An espresso machine is the perfect kitchen gadget for those who need a caffeine kick on a morning. However, many people choose not to buy an espresso machine as they are assumed to have limited capabilities in the drinks they make.
However, you can make other coffees such as a latte, flat white or cappuccino using an espresso machine. That said, some drinks will require your machine to have additional features such as a milk wand.
In the post below I’ve broken down the different drinks you can make with an espresso machine as well as how to make them (and the additional features you’re espresso machine will need to have where applicable).
If there’s a drink you’d like to learn how to make using your espresso machine, or if you’re unsure whether an espresso machine can make a particular coffee you like leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to reply.
Do Espresso Machines Make Cappuccino?
To answer this question lets first get the definition of a cappuccino straight so that we’re all on the same page.
Typically, a cappuccino is considered to be a drink of thirds: one part espresso, one part steamed milk and one part of frothed milk.
As much as this is the standard definition, it’s also a bit of a non-rule. If you were to take this rule as gospel, then you would have a very small drink indeed, while most cappuccinos are huge affairs served in large, thick-walled mugs.
Instead, the majority of modern baristas take a cappuccino to be a drink slightly smaller than a latte which is finished with a thick layer of frothed milk.
In order to achieve this with an espresso machine, you’ll need to ensure you get a machine that has a steam wand. This is fairly easy to make sure you get right, as steam wands are prominent on machines. Typically, they’ll be to the right of the espresso spouts, on the same side as a knob which is used to control the pressure that the wand steams milk with.
Provided you have a machine that features both an espresso group head and a steam wand, you can get down to business. Firstly, you’ll need to turn on your espresso machine and allow it to heat up. Eventually, the internal boiler will have reached a temperature such that it can provide a supply of steam straight from the water tank to the wand. While the machine is heating, fill a pitcher or a mug with cold milk.
When the machine is hot, submerge the tip of the wand in the milk, and turn the dial slowly, allowing the steam to gently get to the ideal pressure.
In order to make an ideal cappuccino, you’ll need to start with the tip of the wand near the surface of the milk, where it can make larger bubbles. After you’ve created a good layer of bubbles, submerge the wand deeper into the milk, and gently move the pitcher or mug so that the wand circles in the milk. When your milk is hot, turn off the wand, and remove the milk vessel. Set it aside.
Then, add your ground coffee to the coffee basket, and attach the portafilter to your machine. Turn the espresso switch, and catch the coffee in an espresso mug. Then, simply combine the espresso and the steamed milk, and you’ll have a cappuccino!
If you want to, you can then dust the top of your drink with hot chocolate powder. Some people like this (myself included), while others don’t – it’s up to you.
Do Espresso Machines Make Lattes?
The process of making a latte is extremely similar to that of making a cappuccino.
The general barista definition of a latte is that it is a tall, milky drink that is made up of an espresso topped with milk which has been foamed and frothed to a consistent texture.
Going into detail to describe exactly what this foam is and how to make it would be very complicated indeed, and would involve words like ‘micro bubbles’, so we’re going to choose to keep it a little more simple here.
In order to make a latte, you need to hold the steam wand at the top of the milk – like with a cappuccino – but after you’ve made a few large bubbles, submerge the steam wand and allow the large bubbles to break up.
Do this repeatedly until your milk is at the right temperature, and aim for a slightly thick consistency in your milk. In your milk, you’re aiming for the rough texture of wet paint. While unappetizing, it’s a helpful way to think of the liquid you’re swirling as you steam it.
You’ll then need to make espresso, using the same steps as we described in the cappuccino section above: fill your coffee basket with coffee, attach the basket to your machine, and flick the espresso switch.
Combining the two is easy to get right, but difficult to master. On the surface of it, it’s as simple as combining two liquids and giving them a bit of a mix, but if you want that latte art the barista puts on your morning coffee, there are a couple of things to bear in mind.
For great latte art, you need to ensure you’ve got good milk texture, i.e. that ‘wet paint’ texture that we mentioned above. You also need to use a pouring vessel that has a slightly sharp pouring edge.
If you do that, then you’ll be able to more easily pour a steady stream of steamed milk into your mug, rather than messily having a wide stream that won’t contribute to good latte art.
At the end of the day, latte art is about having the knack for it. It’s definitely a learnable skill, you just have to give it a little time and practice.
Do Espresso Machines Make Regular Coffee?
Of course, this depends on your definition of regular coffee, but largely speaking: yes, they do. Most people would consider ‘regular coffee’ to be a mug of black or white coffee, with the option of added sugar or sweeteners.
In order to make a drink of that type with an espresso machine, you’ll need to combine espresso with hot water. You can make the espresso in exactly the same way as you did in the other methods: add the coffee to the coffee basket, attach the basket to the machine, and flick the espresso switch.
At this step, you have a choice if you’re making standard coffee. You can allow the machine to continually pump water through the coffee into your mug, or you can pour a standard espresso, and top it up with hot water from a kettle. The choice is entirely up to you, though the second option is more conventional.
The first choice of those two options is a European style that hasn’t really spread very well throughout the world, though it does offer an interesting flavor if you’re feeling a little curious.
Presuming you used the second method, you’ll now have an espresso at the bottom of a tall mug. You now need to top that off with hot water from a kettle or from your espresso machine.
In order to get hot water out of your espresso machine, configure the switches as though you’re about to pull a shot of espresso. Then, gently turn the handle of the steam wand, and hot water will flow out of it and into your mug.
It’s worth saying that this technique will only work if you have a machine that has one boiler instead of two. A double-boiler machine would simply dispense steam in that case instead of hot water.