French vanilla may be a flavor you see more in ice cream, but it can also make for a delicious coffee drink. Combine velvety steamed milk with a whole vanilla bean and a sprinkle of brown sugar for a cappuccino that just might knock your socks off.
The French vanilla cappuccino is easily one of the most popular coffee drinks. Even people who prefer tea over coffee have likely heard of French vanilla cappuccino and love its frothy and sweet taste. As we are in the throes of winter, you may be looking for the perfect French vanilla cappuccino recipe to make from the comfort of your home.
In this article, we’re going to give you the most delicious French vanilla cappuccino recipe that will make you feel like an at-home barista. At the end, we offer different variations to this recipe in case you don’t have the needed machines or ingredients. This French vanilla cappuccino recipe is easy to make and customize. Plus, it’s much more affordable than heading to your local coffee shop. Bon appetit!
What is French vanilla?
Before we get into the recipe, let’s back up for a moment. What does French vanilla mean, anyway? It’s not the vanilla bean — vanilla, like coffee, only grows in a few specific parts of the world like Madagascar — and it’s not an especially French flavor, either.
As everyone knows, French vanilla ice cream is far superior to regular vanilla ice cream. It’s richer, smoother, and creamier — thanks to a special ingredient! Here’s the secret: French vanilla ice cream contains egg yolks. That’s where the creamy texture and light yellow color come from.
Although you can make some pretty delicious egg coffee drinks, we’re not going to make our French vanilla cappuccino using egg yolks. Instead, we’re making a creamy vanilla treat with just a hint of brown sugar. It’s not ice cream, but it’s pretty darn good!
How to Make a French Vanilla Cappuccino:
1. Steam the Milk
What makes a cappuccino stand out from other coffee drinks is its use of steamed milk. Traditionally, 2% milk is used to create the frothy or foamy texture necessary for the perfect cappuccino. If you are going to make the perfect cappuccino, you must start by steaming the milk.
Pour 10 ounces of 2% milk into a steaming pitcher, along with the food thermometer. Place the steaming wand tip on the milk’s surface. Begin heating the milk by turning the dial on the steamer counterclockwise.
To create the froth, raise the steaming want tip above the milk’s surface. You should hear a light hissing sound. If you don’t hear the sound, you’re not going to create the perfect froth, which should have a consistency similar to that of shaving cream. Ideally, you should have enough foam to make up 1/3 of the final product.
Once the milk reaches 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turn off the steamer. Immediately after steaming your milk, wipe down the wand with a clean and damp cloth. Let the milk and froth separate for one minute within the steamer while preparing the flavoring.
2. Add French Vanilla
For a French vanilla cappuccino, you need French vanilla flavoring. For a 12-ounce cappuccino, add 1 to 2 ounces of French vanilla flavoring to the mug you intend to drink out of. Torani is a brand favorite among many coffeehouses, but you can find other brands as well.
3. Pour Milk into Mug
While you add the French vanilla to the mug, the milk and froth should separate within the pitcher for about a minute. Before moving on to the espresso, pour the steamed milk into the mug with the French vanilla. Pour in enough milk so that the mug is about halfway full. While you are pouring, hold back the froth using a spoon.
Once you have poured in the desired amount of milk, use a spoon to add froth to the milk. Add enough froth until there are about one or two inches left in the mug for the espresso shots. Stir the milk, foam, and French vanilla flavoring well.
4. Pull the Shots of Espresso
With the steamed milk and flavoring out of the way, it’s time to make your espresso. For the best flavor, grind down espresso beans right before pulling the shots. Put these fresh grinds in a portafilter handle. Using an espresso machine, pull shots between 16 and 26, but more preferably between 18 and 23.
Immediately after you have made the espresso, pour one to two shots of espresso into the mug with the steamed milk and French vanilla flavoring. If you want a lighter coffee flavor, only add one shot of espresso instead of two.
5. Stir and Enjoy
Finally, stir up the cappuccino once more, and you are done. You have created a delicious at-home cappuccino. Enjoy!
Brewing Tips & Tricks
This is a very simple recipe, and most of the variations you can make come down to your preferences and the equipment you have at home. Here are a few quick tips to help you brew the French vanilla cappuccino of your dreams!
Coffee or Espresso?
Traditional cappuccinos are made with fresh espresso, so if you want an authentic French vanilla cappuccino, we recommend pulling out your espresso machine. The bold, rich flavor of espresso pairs well with smooth vanilla milk and a hint of sweetness. But if you don’t have an espresso maker (or stovetop Moka pot), don’t despair!
Coffee made in a drip machine, pour-over, or Keurig will do just fine — as long as you make it strong. This drink has many flavors, and you probably don’t want the coffee to get overpowered. It’s up to you, though! If you don’t like overly strong coffee flavors, make your coffee however you like it.
Make It Even More Decadent
Want to turn your French vanilla cappuccino into an even more delicious treat? You can add half-and-half or heavy cream to the mix! Keeping the overall amount of liquid the same, replace some or all of the milk with cream. Your drink will be extra rich — just like French vanilla ice cream.
Even though French vanilla is a classic taste, you sometimes may want an extra kick. Luckily, French vanilla can be paired with other flavors so that you still get the classic taste with a unique twist.
Many people like adding hot cocoa mix to their French vanilla cappuccinos. Simply add a teaspoon or more, depending on your preference, to the cappuccino during step five. Stir it into the final product so that it tastes blended. You could also top the cappuccino with just some sprinkles of hot cocoa mix.
If you like cinnamon, you can add cinnamon to this drink as well. Either stir it into the final product or sprinkle it over the top, just as described above with the hot cocoa mix.
French Vanilla Cappuccino
- Espresso maker (or coffee machine)
- Coffee mug
- Whisk, steam wand, or blender
- 2 shots espresso or ½ cup hot coffee
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Brew your coffee. You’ll get the best flavor if you pull two shots of espresso, but strong brewed coffee is also delicious.
- Heat your milk. Pour the milk into a saucepan and set the heat to medium. Add the vanilla bean. Stir regularly to keep the milk from burning. When the milk starts to bubble, take it off the heat and remove the vanilla bean.
- Froth your milk. Using a whisk or steam wand, froth the milk until it doubles in size.
- Pour the espresso or coffee into your mug. Then add the sugar and stir to let it dissolve.
- Add the milk and spoon the milk foam on top. Sprinkle on a little cinnamon and enjoy your French vanilla cappuccino!
Time to start brewing! We hope you love this French vanilla cappuccino recipe as much as we do. It’s simple to make with just a few inexpensive ingredients, and it’s a great pick-me-up on a long afternoon. You may never want to go back to a coffee shop…
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Featured image: WronaART, Shutterstock
Table of Contents
- What is French vanilla?
- How to Make a French Vanilla Cappuccino:
- Brewing Tips & Tricks
- French Vanilla Cappuccino
- Final Thoughts