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While no one wants to forgo the rich smooth tasting qualities of a cappuccino or the crowning microfoam that distinguishes a cappuccino from other beverages, swaps for milk may be necessary.
Lactose intolerances, allergies, digestive issues, weight management or meeting diet criteria, like those in Keto, for example, where coffee is acceptable but dairy is not are important reasons to explore milk alternatives for cappuccino and other milk-based drinks.
There are a number of milk alternatives that can be used when making cappuccino. Read on to discover which milk swaps are ideal for a healthy cappuccino while keeping the silky mouth feel that makes this drink decadent and delicious.
A cappuccino is one third espresso, one-third milk foam and one-third hot milk. This represents the standard Italian recipe which has been modified in other countries, including the USA where wide liberties have been taken with these proportions.
The "classic” Italian cappuccino is a total of 6 ounces- 2 oz each of espresso, foam and hot milk. The recipe is both easy to remember and easy to make and guarantees a delicious drink as long as you use good coffee and fresh milk. Cow’s milk is used in this “classic” recipe. In the US a standard cappuccino is usually 8 ounces or more.
The quality of the froth is critical for a good cappuccino. What makes cappuccino stand out among other milk-based drinks is the compact, dense milk froth which sits on top of the coffee resembling a crown. The foam is so thick it almost looks like a dollop of whip cream. Milk is steamed, and the milk proteins are responsible for forming a compact foam saturated with fine air bubbles.
You don’t always need to feel guilty for having a cappuccino. Did you know cappuccino can act as an appetite suppressant? It is, if it is drunk piping hot. The heat causes the combination of tannic acids in the coffee and casein in the milk to digest slowly, resulting in a feeling of fullness.
In Italy, cappuccino is usually served at approximately 145 degrees Fahrenheit. While in the North America, cappuccino is typically served from 165 to185℉. Keep in mind that milk heated to above 165℉ will alter in its ability to froth and the taste of the milk is compromised because it begins to boil.
In this case, it would appear that the North American standard temperatures provides a healthier cappuccino option, but we all know portion control is a big variable in weight management. In this case, the Italian recipe would be the winner because an American small cappuccino is usually at least an 8oz serving.
Each milk alternative has a range with respect to calories and carbohydrates, so depending on your goals you need to consider what type of milk to use when making your healthy cappuccino.
You need to consider that there are three major constituents of milk that are important to understand in regard to its flavour and frothing capabilities and how milk interacts with coffee. These elements are fats, proteins, and lactose.
It is proteins in the milk when steamed that will become compact to produce a dense silky firm froth making it taste authentic. Each type of milk has its advantages and disadvantages and there is no perfect alternative.
It is the proteins in milk that are largely responsible for foaming, as the milk heats to more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fats are important part of the content of milk that gives it a rounded mouthfeel. Milk with a higher fat content generally result in a fuller flavour, and a richer, silkier beverage.
Lactose, also known as milk sugar, is what gives milk its sweetness. However, lactose-free milk options do become sweeter when heated. The extraction methods used in producing soy or nut milks, for example, can result in low lipid content and lipids are necessary for holding the air bubbles in the liquid.
You really need to experiment with the brand because some leave a bit of an after taste, which is unpleasant for die-hard cappuccino connoisseurs.
There are a number of milk frothing options available in today’s market. Traditionally, a steam wand was all that was available, but now espresso machines, and fully automatics in particular, come with varying frothing devices: steam wands, milk carafes and milk cups . Experimentation on how those frothing devices work with your milk of choice is the best way to determine the results you can achieve in pursuit of the perfect cappuccino.
A dairy component is essential to the completion of coffee creations such as frothy cappuccinos. But for many reasons, dairy milk may not the be an option. There are a number of milk variations available. All can be heated but the quality of frothed milk, which is the distinguishing characteristic of a cappuccino, each milk variation produces will vary.
We have provided some insight on how each type of milk reacts to steaming. It is now up to you to experiment with each type and also with the equipment you use. In the end, palates and health goals vary from person to person. Only you can determine what fits your needs.