How many times have you get together with your friends at a local coffee shop or a gourmet cafe and wonder, “these two look the same, what should I order?’ We have news for you; there’s a lot of people asking themselves that same question.
As you may already know, this has been brought to any coffee expert’s attention more than once. It might be difficult to distinguish each other since both of them are basically made using the same ingredients: a strong espresso base, followed by steamed and foamed milk. In addition to this, truth to be told, in most coffee shops, the baristas might not be too consistent in terms of the preparation process of each drink. They are giving you the impression the both of them are the same.
We will try to explain and detail the ingredients and the preparation process that each beverage has in order for you to get the hang of it and be clear on what should be your type of coffee drink for the next gathering.
First, some history, the name Cappuccino, comes from Italy. Although there have been many quarrels about its origin. There is a legend that states they have been named after the Capuchin monks. These monks are the ones you have seen in pictures wearing brown cowls and having their heads shaved bald. It makes sense if you actually look a well prepared Cappuccino cup.
It has a “monk’s head” design made of a brown espresso ring circling the white foam. Normally a Capuccino is considered the proper blend of the following components: 1/3 espresso coffee. 1/3 steamed milk. 1/3 foamed milk. In this beverage, the coffee doesn’t mix with the milk, making it taste “stronger.”
Generally, a Cappuccino cup is 5 to 6 ounces, much smaller than a Latte cup. This is really important in order to get the perfect balance between that espresso flavor and the exact amount of milk. Cappuccino foam can be either dry or velvety (also known as “microfoam”). Dry foam has a light, large, bulky bubbles while you can barely notice bubbles in the velvety foam.
Most of the times, you’ll notice a Cappuccino is prepared by following these steps:
• They’ll first pour the base: an espresso shot into your cup
• Next you proceed to pour the steamed milk
• Then you carefully pour 0.5 to 1 inch of foamed milk
• Finally you can also pour a pinch of chocolate powder (or not)
If you don’t want to put yourself through this process, you can also just use an automatic Cappuccino maker, and if you don’t have one. Take a trip to the closest coffee shop in your neighborhood once you are ready to drink it. You’ll be able to perfectly notice the three layers in both texture and flavor (when properly served, it should be through a clear cristal cup).
To add the chocolate powder is a question that has caused several debates surrounding how Cappuccinos should be prepared. For example, if you are in Italy and ask for a cup of Cappuccino, you will definitely not get such powder. But if you order it in Australia or the United Kingdom, you will get it. Here in the US. It will depend on what coffee shop or cafe you’re visiting.
Now, in all honesty, we have to be clear: There’s no standardized form in which a Cappuccino should or shouldn’t be prepared, and most likely, it will also depend on what the customers expect or even demand of their beverages depending on where are they located. Most baristas will give you an easy answer to this dilemma: ask for two cups, one with chocolate powder and the other one without it. That way, you can taste and compare the difference, and then you’ll have your own opinion on this matter, being this the safest way to ask your beverage the way you like it the most.
While the beverage we know as Latte has different names in many countries, the one we commonly order in coffee shops (or cafes) is a US invention. On this beverage, coffee and liquid milk do get mixed together. Some people might say that Latte is ‘Cappuccino’s big brother”, and in this case, it’s all about the soft, silky foam. Normally it’s prepared with 1 /3 of espresso base and 2/3 of steamed milk and finally a tiny foam layer (less than half an inch). When talking about Latte, the texture is really important because it will add that beautiful look to this beverage. Have you ever noticed those cups that have been decorated with hearts, animal shapes, or any other drawing? Those cups have been filled with Latte; when your foam has fine tiny bubbles, you are able to make those things.
In order to make a Latte, usually, it goes like this:
• Again we begin with the espresso shot base into the cup
• Next you will pour the steamed milk
• Then also pour just a ‘finger width” of milk foam
• Finally the piece of art is optional
In order to get that fine Latte foam layer, you’ll need to pour the liquid steamed milk to your espresso base while using a spoon to prevent the foam from getting mixed in the process.
FUN FACT: Did you know that in Italy, a “Caffe Latte” is simply coffee with milk? And if you happen to ask for a “Latte,” you’ll get just plain milk. A very simple way to remember this interesting piece of knowledge is to simply go ahead and translate the Italian word “Latte” to English, and it happens to mean “milk.”
Addressing the main concern: What’s the difference?
We know you might keep thinking they’re way too similar, but now we will be pointing out the actual differences that set them apart.
For starters, it should be clear by now that a Cappuccino has more foam than steamed milk compared to a Latte. This is because in a Latte they combine most of the liquid steamed milk and a thin foam layer; this silk-like layer will be gone after a couple of sips, but will definitely leave the entire delightful experience of the drink on your overall mouthfeel. Also, as we have discussed, you might add the “extra topping” a.k.a chocolate powder on your Cappuccino, while with a Latte, this does not occur.
In many coffee shops nowadays, baristas have been instructed to use the same amount of steamed milk in order to have the same texture, and they accomplish this by using the exact same method regardless of what drink they are preparing. They compensate this by using different sizes when pouring each drink, with a Cappuccino being smaller (between 5 to 6 ounces) and the Latte tending to be slightly larger (8 to 12 ounces). Even though this might not help in terms of flavor, just with this size difference, you will have a different texture perception because of the amount of foam. This can be easily noticed, especially when poured in a crystal cup.
Now talking about their flavor, you might think the two of them are practically identical. However, a Cappuccino might taste slightly sweeter if you ask for the extra chocolate powder, and it also will have a stronger coffee taste since it barely has liquid milk compared to a Latte, where the coffee and milk actually blend together and make the coffee strength to lower. You will also notice the texture difference in consumption. Since the Cappuccino is foamier, it will taste thicker, and you can enjoy it by clearing out the foam with a spoon. In the meantime, there’s less foam on a Latte, and it will go down faster and smoother.
We can summarize the differences in the following list:
- In a Cappuccino, you’ll have equally distributed the espresso, the steamed milk, and the foamed milk. A Latte contains more steamed milk and a tiny foam layer. This can be noticed just by looking at your cup.
- In a Cappuccino, coffee and milk don’t mix. That’s why you can perfectly notice the three layers, while in a Latte the both of them, coffee and milk, are blended together.
- If you want to, you can ask for the chocolate powder to be poured into your Capuccino. You can’t ask for this in a Latte.
- A Capuccino’s coffee flavor feels stronger than a Latte’s, because of the portion of liquid milk used in each of them.
Final questions: What Should I Order? Cappuccino or Latte?
Definitely not an easy question to answer, but here we will try to make it easier for you: If you like the strong coffee flavor with some extra foam and perhaps chocolate powder while we’re in it, then you happen to be a Cappuccino person. But on the other hand, rather have your coffee not that strong with some milky taste and almost no foam (and definitely no extra topping) a Latte is your way to go.
We hope you find this article interesting, and all of your doubts have been perfectly cleared. You are now all set, go make your order and feel free to lecture anybody else about these two delicious beverages. Let us know what’s your way to go. Cappuccino or Latte lover? We also have a guide on Espresso Vs Coffee!