Love coffee but don’t enjoy having to go to Starbucks to get one? How about the best cappuccino and latte maker.
This lets you make your own specialty coffee at home the way you want it. Best of all, you can enjoy them any time.
In this article, we explain the different types of coffee drinks and kinds of machines that let you make them. This way you know what to get and how to make your own espresso based beverages.
Our Picks: Top Cappuccino and Latte Makers
- Breville BES870XL Barista Express – Top Pick (Semi-automatic)
- Mr. Coffee ECMP1000 Café Barista – Budget Option
- DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica – Our Super Automatic Pick
- Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine
- De’Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
What Is A Cappuccino?
Cappuccino is a coffee drink that originated from Italy. Traditionally, it was consumed with breakfast or early in the day with pastry. Over time, it has evolved into a drink that’s enjoyed throughout the day.
In the U.S., cappuccino started to gain popularity during the 1990s and 2000s. Starting out from the Pacific Northwest, it has slowly gain mainstream popularity among Americans.
The coffee shop cappuccino you’re familiar with is served in many ways. They can come in their traditional form. Or, as iced cappuccino, cappuccino Freddo and other varieties.
The drink is often confused with similar coffee-based milk drinks. These include latte and caffe macchiato. Another popular characteristic of cappuccinos is its latte art.
How Traditional Cappuccino is Made
One thing that may surprise you is that the cappuccino you’re drinking is different from how it’s made in Italy. According to the Italian Espresso National Institute, this is how traditional cappuccino is made.
1. Use a 160 ml ceramic cup.
2. Add 25 ml of hot espresso
3. Use 125 ml of milk. Milk should be no warmer than 3°C to 5°C. More notes on the milk below.
4. Froth the milk with steam to a temperature of 55°C.
5. Then add the foamed milk (100 ml) on top of the espresso.
In addition to the specifications above, the milk used should be fresh cow’s milk. It should have a minimum of 3.2% protein and 3.5% fat. According to the institute, only this kind of milk can guarantee a high quality sensory profile.
Cappuccino in the U.S.: As We Enjoy It Today
The cappuccino you enjoy at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts may have had their origins from the traditional recipe above. But, they’ve been tweaked quite a bit to fit the American palate.
As such, the cappuccino we often see in coffee shops, especially variations of it, come various sizes. There are small 8 ounce (237 ml) as well as tall 12 ounce (355 ml) cappuccino drinks. Some are even bigger.
In addition to size variety, these drinks come with a lot more milk. The tall drinks can contain as much as 8 to 10 ounces of milk.
Espresso vs. Cappuccino vs. Latte: What’s the Difference?
Coffee aficionados know all the different types of coffees and how they differ from one another. For everyone else, the large variety of coffees, and their similarities can get confusing.
In this section, we differentiate a few similar coffee drinks. These are based on the drinks you’ll find the U.S. today.
Espresso is the base of many coffee drinks. These include cappuccino, lattes, macchiatos and caffe mocha. All the drinks use espresso and add milk along with other ingredients. Espresso is a type of coffee drink. However it is different from regular coffee.
The first things you’ll notice about espresso is it comes in small cups. It also has a more concentrated flavor compared to coffee.
While espresso and coffee use the same type of beans. They differ in the roasting process. This is why you’ll see bags sold as espresso beans or grounds in stores. Espresso machines are also different from coffee machines. They use high pressure with hot water to force out the flavor from the coffee grounds.
This is what gives you the more intense flavor.
Additionally, the results of the pressure from the extraction process is also what produces the crema. This is the thick, foamy layer on top of the espresso.
Cappuccino offers a balance of ingredients. It consists of equal parts of espresso, steamed milk and milk foam.
To make cappuccino,
- Use 2 oz. of hot espresso.
- Add 2 oz. of steamed milk.
- Top with 2 oz. of milk foam.
Latte goes a step further than cappuccino in that it is creamier. The large ratio of milk also makes it sweeter. This is one of the reasons it’s very popular. A Café Latte consists of 2/3 steamed milk over a shot of espresso. This is then topped off with a milk foam.
To make a latte,
- Use one shot of espresso.
- Add 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk.
- Then top with foam (around 1 cm).
Cappuccino Maker vs. Espresso Machine: Is There a Difference?
Espresso Machines Can Make Cappuccinos and Lattes
In essence, an espresso machine can be used as a cappuccino and latte maker. Most espresso machines come with a steam wand or a built-in milk dispensing system. This allows you to steam and froth milk to add over your espresso.
If your machine doesn’t come with a wand or milk system, you can always buy a separate milk frother. This lets you make the milk and coffee separately then put them together.
From the ingredients above, you’ll notice that both cappuccino and lattes are espresso based drinks. What makes them different from your basic espresso is they have steamed milk and milk foam added over the coffee.
However, the converse of our original statement isn’t always true.
Not All Cappuccino Makers Can Make Espresso
It may sound ironic considering that cappuccinos are made from espresso. But, some of these machines don’t give you the option of just espresso. Instead, the automatically mix in the milk into the coffee.
