10 Ways to Drink Cappuccino on the Cheap


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Cappuccino emigrated from Italy as a simple and classic drink made of espresso and foamy milk. Today, a "cappuccino" can be sweet and creamy or flavored and fancy (Frappuccino, anyone?). Either way, it has a higher price tag than a basic cup of coffee, but there are some budget-friendly ways to indulge in this tasty drink.

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Mimic Starbucks' flavored cappuccino drinks at home for less money -- even without an espresso machine. A food blogger suggests a secret to Starbucks-like taste: Pour sugar in with instant coffee and whip together with a teaspoon of water, then add boiling milk. For folks who like their coffee drinks on the sweet side, this is a budget-friendly method.

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A basic espresso maker doesn't have to cost a fortune and could save money for a cappuccino drinker with a regular habit. The De'Longhi EC155 (starting at $80) performs necessities such as frothing milk for a range of cappuccino, mocha, and latte drinks. Reviewers marvel that this pump-driven machine costs so little. Most cheap espresso makers are steam-driven, and aficionados consider a pump essential for authentic coffee-shop taste.

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Coffee brand Folgers is a low-budget go-to for "cappuccino." The brand's instant cappuccino mixes (about $4 for 16 ounces) require no special machinery to whip up. Available in flavors such as French vanilla, this is one of the cheapest choices by cup.

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Owners of Keurig machines can try Grove Square single-cup cappuccino mix (starting at about $12 for 24 capsules). Consumers can brew about a dozen cups for the price of one caramel or vanilla cappuccino at a popular coffee chain. Buyers reviewing the product on Amazon compare it to the sweet, creamy flavor of a gas station cappuccino.

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Although most cappuccino mixes are reasonably priced, it might be even cheaper to make a homemade mix posted by coffee importer and roaster Royal Cup: Combine instant coffee, powdered milk, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon, then mix in a bowl or food processor. Store for a ready-to-go cappuccino-inspired drink, or just add hot water to make it on the spot.

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Making stovetop espresso is relatively easy and cost effective. Although true espresso is brewed under much higher pressure, this technique brews similarly strong coffee with the thin layer of caramel-colored foam on top called "crema." Simply add some frothy milk to make a traditional cappuccino (the required tool is coming up next). You can pick up a stovetop espresso maker or moka pot for about the cost of four or five store-bought coffee drinks (about $15).

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Arguably one of the most important components of any cappuccino is the foamy milk topping. Reviewers say the Matcha DNA handheld electric milk frother ($6.93 on Amazon) churns the milk to the perfect consistency for both lattes and cappuccinos.

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An easy and inexpensive option, the Aerobie AeroPress ($30) makes coffee and espresso right in a cup. Use it every morning in place of a cappuccino run and it will pay for itself in less than two weeks.

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Starbucks increased the cost of espresso drinks by 10 to 30 cents this month. Prices vary by location, but Dunkin' Donuts consistently beats Starbucks on price when it comes to a basic cappuccino, and the savings add up day by day.

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If you can't fathom giving up Starbucks for a cheaper standby, try this hack: Order a "short" cappuccino, an 8-ounce drink, over a more expensive 12-ounce "tall." The coffee-to-milk ratio is higher, promising a stronger (many would say better) taste at a lower cost.