When you add steamed milk to a shot of espresso and then top the cup off with foamed milk, the result is cappuccino. The drink is named for the Capuchin monks, whose habits contain similar shades of white and brown. In Italy cappuccino is considered a good drink for breakfast, but elsewhere in the world it is drunk at all times of night and day.

Coffee purists might consider cappuccino, along with mocha, latte, flavoured coffee etc. to be adulterated coffee, designed to mask the deficiencies of the basic brew. While I would tend to agree with this viewpoint, it is certain that many people prefer the creamy consistency of a cappuccino to purer forms of coffee, and if really good coffee is unavailable, why not chuck in a bunch of stuff to make it taste better.

I would not consider myself a coffee purist, as I add a very small amount of both milk and sugar to my coffee, but the taste I enjoy is the coffee itself.

Cappucino is a caffeinated beverage made up of steamed milk, froth, and espresso. It can only be served hot. The standard, at least in America (especially at Corporate Coffee shops) is half froth, half milk with the espresso. A cappucino with more froth is known as a dry cappucino, and one with more milk is known as a wet cappucino. It's like drinking a coffee flavored cloud if it is made right.

A very popular (perhaps the most popular, at least in Rome) form of coffee in Italy.

It comes in two forms:

  • Standard cappuccino, made from coffee (espresso) with the froth of steamed milk, served in a coffee cup with a handle. It is typically prepared for you by a professional barista in front of your eyes. You add your own sugar to make it as sweet as you like.

    While in America people often mix flavored syrups with it, I have never seen anyone do that during my four years in Italy (and it would probably be considered sacrilege).

  • Cold cappuccino, only served during the hot summer months. I only had it a couple of times (mostly because I generally took a vacation outside of Italy during summer months).

    However, the few that I had were indeed the perfect summer drink. In this case, the barista had already made the coffee beforehand, and had it stored in a refrigerator inside a metal pitcher. He poured the cold coffee in a tall skinny glass, about half full, then filled the rest with cold milk (not steamed). The first time I had it, I asked where the sugar was. The barista almost had a fit stating you do not put sugar in cappuccino freddo (cold cappuccino). So, I drank it unsweetened, and had to admit, he was right. It was delicious, and very refreshing in the summer heat of Rome!

By the way, the name cappucino is derived from the brown color of the habits (religious garb) worn by the Capuchin friars. I only know this tidbit because at the time I happened to be a Capuchin friar myself.

HOWTO make a cappucino, start with How to steam milk, then see How to Froth Milk, and grab your espresso shots. Start by pouring your espresso into the cup, and hold a spoon over the mouth of your steam cup so that the thinner, steamed milk is let through, while the thick foam on top is held back. When the cup is about half full of the espresso/steamed milk mixture, slow your pouring and start scooping foam in as well.

If it's poured right, and is in a clear vessel, the coffee and steamed milk should be about two-thirds of the cup, and the clean white foam is the top third. I prefer to drink my coffee straight, no sugar added, but some people add sugar/milk to anything with coffee in it. Don't do this.

A miniature PC manufactured by Saintsong, a small Taiwanese company. The Cappuccino is the successor to the Espresso, Saintsong's first mini-PC. Several companies import and rebrand the Cappuccino in the US, the most prominent examples being Unicomp Laboratories (http://www.cappuccinopc.com/) and ThinkGeek (http://www.thinkgeek.com/).

The Cappuccino PC is roughly the size of a standard CD-ROM drive, although a bit more squarish, and weighs just under two pounds with the optional CD/DVD-ROM drive attached. The case is silver-colored plastic. On top there is a large round vent for the CPU fan, as well as a power button, a blue power LED, and an amber hard drive LED. The sides of the case contain the many I/O ports, and a hot-swappable CD-ROM, CD-RW, or DVD-ROM drive can be plugged into a socket on the bottom and will fit nicely.

