Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

A semi-serious treatise on cappuccino

Today we are going to speak about cappuccino.

A few preliminary remarks:

1. Bebo does not like coffee in itself, and therefore is not going to expand on the characteristics of the coffee, considering as well that he knows nothing about the topic. I only like that aroma of the coffee when it softens the sweetness of the milk.
2. Up until he was thirty-one years old, Bebo had not drunk more than 5-6 cappuccinos in his life, therefore the enormous experience accumulated on the topic was incredibly accrued in only 4 years!
3. The cappuccino is rigorously to be accompanied with a cornetto (or similar pastries), but there will be no time today to talk about that too.

Bebo usually would ask the barman the following drink: “a very creamy cappuccino with extra-strong coffee”. It seems easy, but in reality it isn't!! First of all, 'creamy' does not mean 'with a lot of foam', very simply because cream is not foam!! I have to admit that, as in certain bars the barman, at the pronunciation of the word 'creamy' looks flabbergasted, sometimes I too use the word 'foam', but it is improper!

About two years ago, I ended up by chance and for the first time in my current favourite bar, where the barmaid (a certain Elena), upon me asking (improperly) for a cappuccino with a lot of foam, replied: “…but, you want it with foam or creamy, 'cause, you know, … it's not the same thing…!”. Well, at that point I realised that that would become my local. Now Elena has gone, but I did see her with my own eyes – clouded by the icing sugar of the croissant that deposited on my spectacles – teaching to the new generations how to make a creamy cappuccino!!

Milk 'cream' is characterised by a very high molecular cohesion that manifests itself in the following ways:

1. in the event, it goes above the cup brim, it would not overflow;
2. the 'cream', remaining there [for a while], should not sink down (as the squalid foam would do; in reality there are different types of foam, with small, medium or big bubbles. Not to dwell too much, I would highlight only that the foam that comes closer to the 'cream' is that with small bubbles);
3. when you drop into it the two 'canonical' teaspoons of sugar (and at this point nobody should dare unearth the argument that the sachets are more hygienic than the sugar bowl… Perhaps we'll deal with this bullshit some other time!!)… I was saying, when you put sugar into it, it should hang there or, in case of two very abundant teaspoons, it should sink down very, very slowly and only after the second teaspoon is poured in: the first, on its own, should never go down!!
4. when you immerse the teaspoon in order to mix, you should have the sensation that the teaspoon melts completely with the cream, as a unique block, so that, when you swirl the spoon, the cream mass must swirl too, practically together with it (making the mixing process longer in time, which, by the way, is not a bad thing according to the theory that the mixing technique reflects that of sexual intercourse);
5. once mixed, the (little!) coffee that is on the bottom should not colour the cream in a levelled light brown shade, but instead it should form dark streaks on the white milk, never completely mixing with the milk itself;
6. after you sip it, a moustache of milk cream should remain on your lips;
7. once you have finished drinking it, a patina of cream should remain inside the cup (not only on the bottom, but also on the sides!), that will necessitate retrieval with the teaspoon, in at least three passages.

On the cappuccino, you may find powdered cocoa, but this is of marginal importance. Some time ago, in my local in Bologna, you could use a sort of liquid cocoa that could be liberally poured on your cappuccino. It used to be very nice, and I was using it in industrial quantities, sometimes it was like sipping a cup of hot chocolate as opposed to a cappuccino… then, after a couple of months, they withdrew it… perhaps because there was someone that exaggerated with its use!


1. ordering for a 'creamy' cappuccino and seeing the barman looking at you with a slightly idiotic expression on his face or worse asking you: “… what do you mean 'creamy'?!”. At that point, Bebo usually cuts it short and replies to the barman, without hiding the deep disappointment, “… with a lot of foam…”, and never sets foot in that bar again!!
2. the barman understands that creamy should be the coffee (not the milk) so eventually you end up with a weak, creamy coffee and liquid milk … in other words rubbish!
3. synonymous with 'cappuccino with extra-strong coffee' could be 'cappuccino with short coffee' or 'light-coloured cappuccino'; sometimes, however, when you ask for a light-coloured cappuccino, they may bring you a normal cappuccino with coffee, but … in a transparent glass cup!!
4. falling in to the temptation to order a cappuccino abroad. Usually in hotels they reply to you with a big smile, as if they haven't done anything else all their life… then you get a boiling hot wish-wash, usually with inverted milk/coffee proportions. Let's not even mention the hopes for a cream, but at least for a squalid little foam…
5. ordering your 'usual' and getting something completely different! This in reality is not a big problem, as you normally order your usual in your local, therefore it should be sufficient to glance the barman/barmaid with a surprised and disgusted look for him/her to realise his/her tragic error and to take to cup off the counter, apologising, to replace it with a properly made cappuccino!
6. arriving to your local and, without having even opened your mouth, receiving the usual cappuccino… Shame that day Bebo felt like an orange juice instead!!
7. your local barman asking, after serving him a perfect cappuccino: “so, how was it?” and Bebo replying: “ah! It's worth a at least five!”. The barman at that point glooms (he imagines an insufficient score)… And now I have to explain that his colleague had, in the previous days, started the joke of preparing the cappuccino with great care saying “… I'm making you a five euros worth cappuccino…”!

8. The only variant admitted by Bebo is the cappuccino made with cold milk whisked up (at the end it resembles whipped cream, but in reality it's low fat milk). The cohesion of the milk in this case is even higher – as I mentioned it looks like whipped cream – so it reveals a very pleasant texture in your mouth, however it has two little defects: due to the elevated cohesion it's impossible to properly mix in the sugar, and, for the same reason, the coffee does not mix well either and remains on the bottom. To mix in the sugar, you must do things calmly (which, as we were saying earlier, is not bad); on the other hand, the coffee at the bottom is a problem, because, as Bebo does not like coffee in itself, you'd end up in one of those situations that “start well and finish badly”! Eventually, Bebo usually in these cases is forced to take a cappuccino … without coffee, and with the powdered cocoa alone (actually in a Riminese variant Nutella is spread inside the glass before the whisked cold milk is poured in, which, at the end of the day, thanks to the presence of Nutella, does not even need sugar,
therefore it's like killing two birds with a stone!).

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