Friday, July 17, 2009

Improper Cappuccino

My wife and I have a lot of cappuccino together. While I was recently abroad for a few weeks, she essentially couldn't enjoy the delicious beverage because, adorably, she said that our conversations over the frothy cups made the cappuccino "proper," fitting because I was in London and learning to call everything under the sun either proper or improper, e.g. "proper Westcountry scrumpy," yum. Since we don't have a true espresso machine or milk frother, we can't actually call the beverage we enjoy a proper cappuccino, but we do anyway because it's proper for us: homebodies with a do-it-ourselves attitude, a modest income base, and a effective good-enough policy to support those things. Here's our basic recipe (mirrored here with exciting suggestions):

  • Four scoops (tablespoons, I think) fresh, good-quality, freshly ground coffee beans of whatever kind we're in the mood for;
  • One tablespoon of nice sugar (turbinado typically), split into two equal piles -optional, of course;
  • A 12 oz. coffee mug full of water, boiled;
  • A 12 oz. coffee mug full of whole milk and half and half (lighter milk could be substituted, but not in my kitchen); and
  • A splash of good vanilla extract.
To make it, we boil the water, heat the milk in a small saucepan with half of the sugar and optionally the vanilla, put the coffee into our "Presso" and then place it over a cup with the other half of the sugar, add water up to the "4" on the press, and make the espresso. We then put the hot milk in the blender, blend until frothy, and pour it on top of the espresso, which we've split into two cups. That's it. This makes two stout cups and is beautiful.

Sometimes we need more of a kick than what our improper proper cappuccinos can provide for us, and so I default to a amped-up variant of a recipe sometimes called red-eye, shot in the dark, or a variety of other names (I believe I heard "depth charge" one time). Basically, it's coffee with a shot (or a double!) of espresso poured in for added goodness and fun (a standard Starbucks trick to keep you hooked on their brews). I call my recipe "Jet Fuel," and it works times fifty.
  • 8 oz. strong coffee brewed hopefully in a French press with a quarter to half teaspoon of guarana seed powder added (this can be obtained, for instance, here).
  • a double shot of espresso (or faux espresso if you have an Aeropress) with an additional pinch (or two) of guarana seed powder (zoom!).
  • Milk, flavorings, and sugar to taste. I'm a particular fan of using a little green cardamom in this recipe, but my wife doesn't like it.
Expect, if you make Jet Fuel to be able to get some things done, particularly if you make it for yourself and your significant other, and then your significant other doesn't want it, and so you drink both cups. Zzzzzzzzoom, indeed!

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