Espresso, Latte, Cappuccino...oh my!

For those of you who are interested in bringing a bit of your Italian coffee drinking experiences back home with you below is our beginner's guide on how to get started making delicious Italian coffee drinks at home. Ofcourse, as with anything, our recommendations are merely that - recommendations and based upon our own drinking experiences. We understand everyone will have their own preferences and encourage readers to share their insight, experiences and advice on this subject matter below in the comments section.

Buying an espresso machine is essential to making a delicious cappuccino, caffe Latte or espresso shot.  We recommend starting out with a basic-level espresso maker such as the Delonghi EC155 Espresso Maker. This espresso machine is both compact and high in quality for the price ($99 at the time of this post!). In our experience, this espresso machine gives consistently good shots time after time and can accept both ground beans or E.S.E. pods (tea-bag like bags containing ground espresso). This espresso maker has gotten excellent reviews and bests many other machines and brands that are much more expensive.

A tamper is a very important tool to have in order to pack in the espresso into the filter holder. About 30lbs of pressure is necessary to apply in order to correctly prepare the espresso grind in the filter. It is possible to purchase a tamper in any major retail shop that sells cookware and coffee appliances. The prices range from $3 - $100+.(**The EC155 mentioned above has it's own built-in tamper which is a very nice convenience).

While it is possible to steam/froth milk in any type of pitcher we recommend purchasing a 12oz stainless steel frothing pitcher as this better enables you to gauge the frothing temperature while steaming your milk. The frothing pitcher also will facilitate cappuccino/latte artistry. A 12oz stainless steel frothing pitcher will generally run you about $10.

For coffee purists, it is absolutely essential to buy a coffee bean grinder that grinds evenly and can be adjustable for different types of grind (espresso, coffee, drip, french press, percolator, etc.). There are many to choose from and some grinders can be very expensive. It is possible to purchase grinders that rely on manual grinding or grinders that can be run electrically. We started out with a basic coffee grinder by Braun which has proven to be adequate for our drip coffee maker but not so great for our percolator and our french press. Our 2nd coffee grinder purchase was the Bodum Bistro Electric Burr Cofee Grinder which has proven to be excellent for both the money and quality and we highly recommend this for the novice coffee makers.

This certainly is a matter of preference. Some people prefer to purchase their coffee pre-ground while others like to buy the beans and then grind them at home. Buying coffee pre-ground is undoubtedly convenient but we believe you are sacrificing some freshness by doing this. Purchasing a coffee grinder like the one above and grinding coffee beans at home is one way to ensure freshness. Also remember to keep your coffee in the freezer to help insure longevity.

Like wine, bourbon, beer, whiskey and other fine drinks, we believe that coffee should also be consumed or served in certain types of glasses.

Typically, you want an espresso cup that is the size of a shot glass. An espresso cup, however, can range in size and hold anywhere between 1.5oz - 8oz depending upon your preference and serving amount. There are many brands of espresso cups and two of our favorites are Illy and Bodum. We love Illy because of the Italy brand name (we feel like we're back in the piazza when we have an Illy cup in our hand) and Bodum because of the double walled hand-blown glasses that keep both hot and cold liquids at their respective temperatures while staying cool to the touch (no coasters necessary!).

Typically, you want a cappuccino cup to be larger then an espresso glass and hold at least 8oz of liquid. Any type of 8oz cup will do as long as it is suitable for hot beverages. Again, our preference is the Illy brand or Bodum brand (8oz size) for the reasons mentioned previously.

Milk is an important ingredient for most coffee-lovers and it is important to have on-hand the correct type of milk for each type of coffee drink and for each type of guest. We believe that skim milk is best for lattes and cappuccinos as it seems to froth up better and leave less residue.

Again, this is a matter of preference but we enjoy making coffee and espresso from all types of coffee beans from around the world. Italian dark roast seems especially good (and strong) as an espresso shot. Jamaica Blue Mountain is a huge luxury but well worth the try. If you're adventurous try Kopi Luwak from Indonesia (also found in Vietnam and the Fillippines). Having said this, the Illy brand always seems to work for espresso for us. For Cappuccinos you might want to try a medium roast to remove the bitterness. 



1. Place ground espresso into filter
2. Turn on espresso machine and wait for temperature to reach suitable heat level
3. Pull espresso shot
4. 1 pack/teaspoon of sugar optional
5. Done and enjoy!

**Tips - make sure to firmly pack the espresso ground into the filter. Some practice may be necessary to get the correct amount and packing. Make sure no coffee grinds are on the rim of the filter. Periodically clean the filter.


1. Make an espresso shot as described above
2. Froth about 6oz of skim milk in a stainless steal frothing pitcher.
3. Poor espresso into a cappuccino cup.
4. Poor about 3/4" of frothed milk on top of the espresso shot.
5. Sugar optional.
6. Done and enjoy!

**Tips - Frothing milk can be tricky at first. If you can't seem to get your milk steamed or frothed as desired try angling the pitcher, changing the depth of the frothing tube, using less/more milk or changing the type of milk used. Also, if you see excessive bubbles after frothing just bang the bottom of your pitcher lightly on the table to get rid of them. When you get good enough try making art in your froth!


1. Make an espresso shot as described above
2. Froth about 6oz of skim milk in a stainless steal frothing pitcher.
3. Poor espresso into a cappuccino cup.
4. Poor about 1/2 glass steamed milk and 1/2" of frothed milk on top of that.
5. Sugar optional.

6. Done and enjoy!


1. Make an espresso shot and pour into a coffee mug.
2. Add hot water to desired tasted.
3. 1 pack/teaspoon of sugar optional

4. Done and enjoy!

****We hope to add how-to videos shortly!

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