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Cappuccino vs Latte – The Real Difference Between These Drinks

Which one do you prefer? Is it latte or cappuccino, or maybe both depending on the occasion? For example, Italians like a cup of cappuccino with their breakfast and latte later in the day. But there isn’t a right or wrong way to enjoy your favorite caffeinated beverage.

That said, there is a marked difference between the two drinks. This article explains all the fine nuances you would notice if you were to compare cappuccino vs latte side by side.

Cappuccino vs Latte: Similarities and Differences

As for the similarities, both cappuccino and latte are in the milk-based coffee category. They both start with an espresso shot, but this is where the similarities stop.

a side by side photo showing a cup of cappuccino vs a cup of latte
Cappuccino (left) and latte (right)

With this in mind, the differences might not be immediately noticeable to the untrained eye. This is why it’s best to take a closer look at the recipe for each drink to determine what makes them special.

Cappuccino Recipe

The classic cappuccino features a single shot of espresso. Using drip coffee or instant won’t produce a real cappuccino.

The espresso is topped with 1oz of steamed milk, followed by 1oz of milk foam. The secret is in the equal amounts of frothed and steamed milk. This way you get a so-called wet/classic cappuccino.

There are also dry and bone-dry cappuccinos. If you opt for dry, the recipe includes less steamed milk and more foam, while the bone-dry variant doesn’t have any steamed milk at all.

Master baristas recommend getting the cappuccino cup hot before you pour in the ingredients.

Latte Recipe

Again, it all starts with one shot of espresso, though there are some recipes that may include two shots. Either way, the preparation is the same.

Pour the espresso shot(s) into the latte cup and top it off with a generous amount of steamed milk. For a true latte, you need between 5oz and 6oz of steamed milk. Add a layer of milk foam. and your latte is ready for decoration.

We froth the (latte) milk in such a way that we inject only a small amount of air into the milk. The ideal temperature is about 140°F.

As you can see, the main difference lies in the amount of milk in each type of coffee. It is safe to say that lattes are lighter because the milk dilutes much of the espresso. But if you prefer to taste the espresso aromas, you might want to give a bone-dry cappuccino a try.

Cappuccino vs Latte: A Short History of Caffeinated Delights

Cappuccino

a cup of frothy cappuccino

You might not know it, but cappuccino owes its name to the Italian Capuchin friars (1). So what does coffee have to do with friars? As the story goes, the mix of frothed milk and espresso resembles the color of their robe.

Putting trivia aside, the drink itself first appeared in the late 1700s at Viennese coffee shops. At the time, it was called Kapuziner which is the German word for a cappuccino. And despite its Austrian heritage, cappuccino was originally invented in Italy.

The modern-day version you know and love came after WWII when espresso machines became widely available. This is also the time when a balanced wet cappuccino recipe was adopted.

Expert Tip: When in Italy, avoid ordering a cappuccino after dinner, or you might get some strange looks from the locals (2).

Latte

Cup of Latte

In English, caffè latte first appeared in mid-to-late 19th century. William Dean Howells first used the term in his Italian Journeys essay to describe a particular type of coffee (3). The European origins cannot be questioned, but some still speculate that latte is actually an American invention.

For example, the renowned coffee expert Kenneth Davids argues that latte originally showed up in Italy at places that are full of American tourists. One of the reasons may be that some Americans found the traditional cappuccino too strong, which led to adding more steamed milk.

Did you know that the Italians traditionally make a latte with a stovetop espresso maker and not an espresso machine?

FAQs

A cappuccino is stronger than a latte. Remember, there is much more steamed milk in a latte, which makes it considerably milder than a cappuccino.

Yes, a cappuccino is healthier than a latte. Compared to a latte, a cappuccino has fewer calories and less fat. And again, it all comes down to the amount of milk. That’s not to say lattes are unhealthy, though, as long as you keep the intake within reasonable limits.

No, it doesn’t. A cappuccino and a latte usually have the same amount of caffeine, assuming only one shot of espresso is used as a base. The amount is around 75mg for each drink.

Pick Your Own Winner

It is always great to gain some extra knowledge about your favorite type of coffee, but this is hardly something that’s going to change your preferences. However, the insights from this article might help you impress your significant other and earn you some home barista points.

References
  1. Where Does the Name ‘Cappuccino’ Come From? Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/where-do-we-get-cappuccino-from
  2. How to drink coffee like a true Italian Retrieved from https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/how-to-drink-coffee-like-a-true-italian
  3. W.D. Howells, Italian Journeys Retrieved from http://www.nupress.northwestern.edu/content/italian-journeys

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