The latte and the cappuccino are probably the two most popular espresso based drinks. Yet, many people order one or the other without really knowing the difference.
What is the difference between a latte and a cappuccino? The short answer is that the cappuccino has less milk, more foam and a stronger espresso taste than a latte. The latte has a higher espresso to milk ratio making it more creamy and milky.
Nowadays, there is not a strict recipe for either drink so each coffee shop will have their own version of these coffee drinks. Yet, there are still some characteristics that each drink should have to stay close to the traditional recipes.
In this article, we will first explain each drink. Then, make a side by side comparison highlighting the main differences and similarities. Keep reading if you want to learn more about these drinks so you can order like a pro next time.
What is a cappuccino?
To put it simply, a cappuccino is a shot of espresso with steamed milk and a thick layer of milk foam.
Despite being an Italian drink, the name originated in Vienna in the 18th century. There, they had a coffee and milk drink called the kapuziner. It got that name because the color of the drink resembled the color of the robes of the Capuchin monks. The Italian cappuccino we know only became popular after the invention of the espresso machine in the 1900s.
The original recipe for cappuccino was equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. But, the recipe has evolved over time. Currently, the official definition of cappuccino is one shot of espresso served in a 5 or 6 oz cup with at least 1 cm of foam depth. However, many modern coffee shops offer this drink in many sizes bigger than the 6 oz version. Other specialty stores reduce the amount of foam in the drink to make pretty latte art because latte art is harder to perform with a thick layer of foam.
While there is not a strict recipe for the cappuccino, there are a few characteristics this drink should have to be considered a cappuccino:
- Relatively low espresso to milk ratio so that the taste of espresso is still very present in the drink. While the traditional recipe called for a 1:2 ratio, nowadays we are talking about a 1:3 to 1:4 ratio which is still low compared to the latte.
- Thick layer of dry milk foam. At least 1cm according to the official definition.
- Small serving size. Typically served in 5-6 oz cups
What is a latte?
Latte is short for “cafe latte” which means milk coffee in Italian. And that is exactly what a latte is. The latte is an espresso based drink with steamed milk in the 1:4 to 1:6 ratio and only a thin layer of microfoam on top. Lattes can come in different sizes with the 12oz version being the most popular serving size. A 12oz latte will consist of 2 oz of espresso and 10 oz of milk.
Out of all the milk based coffee drinks, the latte has the highest ratio. This makes it perfect for anyone who prefers a creamier drink with a less intense espresso flavor. The latte is probably the most popular coffee drink out there and this is most likely because of latte art. The thin layer of foam on top of the milky drink makes it easier to perform latte art and create a picture-perfect drink.
There are so many variations of the latte. For instance, Starbucks offers flavors like caramel, vanilla or pumpkin spice! Nowadays, the word latte is even used to describe milk based drinks that do not even have coffee like the matcha latte.
All that being said, there are few characteristic that all versions of the latte share:
- High espresso to milk ratio makes the latte a less intense coffee drink. The ratio can vary but it is usually in the 1:4 to 1:6 range.
- Thin layer of milk foam on top.
- Large serving size.
Latte vs Cappuccino side by side
- Ingredients: They are exactly the same: espresso and milk. Of course, you can always use a milk alternative.
- Caffeine content: The cappuccino is made with one single espresso shot while the latte uses a double shot. Therefore, the latte has twice as much caffeine.
- Espresso to milk ratio: The latte has a higher milk to espresso ratio, typically in the 1:4 to 1:6 range. The cappuccino is a stronger drink with lower espresso to milk ratio in the 1:3 to 1:4 range.
- Milk foam: The thick layer of milk foam on top is one the characteristics that makes a cappuccino a cappuccino. This is the only drink that has such a thick and fluffy foam layer. The latte, on the other hand, is mostly steamed milk and the layer of foam is thin enough to make some latte art on top.
- Standard size: The traditional cappuccino is served in 5-6oz cups while the latte is served in bigger mugs. In modern coffee shops they are both offered in multiple sizes. Yet, it is more common to see the latte being offered in many sizes while the cappuccino maintains its more traditional serving size.
- Taste: The latte has a more creamy and milky taste with a less intense espresso flavor due to the high espresso to milk ratio. The cappuccino is meant to be a strong drink. It is perfect if you want to enjoy a coffee and milk drink while still getting the roasty espresso notes.
Which drink has more caffeine, the latte or the cappuccino?
Traditionally, the latte is made with two shots of espresso while the cappuccino recipe only calls for one. Thus, the latte has a higher caffeine content. However, many coffee shops now use two shots for the cappuccino too. In that case, there would be no difference in the caffeine content of these two drinks.
Which one is healthier, latte or cappuccino?
If by healthier we are talking about the number of calories, then the cappuccino is healthier. The cappuccino has less milk which means it is lower in calories and fat content. But if you are on a diet and still want to enjoy a latte, you can always use a milk alternative to make it healthier. If you are interested in learning more about the number of calories in the different coffee drinks, check our coffee calories calculator.
Now that you have learned the differences between a latte and a cappuccino, you should go and try both to find out which one you prefer. And as you are already a pro at lattes and cappuccinos, are you ready to learn about other coffee based drinks? Check out our article about 30 different types of coffee drinks!