As a home coffee connoisseur with years of experience in the coffee industry, I’ve learned a thing or two about espresso-based drinks. As someone always looking to broaden my horizons and try new things, I’m constantly seeking new flavors and coffee experiences. That’s why I’m excited to share my insights on the great latte vs cappuccino debate.
You may be wondering what sets these two drinks apart. While they may seem similar at first glance, a latte and a cappuccino have distinct characteristics that make them unique. From the types of milk used to the proportion of espresso to foam, many factors contribute to the flavor and overall experience of these drinks.
But understanding the differences between a latte and a cappuccino isn’t just about impressing your barista or showing off your coffee knowledge to your friends. It can also help you discover new flavors and experiences that you may not have considered before.
So whether you’re a seasoned coffee connoisseur or a newcomer to the world of espresso-based drinks, I hope that by reading this article, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the differences between a latte and a cappuccino, and be able to confidently order your next drink with the knowledge of precisely what you’re getting.
What is the difference between a latte and a cappuccino?
A latte is made with a larger proportion of milk compared to a cappuccino. Specifically, a latte is typically made with 1 part espresso, 3 parts steamed milk, and a small amount of milk foam on top.
A cappuccino, on the other hand, is made with 1 part espresso, 1 part steamed milk, and 1 part milk foam. As a result, a latte has a creamier and smoother texture, while a cappuccino has a thicker, foamier texture.
So please grab a cup of your favorite brew, and let’s dive into the world of cappuccino vs latte.
What is a Latte?
I’m always excited to talk about the world of espresso-based drinks. And one of my all-time favorites is the latte.
But what exactly is a latte? The term “latte” is derived from the Italian word for milk, “latte,” and refers to a coffee beverage made with espresso and steamed milk. A traditional latte is made with one part espresso, three parts frothed milk, and a small amount of foam on top.
The rich, bold flavor of espresso and the creamy, smooth texture of steamed milk creates a drink that is both satisfying and indulgent. The proportion of espresso to milk in a latte is relatively low, and the flavor of the coffee is manageable. Instead, it’s balanced out by the creamy, milky flavor of the frothed milk.
When it comes to the texture of a latte, frothed milk creates a smooth, velvety texture that is a pleasure to drink. And because the foam on top is relatively minimal, a latte has a more creamy, silky texture than a cappuccino, which has a thicker foamed milk.
Overall, a latte is a delicious, comforting drink that is perfect for coffee lovers who appreciate a balance of flavor and texture. So the next time you’re at a cafe, give a latte a try and see for yourself just how delicious it can be.
History of Latte
Originating in Italy during the 1800s, the latte has a long and storied history. As legend has it, Italian baristas first put espresso shots with foamed milk to keep their customers warm while drinking their coffee.
This gave rise to what we now know as the traditional caffè latte. The latte quickly rose in popularity across other parts of Europe before making its way to North America in the 1980s, gaining traction due to its creamier flavor than regular coffee.
Since then, lattes have only grown in popularity and are now one of the most popular drinks served at cafes worldwide. To this day, they remain an essential part of any passionate coffee lover’s daily routine!
What is a Cappuccino?
A cappuccino is a coffee beverage made with espresso, steamed milk, and foam. It is named after the Capuchin monks, whose habits inspired the drink’s signature color combination of brown, white, and black.
The proportions of espresso, milk and foam in a cappuccino are generally equal, with about 1/3 of each ingredient. The espresso provides a bold, rich flavor, while the milk froth adds a creamy, smooth texture. The foam, created by steaming milk and incorporating air, adds a light, velvety texture and helps balance out the flavors of the espresso and milk.
Cappuccinos are typically served in a small, round ceramic cup and are often enjoyed as a morning pick-me-up or dessert drink. They can also be flavored with various syrups or spices to add additional layers of flavor.
History of Cappuccino
Cappuccinos first appeared as the “Kapuziner” in Viennese coffee houses in the 1700s. A description of the “Kapuziner” from 1805 described it as “coffee with cream and sugar,” and a description from 1850 adds “spices” to the recipe.
These drinks had a brown color similar to the robes worn by the Capuchin (“Kapuzin”) friars in Vienna, and this is where their name came from. The term “Capuchin” literally means cowl or hood in Italian, and it was a name given to the Capuchin monks for their hooded robes. A similar drink of the time was known as the “Franziskaner,” made with more milk and named after the lighter-brown robes of the Franciscan monks.
The modern cappuccino was invented in Italy in the early 1900s, shortly after the popularization of the espresso machine in 1901. The first record of the cappuccino as we know it today was in the 1930s. Cappuccinos, or “cappuccini” as they are known in Italy, gradually became popular in cafes and restaurants across the country.
At this time, espresso machines were complicated and only found in specialized cafes, operated solely by skilled baristas. Italian coffee culture involved sitting in these specialized cafes for hours, enjoying espresso, cappuccinos, caffè latte, and other drinks over conversation and reading. Photos from the era indicate that cappuccinos were served in the “Viennese” style, topped with whipped cream and cinnamon or chocolate shavings.
After World War II, cappuccino making underwent some improvements and simplifications in Italy, thanks to better and more widely available espresso machines and the post-WWII affluence across parts of Europe.
These improvements set the stage for cappuccino’s eventual worldwide popularity. The modern cappuccino, with good espresso, a balance of steamed and frothed milk, the presence of crema, and a small, preheated porcelain cup, became popular across continental Europe and England.
In England, the first popularized form of espresso was actually the cappuccino, as it spread easily across the island because the British were already accustomed to drinking coffee with milk.
