A Complete Latte vs Cappuccino Trade-Off: Read This Breakdown Before You Order Your Next Cuppa

Written by The Kitchen Hand on . Posted in Coffee & Tea


Ask a coffee connoisseur if there is a difference between latte vs cappuccino, and you are certain to be shot one nasty look followed by an elaborate, precise and detailed retort.

For many of us coffee addicts, coffee is not just a beverage to charge us up for the day, but it is food for the soul. It is our go-to comfort food and an anytime indulgence. It is the first thing we would like to set our hands on in the morning and any deviation from our preferred concoction is enough for us to throw a fit!

Being a coffee aficionado and fanatic myself, I am way too possessive about the right coffee beans, blend, milk content, quantity, water temperature, foam density and many other factors that come together to make me my perfect cuppa.

It is no surprise then, that many like me can tell the difference between a latte vs cappuccino in a jiffy. But, for those of you who can’t see the difference and the fuss behind both, don’t fret!

We’ve put together a complete trade-off between these two beverages of choice to help you not only tell the difference between both but also ascertain what suits your palette, get up to speed with the trends in coffee making and discover hacks to make the perfect cup of coffee.

Speaking from experience, you can either be a latte person or a cappuccino person and not both. Just like you don’t take a second to make your choice between tea and coffee, you will do the same with latte vs cappuccino after reading this article.

We shall take you through the basics first of what exactly these two beverages actually are before we delve into their specific characteristics. Both are primarily made of coffee or espresso, steamed milk, water and sugar (optional).

Now we must admit that with these few ingredients, there is a score of beverages you can make with different combinations and quantities, but latte and cappuccino are certainly universal favourites. While latte finds its origins in America, cappuccino is an Italian brainchild.

In Italian, latte refers to milk, and hence the Americans have taken this meaning a step further to coin the term cafe latte. Now let’s dive right into each of these world-renowned beverages to learn what sets them apart.

What is a Cappuccino?

The cappuccino is a derivative of the espresso and finds its origin in Italy. It involves a potent shot espresso topped with a moderate dose of steamed milk and finished off with a bubbly thick layer of foamed milk.

All of these three ingredients are in an equal measure, giving you a rich, thick and fairly strong drink with a distinct signature cappuccino taste. For a more rich texture, steamed milk is often substituted with cream.

A pastry or a croissant with a cup of cappuccino is the ideal Italian breakfast across the whole of Italy. While cappuccinos are on call all day long in western countries, traditional Italians drink them just once a day for breakfast. Go to a coffee shop worth its name and you will be served a piping hot cappuccino in a ceramic cup.

You will seldom be handed out a good cappuccino in any other piece of cutlery.  The ideal size of a cappuccino is less than 200ml. However, today we see international coffee chains offering as much as 600ml options for this beverage.

Here are some types of cappuccinos found across the globe today:

  • A dry cappuccino, which sports less steamed milk and more foam than the proportionate amount, usually equal to the quantity of espresso, is a commonly found beverage specially in America.
    A dry cappuccino has variations in the form of an extra-dry cappuccino, which sports just a splash of steamed milk on your espresso topped off by foamed milk. For the adventurous drinker, you can go a step further to try out the bone dry cappuccino, which is nothing but a shot or two of espresso with just a few drops of steamed milk.
  • A wet cappuccino has more steamed milk and less foam, which tends to dilute the potency of your espresso and make the flavour of your coffee a little subtle.
  • If you want to deviate from the host of hot cappuccino options available, sink into an iced cappuccino. With the increasing popularity of iced coffees, milkshakes and smoothies, iced cappuccinos find many takers among modern coffee drinkers.
    It is usually made of espresso which is cooled and frozen and is diced up with water, cream, chocolate or milk at the time of serving, based on the preference of the customer. These chilled drinks make it possible to enjoy a coffee even on sunny afternoons.
  • Vegan cappuccinos are now a thing, with plant and nuts based milk options replacing the traditional cow milk. Experiment with soy milk, almond milk, walnut milk and other such variants to put together a vegan cappuccino, that also works well with individuals who are lactose intolerant.
  • Flavoured cappuccinos are a wide range of refreshing options for people looking to get something more than just the coffee flavour. From vanilla, hazelnut and caramel, to mint, berries and a whole lot of other options, flavoured cappuccinos cater to the palette of different cappuccino tastes.

