Latte vs Cappuccino: Which to Choose?
Many people go into their local coffee shop and are often confused by all of the names and coffee variations presented to them! It can be very overwhelming to try and make a decision on which coffee to have in such a short space of time, especially when you don’t really know what each of them is!
So, I’ve put together this article to take a step in the right direction and explain the difference between a cappuccino and a latte, two of the most popular, milky espresso based drinks.
Whilst these coffees may sound similar, they are actually quite different in their taste and texture.
What is the Difference Between a Latte and a Cappuccino?
Well, a cappuccino is made from ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk and ⅓ foam, whereas a latte is made from ⅓ espresso and ⅔ steamed milk. A Latte only has a small amount of foam on the top, which is used to create ‘latte art’. Whereas, a cappuccino uses a lot more foam and is often topped with cocoa dust.
Both of these coffees were popularised in the European mecca of coffee, Italy, however the cappuccino actually comes from Vienna originally.
If you want to understand more about the differences between a Latte and a cappuccino, continue on reading!
What is a Cappuccino?
A cappuccino is a very popular, traditional espresso based drink that combines rich, earthy, dark roasted espresso with equal parts hot, steamed milk and foam. The foam itself comes from the aeration of the milk, which is produced when the milk steaming wand is held on the surface of the milk.
A cappuccino is usually topped with chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder, to give it an extra hit of sweetness. When you drink a cappuccino, there is often a fair amount of foam left in the bottom of the cup, or around your mouth! This can then be enjoyed at the end of the drink, making it a longer, more luxurious drinking experience.
Generally speaking, dark roasted coffee is used to add a bit of sharpness to the drink and cut through all of that milk and foam! This offsets the sweet, creamy texture of the cappuccino and gives a welcome bitterness to the drink.
Where a Cappuccino Comes From
The origins of the cappuccino date back to the 1700s, and, as with a lot of coffee history, is a hotly debated topic. Most sources, such as the cappuccino Wikipedia page, concur that the first cappuccinos existed in Vienna and were drunk by the Habsburg Monarchy. In those days, the cappuccino was referred to as “kapuziner”.
The origins of the cappuccino’s original name “kapuziner” was so called because of the dark brown colour of the Capuchin Monk’s robes, as this represented the rich brown foam that topped the cappuccino even back then!
What a Cappuccino is
A cappuccino is a creamy, velvety smooth espresso based drink that is made from equal parts foam, steamed milk and espresso.
Generally speaking, dark roasted coffee beans are used to ensure the drinker can still taste the coffee amongst all of the creamy milk and foam!
I wrote an article explaining what a cappuccino is and how to make one here, so if you are interested in giving it a go yourself from the comfort of your own home, check it out!
What is a Latte?
A Latte is a rich, creamy espresso based drink that combines a double shot of espresso with double the volume of steamed milk, and a thin layer of foam to top it all off.
One of the defining characteristics of the latte is the aptly named “latte art” that they are so often finished with. Latte art is created when steamed milk is poured carefully on top of the espresso shot, and then foam is swirled around in a very specific manner to create patterns on top of the light brown crema.
Where a Latte Comes From
The origins of the latte begin in the heart of European coffee, Italy! The idea of combining coffee with hot milk is nothing new, and has been present throughout the entire history of coffee.
There has been mention of the original cappuccino back in the 1700s, but the common term for latte did not come into the mainstream lexicon until the mid 1800s. According to the Wikipedia page for the latte, the first reference to caffe e latte came in the essay “Italian Journeys” by William Dean Howells.
What a Latte is
A latte is a milky, espresso based drink that is made using a double shot of espresso, and ⅔ of a cup or approx 8 oz of steamed milk.
Whole milk is traditionally used for a latte as it has the most creamy and luscious texture, however milk alternatives like oat milk or soy milk have also become popular in recent years.
