While coffee-based beverages remain as popular as ever, more Americans are looking for a do-it-yourself way to enjoy high-end coffee bar style cappuccino and espresso drinks at home. Fortunately, there are many affordable products on the market to assist the home brewing enthusiast in their quest for the ultimate coffee concoction. Regardless of which product you choose, there are endless recipes and combinations of ingredients to literally spice up your daily infusion.
First you need choose the basis of your beverage: coffee or espresso. Coffee can be drip-brewed, percolated, instant or cold-pressed. Any of these methods are very inexpensive. An espresso-based beverage is more likely to satisfy the sophisticated palette of the coffee connoisseur. To do this at home however, requires more of an investment in the brewing equipment. Real espresso machines cost upwards of $1,000. An affordable and popular alternative are the single-serving type of machines such as the Tassimo, where you invest in the machine and purchase pre-portioned packages of espresso varieties to brew a serving at a time.
Still confused about the difference between coffee and espresso? Espresso is a method, first originated in Italy, of extracting flavor from the heart of the coffee bean. The technique employs a pump-driven machine to force hot water through the ground coffee beans at high pressure in a short time frame -- usually between 20 and 35 seconds. The amount of water used is only about ¾ of an ounce, and the resulting taste is described as smooth, thick, rich or sweet. So the obvious differences between coffee and espresso are 1) the amount of water used and 2) brewing or pressing time. Coffee is generally brewed for 4 to 6 minutes depending on the method and individual preferences.
Cappuccino is espresso mixed with equal parts of steamed and frothed milk. If you don’t purchase an espresso machine with milk-steaming capabilities, you will have to steam and froth your milk the old-fashioned way -- on a stove. The frothing process involves skimming and stirring the hot milk. To layer the milk and espresso, allow the freshly frothed milk a moment to rest and separate (foam on top and milk on the bottom). Pour the steamed milk into your cup first, then pour in the espresso, and top it with the frothed milk using a spoon.
The creative possibilities go on from there. One of the most popular twists on the cappuccino is adding a sprinkle of powdered cocoa or cinnamon. Other combinations take their inspiration from favorite foods such as traditional desserts or candy bars. Try these super-easy recipes or experiment with making your own!
Milky Way Cappuccino-- 2 shots espresso, 1 shot chocolate syrup, 1 shot caramel
Java Chai Espresso -- 1 shot espresso, prepared chai concentrate, steamed milk, ½ ounce almond syrup
Cafe Corretto -- 2 shots espresso, 1 shot brandy, cognac or flavored liqueur
Cafe Romano-- 1 shot espresso, served with a twist of lemon or lemon peel
Rocky Road Cappuccino -- 1 serving of your prepared cappuccino, 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur, 1 tablespoon chocolate sauce, 1 teaspoon of marshmallow crème and ¼ teaspoon finely chopped nuts
Butterscotch Creme Cafe -- 1 serving coffee, 3 tablespoons butterscotch syrup, 2 tablespoons of half-and-half cream
Ginger Spiced Coffee -- 1 serving coffee, 1 small piece finely chopped crystallized ginger, 1 cinnamon stick
Cafe Borgia -- 1 cup coffee, 1 cup hot chocolate, 1 shot cream, sprinkle of grated orange peels
Chocolate Mint Truffle(for the non-coffee drinker) – 1 cup hot chocolate, 2 chocolate coated mint candies topped with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and 1 fresh mint sprig
Espresso Martini -- 1 shot espresso cooled to room temperature, 1 shot premium vodka, 1 splash liqueur in flavor of your choice (try amaretto, Irish creme, Godiva chocolate or any favorite), garnish with 3 whole espresso beans
Mexican Coffee -- your favorite brewed coffee, 2 cups whipped topping gently mixed with ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
French Vanilla Coffee-- your favorite brewed coffee, equal portion of milk heated to scalding temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cinnamon stick, sweetener to taste
If you are hosting a winter party and feeling a little adventurous, you may want to try a festive twist on the usual coffee and eggnog choices. Try this Betty Crocker recipe for 16 servings of Cappuccino Eggnog:
Ingredients -- 6 eggs, slightly beaten; 2/3 cup table sugar; 1/8 teaspoon salt; 5 cups milk; 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; 2 cups hot espresso; 1 cup coffee liqueur or brandy; 2 cups heavy whipped cream; 2 tablespoons brown sugar; ground cinnamon
Directions -- Stir together eggs, granulated sugar and salt in a Dutch oven pan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over low heat 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly, just until mixture coats a metal spoon; remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Stir together coffee and liqueur. Gradually stir coffee mixture into egg mixture; keep warm. Just before serving, beat whipping cream and brown sugar in chilled large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Gently stir 2 cups of the whipped cream into egg mixture. Pour into mugs. Top with dollops of remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve immediately!
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Lisa Parker is a freelance writer who writes about food and beverages, often focusing on certain brands such as Tassimo.
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