A Step by Step Guide on How to Do a Cappuccino

Here is a step by step process of putting together a good cup of cappuccino that will make a coffee enthusiast proud:

  • Fill in your cup with one shot of espresso. Often times, American coffee shops load up two portions of espresso due to their large cup size, in which case your cappuccino is going to have more espresso, but the milk in cappuccino in these two variants will be equal to the espresso
  • Pour one equivalent portion of steamed milk into the cup
  • Add an equal layer of foamed milk to top it off
  • Finishing touches to a cappuccino involve sprinkling a dash of cinnamon powder or chocolate powder over your beverage to add an element of spice or sweetness, as the case may be.

Note that none of these ingredients is mixed. The essence of a cappuccino is to let these layers be distinct from each other. Also, the foam on the cappuccino is more light than that found on a latte. You’ll have to go with a very light, airy milk foam to set the tone of your cappuccino right.

There are two kinds of foam that you can find crowning a cappuccino. While one is a dry foam that is quite voluminous but also quite dry in texture, the microfoam is much more tiny bubbles that adorn your coffee.

Be rest assured that the texture of the foam can largely influence your coffee experience in terms of taste, consistency and caffeine. It is microfoam that is widely used across coffee chains.

What is a Latte?

Latte, meaning milk in Italian, is extended as a beverage to create café latte, which simply means latte with coffee or a portion of milk with a dash of coffee with it.

The serving of a traditional latte is slightly more than that of a cappuccino. A good cup of latte sports a single or double shot of espresso as per the requirement of the consumer or drinker. The steamed milk that now gets added is four times the quantity of a single serving of espresso.

This marks the key difference between a latte and a cappuccino. Atop this thick layer of steamed milk sits a light layer of foamed milk that’s a lot denser and heavier than that on a cappuccino. This gives your latte a creamy, thick texture that is quite its trademark. A latte is usually doled out in a large tumbler or glass.

The gamut of what you’d call a latte has spread over the last few decades. Here are the latte options you could enjoy at any local coffee shop:

  • Flavoured lattes are also increasingly being experimented with by adding a dash of matcha, caramel/hazelnut syrups, vanilla sticks, and other such flavourful nuts and spices.
  • Traditional cow milk in cappuccino and lattes is a major problem for vegans and people with lactose intolerance. Hence, these beverages are also made using almond milk and soy milk, which possess similar frothing capabilities as cow milk and provide similar visual and brewing appeal
  • Whiskey & Vodka Lattes: Add a dash or Irish cream or Irish whiskey to your latte for the much-needed warmth on a winter morning.
    You could also add a few drops of flavoured vodka such as raspberry vodka, caramel vodka or mint vodka for an interesting flavour blend. Many cafes serve whiskey lattes to cater to the diverse palette of coffee drinkers.
  • Festive Lattes: From spiced pumpkin lattes to eggnog lattes and gingerbread lattes, blend in the flavour of the season with your coffee to give your taste buds a treat.

There really is no dearth of experiments you can do with your favourite beverage to add a twist to it and discover a new found taste for yourself. Your latte is only as good as you try to make it.

The Best Guide on How to Do a Latte Like a Boss!

Here’s how to make a classic café latte:

  • Start with one (or two) portions of espresso, about 1/6th of the total vessel size
  • Pour steamed milk that’s 4/6th in measure
  • Load up on a thick and dense layer of foamed milk to top off your latte

The quantity of milk in a latte is about four times that of the espresso. The dense foamed milk in a latte is what causes the various layers in a latte to blend into one other, leaving you with a slightly less strong caffeine taste in comparison to a cappuccino taste.

This extra milk in a latte also contributes to its creamy texture, making it the go-to option for many coffee drinkers for its subtlety.

The French version of a latte, referred to as café au lait adopts the same ratios but uses French pressed coffee instead of the standard espresso.

Café au lait is fairly more potent in flavour and caffeine content and mostly does not cater to the American palette. In this case, the pouring method in a café au lait is also different from the others. Both the pressed black coffee, as well as the steamed milk are poured in together, with no layer of foamed milk to follow.

Difference Between Latte & Cappuccino

While we have understood that a latte and a cappuccino vary in their composition of coffee and milk, there are few more differences that can tell them apart. The foam on a latte is a lot heavier than that of a cappuccino which is usually light and airy.

Due to a significantly lesser portion of milk, a cappuccino serving is around 180-200ml, while a latte is a little more generous at around 300ml. In fact, in Italy, the serving of cappuccino can go down to as less as 100ml.

A cappuccino is traditionally served in a ceramic cup with a stem or a handle, while a latte usually finds itself in a tumbler sort of a vessel.

Also, in a latte, you will not find a chocolate powder or cinnamon powder drizzle, which is a common addition to a cappuccino. This also makes a cappuccino a tad sweeter than the latte.

As a latte has more steamed milk in comparison to a cappuccino and the foamed milk is quite heavy and dense, you’ll find that the espresso and the milk in a latte somewhat blend into each other.

