Have you ever found yourself wondering about the difference between the dozens of coffee options at your local coffee shop?
Latte, cappuccino, frappuccino, americano, espresso, flat white, and the list goes on!
While we may not be able to tackle the difference between all of these varieties today, we are here to settle a very common coffee conundrum.
What is the difference between a latte and cappuccino?
Impress your friends, family, or coworkers next time you go to coffee by sharing these 5 key differences between a latte and cappuccino.
Latte and Cappuccino
Before we get into the differences between the latte and cappuccino, let’s review the basics.
Lattes and cappuccinos are both made from espresso and milk. That’s it.
An espresso is technically a form of coffee, but the term “espresso” actually describes the way that the coffee is brewed. Espresso is brewed by forcing very hot water through finely-ground coffee at high pressure.
Both lattes and cappuccinos use espresso as the caffeinated part of the beverage that gives it the rich coffee flavor.
Apart from the espresso, both lattes and cappuccinos also contain milk, however, each beverage has a different preparation of milk. And that leads us to the first major difference between lattes and cappuccinos.
Keep reading to learn more!
1. Frothed Versus Steamed Milk
A cappuccino has three layers — espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. The espresso is poured first, followed by the steam milk, and finally the frothed milk at the very top.
A latte has two layers — espresso topped with steamed milk. A latte may also contain scalded milk (milk at a very high temperature) instead of steamed milk.
Steamed milk is created by exposing milk to high-pressure steam. You have probably seen this at your local coffee shop. A small mental straw is immersed in a container of milk, producing steam. This process changes the consistency of the milk.
You will also be able to recognize when milk is being steamed by the hissing noise it makes.
Frothed or foamed milk, on the other hand, is created when water vapor and air are forced into the milk while heating it. It results in stiffer milk that creates a small peak at the top of the cup.
2. Overall Consistency
Given the difference in the form of milk, a latte usually has a creamier consistency than a cappuccino. The first few sips of cappuccino may be foamy or frothy from the stiff consistency of the milk at the top, but after that, it drinks much like a regular coffee with milk.
A latte will be creamier and more consistent with each sip. The potent flavor of the espresso is more evenly mixed with the milk resulting in overall creamier consistency and flavor.
While there are several different ways of preparing a latte, the traditional cappuccino is always made the same way.
On a coffee menu, you may see a long list of latte options, including caramel, vanilla, mocha, peppermint, and the world-famous pumpkin spice. Although this is not what coffee purists would call a latte, it still falls under the same label.
With a flavored latte, there is some kind of seasoning, syrup, or other added spice to give it a different flare.
The traditional latte is sometimes called a “cafe latte” which translates to coffee and milk meaning it is the basic form of a latte, just the espresso, and steamed milk. So if you want to try the true flavor of a latte, choose a cafe latte.
In some places, you may see cappuccino flavors, but it is far less common. Customers do, however, request different types of milk in their cappuccino.
Technically any milk can be used — two percent, whole, coconut milk, almond milk — but not all types of milk can as easily make the stiff peaks that are traditional to the cappuccino.
Whole milk or reduced-fat milk responds best to the frothing mechanism.
4. The Size
This may surprise you, but the cappuccino you see served today in a tall plastic cup to-go is not the way it was originally meant to be served.
The cappuccino is traditionally served in a smaller, four-ounce glass rather than the six to even twelve ounces we now see. Over time, especially in the United States, the drink has become a closer version of a regular cup of coffee.
So if you are interested in one cup of coffee on-the-go, you may want to explore options outside of the cappuccino.
A latte, on the other hand, is up to eight ounces with about one to two ounces of espresso and the rest steamed milk.
The experience of drinking coffee in Europe and the United States has always been different and considering both, the cappuccino and the latte, originated in Italy, the United States version is bound to differ slightly.
5. Making Coffee At Home
If you are looking to make a delicious espresso-based beverage at home, making a latte is easier than making a cappuccino.
For either variety, you will need to have espresso but for a latte, you can easily prepare the milk on the stovetop. Once the milk is hot enough to resemble steamed milk, pour it over the espresso. Easy, right?
For a cappuccino, you will start with the espresso but in addition to putting milk on the stovetop to prepare steamed milk, you will have to use an electric mixer or handheld frother to get the frothed milk that creates the stiff top to a classic cappuccino.
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Craving a delicious caffeinated beverage now? Me too!
Bring your new knowledge about the latte and cappuccino to a coffee shop near you!
Remember that depending on where you are in the world and where you buy coffee, the recipes may be slightly different, but the ingredients and general ratio should be the same.
Sip, savor, and enjoy!
If you are a devoted foodie, coffee-lover, or aspiring to know more about the culinary world, check out some of our other content.