Some manufacturers make cappuccino or latte machines. A number of these machines can make good espresso as well. But, many are limited to making just cappuccinos and lattes. Some only one or the other drink. This makes the more specialized machines. And, in the process, cheaper.
Another advantage of cappuccino and latte machines is they’re easier to use. There’s no learning curve like that with semi-automatic espresso machines. And, much cheaper than the higher priced super automatic espresso machines.
So, if you’re only interested in making cappuccinos or lattes, these lower cost machines may be worth a look. If you want to be able to experiment, or make a larger variety of espresso based drinks, a standard espresso machine works better.
Choosing a Cappuccino and Latte Maker: Buying Guide
1. Decide on the Type of Machine
The first thing to decide on is whether you want a cappuccino and latte maker or an espresso machine. The two types of coffee makers are similar. But they do differ, with cappuccino machines being a subset of espresso makers.
- Cappuccino and Latte Maker: These are designed to make lattes and cappuccinos. Entry level units are limited in the drinks they can make. But, they’re also cheaper than regular espresso machines. This is an ideal choice if you only want to make lattes and cappuccinos. Plus, save a few bucks along the way. Note that higher end cappuccino makers can make espressos as well. Some let you make many other specialty coffee drinks too.
Espresso machines are a more versatile choice. The essentially make espresso. But, most come with a milk steam wand or milk system. This lets you add milk and foam to your espresso. As such, you not only can make espresso but cappuccinos and other milk-based beverages as well.
If you do decide on getting an espresso machine, there are two options to choose from.
- Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: This is the most popular style. It is however, more difficult to operate. You need some skill and experience to pull a good shot. This is because you need to manually do a number of the task. With semi-autos, you need to grind the beans, fill the portafilter with the grounds, tamp them and controlling the brewing process.
- Super Automatic Espresso Machine: These are the easiest machines to operate. They work with a press of a button. That’s it! Super autos cost more than semi-autos. But, they’re much more convenient. You also get consistent coffee each time because everything is programmed. With super automatic machines, all you need to do is put the beans in the grinder. Then, select the drink you want. The machine grinds the beans, fills the filter basket and tamps the coffee grounds. Finally, it brews and pours your shot for you.
2. Steam Wand/Milk Frother
For cappuccinos, lattes and other milk-based coffees, this is a must. You’ll need an apparatus to steam and froth the milk.
Semi-automatic espresso machines are equipped with a steam wand. The wand comes in a number of varieties.
Another option you’ll see are automated milk dispensing systems. Machines that have these don’t have the wands. Instead, you’ll have a milk container that dispenses the milk into your coffee.
Super automatic machines have their own milk systems built-in. They’re more hand-off since you don’t need to manually froth the milk. The machine automatically does this for you if you choose a cappuccino or latte.
Besides the built-in milk steamer/frothers you can also purchase one separately. There are the more efficient units like the Aeroccino containers. Or, you can opt for the cheaper handheld wands.
3. Boiler Type
Espresso machines use a boiler to heat water and produce steam. The makeup of your machine’s boiler largely affects its price.
Bigger, more powerful boilers are ideal because they take less time to warm up. And, they’re able to achieve and maintain higher temperatures. This is good for brewing coffee and steaming milk.
When it comes to boilers, there are three common types. These are the single boiler, heat exchange system and dual boiler.
- The single boiler espresso machines are the cheapest among the three. They have one boiler that does both the water heating and steaming. This means a longer wait between preparing the milk and brewing the coffee.
- Heat exchange systems can do both at the same time. This makes them a better option if you don’t like waiting. They also achieve higher temperatures, allowing you to extract more flavor.
- Dual boilers are the most expensive machines among the three. They have two boilers. One is for the water, another for the steam.
Coffee purists will tell you that grinding is the most important part of making coffee. If you do this correctly, you increase your chances of making great coffee and vice versa.
When choosing from the different types of espresso machines, you’ll have the option to get one with a built-in grinder.
If you want to use fresh espresso beans, a grinder is a must. You may opt for a machine with a built-in grinder. To note, super autos all have them. But, only a few all semi-autos do.
Another option is to get a separate grinder. This lets you choose the exact type you want. Some important features to consider are the number of grind settings and how fine or coarse it can go.
If you only want to use pods or pre-ground coffee, then you won’t need a coffee grinder at all.
5. Do You Want to Use Pods?
In addition to fresh beans and pre-ground coffee, another option are pods. A number of manufacturers make flavored coffee pods. These give you blended coffee drinks that are delicious and easy to use.
If you’d like to be able to take advantage of coffee pods and all the flavors they offer, you’ll want to get a machine that can accommodate them.
Some espresso machine let you use pods. Within this group, you’ll often find two varieties.
- With semi-autos, this means having a special filter basket you can switch in your portafilter. This lets you make coffee using grounds as well as pods.
