National Cappuccino Day, the homemade way


For those who feel that one day, National Coffee Day (Sept. 29), is simply not enough to honor one of the most celebrated steamy beverages, Nov. 8 marks National Cappuccino Day. In case you are unfamiliar (unlikely if you are a coffee enthusiast), the dictionary describes the cappuccino as a “coffee made with milk that has been frothed up with pressurized steam.” But, alas, this definition simply doesn’t do justice to one of the most popular espresso drinks.

Read on to discover the versatility and possibilities surrounding the cappuccino.

How to prepare a cappuccino from home

Great news for those who enjoy a good cappuccino but don’t own an espresso machine: No fancy tools or barista-level skills are required.

  • What you do need:
  • Milk or a dairy substitute (soy, almond milk, coconut milk, etc.)
  • Microwave safe mug or measuring cup
  • Whisk or a container with a seal-tight lid
  • Spoon

Espresso or coffee

Before you begin, it’s important to note that most textbook cappuccinos consist of a ratio of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk (or dairy substitute) and 1/3 foam. But since you will be your own barista, you can alter accordingly. Most people use { cup to 1 cup of milk or substitute. Depending on the preference, you can also add many additional complements (syrups, sugar, cinnamon), which we will get into more detail later.

The first step in concocting a homemade cappuccino is to brew your espresso or coffee. While any coffee will do, experts recommend using a full-bodied coffee with high acidity to ensure the aroma and flavor of the bean can be detected through the “crema,” i.e. the liquid portion of the drink.

There are a few ways to go about the liquid and foam process. The first method is to heat whatever milk/substitute you choose for approximately one minute, or until the milk is warm enough to form bubbles along the edge of the microwaveable container (mug or measuring cup). Once removed from the microwave, whisk the milk/substitute rapidly until you produce a layer of foam (optimally 1/3 liquid to foam ratio).

A less conventional method of preparing the milk/substitute and foam is to place the desired amount of liquid ({ cup to 1 cup) in a container with a lid. Shake vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds. Then, microwave (uncovered) for 30 to 45 seconds.

If you want to attempt a more refined process of milk warming and foam building without the added expense of an entire espresso machine, consider purchasing a hand-held foaming wand. has several brands available, typically in the $15 to $20 range.

Now for the fun part! Pour 1/3 of your brewed espresso/coffee into a mug. Next, pour 1/3 of your heated milk/substitute over the coffee, using a metal spoon to keep the foam held back. After pouring, scoop the desired amount of foam as the top layer.

Add-ons and add-ins

As the cappuccino has evolved, sweeteners and toppings have become diverse and abundant. While some people are content simply adding a bit of sugar or a dusting of cinnamon, others may add flavored syrups such as vanilla, hazelnut, caramel and the ever-popular pumpkin spice.

More flavor profiles may include a dusting of mocha or vanilla powder, nutmeg or pumpkin-pie spice. Some people add a dollop of whipped cream to the foamy layer of their cappuccino, or even cupcake sprinkles.

More tips and tricks from the experts

One of the most cumbersome elements of crafting a cappuccino is foam production. Here are a few things to consider when trying to build up those tiny bubbles.

The thicker the liquid, the richer the foam. While you can certainly still use soy, rice and coconut milk, whole milk typically produces a frothier, denser foam.

Be wary of too much liquid, as it may make it more difficult to build foam

Don’t overheat your milk. In addition to making it difficult to produce your frothy top layer, it will also taste yucky and can curdle! Experts recommend keeping your milk/substitute between 155 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you do have the luxury of an espresso machine, try chilling your stainless-steel milk pitcher prior to steaming the milk to yield optimum foam.

Once you’ve mastered the cappuccino from home, show off your talent to guests. Pair the fruit of your labor with a biscotti, scone, cookies, croissant or other baked good. Or relish the outcome of your newfound hobby alone, fireside, with a good book.