Most inexpensive home espresso machines are pretty bad. Gotta pay the big bucks to get something with good pressure and consistency.
I've found that the stove-top espresso pots come closest to what I make at the coffee shop (with an $8000 machine). Good crema, never over-extracted. It helps to have a good burr grinder too.
For cappuccino, I've got a stainless steel frother with a mesh and plastic plunger. Kind of like churning butter
, but it creates really thick creamy microfoam – like milk pudding. I like to put a bit of vanilla and sugar in the milk before I froth it. Good article/explanation here:http://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Steel-C … B000H6VP2O
Melissa, most chain coffee shops don't make actual cappuccinos. They tend to think latte and cappuccino are the same thing http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/ever … omics.html
The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one. The World Barista Championship rules, for example, define a traditional cappuccino as a "five- to six-ounce beverage." This is also the size of cappuccino served by many continental cafés. Within reason, the shorter the cappuccino, the better.
The problem with large cappuccinos is that it's impossible to make the fine-bubbled milk froth ("microfoam," in the lingo) in large quantities, no matter how skilled the barrista. A 20-ounce cappuccino is an oxymoron. Having sampled the short cappuccino in a number of Starbucks across the world, I can confirm that it is a better drink than the buckets of warm milk—topped with a veneer of froth—that the coffee chain advertises on its menus