I’m not a fancy girl; I can live without fancy things. There are, however, a handful of humble luxuries that I hold close to my heart, including hot showers, toast and marmalade, down pillows and Negronis. They might not be what most people consider luxuries, buy hey, I’m a cheap date.

Homemade cappuccinos also rank high on the list of simple things that I could certainly live without, but choose not to. It’s 10am on a Sunday and I find myself jonseing for one – a Pavlovian side-effect from making them nearly every weekend for the last 2 years. But not this weekend. The problem being that my enfeebled arm is at least a couple of weeks away from doing any vigorous whisking; from a medical standpoint, making cappuccino is verboten until I can move my arm sideways without wincing. The one thing I can do, without reprimand from my physiotherapist, is click through my unpublished food photos and dream about the day when I’ll be able to make cappuccino again. That, and share one with you.

To make cappuccino, you do not need any special implements or gadgets (like that 3$ battery-operated hand frother that you got at last year’s Secret Santa). All you need is a good arm and a whisk. It helps if you have some residual stress from the week to work out; this will produce a more impressive foam. Make sure your partner, kids and/or out-of-town couch surfers are out of bed, because you will make quite a racket. (unless the point is to wake them up, in which case, go for it.)


  • 1/2 cup whole milk*
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee (from a stove-top percolator)
  • unrefined sugar (if desired)
  • a wire whisk

*Notes: organic milk takes longer to foam that regular milk – I haven’t figured out why, but it just does. Milk with a higher fat content will also take longer to froth up, due to a higher concentration of glycerol – but don’t let this dissuade you; whole milk is the lovelier option. Just make sure it isn’t hovering around the expiry date, or else you’ll have problems getting it to foam properly.


In a small saucepan, set the milk over medium-high heat.  Let the milk heat up gently, taking care not to let the milk boil. When it starts to steam slightly, start whisking. If your arm gets tired, alternate between whisking in a cranking action and a side-to-side action. As you whisk, the bubbles will get smaller and the foam will get thicker. Once you’ve gained a nice layer of foam, remove the milk from the heat.

Find your favourite mug; pour coffee into it. If you take your coffee with sugar, add it now & stir. Tilt the saucepan over the mug, holding back the foam with a spoon, and pouring the steamed milk into the mug until it’s about 2/3 full. Spoon on the foam from the saucepan.

(Side note: I highly encourage you to resist sullying your carefully prepared, pristine white foam with cinnamon. As far as I know, adding cinnamon to cappuccino is not an Italian flourish, but rather an adulterant used by baristas to mask a bad cup of coffee.)