- There are also specialized machines like the Nespresso series. These are pod coffee makers. As such, they only accept pods made by a specific manufacturer. While not as versatile, these devices make great espresso drinks. And, they brew much faster than regular espresso machines. They also have the added benefit of being very convenient to use.
6. Durability & Construction
With espresso and cappuccino makers, construction and durability is important. You’ll probably be using these machines every day. Sometimes, a few times a day.
As such, you want something that’s made from high quality components that don’t break down. Basically, the simpler the device, the less probable it is to break down. They’re also easier to repair when they do. This makes semi-automatic espresso machines a better option in this regard.
That said, a lot of modern coffee machines are well-built.
In addition to construction, size, capacity and design also factor into your decision making. These affect how the appliance will fit into your kitchen.
7. Types of Drinks They Can Make
If you choose an espresso machine, then you’re options are only limited by your imagination. These let you adjust various settings to change the consistency and texture of your coffee and milk. You can also mix different ratios of espresso, milk and foam to your liking.
Cappuccino and latte machines are more specific. The entry level machines are more limited to a few basic drinks. Some also let you make espresso which does increase the number of beverages you can concoct.
Higher end cappuccino machines offer a lot of variety. While expensive, they allow you to make coffee, espresso and many other specialty coffee beverages. In addition, they also let you make multiple cups at once.
Best Cappuccino Maker Reviews
This is our top choice when it comes to best cappuccino makers. It is a semi automatic espresso machine which means there’s some manual work on your part. It also means a bit of a learning curve compared to super automatics like the DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica below.
That said, we like that it makes better coffee than super automatics as well as more expensive models.
The Breville Barista Express is a good looking stainless steel machine. It comes with its own built-in conical burr grinder and removable bean hopper. The former lets you choose how fine you want your grounds to be. The latter lets you store away the beans properly for freshness.
The unit also offers dose control that lets you put the same amount of coffee into the portafilter each time. This helps with getting consistence flavor each time.
Other features include low pressure pre-infusion and temperature control. Both play a role in making great tasting espresso that has rich crema.
The Barista Express lets you choose between one cup or two cups. You can also use its program function to customize the volume.
One of the things we like is that it lets you adjust water brew temperature. This along with the easy to read pressure gauge let you know how you’re brewing. And, allow you to do the same thing over and over again for consistently great tasting coffee.
The unit comes with pre-set buttons. You get 3 in all. One each for espresso, cappuccino and latte. This lets you get the same mix each time. All with a press of a button.
In addition to that, you get a milk system. We like this addition because it’s practical and convenient. The system consists of a removable milk container in the front side of the device.
This lets you easily refill the milk as needed. And, if there’s leftover, store the entire container in the fridge for next use.
Above the milk container you get a milk dispensing tube and an adjustment knob. You’ll want to set the knob to the type of drink you’re making. And, point the tube to the cup.
When you’ve filled the water reservoir and milk container all you need to do is load the coffee grounds and select the type of drink you want.
The machine will brew the espresso. Then froth the milk and pour it over the coffee. That simple.
This means it does everything for you from start to finish. All you need to do is choose what you want and press a button. From the beans all the way to frothing and pouring the milk over coffee, the machine automatically does.
The DeLonghi Magnifica has a sleek, modern design. Its controls are on the upper left hand corner of the front panel. And, everything is controlled by the buttons here.
The machine comes with its own built in professional grinder. This lets you adjust the grind settings as desired. The removable bean container also lets you store the beans away for freshness. In addition, its milk frothing system lets you enjoy milk-based beverages like cappuccinos and macchiatos.
One feature we like is its instant reheat function. This cuts down the time between cups if you’re making more than one cup. You also get an automatic shut off for safety.
As far as maintenance goes, we like that it has a removable brewing unit. This lets you pull out the system’s brewing unit for cleaning.
Overall, the DeLonghi Magnifica gives you a way to easily make great tasting espresso at home. There’s little work on your part. And, pressing a button gets you different coffees.
The unit makes both espresso as well as milk-based coffees like cappuccinos and lattes. Plus, it lets you do all that with a lot less work and learning compared to semi automatic models.
The Gaggia Brera is compact in size. It is 10 inches wide by 17.5 inches deep. And, it stands 12 inches tall. It weighs around 18 pounds.
Made with a stainless steel exterior, it uses a thermoblock boiler system that lets you quickly get to high temperatures. This allows you to get more flavorful coffee as well as that creamy crema.
The unit comes with its own ceramic burr grinder and an 8.8 oz. hopper. You load the beans on top of the machine and get to select from 5 grind settings. If you like to switch things up a bit, you’ll be glad to know it has a bypasss doser as well. This lets you scoop pre-ground coffee like decaf or flavored coffee when you want it.
All the controls are done by push button. This makes settings easy. It lets you choose from 3 coffee strengths and 2 programmable sizes.
The Brera uses a 15 bar pump and stainless steel boiler. Together they produce the optimal amount of pressure and temperature to give you great tasting espresso consistently.
For making cappuccinos and other milk-based beverages, there’s its metal pannarello steam wand. This lets you easily make froth and steam milk.