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Latte vs Cappuccino: What’s The 1 Big Difference?

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Difference between cappuccino and latte

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What’s the difference between a cappuccino and a latte?

These two espresso beverages may seem quite similar, but there’s more to these steamed milk delights than meets the eye.

Here we’ll examine the latte vs cappuccino and get to the bottom of the sometimes subtle differences between the two to help you decide which is right for you.

So let’s get pouring. 

Latte vs Cappuccino

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Latte from starbucks
Latte at starbucks
what is a latte

What Is A Latte?

A Cafe latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. This espresso-based drink gets its name from the Italian word for milk

At some point, Americans casually dropped the “cafe” from “cafe latte,” which, in America, works just fine. Order a “latte” in Italy, and you’ll have a large glass of milk.

Lattes have a higher ratio of milk to espresso than many other drinks. 

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In general, the ingredients for a latte are one part espresso, four parts steamed milk, and one part milk foam. Most coffee shops will use two parts of espresso for larger-sized lattes.

Lattes are creamy and delicious and, even with a double shot of espresso, have a milk-forward flavor and a bit of rich foam. Syrups, powders, and other additives customize lattes and create endless flavor concoctions. An eggnog latte for the holidays? Yes, please.

The mild, milky flavor lends well to customizing a latte vs. cappuccino with a lower ratio of espresso to steamed milk. So what’s the difference between cappuccino and latte?

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The Fellow Opus Grinder

Definition of a Cappuccino

By definition, the word cappuccino means “capuchin.” It is the diminutive form of the Italian word “cappuccio,” which means “hood” or something covering the head.

But in the case of the cappuccino, the word refers not to the hood itself but to the color of the hood worn by the monks of the Capuchin order.

By design, a traditional cappuccino is a coffee beverage made with one or two shots of brewed espresso with equal parts steamed milk and rich foam. There is a much higher ratio of milk in a latte vs cappuccino, where it is common for the espresso, steamed milk, and foam to be present in equal parts.

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Latte and cappuccino

Cappuccino in Italy

While many might assume that, based on its name, the cappuccino originated in Italy, this is not the case. The cappuccino originated in Vienna, Austria.

It was first seen in the 1700s in Viennese coffee houses; it was prepared slightly differently (with cream and sugar) and was called the Kapuziner.

The cappuccino debuted in Italy around 1930 and was prepared to resemble Viennese coffee, a richly-brewed coffee topped with whipped cream.

Over the decades that followed, the cappuccino evolved gradually into what we are familiar with today; however, the quality of the microfoam today far surpasses what could be produced decades ago.

Phillips 4300 series fully automatic espresso machine with LatteGo
Philips 4300 Fully Automatic Espresso Machine w/LatteGo

Wet vs Dry Cappuccino

Depending on milk and foam preferences, there are variations in how the cappuccino is prepared.

It would be a wet cappuccino if you prefer more steamed milk and less foam, more like a latte vs cappuccino. What is the difference between a wet cappuccino and latte? Very little. A wet cappuccino has slightly less milk than a latte.

On the other hand, a dry cappuccino is simply a cappuccino with less steamed milk and extra foam, with plenty of espresso flavor. 

And if you want to get crazy, you can order a bone dry cappuccino (espresso and foam, no steamed milk) or a super wet cappuccino (espresso and extra steamed milk, little foam), which is just a latte vs cappuccino.

two arms holding full latte mugs on white table, What is the difference between a wet cappuccino and latte
Difference between cappuccino and latte

Difference Between Cappuccino And Latte

So what’s the difference between cappuccino and latte? 

The main difference between a latte and a cappuccino is the espresso-to-milk ratio.

Take one part espresso, four parts milk, and one part milk foam, and you have a latte vs cappuccino with one part espresso, one part milk, and one part foam. All ingredients in a cappuccino are in equal proportions. Either of these beverages may be served hot or iced.

What is the difference between a wet cappuccino and latte? In some cases, nothing. But, traditionally, a wet cappuccino has less steamed milk than a latte. 

Again, if you want your cappuccino to be super wet, order a latte vs cappuccino.

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Caffeine in a Latte vs Cappuccino

Whether you choose a cappuccino or latte, both will have caffeine unless ordered as decaf. The amount of caffeine in a latte will be the same as that of a cappuccino, provided both drinks are made with equal parts espresso.

In some cases, there may be less caffeine in a latte vs cappuccino because a cappuccino traditionally features a higher ratio of espresso to milk than a latte. 

