How To Make The Perfect Cappuccino, Latte & Flat White

A good cup of coffee can be a truly uplifting thing. Instant coffee granules are fine in a pinch, but, for coffee connoisseurs, nothing beats a freshly made drink. Many coffee drinks use the same espresso base, which, if made correctly, should be dark in colour, topped with a disc of golden foam known as the crema, and will be primed to become part of your favourite coffee beverage. Here we list three mainstays of the coffee shop repertoire – the cappuccino, the latte and the flat white – and explain how each can be brewed to perfection.

A familiar sight on many coffee shops with professional espresso machines, the cappuccino is made with equal ratios of espresso, hot milk and foam. Traditionally served as an Italian breakfast beverage accompanied by a sweet pastry, it is now commonly enjoyed throughout the day. To make a perfect cappuccino, prepare your espresso and pour the milk into a pitcher. The steam wand of the coffee machine should then be inserted just below the surface of the milk – listen out for the sound of the milk hissing, as this will indicate that it is foaming correctly. Once the volume of the milk has increased by half, creating the characteristic thick layer of cloud-like foam, lower the wand further to steam the milk. Finally, steadily pour the milk over the espresso shot and garnish with dusted cocoa powder for a hint of sweetness.

The latte, too, is a staple coffee drink, enjoyed for the palatability of the high ratio of milk to coffee, softening the intensity whilst maintaining the depth of flavour. A perfect latte starts with a metal pitcher of fresh, fridge-cold milk (the starting volume should be three times the amount of espresso), which is then stretched with the steam wand to generate a layer of foam just over a centimetre in thickness. The milk is then heated until the pitcher is too hot to touch, at which point it will have reached optimal temperature, before it is gently poured over the espresso and, for daringly creative baristas-to-be, embellished with impressively patterned latte art.

The flat white may be a recent creation, but it has rapidly become the order of choice for many coffee drinkers across the globe. Hailing from eighties-era Oceania, it is composed of velvety milk, microfoam and a double shot of espresso, combining strong, aromatic coffee with a mild, creamy sweetness to create a well-balanced flavour. The texture of the milk is extremely important when making a perfect flat white – stretch the milk with the steam wand until the volume has increased by about two thirds before lowering the wand to heat through, then swirl the milk around in the pitcher a few times and knock on a hard surface to remove any large air bubbles. This will generate the fine, frothy microfoam and should result in a pale, glossy liquid slightly resembling wet paint. Poured carefully over the espresso, this will create the perfect flat white.