Let’s see how Jacqui Thompson makes a tasty cappuccino at Brails Espresso. Thompson has been working at Brails Espresso for about 8 months and she loves how close nit her work place is. She believes the connection allows her and her coworkers to produce a uniform product. Everyone she works with is passionate about coffee and each has his or her own personal niche within coffee. For example, one of her coworkers can’t drink anything else besides a good pullover.
Thompson explains that the first thing to know about your cappuccino is the coffee. At Brails, they use a single origin coffee for cappuccinos because the blend is more flavorful. She uses a scale to weigh out 20 grams of espresso. Brails has an in house grinder but she explains using it with caution because getting the right consistency is crucial. “The way I found that works best is trial and error. Sometimes you need to pull a few shots before it’s the right consistency- with the right time and right weight.”
The next step is tamping. She explains that everyone has his or her own opinion on how to tamp. Thompson shows me two different tampers, all of which I cannot tell the difference between. She explains that there are different types of tampers. Each having quite the effect on the way you tamp. For example, some are concave and some are flat, while others are heavier than others. She uses the flatter tamper and applies about 30 pounds of pressure to the espresso when she tamps. It’s important to note that after you grind the espresso you want the surface to be smooth before tamping.
“As you can see my finger is callused and stained from using it to flatten the espresso as much as possible, so when I do apply the pressure the grinds are receiving the same amount of pressure.”
Thompson says that some people will tamp, lift up and look at it to make sure the grinds are not stuck to the sides. Some people will knock it and tamp again. In her opinion, “Knocking is almost an over tamping. If you’re on point with your tamp initially, then you’re good. You want it to be the same amount of pressure all around.”
There are many variables that can effect a cappuccino. Time is arbitrary as far as the shot and at Brails, they have a ball park of where they should be by looking more at the weight of the shot. They weigh out the glass and use 30 grams of wet weight espresso. “Typically, I use more espresso because under extracted espresso tastes more bitter and sour, while over extraction is a little sweeter.” Not that Thompson wants to over or under extract an espresso, but because she may not have the perfect weight, she will lean towards an over extracted pull of espresso since it tastes a little sweeter.
The next portion is aiming for a really nice microfoam of milk. She always purges first to make sure everything is out of the wand. Since there is so little milk in a cappuccino and steaming takes fairly quickly, she does not need the power to be on extremely high. Instead she will use a lower rate for steaming. She aerates the milk by swirling the pitcher. This gives a nice turn to the milk, for when the wand is submerged in it to help the milk stretch and expand to look like paint. After the steam, she will knock the pitcher on the counter to let air bubbles escape. She gives another swirl so that everything is distributed. “It’s important that everything is in one motion and that everything has a rich creamy texture to it.” Another swirl and everything comes together at the same time.
With thumb and pointer finger outside the pitcher of milk, she tilts the cup of espresso at an angle to start low and comes up high. “You really want a consistent pour,” she says to me. “When it starts filling up, you will come a little lower for your latte art. And the closer you get, the more it will come to the surface and that’s where you get your design. Pull it through, plate it and use a demi spoon. And that’s a cappuccino. That’s what I got for a tasty cap!”
There you have it from Jacqui Thompson. Your tasty cap is waiting for you!