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

By Mark •  Updated: 02/03/22 •  7 min read

If you are anything like us, drinking coffee is one of the ways you ‘express’ yourself. We are coffee addicts. We cannot function without that added buzz of caffeine coursing through our bodies every morning. How did we ever get things done without it?

One question we get asked a lot is, “What’s the difference between a latte and cappuccino?”

Cappuccino vs Latte
Cappuccino vs Latte

Have you been wondering about the difference between these coffee drinks? If so, then please grab yourself one of your favorite espresso drinks and read on.

Cappuccino vs Latte

The main differences between a cappuccino and latte is the size of the coffee drink and the espresso to steamed milk ratio. A cappuccino has equal parts espresso, milk and foam. A latte contains a 1-to-2 ratio of espresso shot to milk, and a thin layer of foam.

The Selection of Coffee Drinks

One of the best things about coffee is that there are many different options, flavors, and styles to enjoy!

Just ask George Clooney from his hideaway in Laglio, Italy. I wonder which coffee drink is his favorite.

First, there is the simple Americano. Then, there is the cortado and the double shot of espresso. 

Next, there is the classic cappuccino vs latte. 

There are so many other variations we will not even begin to list them all. How are you supposed to pick one when you’re in the middle of a morning rush at your local coffee shop?

The Confusion Between Cappuccino and Latte

The two most beloved options are the cappuccino and the latte. These two coffee drinks have bewildered our readers for years. (Don’t even get us started on what the difference between a cappuccino vs latte vs flat white is!) 

The vague descriptions from menus and coffee baristas have led us down the path of coffee confusion.

Some will say there is no difference between cappuccino vs latte because they taste the same. These people could not be more wrong!

Let’s straighten a few facts out. 

The Facts About Cappuccino vs Latte

A cappuccino and a coffee latte are both made with an espresso machine and are two of the world’s most popular coffee beverages.

Both coffee lattes and cappuccinos are Italian in origin. Both are espresso drinks. Cappuccinos and lattes are composed of the very same ingredients: espresso coffee, steamed milk, and foam.

Ask a Barista

Good baristas at coffee shops worldwide will tell you that both coffee drinks can be made very differently, depending on artisanship. The preparation and composition can alter the flavor immensely. The difference depends on the blending and layering of the ingredients together.

That’s right: espresso and milk foam.

A Closer Look at the Latte

Latte
A closer look at the Latte

The coffee latte is widely considered an introductory coffee beverage or a safe option. The term ‘coffee latte’ is a derivative of ‘caffe latte’ in Italian. Latte means espresso coffee with milk.

That is all it is!

A coffee latte’s smooth, firm taste is due to the perfect combination of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. It’s a sweet flavor that will still wake you up in the morning!

The perfect hot latte consists of:

  • One shot of espresso, made with an espresso machine
  • 6-10 oz. of steamed milk
  • A light layer of foam on top

The European vs the American Latte

Europeans have been drinking the ‘caffe latte’ and the cappuccinos for years, but the addition of the shot of espresso is an American touch. We do love our little cup of Joe! The milk blends in with the espresso to create a silky, smooth drink without the bitter aftertaste. 

The Latte with Flavor and Style

The latte is often one of the most customizable coffee options.

A latte is at the very top of the coffee food chain (and always top of the menu). A latte can be tailor-made to your tastes, with added flavors.

Think fall and the ever-popular pumpkin spice latte. This latte is one of the highlights of the season. Other favorite flavors include classic vanilla or tree nuts such as almond or hazelnut.

The top of a latte will often contain coffee art made by the talented barista, with extensive levels of milk inside.

So, if you are after that perfect instant shot of your morning coffee, go for the latte! The coffee latte has even progressed to become a ‘frappe’ style drink. Think the iced latte!

The possibilities with its simple recipe are endless.

A Closer Look at the Cappuccino

Cappuccino
A cappuccino contains equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam

On the other hand, the cappuccino is also a much-loved coffee choice.

It’s a creamy consistency, and the foamy, frothy topping will warm the soul. It is an American-breakfast staple that everyone loves to choose repeatedly.

The term ‘cappuccino’ allegedly comes from the Italian word ‘Capuchin.’

Italian Capuchin monks and their brown hooded robes were the inspirations for the name of the creamy, brown coffee drink.

The popularity of cappuccino spread through the US in the 1950s through Italian American neighborhoods. Then it quickly became a menu staple in all coffee houses.

What Sets the Cappuccino Aside from the Coffee Latte?

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

The main factor that sets cappuccino apart from the coffee latte is often more espresso.

Cappuccino also contains less milk and a lot more milk foam, giving a cappuccino a more robust and richer taste than a latte, as the steamed milk does not dilute the coffee flavoring.

This also makes a cappuccino a much lighter option than the latte, as less milk means fewer calories! 

A cappuccino consists of:

  • 1-2 shots of espresso, made with an espresso machine
  • Two oz. of steamed milk
  • Two oz. of foamed milk     
  • A sprinkling of chocolate dusting

Visual Distinctions Between a Cappuccino and a Latte

A few subtle hints can distinguish whether it is a cappuccino or latte.

A cappuccino is distinct in that it is layered, which usually means that the espresso is at the bottom, followed by steamed milk and topped with a layer of foam.

A latte has a beige color with a creamy consistency and is served in a tall, see-through glass. Whereas cappuccinos are lighter with a foamy, velvety texture, traditionally served in a small mug or cup.

Compare the Taste Between a Cappuccino and a Latte

The cappuccino has a coffee-based flavor that tantalizes the taste buds. It tastes quite different from a latte, as the espresso and steamed milk blend into one smooth milky beverage.  

So, what about you, are you team latte or team cappuccino? 

If you’re still undecided, here are the basics.

A latte is one-third espresso shot and two-thirds steamed milk, with a thin layer of foam to top. It is served hot in a tall glass, often with latte art to finish it off.

The cappuccino is much more balanced with one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third milk foam served in a small mug or cup.

So, now you know! 

In Conclusion

Remember, a cappuccino starts with a shot of espresso with steamed milk poured over it and a layer of milk foam on top. Conversely, the latte doubles up on the steamed milk and has just a light layer of milk foam.

Put your barista skills to the test.

Tomorrow, order one of the country’s favorite coffees with confidence and a smile. You’re a pro who knows exactly what the difference between a latte and a cappuccino is now!

Mark

G'day from Australia! I'm Mark, the Chief Editor of Portafilter. I'm super passionate about everything coffee related and love to spend endless hours mastering pulling the perfect shot on my Breville Barista Express.

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