Cappuccino is a coffee-based drink prepared with espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam. A cappuccino differs from a caffè latte in that it is prepared with much less steamed or textured milk than the caffè latte with the total of espresso and milk/foam making up between approximately 150 ml and 180 ml (5 and 6 fluid ounces). A cappuccino is traditionally served in a porcelain cup, which has far better heat retention characteristics than glass or paper. The foam on top of the cappuccino acts as an insulator and helps retain the heat of the liquid, allowing it to stay hotter longer.
The beverage was used in Italy by the early 1900s, and grew in popularity as the large espresso machines in cafés and restaurants were improved during and after World War Two. The cappuccino had developed into its current form by the 1950s.
There is no historical basis for the recent urban legend according to which the drink was supposedly named after the Blessed Marco d'Aviano, a Capuchin friar and charismatic preacher who inspired the resistance to the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683. The story gained some unwarranted credibility in 2003, when it was good-naturedly reported by the BBC World Service at the time of d'Aviano's beatification.
Attaining the correct ratio of foam requires close attention be paid while steaming the milk, thus making the cappuccino one of the most difficult espresso-based beverages to make properly. Moreover, a skilled barista may obtain artistic shapes while pouring the milk on the top of the espresso coffee.
In Italy, cappuccino is generally consumed early in the day as part of the breakfast, with a croissant, better known to Italians as cornetto, or a pastry. Generally, Italians do not drink cappuccino with meals other than breakfast. In many countries, but not in France or Belgium, it is often consumed throughout the day or after dinner. In North America, a cappuccino is a popular after-dinner option, even at authentic Italian restaurants, but such a request would be frowned upon in Italy.
Cappuccino Freddo is the cold version of a cappuccino, where the drink usually has a small amount of cold frothed milk atop it. This drink is almost always available in Italy. There is no ice in a cappuccino freddo in Italy. The term has also spread throughout the Mediterranean region where foam is added to the drink just before serving, often varying from the Italian original . International coffee houses' standards prohibit the preparation of hot milk foam over ice, since it is conducive to the rapid buildup of bacteria. In North America, however the terms "Cappuccino Freddo" or "Iced Cappuccino", if offered, may be somewhat of a misnomer if the characteristic frothed milk is omitted in the iced variation. Starbucks, for example Without the frothed milk, the drink is called an iced latte. It is possible to froth cold milk using various methods and such preparation avoids the safety issues associated with hot foam and ice.
By the start of the 21st century, a modified version of cappuccino was being served by fast-food chains, such as Starbucks, offering sizes up to 600 ml (20 ounces). In recent years leading independent cafés have begun offering the traditional cappuccino in its proper size (150-180 ml, 5-6 ounces) only - distinguishing them from other cafés and larger chains.
Convenience store cappuccino is typically produced in a high-speed cyclonic mixing chamber, using preheated water stored in the machine. When activated the whipping impeller begins spinning, and dry powder mix and water are introduced into the chamber, with the strength of the final product controlled by how quickly the powder is fed into the mix chamber. Foam is a natural byproduct of the process. Some machines also inject a liquid flavor concentrate stored in small disposable pouches, allowing a single mix chamber to produce flavor variations such as mocha or vanilla. Because all supplies are either dry powder or in aseptic disposable packaging, these systems are very low maintenance, requiring only cleaning of the mix chamber and impeller. To further reduce maintenance, when the operator releases the fill button, most machines continue to run without powder for a few moments to flush the mix chamber with clear water.
Also, one may buy a cappuccino powder, that, when mixed with hot water or milk, produces a cappuccino-tasting drink and may be topped with whipped cream, and chocolate sauce/powder.