Brrr! The weather is getting colder and it definitely feels like winter is quickly coming upon us. This is the perfect time to warm up your morning with a cup of frothy, steamy cappuccino. Contrary to what Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts might want you to believe, a cappuccino doesn’t need fancy pumpkin or gingerbread flavored to be a cappuccino: all you need is espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam. The foam is what really gives a cup of coffee the distinction of being a cappuccino: when milk is steamed to be the same temperature of the hot espresso, it injects tiny air bubbles into the milk, making it frothy and foamy, and giving the drink a velvety texture. The quality of a cappuccino lies in how stiff the milky foam is atop the drink: trained baristas show the mark of their expertise by drawing a design into the cappuccino foam, like a heart or an intricate leaf. The longer the design remains in the cup, the higher quality the ‘cap 🙂 Nowadays you can go to any corner coffee house and get a gigantic cappuccino that will dwarf the size of banned NYC soft drinks, but traditionally cappuccino is only one shot of espresso and an equal amount of milk and foam, which means it should be no more than 6 fluid ounces. But try convincing the venti crowd that 6 ounces of coffee is enough in the morning!
If you didn’t already realize from National Coffee Day that brewing coffee is serious business–even more than Starbucks would lead you to believe–then National Cappuccino Day will definitely set you straight. Old-school baristas believe that coffee-making is both a science and an art, two things that should never be rushed or mass-produced. The real hardcore coffee houses in New York City serve their cappuccinos the traditional way: in small, 6-ounce servings, brewed and steamed to order by trained baristas who have years, if not decades, in the business. And they never let you take it to go, or it would ruin the foamy head and completely steal away the whole point of a cappuccino. That’s the kind of place Ninth Street Espresso is: arguably one of the best espresso joints in town, they spend a lot of time and energy making sure every step of the coffee-making process is the highest quality they can offer you. Their beans are roasted by Intelligista exclusively for the shop — a blend that owner Ken Nye created himself. Each cup of espresso is measured and brewed like tinctures in a mad scientist’s laboratory. And a cup of their expertly crafted cappuccino is not for sale to-go: they believe that it should be enjoyed immediately, in a warm ceramic espresso mug, to fully grasp the flavor and body of the drink. If you’ve got time this morning to sit down and really enjoy a distinct, unique cup of joe for National Cappuccino Day, head to one of Ninth Street Espresso’s three locations and order one up. You definitely won’t be disappointed.
Ninth Street Espresso
700 E 9th St (between Avenue C & Avenue D)
“Each Ninth Street Espresso feels different, and yet the harried shoppers at the Chelsea Market, the parents with strollers across from Tompkins Square Park and the laptop crowd at the original Ninth Street location all enjoy uniformly excellent coffee. Last spring, the owner, Ken Nye, did the next best thing to roasting his own beans by creating the Alphabet City Blend with Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea. It’s good in a cappuccino, great in a macchiato and exquisite in an espresso — which is only available to stay.”–The New York Times
“The cappuccino, as shown here, is an artful marriage of frothy milk and deep, dark espresso. Normally, I put a packet of sugar in my cappuccino but the balance is so right-on here that such an act would be criminal. It’s as if a cloud floated down to earth and landed in your cup–if you let go, the whole thing might float away.”–Amateur Gourmet
“When I’m in the mood to linger for a longer conversation, I order a triple cappuccino. It uses the same twenty-one gram shot of espresso, only significantly more milk. The wider cup and added milk gives the barista more flexibility to make artwork on the top, usually in the form of a heart or olive leaf. The sweet whole milk needs no additional sugar.”–A Life Worth Eating
“Their website says that Alphabet City Blend “features notes of dark chocolate and a hint of citrus with a syrupy body.” Of course, that’s pretty standard fare as descriptions go. The blend does lean on the heavy side of dark, and I say that appreciatively. It’s strong — stronger than say, Counter Culture’s espresso — and nicely acidic.”–Geoff with a G
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Here is where you’ll find out what a cappuccino can be. There’s a reason for latte art and it’s not about some sort of decoration. A design can only be made with perfect espresso that is made with the freshest beans. Crema is an emulsification of the oils in a coffee and is only present when the coffee is fresh, ground correctly and the shot pulled correctly. The milk, in order to be blended, must be of the same silky consistency as the fresh pulled shot. Wait even a minute and the crema will disolve like the head on a beer and if the milk is steamed incorrectly you’ll end up with dry foam like at Starbucks. When perfect they blend in a lovely design that is the trademark of a coffee artisan. “–Gregor H.
“I have to warn friends who are introduced to this barista bunker for the first time that they might experience something like an attitude, and to keep their coffee bean mixture requests as simple as possible. But once we are through the door and standing in line, the smell of really fresh coffee and the cappuccino’s acidy perfume quiets all nerves. I live very close to this shop, and I have for a whole year been waking up to the gentle thumping of baristas cleaning out equipment and the chocolaty smell of cups and cups of joe being steamed and made every morning. It’s fed an addiction that has only pleased me over time. I recommend this somewhat gruff but consistently high-performance cafe in the East Village to satisfy your craving for great coffee. It’s literally the best coffee in the city.”–Douglas C.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!