Cappuccino Ratio: How to make a great tasting drink

By Shabbir
Last update:

What’s not to love about cappuccinos? They’re wonderfully intense like espresso, and wonderfully creamy like milk. A cappuccino is like the perfect pairing in coffee, period. But what’s the proper cappuccino ratio? How do you make an authentic cappuccino?

How to make a cappuccino: the cappuccino ratio

Most baristas agree that a good coffee to milk ratio for a cappuccino is 1/3 espresso to 2/3 milk. So you have:

  • One 2 ounce shot of espresso
  • 2 ounces of steamed milk(less air bubbles, more liquidy)
  • 2 ounces of foamed milk(more air bubbles, drier)

There’s always going to be some variance in the ratio, of course. Adding a double shot of espresso will mean you’ll have to add a little more milk, otherwise the coffee flavor will overpower the milk.

The amount of espresso you use will dictate the amount of caffeine in your cappuccino.

You can also choose to add either only steamed milk for a “wetter” cup, or only foamed milk for a “drier” cup. Using only foamed milk is called making a bone-dry cappuccino.

difference between cappuccino, flat white, and latte showing cappuccino ratioPulling the espresso shot

The first step to make a cappuccino is to pull an espresso shot. Make your espresso as you always would. Get 12-15 grams of coffee beans and grind them very fine. It should almost be like a powder.

Place the grounds in the portafilter and tamp them down very tightly into a puck, and attach the portafilter to the espresso machine.

Pull your shot as you normally would. You can do a single shot or double shot based upon your preferences.

Steaming the milk

What you’ll need:

  • Steaming jug: baristas use a special steaming jug made from stainless steel for steaming milk. The jug usually comes in two sizes, 12 ounces or 20 ounces, and both are useful depending on how many people you are making coffee for.
  • Steaming wand: many, if not most espresso machines come with steaming wands built in. If your machine does not have a steaming wand, there are specialized milk frothing devices available too.
  • Towel: Making steamed milk can get messy, since you’re pushing steam through a liquid. There can be a bit of spraying here and there too. Once you’re done, you have to clean the steam wand, otherwise the milk residue will solidify and clog the insides of the wand.

Grab a stainless steel milk steaming jug(most espresso machines come with one) and fill it with 2 ounces of cold milk. You’ll only need two ounces for one cup beccause the volume will nearly double as you incorporate air bubbles.

First, remove any residue from the steam wand by blasting some steam without holding anything under it. This removes any condensed water droplets as well as other particles that may have gotten in.

Place the steam wand in the milk and start the flow of steam. You only want to submerge around 1/2 inch of the wand into the jug. Hold it at an angle to help create a spiral motion. The milk should start bubbling and foaming. Move the jug up and down to keep letting air get in the milk.

Once the pitcher gets a little hot, insert the wand deeper into the jug and at the same angle. This helps to distribute the air bubbles more evenly.

Keep foaming until you get:

  • the right consistency
  • the right temperature(65 degrees C)

Remove the pitcher from the steam wand and set it aside. Wipe the steam wand and purge it, and give the jug a tap on the counter to help mix the bubbles even better.

Pour the milk into the espresso shot you pulled earlier.

Here’s a neat trick: if you pour slowly, the more dense, liquidy milk will flow first, making the bulk of the cappuccino. Then you can pour out the thicker milk foam which settles at the top of the cup due to the greater amount of air bubbles.

You can use the top froth to make latte art, too. And if you substitute half and half for the milk, you’ll make a breve coffee.


Make your latte using:

Don’t forget to grab a milk frother

Use a dedicated cappuccino cup

Another neat way to make a good cappuccino without having to worry too much about the actual measurements is just to use a cappuccino cup.

Cappuccino cups are really neat because they’re already the right size of about 6 ounces. You just need to pull an espresso shot into them and then top up with milk foam until the cup is about as full as you want.

Cappuccino machines for tight budgets

Normally, to make a cappuccino, you’d have to first pull an espresso shot(read about how to make an espresso here), steam some milk using a milk frother, and finally pour the shot into the milk.

A more painless way to do it is just to use a good espresso machine that either has a steam wand or that automatically dispenses steamed milk from a reservoir.

Mr Coffee Cafe Barista

The Mr Coffee Cafe Barista is the espresso machine that I currently use at home. It’s inexpensive, quite automated, and makes some really good espresso, cappuccino, and lattes.

Mr. Coffee Espresso and Cappuccino Machine, Programmable Coffee Maker with Automatic Milk Frother and 15-Bar Pump, Stainless Steel

What I love about this machine is that it’s super simple yet super versatile. You fill water into the reservoir, and when you turn the machine on, it will begin to heat up and the lights on the three buttons will start flashing. Each button is for one of three drinks: espresso, cappuccino, or latte.

Just grind up some coffee, tamp it into the portafilter and lock it into place to get started.

If you want to make a cappuccino, pour some cold milk into the milk reservoir and lock that into place too. Once the cappuccino light turns solid, it means the machine is ready to brew and steam milk.

Place your favorite mug in the machine and press the cappuccino button. The machine will first dispense steamed milk, and once the 4 ounces of milk have been dispensed(you can adjust the quantity of milk with a little dial), it will pull a shot of espresso into the milk and you have a cappuccino ready to go.

DeLonghi EC155

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper and with a bit more control, check out the DeLonghi EC155. It’s not as automated as the Mr Coffee but it will still brew a good cup of coffee.

DeLonghi EC155 15 Bar Espresso and Cappuccino Machine, Black

Here, you’ll need to brew a shot of espresso separately, then turn the dial to the “Steam” setting, and froth a cup of milk, and then mix the two to make a cappuccino.

Since everything is manual here, you’ll have to measure out the milk yourself, froth it to your desired consistency yourself, and finally add the shot of espresso to make your cappuccino.

One advantage this machine has over the Mr Coffee is that you can actually make foamed milk by taking a small amount of milk and frothing it very intensely. The Mr Coffee only produces steamed milk since it is all fully automated.



So I hope this short little post answers your question about the cappuccino ratio! Now go ahead and grind some fresh beans to brew yourself a cup!

Frequently asked questions

Can I make a cappuccino without an espresso machine?

You can’t make an authentic cappuccino, but you can make the next best thing. Brew a shot of coffee using an Aeropress, and use a french press to incorporate bubbles into milk you heat in the microwave.

Is cappuccino healthier than coffee?

Cappuccinos contain a lot more calories thanks to the milk. An average cappuccino has an excess of 100 calories per drink, compared to black coffee, which is almost zero calories.

What is the healthiest coffee drink?

If you’re measuring purely in terms of calorie content, any form of black coffee is the healthiest drink you can get.

Last update on 2024-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.