What’s the difference between a Frappuccino and Cappuccino?

By Melissa Soon •  Updated: 11/10/20 •  8 min read

Frappuccino and cappuccino sound nearly the same, so they must be nearly the same thing, right? Well… it’s a little complicated.

I’m sure you’ve had at least one moment of confusion when you stepped up to the Starbucks cashier. Perhaps while waiting in line, you were browsing their extensively wide menu and wondered, “What’s the difference between a Frappuccino and cappuccino?”

What’s the difference between a Frappuccino and Cappuccino

What’s the difference between a Frappuccino and cappuccino?

A Frappuccino is an ice-blended drink which is a Starbucks trademark drink.  A cappuccino is made with espresso and foamy steamed milk, and can be found in almost any café or coffee house, including Starbucks.

The Frappuccino and cappuccino share a few features, but they’re still two completely different café drinks. It’s like comparing two members of the same family – they’re related and share some genes but have different personalities.

Speaking of which, did you know that the Frappuccino was derived from the cappuccino?
Coffee drinks are invented by creating variations of recipes. So, coffee drinks are usually related to each other in a way or two.

For example, the latte was invented after adding steamed milk to espresso, which is a coffee drink itself.

Don’t worry if you still haven’t got the gist of it!

It’s a little tricky since the Frappuccino shares a few similarities with the cappuccino (and they rhyme!). So, just relax with your favorite mug of coffee and read on to find out!

The Frappuccino is a Starbucks’ trademark drink

The only places that sell Frappuccinos are the Starbucks branches located all over the world, whether it’s a gas station drive-through or an extravagant city center branch.

Starbucks Frappuccino

Source: https://www.starbucks.com/

If you ask anyone what comes to mind when they hear “Starbucks”, chances are it’s very likely “Frappuccino”.

The original Frappuccino was created and trademarked by The Coffee Connection, an Eastern Massachusetts café chain.

In 1994, Starbucks bought The Coffee Connection and gained the rights to produce and sell the Frappuccino. That’s why the Frappuccino is exclusive to Starbucks.

Meanwhile, the cappuccino is available everywhere

The cappuccino can be found in almost any café or coffee house around the world, including Starbucks. It’s absolutely one of the classic espresso staples on every café menu, big or small.

However, café menus are changing. Flat whites, lattes and cappuccinos are part of a group of espresso drinks that contain steamed milk.

All three drinks have slightly different amounts of micro-foam, but that can be negligible. That’s why some cafes lump these three drinks into one menu item, “white coffee”.

Plus, it helps customers order easily since “white coffee” is easily understood as coffee with milk.

The Frappuccino is made of 3 different drinks!

The original Frappuccino was literally a fusion of the frap (ice-blended espresso and milk), the frappe (blended ice-cream, milk, and syrup) and the cappuccino (foamy steamed milk poured on espresso).

When Starbucks gained the rights to the Frappuccino, the recipe underwent slight changes to give us the fun-flavored rainbow of Frappuccinos Starbucks serves today.

In addition to their vast variety, some Starbucks outlets provide customers an array of dietary substitutions and choices for their Frappuccino.

For example, Starbucks can serve Frappuccinos without caffeine using their Crème base, which is coffee-free. They also serve non-dairy options like soy milk, coconut milk, and almond milk.

You can also customize your Frappuccino by ordering extra espresso shots, adjusting the amount of syrup and so on!

Meanwhile, the cappuccino is pretty simple

Essentially, a cappuccino is made with pouring a pitcher of foamy steamed milk into a shot of espresso. There’re also a few ways to serve a cappuccino.


You could layer the foam on top of the espresso to get a plain white milk canvas and dust a few dashes of fine cocoa or cinnamon on top. Some baristas like to draw patterns using syrup, while others prefer to free-pour classy latte art.

Nevertheless, the cappuccino only requires two essential ingredients – coffee and milk.

The cappuccino has always been a simple coffee delight throughout history. Back in the 1700s, the cappuccino used to be served as a “kapuziner” in Austrian coffee houses.

According to Wörterbuch (a German dictionary), the kapuziner was defined as “coffee with cream and sugar”. A few centuries later in the 1930s, the Italians changed the spelling of “kapuziner” to “cappuccino”.

Then, frothed milk became a substitute for cream. In the 1950s, Italian espresso machines spread world-wide and the cappuccino was redefined as the version we know today.


Is a Frappuccino a cold cappuccino?


