Are you having trouble deciding between a cappuccino and a latte? Maybe you’re debating with a friend about which drink provides the best coffee experience.
This has been a problem since the invention of lattes. So let’s get this party started by looking at each drink individually and comparing their main differences.
Then, perhaps, you’ll have a better idea of which coffee to choose when you’re out and about or to make at home.
latte vs. cappuccino
They’re essentially the same drink, with a few minor variations.
So let’s look at the facts before everyone jumps to conclusions.
- Both drinks are made with espresso.
- Both drinks contain a significant amount of steamed and foamed milk.
- Both beverages are popular in the Western world.
- Both drinks, especially the latte, can be flavored.
Aside from the serving size, they only have a few minor differences that distinguish them.
A cappuccino, for example, is much more closely related to a latte than either is to an Americano, an espresso macchiato, or even a mocha.
So, what exactly is a cappuccino?
A cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage with 3 to 5 times milk.
The measurements are in total volume, not weight.
A cappuccino typically comes in a 5 oz/150 ml serving, with only one ounce/33 ml of espresso and the rest steamed and foamed milk.
The coffee flavor is strong, but the milk balances it.
So, what exactly is a latte?
A latte is a larger sibling to a cappuccino. It also uses one espresso shot (1 oz/33 ml), but the amount of milk is much higher.
If a cappuccino has 3-5 times the milk, a latte has 6 to 10 times the amount of milk.
Also steamed and frothed, but not in the same way as cappuccino. So don’t worry, I’ll get to that part soon.
As a result, the latte is an unusually large drink, at least for a coffee-based one. Lattes range in size from 8 to 16 oz/236 ml to 480 ml.
And, on occasion, you may be able to flavor your latte with different syrups or special blends around holidays (think Pumpkin Spice Latte)
Which has the most caffeine?
Both beverages may contain the same amount of caffeine. This is because the caffeine in these drinks comes from the espresso shots used to make them.
Each drink is typically made with just one standard espresso shot. This can range from 60 to 130 mg of caffeine, depending on the coffee beans used and whether or not there was any Robusta involved.
A ‘double latte’ is now an option. That means your barista will use the same amount of milk, but two shots of espresso or a smaller double shot of espresso.
This converts the latte into an oversized cappuccino ratio and proportions. Some prefer it this way, while others prefer the original.
If you’re watching your caffeine intake, stick to a single standard shot of espresso. Then, ask the barista how strong the espresso is ahead of time.
Which has the most calories?
Most of the time, it’ll be the latte. This is because the milk used for a latte is greater than for a cappuccino.
One ounce of milk may contain anywhere from 17 kcal (full fat) to 10 kcal (low fat) (skim milk).
To make things even worse, all lattes are sweetened with simple syrup, increasing the calorie count.
If you add flavorings, they are usually sweetened, which adds more calories.
Let’s take a look at Starbucks’ basic cappuccino and latte and compare them.
According to their findings, a 16 oz/480 ml cappuccino with a double shot of espresso and 2 percent milk (no flavorings or syrups added) has 120 kcal.
According to Starbucks’ results, a latte with no flavorings or syrups, 2 percent milk, and two espresso shots has 190 kcal.
Everything comes down to one thing. Lattes are typically high-calorie beverages, but you can always elevate a cappuccino by adding flavorings, toppings, powders, and other add-ins (which most of us do).
The main distinctions between a cappuccino and a latte
Okay, you now understand the fundamentals of cappuccino and lattes.
They’re very similar, and they’re made with the same ingredients.
However, they are used slightly differently, which results in a completely different drink. This is accomplished by adjusting the ratios and textures of each layer.
So let’s take a look at them and pick them apart from a little.
1. Cappuccinos are typically smaller in size than lattes.
A cappuccino is typically on the smaller end of the scale. Not as small as an espresso macchiato (one ounce/33 ml), but still quite small.
Most cafes serve cappuccinos in 5 oz/150 ml cups, the most common size.
Cappuccinos are available in very large servings at many franchise-owned establishments (such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Dunkin Donuts).
Capps at 12 or 16 oz isn’t unheard of, but they’re not served traditionally.
This is because cappuccinos are intended to be a small drink with a couple of milk layers and a milk foam. In contrast to iced tea, a long drink meant to be savored and sipped.
To begin with, lattes are quite large. They’re typically 8 oz/235 ml in size and served in ceramic or glass cups in cafes.
However, you can get them in larger sizes, such as 10 oz/300 ml.
If you go to one of the coffee chains I mentioned before and order a latte, you will be able to receive a pretty large serving (or franchises that also sell coffee).
