What is a Bone Dry Cappuccino?

Simon Calvin
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It All Starts With an Espresso

Let’s start with what it’s not. A bone dry cappuccino is not meant to be a cup of watery espresso. It’s a definitely a coffee drink, not a coffee beverage. It’s a real drink. So don’t be surprised when it delivers on that promise. It’s not going to be sweet, and it’s not going to be milky.

We’re talking about two shots of espresso, the best foam you can produce, and nothing more.

Most cappuccinos are made with steamed milk. The machines we use to produce microfoam for regular cups of cappuccino usually can’t produce enough steam to give us the dense, glossy head we want for the bone dry version. The only way around that is to pour the steamed milk right on top of the espresso, and just let it mix together.

Different Cappuccino Types

There are two common types of cappuccinos: ones made with whole milk and ones made with skim milk. Each of these two types are further divided into two categories based on the ingredients that are used to prepare it “ either using foam or preparing an espresso shot and adding it to a larger quantity of heated milk.

A whole milk cappuccino uses the first method, while a skim milk cappuccino uses the second. A third kind is the skinny or light cappuccino, which uses skim milk as the base ingredient and may use low fat coffee. It is often garnished with whipped cream.

Steps for Brewing a Bone Dry Cappuccino

A bone dry cappuccino is the name given to an espresso shot with only a splash of foamed milk. It is very similar to an Americano, but contrasts in that it uses much less water and much less milk.

The term comes from the fact that the drink looks like creamy coffee, the kind of colour you get when you dissolve a spoonful of powdered milk in a cup of coffee.

The upside of this drink is that it is very low in calories (well, compared to a regular cappuccino anyway). The downside is that it is so low in calories, that the froth is virtually non-existent, and you end up drinking an exceedingly dry coffee. But this is often a small price to pay for people who care about their health.

Making a bone dry cappuccino is pretty easy. All you need to do is to add a small spoonful of powder in your espresso cup, add espresso coffee to the brim of the cup, and top it off with hot water. The longer you brew it, the more diluted it becomes.

You can customize the drink by putting in a stronger or milder coffee, and by adding a little sugar to cut the caffeine taste. If you want to make things simple, you can just use an espresso machine that allows you to control the volume of water, milk, and foam manually.

Step #1: Steam the Milk

Warm milk til foamy.

Raise the steam wand to avoid boiling the milk.

Add 3-5 grams of fine ground espresso into an appropriate espresso cup, or into the bowl of an appropriate sized coffee cup, or directly into the steam wand (for those with a steam wand that can be separated from the spout).

Wait 30-60 seconds and then start slowly pouring the warm milk, clockwise spiralling out of the cup, into the steam wand.

Wait for the foam to get roughly 1/4-1/3 of the way up the glass and then let the foam rest for 30 seconds. (This resting period is important because foam that is very fresh and still growing is too delicate to pour easily.)

Step #2: Whip the Milk

When you order a cappuccino, your lines may run something like this: "One Vanilla Bean Cappuccino slim, please. Light on the froth, full flavor, and sugar free. Oh, and can you make it bone-dry?" But has it occurred to you how ridiculous that request is?

What was that first barista trying to tell you? I'll give you a hint: It's so dry, you can use it to clean your bones!

That's right. Bone dry is not an actual beverage order. It's a joke and also an assumption. When you ask for a coffee that is bone dry, the barista is not supposed to whip your milk with the intensity of a hurricane. As with all coffee orders, the barista is supposed to make your coffee to your specifications. It's not the barista’s job to make assumptions about how much cream you like to use.

If you have been ordering your beverages bone-dry, you are in fact making your barista's life more difficult. Instead of checking on you to see if you need more and more coffee, that barista is now checking up on you to see if you want cream. Always remember to be polite and give your barista some room to make your drink the way that you request.

Step #3: Prep the Coffee

Once you’ve got your equipment assembled and your beans prepped, it’s time to prepare the coffee. Place the espresso pot on the stove and allow it to heat up.

Next, add the freshly ground coffee to the filter and place it in the portafilter, a move that will be a familiar one to the baristas out there.

Once the espresso portafilter and metal filter basket are filled to the top with coffee, add hot water until it reaches the top and tighten the basket/filter assembly into the portafilter. Turn the burner to medium low, and wait for the grinder to do its job. This grinding process might take a few minutes, so be patient and don’t rush.

If you’ve used the right amount of coffee and the appropriate temperature, extraction should be complete by the time the water is at a rolling boil. As the coffee is being brewed, you can stop the flow and work on the next steps.

Once the brewed coffee has been poured into your cappuccino cup, the steam factor comes into play. Be careful not to let the steam build up too much. You want to get an even layer of foam on the top. To do this, allow the coffee to cool down for a bit, and then pour it in the steaming pitcher with milk. Stir gently.

Step #4: Brew the Espresso

There are two ways you can brew the espresso that you’ll use to make the cappuccino. You can either brew it individually or you can brew it in a mix.

To brew it individually, you need an espresso machine. For a coffee shop, this brewing process is time consuming since they go through hundreds of espressos every single day. For the home coffee enthusiast, this is the best way to make your cappuccino because you control how much of each stage of brewing you go through.

To brew individually, you start off by adding a small amount of water to your portafilter. The water volume is going to control how much espresso is pressed into the cup. The recommended starting point is around 1.5oz of water. This water is then heated up.

As the water heats up, steam will begin to appear. You have to remove the portafilter from the espresso machine and start making your espresso by pulling the handle. Before you put the portafilter back on, make sure to wipe off any excess water so that you can make your espresso without making a mess.

For your cappuccino, you want to use 2 rounded tablespoons. These should be leveled off with a spoon. You can make a large cappuccino simply by using more espresso. In an ideal situation, you should level off the shot with a spoon to make it perfectly even.

Step #5: Add the Foam

If you’ve made it to this point, you’ve brewed a wonderful shot of espresso. Now let’s make it complete by warming the milk.

Fill a cup with hot milk and heat it to just below the boiling point (180 degrees F). Make sure you bring down the temperature to this level gently. You don’t want to introduce any condensation to the milk. This will cause an unsightly ring of water around the top of the finished cappuccino.