Later, the drink moved to Australia, South America, and elsewhere in Europe, and then spread to the United States in the 1980s, primarily due to its marketing in coffee shops. In the 1990s, the introduction of cafe culture and higher-priced drinks in the U.S. made cappuccinos, lattes, and similar drinks a big hit. More recently, cappuccinos have appeared elsewhere in the world, largely due to the expansion of coffee chains like Starbucks.
For the most part, contemporary cappuccinos are made with espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. However, in some parts of the world, cappuccinos are still made more like Viennese Kapuziners, complete with whipped cream and other additives.
This includes Vienna, much of Austria, and parts of Europe such as Budapest, Prague, and Bratislava. This includes Trieste, Italy, a city that borders Slovenia and has been held by various countries over the years. Since the 1950s, both cappuccinos and Kapuziners have been served in espresso bars in these areas.
In recent decades, automatic beverage machines in the United States and other countries have sold a ” cappuccino ” drink made with powdered or synthetic ingredients rather than espresso and steamed milk. These drinks are often called “instant cappuccinos” or “cappuccino mix.” While they may be convenient, they do not offer the same flavor and texture as a traditional cappuccino made with espresso and steamed milk.
Key differences: Cappuccino vs Latte
Proportions of espresso, milk, and foam: One of the main differences between lattes and cappuccinos is the proportion of espresso, milk, and foam in each drink. Lattes are made with one part espresso, three parts steamed milk, and a small amount of foam on top.
This results in a balanced flavor, with the rich, bold flavor of the espresso balanced out by the creamy, milky flavor of the steamed milk. On the other hand, Cappuccinos are made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam, resulting in a more balanced texture and flavor. The foam in a cappuccino adds a light, velvety texture and helps balance the flavors of the espresso and milk.
Textures and flavors: Another key difference between lattes and cappuccinos is the texture and flavor of each drink. Lattes are known for their smooth, velvety texture and balanced flavor, with minimal foam on top.
On the other hand, Cappuccinos have a more distinct foam-to-milk ratio, with more foam on top, giving them a lighter, fluffier texture. The flavor of a cappuccino is also more balanced, with the bold, rich flavor of the espresso and the creamy, smooth texture of the milk and foam working together to create a well-rounded drink.
Variations and variations on the traditional recipes: While caffè latte and cappuccinos are traditionally made with espresso, steamed milk, and foam, many variations exist on these traditional recipes.
For example, some cafes and coffee shops offer flavored lattes and cappuccinos made with syrups or spices such as vanilla, caramel, or cinnamon. There are also variations in the traditional recipes that use different types of milk, such as almond or oat milk, to create a different flavor and texture.
Additionally, variations in the traditional recipes use more or less milk, resulting in a more concentrated or diluted flavor.
Latte vs cappuccino: The Similarities
Made with espresso: Espresso is the foundation of caffè latte and cappuccinos, providing a bold, rich flavor that is the starting point for these drinks. Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure, producing a concentrated coffee extract full of aroma.
Made with milk: Lattes and cappuccinos include steamed milk, which adds a creamy, smooth texture to the drink. The milk is steamed using a steam wand on an espresso machine, which heats the milk and incorporates air, creating a velvety texture.
Can be flavored: Lattes and cappuccinos can be flavored with various syrups or spices, such as vanilla, caramel, or cinnamon, to add additional layers of richness. Depending on personal preference, these flavors can be added to the espresso and milk before or after steaming.
Can be served hot or iced: Both lattes and cappuccinos can be enjoyed hot or iced, depending on personal preference. To make an iced latte or iced cappuccino, the espresso and milk are combined and poured over ice, creating a refreshing, cold drink.
Which is stronger, a latte or a cappuccino?
A cappuccino is generally stronger in flavor than a latte because it has less milk and more foam.
Can I add flavor to a latte or cappuccino?
Yes, it is common to add flavor syrups to both lattes and cappuccinos. Some popular flavors include vanilla, caramel, and chocolate.
Can I request a latte or cappuccino to be made with non-dairy milk?
Yes, many coffee shops offer non-dairy milk alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk. You can request your latte or cappuccino to be made with one of these non-dairy milks.
Final Thoughts: Cappuccino vs Latte
In conclusion, caffè lattes and cappuccinos are both popular espresso-based drinks with a rich history and a devoted following for coffee lovers. While they do share some similarities, such as being made with espresso and steamed milk, there are also key differences between the two drinks. Lattes are known for their smooth, velvety texture and balanced flavor. At the same time, cappuccinos have a more distinct foam-to-milk ratio, resulting in a lighter, fluffier texture and a more balanced flavor.
So, which one is right for you? The best way to discover your preference is to try both drinks and see which one you like best. Don’t be afraid to customize your caffè latte or cappuccino to your taste, whether adding a flavor syrup or choosing a different type of milk.
Remember, there are many other coffee-related topics to explore on this blog, including coffee drinks, latte art, milk foam, coffee flavor, espresso drinks, Italian expresso drinks, Caffe lattes, espresso coffee beans, and more.
Your local Starbucks or favorite coffee shop baristas I’ve been trained to make the perfect Italian espresso drink using their professional espresso machines using a single or double shot of espresso to make the perfect caffe latte or flavored cappuccino, especially during the holiday season.
For those coffee connoisseur’s that want to take it to the next level, purchasing your espresso machine, and learning how to use it, can take some time—making espresso drinks at home. You can decide if a single or double shot is better for you or your guests. You can even make steamed hot milk with cocoa powder. Once you’ve made the perfect espresso drink, you can move on to learning how to add latte art. Latte art is a skill in itself intakes and I’ll coordination to get it right.
Thank you for reading and for taking an interest in the fascinating world of coffee. We hope you enjoyed learning about the differences between caffè lattes and cappuccinos, and we invite you to continue exploring the world of coffee with us. Happy sipping!