Saintsong has produced four models of the Cappuccino:

    G1
  • Processor: Intel Pentium !!! / Celeron (FC-PGA)
  • Memory: 1 144-pin DIMM slot for PC100/133 SODIMM (256MB max)
  • Video: Intel 82810E onboard video w/4MB shared memory, 15-pin VGA out, S-Video out, RCA video out
  • Audio: 16-bit SoundBlaster-compatible, built-in speaker
  • Communications: IrDA, 10/100base-T Ethernet (RJ45), Internal 56K V.90 modem (RJ11)
  • Peripherals: 2 USB ports, 1 25-pin parallel port, 1 9-pin serial port, audio out jack, microphone jack, PS/2 mouse port, PS/2 keyboard port
  • Storage: 2.5 inch hard disk (supports UltraDMA 33/66), optional ATAPI CD-ROM/CD-RW/DVD-ROM

    Gx1
  • Same as the G1, but with a smoother, more sleek-looking case.

    Tx2
  • Another new case, similar to the Gx1 but even more rounded and with a larger top vent.
  • New "smart fan" to regulate temperature better
  • Intel 82815 onboard video
  • 4 USB ports
  • 2 FireWire (IEEE 1394) ports
  • All other specs identical to G1

    Tx3
  • Intel Socket 370 Celeron Coppermine or FC-PGA2 Tualatin CPU
  • Up to 512MB RAM (1 144-pin SODIMM)
  • Intel i815E onboard video with hardware motion compensation for MPEG2 playback
  • Full duplex 3D stereo sound
  • All other specs identical to TX2

I've had a Gx1 for about six months now and I love it. It's a bit limited, since you can only put slow notebook hard drives in it and it won't take more than 256MB of RAM or a CPU faster than a P-III or Celeron Socket-370, but I've actually found it quite useful. It's excellent for playing DVDs, and is even more useful for playing DivX movies on my TV over my wireless network using a USB wireless adapter. I've also hooked it up to my audio reciever and used it as an MP3 jukebox. I've successfully run Windows XP, Mandrake Linux, and FreeBSD on it without any trouble.

That said, it does have a downside. I've run into some heat problems since I tend to leave it on all the time. The built-in fan and heatsink do a good job of cooling the CPU, but the hard drive is horribly positioned in a spot where it actually draws heat from the CPU and gets no ventilation at all, so after a while it tends to overheat and cause the system to lock up. Removing the case and pulling the hard drive away from the CPU fixes this, but then the Cappuccino's delicate innards are open to damage (plus it doesn't look as pretty without the case on). This may be fixed in the Tx2 and Tx3.

I've managed to at least partially remedy the heat situation in my Cappuccino by removing the top of the case, throwing away the horrible tiny ducted heatsink/fan combo it comes with, and jury-rigging a massive Athlon heatsink and fan to the processor (which also involved splicing the three-prong power connector wires into the two-prong connector on the motherboard). This setup does a much better job at dissipating heat than the factory setup does, but it's a lot uglier. My Cappuccino looks sort of like a hot rod with the massive engine sticking out the top of the hood.

Depending on where you buy it, you can get a Cappuccino for under $1,000 US.

This is a story that was told to me today by a Dublin taxi driver. I'm not sure how true it is, but it's an interesting story nonetheless.

This taxi driver and I were chatting about travelling: "Ah Jaysus bud, yer dead roigh', travel da bleedin' world while ye can. Were ye ever in Sicily? I was in this town there called Cappuccino. Meself and the missus stopped off for a coffee." he said.

According to my new, learned friend, this is where the beverage Cappuccio originated from. The main industry in the town was growing olives and coffee beans, which the Capuchin monks used to harvest and trade. Because of the abundance of coffee beans, they came up with different methods of consuming the beans before the went stale.

"All dis bleedin' coffee hangin' around; sure they were bound to do somethin' with it. Knowharimean, bud?" he said.

One of these methods was to go out to the field with some ground coffee beans, and mix fresh, warm, frothy milk in straight from the cow. Thusly, the Cappuccino was invented.

I recoiled in disgust.

"Have ye never drunk milk straight from the udder, bud?"

"Umm, not recently, no"

"Ahh, the yout' of today. Jaaaaysus, yiz are missin' out."

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