A Frappuccino is an ice-blended drink, crowned with its iconic swirl of whipped cream. Some Frappuccino’s are drizzled with syrup on top and sprinkled with toppings like blitzed nuts or chocolate bits.

On the other hand, a cold cappuccino is made by pouring foamy steamed milk into an espresso shot in a glass of whole ice.

Optionally, you can dash a bit of fine cinnamon or cocoa powder on top for a little dressing.

A Frappuccino isn’t a cold cappuccino. Although, both drinks share a few similarities, like being served cold and contain milk.

What is the difference between Dalgona and cappuccino?

Difference Between Dalgona and Cappuccino

The signature feature of Dalgona (a popular coffee drink from Korea) is its smooth, light cream made with frothed instant coffee, sugar, and hot water.

Then, the cream is spooned delicately on top of the surface of milk in a glass of ice.

A classic cappuccino (served hot) is made with a pitcher of foamy steamed milk poured into a shot of espresso.

The milk foam sits on top of the surface of coffee, forming a white “cap”. Although, some baristas like to serve cappuccinos with latte art.

It’s simply easy to remember that Dalgona has milk “at the bottom”, while a cappuccino has milk (foam) “on top”. 

Plus, Dalgona is typically served cold while a classic cappuccino is served hot. Finally, Dalgona originates from Korea while the cappuccino comes from Italy.

Does a Frappuccino have coffee in it?


All Frappuccinos are diabetically sweet, but not all of them have coffee. Even if they did contain coffee, I doubt you’d be able to taste the coffee since it’s washed out with milk, lots of syrups, and ice.

If you don’t want coffee in your Frappuccino, you can request to substitute the coffee with Starbucks’ Crème, which is coffee-free.
Some Frappuccinos contain no coffee by default, such as the Salted Caramel Mocha Crème Frappuccino.

Aside from coffee, Starbucks also uses Coffee Frappuccino syrup to make their Frappuccinos. Fun fact: Coffee Frappuccino syrup isn’t made with coffee at all!

So, it depends on the menu if a Frappuccino has coffee or not. 

Starbucks has an online menu where you can find the “Frappuccino Blended Beverages” section.

All the details about each Frappuccino – their ingredients, available modifications (e.g. type of milk, amount of syrup), size, etc. are all on the website.

Is a cappuccino stronger than coffee?

What’s the difference between a Frappuccino and Cappuccino

We can’t compare the strength of the cappuccino to coffee. “Coffee” is a very wide umbrella term. By “coffee”, it could mean a light-roast coffee, a cappuccino, or even Turkish coffee.

“Strength” is also a vague word that could refer to the caffeine content or the taste of a coffee drink.

Let’s compare a cappuccino to an espresso. A cappuccino contains a shot of espresso topped with steamed milk, while an espresso is… a shot of espresso.

The caffeine content of a cappuccino is as strong as an espresso’s since they both contain a shot of espresso.

However, the cappuccino doesn’t taste as strong as an espresso, because the espresso shot in the cappuccino is diluted with steamed milk, which is also a little sweet.

Cappuccino isn’t stronger than coffee. Although it can be stronger than some coffee drinks, but it depends on factors like caffeine content, roast level of the coffee, and taste.


Now, let’s wrap up all that information into a little takeaway:

A Frappuccino is…

  • Only available at Starbucks
  • Made with many ingredients like flavored syrups
  • Available in many flavors
  • Ice-blended and served cold

Meanwhile, a cappuccino is…

  • Available in any café
  • Made with espresso and foamy steamed milk
  • Simple
  • Classically, served hot

Before you go, let me leave a little Starbucks tip for you.

If you feel like you crave something sweet, order a Frappuccino! (Yes, this barista supports you to enjoy whatever you want to drink. I, too, enjoy a Frappuccino once in a while!).

Otherwise, if you feel like having something simple but delicious, try to order a milk coffee such as a cappuccino.

The next time you enter a Starbucks café, you won’t be bamboozled by the menu ever again.

Say goodbye to the times you mixed up cappuccino with Frappuccino (or the other way around).

Now, step up to the Starbucks cashier and order that drink you’ve always wanted – whether it’s a Frappuccino or cappuccino!

Melissa Soon

My interest in coffee started small at 15 years old. Although I wasn’t a consumer, my mother was a home brewer and I enjoyed the smell of espresso brewing in the morning. 3 years later, my interest developed into passion when a good friend told me about a specialty café. Soon after, I became a barista and a freelance writer who loves to write about coffee.

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