For example, if you order a small latte, it will have one shot of espresso, and the remainder will be milk and foam. On the other hand, a small cappuccino may include two espresso shots, depending on the coffee shop. 

But, generally speaking, you can expect comparable amounts of caffeine in a latte and cappuccino. So now that we know a little more about the latte vs cappuccino, let’s learn how to make them at home.

latte with dusting of cinnamon in white mug with matching saucer on outdoor table beside bowl of sugar with wooden spoon and cortado in glass cup on white saucer

How To Make A Latte

First, gather what you’ll need to make lattes at home:

  • Coffee Beans
  • Burr coffee grinder
  • Milk of choice
  • Latte cup or mug (8 oz)
  • Espresso machine (preferably with steaming wand)

Step 1: Preheat Cup

This may seem like an arbitrary step you can breeze past, but trust us, preheating your cup is a game changer. A warm cup prevents your espresso from going cold while steaming your milk.

double spouted portafilter of espresso machine brewing espresso into small white cup close up, Ingredients for a latte

Step 2: Pull the Espresso

Grab your coffee beans and grind, tamp, and brew your espresso as you normally would. We typically use a double shot of espresso for our lattes but feel free to drop down to a single shot if you prefer a weaker cup.

Pour the espresso shot into your preheated mug or glass and set it aside.

steaming milk on Ascaso espresso machine

Step 3: Steam Milk

Using the steamer wand on your espresso machine (or a separate milk frother), froth about 6 ounces of your milk of choice.

Hold your cup at an angle, with the end of the wand close to the side of the cup, submerged about half an inch. Allow the milk to swirl without interfering too much.

Use a thermometer to determine when the milk is ready. If you rely on sight only, you may risk burning the milk. We like to steam to about 150 degrees and never above 155.

Don’t have a steamer wand? No problem. Check out our tips for how to froth milk without a frother.

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What is a latte
latte is

Step 4: Pour Milk

Give the pitcher of steamed milk a few firm taps on the counter to pop any larger bubbles on the surface. Use a spoon to give it a quick swirl before pouring.

Slowly pour the warm milk into your mug, allowing the milk to flow first and the foam last. Go slowly here, holding your cup at an angle as you pour. Stop when you’ve reached your desired amount of foam.

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Airscape Stainless Steel Coffee Canister

How To Make A Cappuccino

Luckily, there is little difference in the steps required to prepare a latte vs cappuccino. You’ll need identical supplies, and the process will be exactly the same.

Simply pull two espresso shots and set them aside in a smaller preheated mug or glass.

Steam four ounces of milk to 150 degrees.

Pour the frothed milk into the espresso slowly, allowing the milk foam to cascade over the top. Remember that your espresso, milk, and foam ratios will be nearly identical.

cappuccino with dusting of chocolate in bright green mug and saucer on wooden table beside blue framed sunglasses

FAQs: What Is The Difference Between Cappuccino and Latte

What’s in a latte from Starbucks?

While Starbucks may be known for its creative seasonal beverages and larger-than-life iced coffees, they have a few classics hidden on the menu for our purists.

Order a tall latte, and you will be served a standard latte with two parts espresso, four parts milk, and one part foam on top. However, if you order a grande or a venti, the ratios will be slightly skewed from the traditional preparation.

Starbucks uses whole or 2% cow’s milk unless you specify otherwise, so be sure to inform your barista if you’d like to swap the milk for a plant-based variety.

Does a cappuccino have caffeine in it?

In a word, yes. As mentioned above, a cappuccino will have caffeine unless ordered as a decaf. But how much caffeine?

The amount of caffeine in espresso varies greatly depending on the size of the espresso shot, the coffee bean, the roast level, and the brew method. But, in general, a shot of espresso will have an average of 75 mg of caffeine.

So that cappuccino you’re drinking with two shots of espresso has around 150 mg of caffeine or more.

Are cappuccinos sweet?

While the original Kapuziner featured coffee, cream, and sugar, the cappuccino we now know and love is prepared with only espresso, milk, and foam.

A cappuccino has no sugar; therefore, cappuccinos are not sweet as prepared. It is common, however, to find a light dusting of cinnamon or chocolate powder on your foam.

If you like your espresso beverages on the sweet side, add sugar, agave, simple syrup, etc., to your heart’s desire.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Calatrello

Heather Calatrello owner of ShedLight Coffee Roasters