Cappuccino vs Latte: The Two Most Popular Espresso Drinks Compared

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Ever felt lost ordering at your favorite coffee spot, unsure what you’re actually getting?

Choosing between cappuccino, latte, macchiato, flat white, and more? It’s all about understanding what sets each one apart.

I remember my first Americano order, thinking it was similar to a cappuccino. Boy, was that first sip a shocker!

In a future post, I’ll dive deep into all sorts of espresso drinks. But today, let’s chat about everyone’s favorites: cappuccino and latte. What exactly are they? How do they stand out? And yes, we’ll also explore some cool variations, like the famous flat white! Stay tuned to uncover the tasty secrets behind these beloved beverages. 

What Is Espresso? A Quick Refresher

Espresso is the foundation of cappuccinos and lattes. So, let’s explore how espresso differs from regular coffee. Here, “coffee” means drip coffee. But remember, even within types like percolator and drip coffee, there are differences. Essentially, espresso is a unique method of making coffee.

Espresso and drip coffee are made differently in four main areas.

  • A fine grind is preferred when grinding coffee beans for espresso, whereas most other methods use a coarser grind. 
  • Water is forced through the grounds under pressure instead of letting them drip through purely by gravity.
  • The process is much faster, with a typical espresso brew taking about 30 seconds, compared to several minutes for drip coffee.
  • The best espresso beans are typically dark roasts, whereas drip coffee regularly uses medium or even light roasts.

These tweaks create a richer, bolder coffee with a velvety texture and a layer of fragrant foam on top, making every sip more intense and flavorful.

Espresso packs a punch with its caffeine content! In just one ounce, it has as much caffeine as about five ounces of regular coffee. But, if you’re comparing cup to cup, an eight-ounce coffee actually has more caffeine than a single shot of espresso. Something to remember when choosing your caffeine fix!

What Is a Latte?

A woman holding a latte as she reads a book

A latte is a delicious blend of espresso and creamy steamed milk, crowned with a soft layer of milk foam. The mix of espresso to milk changes, but it’s usually between 1:3 and 1:9. At Starbucks, this mix shifts – it’s 1:7 for a grande, 1:11 for a tall, and a venti sits at 1:9. Perfect for those diving into the coffee world!

The latte, or “coffee milk” in Italian, is perfectly named. It’s a blend of rich coffee and creamy milk.

What does a latte taste like?

A latte stands out with its creamy texture, blending coffee and milk perfectly. While you can still taste the coffee, it’s gentler, making it a great choice for new coffee fans. The generous amount of milk softens the espresso, making it less intense and very welcoming.

What Is a Cappuccino?

A cup of cappuccino, a delicious espresso beverage

Cappuccinos mix espresso, steamed milk, and foam in a special way. They’re built in layers: first, a shot of espresso, then steamed milk, and finally, a layer of foam on top. Each layer is equal, making it simple to remember – one part espresso, one part milk, and one part foam. Perfect for a balanced treat!

The cappuccino, born in 16th-century Italy, gets its name because its creamy color matches the Capuchin friars’ robes. Dive into this rich history with every sip! 

Flat white vs cappuccino

Flat whites and cappuccinos might seem alike, causing a mix-up. The difference? A flat white ditches the foam for more milk, a cool twist from Australia. But, it’s Starbucks that brought this trendy drink into the spotlight in the US. 

You might think adding extra milk turns a flat white into a latte, but there’s a key difference. Unlike lattes, where everything’s mixed together, flat whites have distinct layers, similar to cappuccinos. This small change makes a big difference in taste and texture.

What Is the Difference Between a Latte and a Cappuccino?

Lattes and cappuccinos differ in taste, feel, and health benefits, all because of two main factors.

  • Lattes have a lower espresso to steamed milk ratio, often between 1:3 and 1:9. Cappuccinos are made with equal parts espresso and milk.
  • In a latte, the milk and espresso are mixed. In a cappuccino, the milk is layered atop the shots of espresso.

Cappuccino vs latte: flavor difference

A latte tastes smooth and creamy, with a gentle hint of coffee. On the other hand, a cappuccino packs a stronger coffee punch, thanks to more espresso. As you drink, the layers of flavors change, making each sip a delightful surprise. Perfect for those exploring the world of coffee!

Can I Make Cappuccinos and Lattes At Home?

Definitely! To make café-quality coffee at home, all you need is an espresso maker with a steam wand. Many affordable espresso machines come with a built-in steam wand, making it super easy to have everything in one device. Check out some of the best budget espresso machines to get started.

Alternative ways to make lattes and cappuccinos at home

To enjoy espresso without a machine, try some cool alternatives! They offer a similar taste and are more budget-friendly and space-saving than traditional espresso machines. Perfect for coffee lovers looking for simplicity and convenience.

  • AeroPress — The AeroPress operates at a lower pressure than espresso machines, but there is an AeroPress espresso recipe that offers an impressive flavor at a ridiculously low cost.
  • Ninja — Ninja actually makes coffee concentrate instead of espresso, but the best Ninja coffee makers still provide an excellent latte or cappuccino-like experience.
  • Nespresso — If you want lattes and cappuccinos without the mess of coffee grounds, Nespresso is your best alternative. Nespresso’s machines make the best pod-based espresso, and they even have flavored pods that make for an amazing latte or cappuccino.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is steamed milk?

Steamed milk is made by taking regular milk and using a steam wand to pass steam into the milk. This causes the milk fats to break down and a layer of microfoam to form on top of the milk. Steamed milk is silkier and smoother than regular milk, and the layer of foamed milk is perfect to top off a coffee beverage.

Is a latte coffee?

In part, yes. A latte starts with espresso, which is a concentrated form of coffee. It does have more milk than most other espresso beverages though, so it has less of a coffee flavor than most other coffee drinks.

Does cappuccino have milk?

Yes! The main difference between espresso vs cappuccino is that a cappuccino has milk and milk foam added.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this helps you know what to pick at a coffee shop next time. Perhaps, it even sparks your interest in trying to make one or both of these drinks yourself at home!

I absolutely love cappuccinos, but sometimes, a creamy latte is a delightful switch. There’s something about the layers in a cappuccino that brings me joy, maybe it reminds me of a fun chemistry experiment from my first year in college, playing with liquid densities.

Do you love cappuccinos or lattes more? Share in the comments why you can’t get enough of your favorite. Curious about other drinks? Whether it’s mochas, Americanos, or ristrettos, tell me what you want to explore next!

cappuccino vs latte

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