresso is a product of 4 Ms:

  1. Macchina – This refers to the efficiency of the espresso coffee machines
  2. Macinazione – This refers to how to proper grind coffee beans. You should only use a freshly ground coffee beans, with a texture between fine and powdery.
  3. Miscela – How to blend the coffee right.
  4. Mano – This refers to how the skilled hands of the barista can make the magic happen.

Steamed Milk

The milk with 2% fat is the best option and most common type of milk used for steaming. It should be used cold.

The same milk will also be used to achieve the foam of your cappuccino.


Achieving foamed milk requires using an espresso coffee machine. The steam wand, part of espresso machines, is used to incorporate air into the steamed milk to form the foam while increasing the temperature of the milk.

When frothing the milk, about 2% produces creamier and nice foam.

But for beginners, the non-fat milk is the easiest to froth since it has zero fat. However, the taste is not as creamy as the 2%.

The whole milk produces a rich and creamy cappuccino, but frothing it is challenging. This is because of the fat content, which weighs down the foam.

Soy milk is also an alternative, for those who are lactose intolerant. But the foam of this milk quickly disappears, because the protein structure of soy milk cannot support the bubbles. Also it burns faster than the whole one.

Other types of milk (lactose – free or organic) do not froth well, because of how the pasteurization process destroys its protein. Thus, it also cannot support the milk bubbles of the foam.

Espresso Machine

The espresso machine produces espresso coffee, the base of cappuccino. Also, the steam wand of espresso machine is used to steam and froth the milk.

Luigi Bezzerra invented espresso machine in the early years of twentieth century. He saw an opportunity because coffee houses took so long in brewing a cup of coffee. So, he introduced espresso machines, inventing how to make espresso coffee within a few seconds.

Milk Jug

Milk or Steam Jug is a stainless jug with a handle and spout.

This is where you put the fresh milk for steaming and frothing.


150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for steaming and frothing. If you steamed or frothed the milk with higher temperature, the bubbles won’t cope with it.

Others just skip on using the thermometer because they trust their hands very well. They check how the temperature is by touching the outside part of the jug.

If it’s lower than the body temperature, it is still lower than what it should be. And if you can’t touch it for even 5 seconds, the temperature is too much.

How to Make a Cappuccino with an Espresso Machine

How to Make a Cappuccino with an Espresso Machine

We now have all the ingredients to make a perfect cappuccino. How to make it will be our next topic.

Let’s start with the base:

The Espresso Coffee

To be able to make espresso coffee, you will need:

  • 18 – 21 grams of ground coffee
  • clean water
  • coffee grinder
  • weighing scale
  • espresso machine
  • portafilter
  • tamper
  • volumetric shot glass

First, you have to fill the espresso machine’s water reservoir with clean water or plug the machine to a water source. Any unnecessary particles on the water might make a difference on taste, or worse, damage your machine.

Then, depending on the size of your machine, you will have to turn on and preheat the espresso coffee machine for about 15 to 45 minutes.

After that you will need to lock an empty portafilter to the grouphead.

Run the machine to preheat the parts where the water flows. Then wipe the portafilter and sides of grouphead to dry.

Next, how to grind the coffee beans. The coarseness is very important to get a balanced espresso coffee. Keep this tips in mind:

  1. The coarseness should be between fine and powdery.
  2. Using a finer grind will cause over extraction, more caffeine, body and bitterness.
  3. While a coarser grind will result in under extraction, less body and flavor.

Place the portafilter under the grinder and dose 18-21 grams of freshly ground coffee. Use your forefinger to flatten the grounds and fill in the gaps. The coffee grounds should be evenly distributed.

How to Tamp the Grounds

While one hand holds the portafilter, the other hand will tamp the coffee grounds. Place the portafilter in a flat surface.

When tamping, level your arms to 90 degrees (apply approximately 30 lbs of pressure).

Here is how to do it: you tamp it four times employing the “Staub Tamp” (North, South, east, West side of the basket). Then give a slight twist on the tamper when releasing pressure.

Make sure the coffee grounds are compressed and even.

If the tamped grounds looked uneven, discard it. And you have to dose another batch from the grinder.

If it looked acceptable, lock the portafilter to the group head, and start brewing.

Brewing Espresso

The standard brewing temperature is between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. And the ideal brewing time is between 20 to 30 seconds.

After the brewing, the espresso puck should be solid, dry, and even. If this is watery, you have to tamp the coffee grounds harder.

Here is a video on how to make espresso shot:

The Foam

How to make the Cappuccino foam is another important step: first you have to use fresh cold milk.

Then fill your jug with milk, just until 1/3 of it. Leave space for the foam. And steam only the milk you will use.

Before submerging the steam wand into your milk, make sure the steam wand is clean. Wipe it with clean cloth, and release steam for 2 seconds to clear it out.

Then, submerge the steam wand, about half an inch. It should be at 15-degree angle from the side of the espresso machine. Dip the steam wand first before you turn it on.

Next step is aerating and texturing, that is how to incorporate air into the milk to create foam. You need to listen to the popping sounds, there should be sucking and chirping noise.

Also, watch out as the volume of the milk increase by fifty percent. This process will take just a few seconds. Once you notice this, you need to dip the tip of the steam wand deeper into the steam pitcher.

The milk will start spinning, and the popping sound will stop.

You have to see a flat whirlpool of milk without increasing the volume. If the milk volume keeps on rising, lower down the steam level a bit.

Then turn off the steam valve when the temperature reaches 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Steaming on this temperature range produces a sweeter and richer flavor, while steaming with higher temperature will result in the burnt taste on the milk.

How to Steam Milk Without Steam Wand

If you do not have an espresso coffee machine or steam wand, here is how to steam the milk.

You will need a microwave and a frother. Just heat up the milk in the microwave for about a minute. Then, using a handheld frother, you can achieve the milk foam in a few seconds.

What is the Best Jug 

It is best to use a stainless pitches, with spout. So, you will know the temperature of the milk just by touching the outside part of the jug.

The spout is important when pouring the milk.

How to Pour the Foam 

After steaming and frothing, you need to learn how to pour the foam.

Swirl the milk around the pitcher, to make sure the micro foam is together. When pouring the milk, just steady your hands on top of the cup. Pour the milk from the centre, low height from the cup with slight wiggle, and once the micro foam starts to pour, just tilt the pitcher a bit, towards the cup.

Things to Remember

  1. Use only fresh and cold milk when steaming. To get the best froth, the fresh milk must be used within 5 days of purchase.
  2. Never reuse milk, or add fresh with a milk that was already steamed, or add steamed milk with ice. This will just contaminate the milk, as bacteria can grow. Steam only what you need.
  3. Always put the milk back in the refrigerator, after using.
  4. Clean the milk jug after using.
  5. Always wipe and purge the steam wand, before and after using.
  6. Do not overheat the milk. The froth will disappear, and there will be an off taste on your coffee.


Learning how to make a cappuccino actually takes time. 

You need to understand the art and science behind espresso coffee. First the rich flavor and body of this drink is just as rich as its history, then, you must know how to steam the milk properly. Knowing the different characteristics of milk will help in achieving your desired taste and appearance.

After steaming, you have to understand how to make cappuccino foam, as the rich, creamy froth is the signature of a traditional cappuccino, and lastly, pouring the milk over the espresso coffee is also an important factor. This is how the cappuccino will be presented.

The next time you drink a precious cup of espresso, remember the complexities behind it. 

If you have any related coffee experiences, just comment down below. I would love to hear from you.