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How to Make Cafe-Quality Beverages at Home

May 2nd, 2013 Cooking

Grabbing a delicious macchiato, latte or cappuccino is a great way to give yourself an indulgent treat, but these drinks can be pricey at the local cafe. With a little preparation, most of these drinks can be made from home without the help of a espresso machine. 

Espresso Many cafe classics are made with this concentrated coffee. When originally introduced, coffee was generally enjoyed in the form of slowly-sipped espresso shots before it became popular to strain more water through the beans, which produces the coffee commonly found in the U.S. Incidentally, this where the "Americano" beverage originated, as it is simply a cup of hot water mixed with espresso to mimic American coffee. 

The Americano, along with the cafe latte, cappuccino, cafe mocha, and many other drinks, must be made with fresh espresso in order to taste right. Luckily, it's not too hard to make your own espresso at home. The first step is to make sure the beans you are using are ground very fine, almost to a powder. Even if you have a coffee grinder, it may be better to do this at the store or buy ground beans since many at-home grinders aren't powerful enough to adequately crush the beans, noted Italian coffee expert Adrea Illy in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The next step is to ensure that the water you're using isn't too hot. If it's boiling, you may burn the espresso beans and it will taste too bitter. Ideally, use water just before it boils. If you're not using an espresso machine, be sure that your beans are spread evenly over the filter of your coffee machine or the flavor may suffer, according to AOL's StyleList. Pour the water through the filter steadily. Professionals use machines that use pressure to drive the water through the beans, but similar results can be produced with some patience. Don't be discouraged if the espresso doesn't turn out perfectly the first time - espresso making is considered somewhat of an art form and can be tough to master. However, if you're mixing it  into a drink, it doesn't have to be perfect.

When enjoying espresso, it's best to either mix it or serve it directly after it's been made. 

Frothed milk Many cafe beverages are made with both espresso and steamed or whipped milk. Like espresso machines, there are special devices for making steamed milk, but they're not necessary to get your own tasty, frothy milk at home.

Foamed milk can be made with just milk and a saucepan, according to the SheKnows blog. Start by heating the milk up on the stove, but don't let it boil fully. Much like espresso, steamed, foamed or whipped milk will change flavor if it reaches too high of a temperature. Once it begins to show signs of boiling, whip the milk with a whisk until it rises into a foam. As the milk heats up, continue to whip it faster and faster until it is mostly foam. Apply the foam directly to your beverage, adding some of the heated milk for drinks like lattes.

Drinks You may know what your favorite beverage is but aren't quite sure what it is made of. Here is a small guide showing the ingredients of a few popular drinks. Feel free to experiment with these recipes by adding whipped cream, chocolate drizzle or other spices on top!

Cappuccino 2 ounces each of espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk, in that order

Mocha 2 ounces each of espresso and chocolate 1 ounce of steamed milk, in that order

Cafe au lait 5 ounces each of coffee and milk, in that order

Mocha breve 2 ounces each of espresso, chocolate and half and half, in that order