To make a latte, milk is steamed using a steaming wand or specially designed milk frother, until microbubbles (or microfoam) is formed. This gives the milk an even silkier texture and ensures you get the most pleasurable drinking experience possible from your latte!
The steamed milk is then poured over the double shot of espresso, and is typically made into a pattern, called ‘latte art’.
The Differences Between a Cappuccino and a Latte: Explained
So, here are the main differences between a cappuccino and a Latte. Whilst they may sound relatively similar, there are actually a number of key differences between them!
A Cappuccino uses More Foam than a Latte
One of the main distinguishing factors that sets a cappuccino apart from a latte is the amount of foam used in each drink.
A cappuccino uses less steamed milk and more foam compared to a latte, and this gives it its distinctive layered texture. On the other hand, a latte only includes a small amount of foam on the top of the drink to form latte art. The rest of the contents is made up of steamed milk and espresso.
Typically speaking, a 6 oz cappuccino contains 2 oz of steamed milk and 2 oz foam, whereas a 6 oz latte will typically contain around 3.5 oz of steamed milk and around 0.5 oz of foam.
A Cappuccino Uses Dark Roasted Coffee Beans
Traditionally, a cappuccino will use dark roasted coffee beans, as these tend to be stronger and more earthy in flavor than medium or light roasted beans. The idea is that a dark roasted coffee bean used in the cappuccinos espresso can stand up to the additional steamed milk and foam used to make the drink, so the coffee flavor can still be recognized.
While this is not always the case, especially in chain coffee shops that typically use the same coffee beans for every variety of drink unless specified, a traditional cappuccino uses dark roasted beans. Starbucks also uses dark roasted beans, which tend to be quite bitter. Find out why here.
This is not always the case with a latte, however, as more medium roasted coffee beans give the latte its distinctively mellow, well balanced taste.
A Latte Comes from Italy, Whereas a Cappuccino Comes from Vienna
You may think that the majority of coffee drinks come from Italy, but this is not the case with the cappuccino!
The cappuccino’s origins are based in Vienna, but it was then later popularised in Italy in the early 1900s. On the other hand, the Latte was first drunk in Italy, and it was later brought into mainstream Europe in the 1860s.
Lattes Have a Smoother Texture
Due to the fact that a latte contains a higher volume of steamed milk than a cappuccino, it tends to have a smoother, more velvety texture. Whilst a cappuccino is frothy and still pretty creamy, a latte has a lingering smoothness that few other coffee based drinks can match.
So, Which Should You Choose?
So, cappuccino or latte, which should you pick?
Well, despite sounding quite similar, a cappuccino and latte are actually quick different drinks!
A latte tends to have a more mellow, balanced and uniform taste and texture, whereas a cappuccino is a layered coffee drink that combines dark roasted espresso, steamed milk and a hefty helping of foam!
So, if you are looking for a coffee cup of joe that blends both espresso and steamed, hot milk in harmony, then a creamy latte is the way to go. However, if you prefer a range of textures in your cup of coffee and like to scoop up that delicious foam at the end, then a cappuccino is best for you.
Overall, a cappuccino and Latte are very different espresso based drinks, despite being made from similar ingredients! It is the ratios of coffee to milk and length of time steaming the milk itself that sets these two similar sounding coffees apart.
So, next time you are in your local coffee shop and stroll up to the counter, you’ll know which of these two coffees to go for!
Which is Healthier, Latte or Cappuccino?
Since a latte contains a higher volume of steamed milk, and therefore more fat and calories, a cappuccino is generally considered more healthy than a latte. Cappuccinos contain more foam, which is milk that is heavily aerated and is therefore less dense and calorific.
Is a Latte or a Cappuccino Sweeter?
Despite a cappuccino usually being topped with cocoa dust or chocolate powder, a latte is actually usually the sweeter of the two drinks. This is because a latte contains a higher amount of steamed milk, which has a natural sweetness above and beyond regular cold milk or foam.