Wednesday, May 18, 2011

1/3 Coffee, 1/3 Milk, 1/3 Foam= Cappuccino? No!

My last blog was 2 Saturdays ago and coming back from a recent trip to Surabaya, Malang, I sure have an awful lot of things to write about. After all, in 3 days, I manage to observe live, how exactly are the Greenfields milk produced and packed. With milk being an essential part of our trade, it sure helps in understanding the journey but more of that in my next post. Tonight, I have to blog about the proportion of Cappuccino!

So ask any coffee enthusiast out there to describe Cappuccino and I am sure you will received more than one definitions. There is the half milk and half foam version, the wet, dry and bone dry version, the one with chocolate dusting, the one in a mug, the one that should only be in a bowl shaped cup and of course the WBC defined one of 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3 in a cup between 150ml to 180ml (5-6oz). As much as I agree with the WBC definition of the "one thirds" and practicing it too myself, I just could not figure out the ratio of how this 1/3 formula work! Looking at it Mathematically, it is possible as somebody will just easily waived off this paragraph without reading what more I have to say in the next one by putting the numbers as:-

150ml cup (5oz)- 50ml ESP/Coffee, 50ml Milk & 50ml Foam OR 180ml cup (6oz)- 60ml ESP/Coffee, 60ml Milk & 60ml Foam

Like I mention, the above proportion is definitely 1/3 balance but then, if you are a properly trained Barista, the next question you will ask is, how can this happen when a standard shot of Espresso in a Cappuccino recipe is 30ml/ 1oz! (unless special request of double or triple shot Esp) Base on standard 30ml Espresso in our Cappuccino and if we stick to the 1/3 definition, wouldn't the actual or correct formula be:-

30ml Esp, 30ml Milk & 30ml Foam which only total up to 90ml of a Cappuccino? Wouldn't that also mean that the same Cappuccino is only a 3oz beverage if per definition and if done, it looks and taste more like a Piccolo Latte? Is Piccolo the new Cappuccino? It definitely is, at least to me. For the rest of you, reflect on this post and let me have your thoughts.


  1. the 1/3 definition is a simplistic view and introduction of how a cappuccino's foam differs from a latte. to the experience, it may come quite naturally but if someone were to explain it to a class of newbies, the 1/3 visualisation is actually a good start to them.

    back to why 1/3, my guess is that most countries pull double shots as default, therefore you get 50/60ml of espresso, which is then topped with milk and foam proportionally.

  2. hey suhaimie i feel like you have made all the barista to think about it....

  3. I think a traditional coffee beverage such as a cappuccino has to be examined both in its history, and its context - where it is prepared and who is preparing it, and as well as who is drinking it.

    In Italy and parts of Europe where coffee beverages are influenced by the Italian tradition, you can generally expect a cappuccino to be defined by its volume - 5 to 6 oz. I think it can be safely said that baristas of coffee houses in this part of the world will only know the drink to be such, and so do their customers. Anything less is a caffe/espresso macchiato, anything more is a caffe latte, at least in Italy.

    In other parts of the world, it is pretty much open to interpretation. For e.g, how did Starbucks, clearly rooted in Italian coffeehouse tradition (after Howard Shultz was enamored by what he experienced in Milan) take such a route in creating a 20 oz cappuccino? Was it a case of catering to what their customers needed? Was it just simply offering choices? Or did Starbucks chose to define what their customers' expectations are? Maybe that's how the American's want it, big, milky, not so much coffee flavor. After all, they did truly invent the Americano.

    How did Australian and New Zealand coffee people arrive at the piccolo latte? Maybe it was a reverse of what the American's wanted. Some milk to cut the famous acidity of their espresso but still retain the flavor, and yet not so much that it feels like drinking half a liter of milk. Add a certain level of artistry and craftsmanship with a rosetta on top. Ok, maybe the tulip instead 'cos the rosetta can be quite tricky.

    The definition of the cappuccino as a drink of parts/thirds is clearly flawed, as correctly pointed out by Suhaimie. And WBC has already changed its definition of what a cappuccino should be - 1 single shot of espresso, textured milk and approximately 1 cm of foam depth(assessed vertically), in a 5 to 6 oz cup with handle, a harmonious balance of rich sweet milk and espresso.

    Dennis points out that a cappuccino can also be explained easily, from an educational point of view, as 1/3 visualization.

    However, I do confess that a double espresso shot cappuccino in such a small vessel, is extremely challenging to execute to quality, and also without wasting a considerable amount of milk on my part.