How do I make the least fancy fancycoffee possible?
February 23, 2015 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I have a milk frothing wand, a little baby moka pot, milk, and espresso ground coffee. Now what?

I understand the basics, and have successfully brewed espresso in my little pot, frothed milk to drink with my dripped coffee, etc. But I can't figure out the ratios and techniques, and any googling has led to much too technical information and foreign vocabulary. I'm not interested in making something authentic and technically correct, just some kind of basic cappuccino or latte. So, the questions are,

How do I make approximations of frothed milk and steamed milk (and what's the difference?) with my microwave and frothing wand?

How should I be adding milk-to-coffee (or coffee-to-milk?) and in what proportions?

What kind of milk should I be using? I like whole milk or half-and-half in my coffee, but don't really want to drink a cup of half-and-half with my espresso.

Tips or tricks?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I recently was on a similar quest. My most recent successes have been using Trader Joe's milk, foaming it while heating it, and adding it to the espresso.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2015


Get yourself the "How to cook everything" app - it's basically Mark Bittman's cookbook in app form, and he does cover cappucinos and lattes in there. He may have the recipe scaled to "serves four people" proportions, but it'll be easy enough to scale it down to one.

Bittman's book is clearly-written enough that half the time I'm not even following the instructions, I'm just using it as reference for "how much [x] do I need for this again?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 AM on February 23, 2015


If you're just looking for basic ratios, there's a bajillion different ratio charts and drink construction guides if you google image search "espresso drink chart." That'll give you some starting points for the basics of milk+coffee drinks.

If video is more your speed, you might find the little (free with registry) series by Chefsteps to be helpful with some aspects of what you're looking for, but you're going to have a hard time finding the right ratios for coffee brewed in an moka pot, because (while very tasty) it is technically, not espresso (by definition, coffee brewed under a high degree of pressure, typically between 7-9 bars). The makeup of percolator (aka- moka pot) brewed coffee is markedly different (again, both can be tasty; this really isn't a judgement call on quality) than espresso, so you might find some of the ratios and drinks don't taste quite right or the drinks don't hold together the same way. Experimentation is key here.

How do I make approximations of frothed milk and steamed milk (and what's the difference?) with my microwave and frothing wand?

This is tricky for sure. To froth the milk, you steam it, but in the industry wide and large, the terms are interchangeable. There are other ways to froth milk, but steaming will get you the best results (hence, most espresso machines having a steam wand). I really don't know how to approximate this with your setup, but there's an insane amount of pontification about frothing milk over at CoffeeGeek, which is a fairly friendly place for coffee nerdery…but I would shy away from calling percolater/moka pot coffee espresso there; you'll get some blowback…it is a little obnoxious.

How should I be adding milk-to-coffee (or coffee-to-milk?) and in what proportions?

At its most basic, if you were making a traditional 8oz latte, you would place a shot of espresso (appx 2 oz of espresso) and add 6oz of steamed milk over it. I personally don't like milk drinks any larger than that. But some people like more milk.

What kind of milk should I be using? I like whole milk or half-and-half in my coffee, but don't really want to drink a cup of half-and-half with my espresso.

Any fat content lower than whole milk will be a pain in the ass to steam; the fat component of the milk allows for better incorporation and retention of air, giving the dairy more structure (ie, foam). There are plenty of people out there who make milk-based drinks with half-and-half too, but thats some rich shit, and can honestly be a little overwhelming. Stick with whole unless you feel like you need a bit more body.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2015


Here's an example chart that illustrates the different ingredients/ratios.
posted by msbubbaclees at 8:32 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


To froth the milk, you steam it, but in the industry wide and large, the terms are interchangeable. There are other ways to froth milk, but steaming will get you the best results

To expand on this, the steam is merely the method by which a machine incorporates air to create foam/froth. Especially when you use a commercial machine, start with the milk and pitcher as cold as possible, because you have limited time to froth before the milk scalds from the steam. If you're using a handheld spinning frother, you don't have to worry about scalding, but you do have to preheat the milk.
posted by a halcyon day at 8:55 AM on February 23, 2015


I have a similar set-up but I have one of those frothers that is a small pitcher with a screen plunger you pump up and down in hot milk to create froth.

Here's what I do:
When I use my milk frother, it never becomes entirely foam so I automatically end up with both frothed milk and plain hot milk (aka an approximation of steamed milk, if I'm using the term the same way you are). Then I can control how much I either spoon on top (the froth) or pour into (the "steamed" milk) my espresso. I believe technically a cappuccino is espresso with all foam and a latte is foam and hot milk, I tend to do the latter.

Logistically, I brew my espresso and heat the milk more or less simultaneously on the stove, and leave the espresso in the thingy if I'm still finishing frothing the milk. I pour espresso in my cup, spoon foamed milk on top, and then gently pour in more hot milk to fill the cup. If I made too much milk, I often will top off my cup by pouring in more milk as I drink it. The ratio always turns out a little different depending mostly on how successful my frothing was, but the result pretty much blows my old coffee routine out of the water! Sprinkle a little something on top of the foam for extra classiness (cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder).

Oh, also, I use 1% milk.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:04 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't worry too much about the ratios. I've got an AeroPress and a microwave milk-frother (cylinder with screen-on-a-plunger). I make a shot of espresso (ok, I make coffee with the AeroPress) into a pint glass, I pour milk to the line on the milk-frother (maybe 1/3 c?), heat the milk in the microwave for 1.5 mins, froth until the milk's reached the top of the pitcher (about half milk and half foam at this point), dump on top of the espresso. In fact, I just did this on the strength of your question.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:09 PM on February 23, 2015


Pre-ground coffee is already ruined. Get a grinder.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 6:17 PM on February 23, 2015


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