What’s the Difference Between a Latte and a Cappuccino?

difference between a latte and a cappuccino

Latte vs cappuccino. The big debate. Are they the same?

Cappuccinos and lattes are undoubtedly the most popular beverages in the world of coffee.

The distinction between a latte and a cappuccino has become a contentious topic among coffee drinkers of all stripes, from haters to dilettantes to professionals. Why is it so difficult to tell the difference between these two drinks?

In the article, I will explain to you the origins of both beverages and the main differences in taste and texture.

Let’s get started!

What is cappuccino?

A cappuccino is a coffee beverage made with steamed milk and espresso. A single (or sometimes double) espresso shot is topped with equal parts steamed and frothed milk in a traditional Italian cappuccino (in a ratio of 1:1:1). For a lighter espresso flavor and a richer taste, many Americans have altered this recipe by using extra steamed and frothed milk. 

‘Cappuccino’ is derived from the Latin word Caputium, which was eventually borrowed and transformed into Kapuziner in German/Austrian. Cappuccino actually means “little capuchin” because it is the diminutive form of cappuccio in Italian, which means “hood” or “anything that covers the head.”

The flavor and texture of a well-made cappuccino are fantastic. It has a strong coffee flavor with a hint of sweetness from the lactose sugar in milk. You can also add sugar or syrups, but this is not the traditional way. I personally like the original version with just coffee and milk.

Cappuccinos (or cappuccini, as the plural form of “cappuccino”, is known in Italy) are quite popular. It is the first thing in the morning that many Italian people drink together with breakfast (sometimes with a sweet pastry) or as a mid-morning pick-me-up.

But in other parts of the world, including here in China where I live, it is common to see people drink it in the afternoon or even after dinner. 

Cappuccino is usually made with a coffee machine. It is prepared by baristas that are able to froth the milk and find the perfect balance between coffee, milk, and foam. 

Steam wand attachments for espresso machines are common, and they can be used to steam and froth milk. The wand’s fire pressurized steam into a small metal cup of milk, infusing it with a big number of tiny bubbles, plenty of heat, and a significantly higher volume than before.

Cappuccinos in Italy are traditionally served in 150–180 mL (5–6 fluid ounce) glasses. Fast-food and coffeehouse establishments have started providing cappuccinos in sizes up to 600 ml / 20 fluid ounces in the last ten years or so.

Cappuccino is traditionally served in a preheated, bowl-shaped porcelain cup in Italy.

What is latte?

A latte is a traditional coffee drink made with two main ingredients: espresso and steamed milk. The word “latte” is derived from the Italian phrase “caffè e latte” (other variations include “caffe e latte” and “caffellatte”), which means “coffee and milk.”

The standard combination for a latte is 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and a small, thin layer of microfoam on the surface. 

In an essay titled “Italian Journeys,” William Dean Howells first used the term “caffè e latte” in the English language in 1867. Despite the fact that coffee has long been a staple of breakfast in European households, the latte is a uniquely American creation. Throughout history, and even during WWII, the “latte” was not on the menus of Italian or French cafes.

The word “latte” has become popular because it is a simple shorthand slang for “caffe latte,” which is coffee with milk.

Latte is a highly customizable drink and it is common to see many different variations of this beverage in shops around the world. More on other types of latte in the next sections.

To make a latte, you basically need the same ingredients used for a cappuccino and you can also use the same methods when you steam the milk.

So, after explaining both of them, you must be thinking about the differences between the two. I will explain more in the next section.

Latte VS Cappuccino: Main Differences

Fundamentally, the texture of these drinks is influenced by the proportions of ingredients: by volume, a cappuccino has more foam than a latte. A latte is largely made out of softly heated milk with a smidgeon of foam on top, just enough so that it’s basically gone after a couple of sips, but it contributes to the overall texture of the wonderful beverage.

Amount of milk

Simply said, a latte has more milk in it than a cappuccino.

The base of both beverages is a complete double shot of espresso. The latte, on the other hand, has a larger milk-to-espresso ratio than the cappuccino, giving it a softer, milkier flavor. Lattes are also served in larger cups than cappuccinos for this reason.

Taste

As a result of the different amounts of milk, the two beverages taste differently. The coffee flavor in a cappuccino is significantly more apparent than it is in a latte, as you might expect given the varied milk ratios involved.

Because the cappuccino is served in a smaller cup, it has a stronger coffee flavor, more acidity, and bite, due to the espresso cutting through the less milk.

Which one is stronger?