On the other hand, a cappuccino has much less steamed milk with a thin layer of light foam, and hence there is a clearly defined distinction between the coffee and the milk. The more you sip on your cappuccino, you will find the flavour of coffee increasing and that of milk decreasing,

This also contributes to the stronger espresso flavour in the cappuccino and gives it the tag of the stronger caffeine beverage in comparison to a latte.

Latte Vs Cappuccino – Which Scores Better on Nutrition?

As the ingredients of both latte and cappuccino are the same with differences only in their quantities, there isn’t much variation between the two from a nutrition perspective.

While a latte has more to offer with a higher calcium content due to the higher milk ratio, this also has a flipside. You will be loading on 1-2 more grams of fat from the milk should you choose to have a latte over a cappuccino.

The less milk in cappuccino should even out if you are in the habit of drizzling chocolate powder or any other flavouring agent, which certainly lends more sweetness to your cappuccino taste.

Hence, we would say both beverages are pretty much on the same nutritional plane, with a gram or two of fat and calcium this way or that. Having said that, aside from the short-term number crunching, coffee in any form brings a significant number of long-term health benefits to the table.

Coffee is known to reduce the risk of the onset of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart problems as well as Type 2 diabetes. It is also a mood stimulant and helps in keeping depression at bay.

It stimulates the brain, increases blood flow and makes the body more active. Hence, you can indulge in a cup or two of café latte or cappuccino in a day as part of a healthy diet.

However, if you wish to make your coffee a whole lot healthier and even aid in weight loss, we’d recommend you try bulletproof coffee. Lauded as a fat burner, bulletproof coffee involves dropping a few grams of butter and a tsp of oil in your coffee to make it a zero carb high-fat drink, a perfect beverage as part of the ketogenic diet.

Which is More Expensive?

Most cafes around the world charge pretty much the same for both a latte and a cappuccino. But in some cases, especially in some European countries such as Greece and some Scandinavian countries, a cappuccino is priced slightly less than a latte, probably due to the slightly more milk that a latte warrants.

By slightly we mean a few cents, which shouldn’t amount to much. Hence, no matter what you pick between latte vs cappuccino, it should set you back by pretty much the same amount on a daily basis.

However, if you are looking to indulge yourself in some latte art or gourmet additions to your drink such as hazelnut, vanilla, caramel etc, get ready to shell out almost double the cost of a traditional latte/cappuccino.

Trends in the Barista Craft

While lattes and cappuccinos are traditional and older methods of coffee making, we have seen variants of the same springing up across the global coffee community that cater to the evolving taste of coffee drinkers.

Here are some trends we have observed over the last few years that have drawn inspiration from lattes and cappuccinos and have been successful in cutting out quite a niche for themselves:

  • Extensions of Latte and Cappuccino

Ask a coffee drinker in the early 19th century if they’ve tried a macchiato and they’ll throw you a blank look. But today, a macchiato is a common feature in the menu card of every coffee shop.

A macchiato is a potent version of a cappuccino minus the layer of foamed milk, and with only half the amount of steamed milk in comparison, making it a perfect evening dose of caffeine to shake you out of imminent slumber. In fact, macchiatos are known as espressos with a few drops of milk in them.

Similarly, another fad in the world of coffee is a latte macchiato which defies the principle of espresso first. This drink begins with a layer of steamed milk, followed by espresso and then foamed milk similar to that which crowns a latte. B

asically, it is espresso which is sandwiched between two layers of milk, steamed and foamed. Many such experiments of latte with coffee have given rise to beverages that cater to the evolving palette of coffee enthusiast.

Chocolate enthusiasts too have delved into the world of coffee for their fair share of indulgence. A mochaccino squeezes in a layer of hot chocolate between the espresso and steamed milk in cappuccinos, tweaking your cappuccino’s taste with a dash of chocolate. Drizzle some chocolate powder or gooey marshmallows on a mochaccino and you have a winner.

  • Latte Art

Latte art has brought in a whole new element of style and personalisation in the world of coffee making. Increasingly seen in the western countries, artistic images are drawn on a ready cup of coffee simply by pouring the steamed milk in certain angles and methods that skilled baristas have mastered over time.

From beautiful trees, plants, webs, flowers, hearts, and even the impression of a person’s facial features, the surface of your coffee today has become an artists canvas.

This is achieved using crema, a mixture of coffee oil and brewed coffee as well as microfoam on the coffee surface. There are two commonly used ways of achieving these patterns on your coffee, free pouring and etching. The former involves carefully pouring white micro-foamed milk onto the surface of your coffee that’s topped with crema.

