The history of the cappuccino stretches back for centuries, but modern espresso machines weren’t available until the 1950s.
Since then, coffee connoisseurs have fueled an innovation craze, coming up with countless new drinks and refining existing espresso traditions.
The bone dry cappuccino is one such variation. It’s a unique twist on a classic cappuccino that delivers a different experience to the discerning drinker.
What is A Bone Dry Cappuccino?
A bone dry cappuccino is a variant of the classic cappuccino. Let’s first define the basics so that we can understand how the differences change the drink.
What Is A Cappuccino?
Cappuccinos are thought to have originated in Italy in the 1950s. New espresso machines were being produced with steam wands, giving baristas the ability to steam milk and garnish drinks with foam.
Cappuccinos are a simple extension of this new power: they’re drinks with equal parts espresso, milk, and milk foam.
In other words, to make a standard cappuccino, you pull a shot or two of espresso, use your steam wand to steam some milk, put an equal amount of liquid milk and espresso in a mug. and then top with about that much milk foam.
So What’s A Dry Cappuccino?
You might have heard someone talk about or order a dry cappuccino. What does a dry cappuccino mean?
The distinction between a ‘dry’ and classic cappuccino is simply the amount of milk. A dry cappuccino features less milk than a classic one. The exact amount of milk will vary based on who’s making it but in general dry cappuccinos feature just a little bit of milk to give the drink color.
They’re perfect for people who enjoy the taste of espresso that still want a little bit of milk to take the edge off the drink.
What About A Bone Dry Cappuccino?
If that’s a dry cappuccino, what is a bone dry cappuccino? Again, the distinction is the amount of milk — a bone dry cappuccino doesn’t have any liquid milk. When you make or order a bone-dry cappuccino, the steamed milk will be carefully transferred into your cup to avoid getting any liquid milk into the drink.
This allows the full flavor of the espresso shot to come through without being tempered by the milk while still giving the drinker the fun of having milk foam on top.
A bone dry cappuccino has no steamed milk mixed at all, only a shot of espresso and plenty of milk foam. Sometimes baristas would find making bone-dried cappuccinos an inconvenience, because making the milk foam would have to require 32 ounces of milk to be able to produce enough milk foam for a cup of bone dry cappuccino.
Bone dry cappuccinos taste more bitter, and strong, due to the lack of milk. The lack of natural sweetness from milk is not able to balance out the strong bitter taste from the coffee beans, though you can add more sugar if you’d like to balance the bitterness a bit more.
What Is A Wet Cappuccino?
On the other side of the spectrum, a wet cappuccino is a cappuccino with extra liquid milk. These aren’t quite as milky as cafe lattes, making them a great introduction into cappuccinos for people who are more used to drip coffee or milky beverages.
How Much Milk Is In A Dry Cappuccino?
As much as people like to discuss and catalog them, espresso drinks are very much a subjective art form.
This means that the exact amount of milk you’ll get in a dry cappuccino varies depending on where you get it and who’s making it In general, though, you’ll always get at least a bit of liquid milk, and you’ll always get noticeably less milk than espresso.
A typical dry cappuccino will have between half as much milk as a normal cappuccino and just a splash of milk.
What does a Bone Dry Cappuccino Taste Like?
If you’re familiar with the taste of normal cappuccinos, bone dry cappuccinos aren’t incredibly different. Bone dry cappuccinos are simply espresso with some foamed milk on top. In contrast to a normal cappuccino, a bone-dry cappuccino will taste less milky, giving it a bolder, more bitter flavor.
This means you’ll taste more espresso and less milk. You’ll still get some milk — steamed milk foam has some taste – but it’s mostly espresso.
How To Make A Bone Dry Cappuccino
The first step to brewing any cappuccino is to be familiar with your espresso machine. Being practiced at pulling shots and steaming milk will make the whole process very smooth and easy.
If you’re not an expert yet, here are some tips for getting better at the core processes involved in making a cappuccino.
Don’t have an espresso machine? You’re not quite out of luck. Purists might argue that it’s a bit different, but you can make very strong coffee in a french press, Aeropress, Moka pot, or other coffee brewing apparatus and then add milk you’ve steamed on the stove.
We’ll include instructions on the second part so that you can try a bone-dry cappuccino at home.
Making A Espresso
Like all good coffee, espresso starts with the beans. Most baristas use a dark roast and grind the beans just before they’re used.
Generally speaking, allow between 6 and 8 grams of coffee per shot (so about 15g for a double).
You’ll want to use a very fine grind for espresso, so crank your grinder to its finest setting. Don’t forget to factor in the weight of whatever container you place your coffee in when you weigh it!
Next, you’ll want to place your coffee in your portafilter. Smooth it out, so you’ve got an even distribution and carefully tamp it. When tamping, pay close attention to make sure your tamp is level, as even a bit of uneven pressure can result in some of your grounds being over-extracted while the other side is under-extracted.
Don’t worry too much about the amount of force you use – while some baristas swear by a specific amount of force, the numbers they use vary by quite a lot.
The grind and amount of coffee you use will make a much bigger difference on your espresso.
Once you’ve got your grounds properly tamped in your portafilter, it’s time to pull your shot!
Be sure to clear your ground head by running your machine for a few seconds without a portafilter before you begin. Put your portafilter in place, your mug or glass below, and proceed to pull your shot.
Follow the guidelines of your specific machine and listen to your experience to figure out how long your shot should be.
To steam milk, use a frothing pitcher (which is a heat-safe pitcher that you can stick your steam wand into with plenty of room for the amount of milk you’ll want to use).
Most baristas start by cleaning and purging their steam wands to ensure there’s nothing left on them from previous operations. Pour in milk, hold the pitcher at an angle, and stick in the steam wand.
Turn on the wand. There’ll be quite a bit of noise as steam starts to move through the wand and into your milk.
The key to proper froth is adjusting the depth of your wand as you steam your milk. Start by submerging the tip just barely below the surface to create lots of foam and bubbles.
Once you’ve got the volume you want, submerge the wand a bit more, so it starts to swirl the milk around. Your goal in this second step is to create a nice even mixture with the bubbles you created earlier.
You can listen to the noise your steam wand makes to determine if it’s at the right height. There should be a sort of slurping or sputtering sound while you’re making bubbles.
When you transition to the next phase, the steam wand should be deep enough to make very little noise at all.
Controlling the number of bubbles in these two steps can make it easier or harder to make a bone-dry cappuccino. Try varying your timing and making more or less foam to get the dryness you’d like out of the finished product.
Baristas generally perform the second stage of this operation until their milk has reached the temperature they want.
If you’re not using a thermometer of some sort, err on the side of caution – you don’t want to curdle your milk, so simply pull out the wand when your foam is well mixed. Otherwise, mix your milk until about 55 degrees Celsius or your desired temperature.
Putting It Together
For a cappuccino, you’ll want to have a layer of espresso, a layer of milk, and a layer of foam. Get your espresso in a suitable cup, and then pour in steamed milk.
If you’d like, you can try using a spoon to control the flow of foam from the pitcher. For very dry cappuccinos, consider using the spoon to add the foam rather than pouring to minimize the amount of liquid milk in your drink.
A Bone-Dry Twist On A Classic
Bone dry cappuccinos are a neat way to impress your guests or satisfy a picky palate. They’re perfect for presenting a great shot of espresso with a fun foam texture without smoothing out the taste with a bunch of liquid milk.