In some cases, serving sizes range from 16 oz/470 ml to 20 oz/600 ml.
Considering all of this, if you want a large drink to sip on while driving, it doesn’t matter which you get because both are available in very large sizes.
If you’re looking for caffeine, this comes with the drawback of being overly flavored and far from actual coffee.
In most circumstances, I recommend purchasing both beverages from a café, as the quality and concentration of the coffee flavor would be higher there.
2. Lattes are frequently flavored, whereas cappuccinos are not.
Keeping in mind what we’ve just said about flavorings, it’s usually the lattes that are spiced, drizzled, sprinkled, or otherwise flavored.
When you purchase your beverages in a real cafe or a chain store, you will almost always have the option to have them customized with flavoring options. However, nearly always, it is just the lattes to blame.
Because the milk dilutes the coffee so much, it may be regarded as a less serious beverage. But, on the other hand, perhaps it’s because milk goes well with so many other flavors.
On the other hand, a latte is your best bet for a flavored drink. A cappuccino (in some stores) may be flavored, but it is usually served unflavored.
This is primarily due to tradition, as cappuccinos are intended to be a very simple coffee drink that highlights the way creamy milk blends with espresso without overpowering it with other flavors.
3. Cappuccinos have a stronger espresso flavor than lattes.
Cappuccinos have a stronger espresso flavor than lattes due to the lower milk-to-espresso ratio.
This is because cappuccinos use a 1:3 to 1:5 espresso-to-milk ratio, whereas lattes double or triple that ratio.
In some cases, your latte may come with a double shot of espresso as standard. That is, the barista is trained to do it.
It’s not bad, but it’s also not the original recipe. When I say “original,” I’m referring to the version that uses milk rather than espresso.
A latte with a double espresso would taste like a very large cappuccino.
Most cafes will ask you or be willing to use a double shot instead of a standard if you ask. It may affect the final price of the drink, but not significantly.
4. Lattes are derived from cafe au lait, a type of coffee.
In some ways, lattes are amusing.
What we now call latte has been around for decades before it made its way onto our menus.
The original latte recipe was the same for cafe au lait – coffee with milk in French. It was a European tradition, and almost everyone drank their coffee this way in the morning.
Then came the espresso revolution, or whatever you want to call it. It was sometime around WWII, and it has since become very popular worldwide.
With the introduction of the espresso machine came the introduction of the cappuccino, and for a time, the world forgot about café au lait.
Then, as cappuccinos became more popular, the demand for a milkier beverage arose. As a result, the latte was created, similar to the original coffee with milk but has foamed milk.
Whereas a cafe au lait typically consists of just hot milk and espresso (or, in some cases, regular coffee), a latte also includes milk foam to top off the drink.
The cappuccinos were the same as always. They became popular when espresso became popular outside of Italy and was previously unknown.
Back then, there was less focus placed on the crema and microfoam merging seamlessly into patterns, but the overall result was still quite comparable to the cappuccinos we enjoy now.
5. Cappuccinos are slightly “drier” than lattes.
It’s critical to get the textures right when combining the milk and espresso for either of these drinks.
Both beverages contain espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.
The foamed milk now has two extremes. The standard foam is light, airy, and maybe see-through, depending on the barista’s skill.
On the other hand, microfoam is a very dense foam with the smallest air bubbles possible. It transforms the milk foam into an airy cream that is still light but not as light as regular foam.
Cappuccinos are made with espresso and steamed milk, with no microfoam. Instead, they use a layer of regular foam (about a half-inch thick), which results in an airier, more ‘dry’ top.
Of course, there are cappuccinos with a microfoam layer on top, which is perfectly acceptable. It just relies on the skill level of the barista and their preferences.
While each barista will prepare their drink according to the recipe they were taught, they reserve the right to make changes if they believe the drink can be enhanced.
A latte also contains espresso and steamed milk, with less steamed milk and more microfoam. Because there is almost no regular foam on a latte, latte art is a breeze.
So, which one should you choose?
It depends on what you’re looking for, though they’re not that dissimilar.
Especially if you’re in the thick of winter and want a hot, milky beverage that will warm you from the inside out while simultaneously providing you with a caffeine boost, then a latte might be the drink for you.
However, if you prefer a stronger coffee flavor, a cappuccino is a better choice.
Whatever you choose, it’s best to get them in their original size without too many flavorings.
This is done so you can enjoy their original flavor and texture while also appreciating the barista’s work.
Historically, cappuccinos and lattes have been at odds, but there is no reason why they should continue to be so.
Both coffees are delicious, with a nice milky finish and wonderful texture.
They may be very similar, but they are distinct enough to provide two distinct coffee experiences.