Do you know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino?
If you enjoy a milky coffee, you’ve no doubt ordered each of these drinks at least once before.
But do you really know the difference between a latte vs cappuccino?
Well, it’s surprisingly simple – and also a little complicated! But don’t worry, we’ve put together this guide so you will always know exactly what you’re ordering at your local coffee shop.
No matter whether you’re Team Latte or Team Cappuccino, we’re sure you’ll have a newfound appreciation for both of these espresso-based drinks by the end of this article.
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The key difference between a latte and a cappuccino?
In a nutshell, the main difference between a latte and a cappuccino is simply the milk-to-froth ratio.
Both begin with an espresso (or a double espresso shot, in our coffee shops!).
Told you it was simple, didn’t we?
But, of course, it goes a little deeper than that.
For example, the amount of steamed milk and milk foam is what makes each of these popular drinks deserving of their name.
Getting it right – as good coffee shops do – is also important because it differentiates these drinks not only from each other but from all of the other milk-based espresso drinks out there.
When you adjust the ratio, style and amount of milk, you can end up with a flat white, macchiato and other delicious coffee drinks.
Now, let’s dive a little deeper.
Latte vs Cappuccino
Before we take a look at what makes each of these drinks unique, it helps to compare the similarities and differences between them.
In fact, comparing the two different drinks is a great way to learn about each one.
As we’ll see, they have a whole lot in common – and it is only a couple of small (but crucial!) differences that sets apart a latte and a cappuccino.
Similarities between a latte and a cappuccino
So, now you know what’s the main difference between a latte and a cappuccino, let’s take a look at the similarities between these two popular coffee drinks.
And there are quite a few!
Both lattes and cappuccinos:
- are espresso-based drinks, meaning they start with a base of espresso
- have two layers of milk: steamed milk and foamed milk
- have only two ingredients (coffee and milk!)
- have the same caffeine content
Note: Each coffee shop has its own way of brewing espresso, so the amount of caffeine in a latte or cappuccino can vary from one place to another.
For many commercial coffee shops, this can be as little as 7g per shot. In the world of specialty coffee, though, a single shot is more likely to be 9g.
Many specialty coffee shops, like ours, choose to offer a double shot as standard. In our shops, this varies between 18g and 20g.
However, the important thing to note is that each shop should use the same espresso for each.
Differences between a latte and a cappuccino
As we can see, the foundations of a latte and a cappuccino are the same.
That is, both are essentially an espresso topped with steamed milk and a layer of foam.
So what are the key differences between a latte vs cappuccino?
As any professional barista will tell you, the differences are:
- the size of the drink: a latte typically measures around 220-250ml while a cappuccino measures around 140-160ml. The exact size varies between coffee houses and even between countries.
- the espresso ratio: since both drinks contain the same amount of espresso but a latte is served in larger cups, it follows that the ratio of espresso to milk will differ also.
- how much milk: once again, given that the espresso is the same, the amount of milk in a latte is greater than that in a cappuccino.
- the amount of foam: this is often the main difference between a cappuccino and a latte that coffee lovers will consider. Even though a latte is larger, it contains less foam (and therefore more steamed milk)
Cappuccino vs Latte: Ratios & how to make each
Now that you know the similarities and differences between a latte and a cappuccino, let’s see what they actually look like.
You may wish to refer to the diagram above to visualise the ratios, but they are:
Latte ratio of espresso to milk
A latte typically measures between 220-250ml, depending on where you order it.
The larger the latte is, the ‘weaker’ it will taste because the milk ratio will be higher.
A latte consists of:
- a shot of espresso (single or double)
- steamed milk to fill the rest of the mug
- a think layer of milk foam on top
A cappuccino typically measures between 140ml and 180ml, again depending on where you order it.
The exact size will be decided by the amount of espresso used.
A cappuccino consists of:
- one third espresso
- one third steamed milk
- one third milk foam
Steamed milk and frothed milk are created using a steam wand.
This is usually attached to the espresso machine and you’ve no doubt seen your barista use one before, even if you’ve never used one yourself.
The only difference between steaming and frothing is the amount of air being allowed into the milk during this process.
Steaming milk uses less air and creates smaller bubbles – which is crucial for that Instagram-worthy latte art – and a creamy texture.
Frothing, on the other hand, leads to a more airy texture of the milk and more distinct layers.
A traditional cappuccino may also come with chocolate or cinnamon powder sprinkled on top, but this has become less common (and mostly unheard of at coffee roasters!).
As you can see from above, the cappuccino is all about equal ratios of its parts (i.e. equal parts espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk).
On the other hand, a latte has a little more leeway because the ratios are less important. In fact, they vary depending on the size of the drink!
No matter how big or small a latte is, the amount of espresso and the amount of milk froth is the same.
This is what gives the texture of the milk the perfect consistency for latte art!
Latte vs Cappuccino: FAQs
Hopefully, by now you have a better idea about what goes into each of these popular coffee drinks so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting next time you order.
But perhaps you still have questions.
Here are some of the most common questions we get asked in our coffee shops in Portugal.
What has more milk: cappuccino or latte?
Given that a latte is typically served in a larger mug than a cappuccino, it should contain more milk.
Again, this can vary from one coffee shop to another, and even from country to country (such as the USA, where coffee typically comes with more size options).
No matter whether it’s made with whole milk, almond milk or oat milk, your cappuccino should come in a smaller cup than a latte from the same coffee house.
Is latte weaker than cappuccino?
As we’ve already seen, the caffeine content of a latte and cappuccino should be the same.
That’s because both drinks start with a single shot of espresso or a double shot of espresso.
How many shots of espresso are used is determined by the shop, not the drink, so it won’t make a difference to your order.
However, because of the different amounts of hot milk used in each, the flavour can differ a lot.
Most drinkers consider a cappuccino to be a strong coffee compared to a latte because it has less milk to water down the coffee taste.
Which is sweeter: cappuccino or latte?
Many coffee drinkers prefer lattes over cappuccinos because of the creamier – and sometimes sweeter – taste.
However, a lightly roasted coffee from a specialty coffee roaster can be sweeter than many cappuccinos out there.
This is especially true for fruity African coffee beans that can lean toward the sour side when used for espresso.
We roast our coffees to bring out their sweetest flavours and many customers are surprised that they don’t need to add sugar.
So, while a cappuccino can have a stronger coffee flavour, it only tastes bitter if the coffee used for the espresso shot is bitter (as is the case with most commercial coffee).
Which is better: latte or cappuccino?
The million-dollar question – and one that we can’t possibly answer!
For a start, lattes and cappuccinos seem to be equally popular between our staff and customers, and we’re sure that’s common elsewhere too.
At the end of the day it all comes down to personal taste (and perhaps even the quality of the coffee you’re drinking).
If you like both, it may even depend on how big of a drink you feel like having that day.
One thing is for sure, though: it’s usually easier to create a cappuccino when you’re making coffee at home.
Achieving that latte art-worthy foam texture of a latte is an art in and of itself – and one that is hard to achieve without a professional machine and professional barista skills.