A cappuccino will have a stronger flavor than a latte because of the reduced amount of milk utilized. However, because both beverages normally include the same amount of espresso, the caffeine level is the same; intensity is just a measure of how much you can taste the espresso in the drink. To put it another way, the milky latte has a much milder flavor.

Which one is healthier?

This one is a little hard because milk isn’t always bad for you. Still, if calories and fat content are the most important factors, a latte may be the less ‘healthy’ option of the two, due to the amount of milk used. (However, one beverage isn’t necessarily better than the other.)

Which one is sweeter?

When milk is steamed, the natural sweetness of the milk comes through. As a result of the higher milk-to-espresso ratio, a latte will be sweeter than a cappuccino. However, neither of these beverages is generally served sweetened, so the quantity of sugar you add is entirely up to you.

Recipes

During the years, different variations of latte have been created. Latte is a highly customizable beverage and for this reason, many baristas around the world started to add spices or different kinds of flavors to it.

In this section, I will show you a few recipes to enjoy more this beverage.

turmeric latte

Turmeric latte

Turmeric is the principal ingredient in this beverage, as its name suggests. It’s what gives the drink its color and name, however, it’s also known as a “golden latte” or “golden milk” at times.

The turmeric latte isn’t strictly a latte because it doesn’t contain any coffee. Instead, turmeric milk is topped with milk foam and latte art to make the drink. Turmeric milk usually consists of ground or fresh turmeric which has been steeped in milk for a significant period of time.

But why use turmeric?

In recent times, many consumers are starting to demand more “functional ingredients” that can boost the human body and help to be healthier.

Turmeric is native to India, where it is picked, dried, powdered, and processed for the majority of the world’s supply. Turmeric is beneficial for your body and it possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties, according to research. It was traditionally mixed with milk and black pepper to form a home treatment ointment that was applied to the skin to heal skin disorders.

Many academics, however, believe that more clinical trials on the usefulness of turmeric are needed to fully understand its impact on the human body.

Iced latte

Iced latte is a drink made with espresso, milk, and optional sweetener. To mimic the steamed milk in a traditional latte, the milk is frequently frothed. After preparing both espresso and milk, you then pour it into a cup with ice.

So, what’s the difference with iced coffee? 

Iced coffee is made using brewed coffee and, if desired, milk. Because espresso is used in an iced latte, it has a richer, deeper flavor.

flat white

Flat white

In general, the drink seems to be a latte-textured beverage (i.e., there isn’t much foam) served in standard cappuccino proportions (that is, slightly smaller than a latte).

There is some debate about the origin of flat white, so we are still not sure if it was Australia or New Zealand but it was created around 1980.

The method of preparation is the same as a latte but it is served in a smaller cup, so it is a little less dilute. Historically, the latte would have more foam, however, in recent years, the difference in foam has almost been discarded and they are basically served in the same way. 

Mocha

Simply speaking, the mocha refers to a “mocha latte” or “Caffe mocha,” which is simply a latte with chocolate syrup added.

Bicerin, a Turin coffee beverage, served as inspiration. The Bicerin is a traditional Italian hot coffee beverage that dates back to the early 1700s and originated at Caffè al Bicerin in Italy.

The espresso, milk, and chocolate are all meticulously piled on top of one another in the Bicerin, which sets it apart from the mocha. Despite the fact that the mocha is a combination of these three ingredients, it is extremely likely that it was inspired by this drink.

pumpkin spice latte

Pumpkin spice latte

The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a coffee beverage made with a blend of traditional autumn spice flavors (cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove), steamed milk, espresso, and sugar, often topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. The drink is most closely linked with Starbucks, which introduced it in 2003, and the fall season.

FAQ

Can the type of milk affect the taste of cappuccino and latte?

The new universe of alternative milk on the market is drastically changing how people consume coffee. Some alternative milk are quite dry and can even taste harsh when served hot. Almond and oat milk are two examples of products where the acidity of the coffee might clash with the natural flavors of the almonds and oats.

But macadamia and cashew milk have a natural sweetness and healthy fats, which not only make it easier for baristas to use but also allow the flavors to complement rather than compete with the coffee’s characteristics.

Conclusion

Latte and cappuccino are very similar beverages. The main differences are in the amount of milk used and the foam that can change the taste. I hope that I solve some doubts about these two beverages and you can now enjoy more the two drinks.

Make sure to read the article about the difference between a macchiato and a latte if you want to know more about another famous espresso based coffee.

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