Herein, the primary focus to achieve the pattern relies on the method of pouring. Alternatively, you could free pour and use a thin stick to draw out the pattern you desire. Needless to say, both require tremendous skill and practice.

For those of us who love to indulge in a cup of coffee for photographic pleasure aside of the flavour and culinary appreciation, latte art is what you should be ordering for during your next visit to a gourmet coffee store.

  • Timings of Coffee Consumption

The timing of a coffee indulgence has also evolved tremendously over the years. Back in the 19th and early 20th century, you would see the sales of a latte or a cappuccino peak in the morning hours up to 10 or maximum 11 am, post which milk based coffees would be avoided due to it being difficult to digest.

In fact, it would be considered borderline rude to demand a cappuccino or a latte of a barista in the evening hours. Evenings would call for a shot or two of espresso.

However, consumption patterns have changed with coffee drinkers grabbing 5-6 servings of their go-to milk beverage in a day as an accompaniment to business meetings, binge-watching television sessions or over a casual date.

The Barista Barometer: How Your Coffee Maker Can Make or Break Your Coffee Experience

For you to appreciate the art of coffee making and evolve into a coffee connoisseur, it is largely determinant on the skills of your barista.

Often times, you will find even the best coffee shops dishing out inconsistent drinks day on day, due to large footfall, quick turnout time demands and the lack of good craft and experience on part of the barista.

It is no wonder then that many people who actually really enjoy a cup of coffee are not able to tell the difference between a latte vs cappuccino, largely due to the incapability of the coffee maker in your neighbourhood coffee shop.

Even coffee that is dished out at workplaces is done so in a subconscious hurry to get back to your work desk, leaving this wonderful beverage to serve as nothing more than an energizer and a much-needed stimulant during your workday.

It is a pity that poor craftsmanship in the art of coffee making has reduced the potential of this rich beverage to just an aid to boost your energy levels.

For one to truly appreciate the art involved in a good brew, a fair knowledge of the ideal temperature and consistency of milk, espresso and water is necessary. What may not be the perfect cup of latte or cappuccino initially, can certainly be mastered with a tad bit of patience, practice and a keen eye to detail over time.

Wondering how to get started? Read on.

Want to Master the Art of Coffee Making? Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Try!

Whether it is a cappuccino or a latte, there are few basic thumb rules to brewing the perfect cuppa in terms of the latte or cappuccino taste, texture, consistency and coffee flavour. Some things to keep in mind are:

  • Focus on the espresso. No matter how well you steam the milk or good your pouring skills are, the key to a good cup of coffee is how well you brew your espresso. Always keep your coffee infusions brief and run the hot water quickly through the ground coffee.
  • Choosing the right cup size in pivotal to getting the measurements right. An oversized cup or a small cup is going to get you confused on the right amount of espresso and milk in your cappuccino or latte.
  • Warm your cup in a heater or microwave. Often times a cold cup kept out in cold countries leads to the coffee cooling very fast, leaving the drinker to discard the last few sips of his drink. Keep the cup warm so as to complement your hot drink.
  • Steaming the milk in a steamer is an exercise that should take you about forty seconds. Make sure you use the milk soon after, and not leave it lingering around in order for it to be palatable and complement your espresso well.
  • For the layer of foam, we would suggest you invest in a foaming jug. These are usually made using stainless steel and sport a pointy pouring beak in order to support artistic pouring, should that interest you further on in your coffee making enthusiasm.
  • Do not heat the milk while steaming or foaming beyond 70 degrees Celsius as this causes the lactose sugar in milk to be released which can alter the taste of your cappuccino or latte.
  • When pouring the foam, ensure to not break between the pour and complete the four in one go. An inadvertent break can cause the foam to be uneven and not visually appealing.
  • The foam on your coffee acts as a heat insulator and keeps your beverage hot for longer. Hence, ensure a uniform pour to enjoy every sip of your coffee.
  • While low-fat milk may be appealing from a health perspective, beware that using low-fat milk in a cappuccino or latte leads to a compromise in the flavour of your beverage and can rob it of its creamy, rich texture.

What’s Your Brew?

Both latte and cappuccino make for excellent variants of the coffee and milk blend. After knowing how exactly each of these drinks is made and the host of experimentation you can indulge in, we would encourage you to try both and ascertain for yourself what your taste buds are more receptive to.

We are sure you will zero in on one that’s more palatable to you than the other.

We hope our article has given you a good insight into the minute differences between these two beverages and you are now fairly well equipped to call the shots, in the literal sense. So the next time you are at a coffee shop, you can tell the difference between latte vs cappuccino with nonchalant élan and even find your go-to drink between the two that you can swear by.

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