While both Cappuccino and Latte are Italian-origin drinks made with espresso and milk, they have a lot of differences among them. This article on Cappuccino vs Latte explores these differences in depth. Read the complete article to know them fully!
What is a Cappuccino?
Cappuccino is a coffee drink with an espresso base that contains equal parts milk and a layer of foam over the espresso. This means that all these three ingredients are in equal proportions or 1/3rd of the total volume of the drink.
History Of The Cappuccino
Europeans were adding milk to their coffees in the 18th century itself, and there are references to Cappuccino in 19th-century Italian writings. It is thought that the name was inspired by the resemblance of the color of the drink to the color of the hooded robes that monks of the Capuchin order used to wear.
But the Cappuccino drink in its modern form gained popularity after the Second World War. From Italy, it spread to the United Kingdom and later to Europe, South America, Australia, and parts of North America. The coffee culture boom and the opening of coffee chains in the 1980s acted as a catalyst for its growth.
What is a Latte?
The word Latte means milk in the Italian language. The drink, like the Cappuccino, is made with an espresso base and pouring steamed milk on top of it. It has a small layer of foam on top of the steamed milk, which carries the intricate patterns known as latte art in them.
Creating latte art requires considerable skill with fresh espresso, decent crema, and smooth texture of the steamed milk with no visible bubbles being its important prerequisites.
Latte Macchiato is also an espresso drink prepared by pouring espresso over the milk. It has much more foam than Latte and is a layered drink like a Cappuccino made with half a shot of espresso or even less.
History Of The Latte
Americans are normally credited for the spread of Latte drinks in their current form. The strong, intense, and bitter taste of the espresso was difficult for them to handle. So, they started adding a substantial quantity of steamed or frothed milk to reduce the intensity and bitterness.
The Latte drink has a remarkable ability to adapt to various types and quantities of milk and syrups, which has made it a very popular drink.
Similarities In Cappuccinos and Lattes
Before going into the details of their differences, let us examine the similarities between the two drinks.
Ingredients and Equipment
Both have the same ingredients, which are essential to prepare these popular coffee drinks – Espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. In addition, both these espresso drinks are made in coffee shops using the same equipment – the espresso machine and its steam wand. In the absence of an espresso machine at home, you can prepare a decent approximation of the drink using the Moka pot or Aeropress.
Both these popular espresso drinks mostly use dark roasted coffee beans, which are a blend of Robusta and Arabica beans. Though in Northern Italy, slightly lighter roasts are preferred.
Both these espresso beverages generally use single or double-shot espresso, though caffè latte may sometimes have more than two shots – three or even four.
Milk, along with the quality of the pulled espresso shots, defines these drinks and is an equally important ingredient. Procuring good quality milk and its proper handling, steaming, aeration to create the microform (also known as the wet foam), grooming, and pouring will decide whether you get a perfect Cappuccino or not.
You can use whole milk, two 2% skimmed milk, low-fat milk, or any of the dairy-free alternatives, but skimmed milk usually has more proteins that are essential for the required texture in the foamed milk. We have dealt with these aspects in detail in the following articles.
As long as the number and shot length (ristretto, normal, and lungo) of the espresso shots are the same, the caffeine content in the caffe latte and the cappuccino will remain the same. But, if you add some dark chocolate or any other caffeine-containing ingredients to your espresso drink, the amount of caffeine will increase.
Lattes with three or four shots of espresso will definitely have a much higher caffeine content than the cappuccino with one or two shots.
Cappuccino vs Latte – Key Differences
Now let us examine the main differences between the two drinks.
Differences in Recipe i.e., the Ratios of the Coffee to Milk Components
Let us consider the volume of the cappuccino drink prepared to be 180 ml or six fl oz and the volume of the latte to be 240 ml or eight fl oz for comparison purposes.
Cappuccinos are served in different ratios in Italy and outside. In any coffee shop in Europe and America, a traditional cappuccino has a ratio of 1 : 1 : 1 for espresso coffee, steamed hot milk, and frothed milk. This translates to 60 ml volume for each of these three components in a 180 ml coffee drink. The ratio is commonly referred to as the rule of thirds.
In Italy, there is no defined ratio between espresso and milk, but steamed milk and micro-foam are added in equal quantities. The coffee is added first to the cup, and the balance volume of the cup is filled with equal parts steamed and milk and milk froth. Hence the ratio can be 1 : 1 : 1 or 1 : 2 : 2.
Traditionally, the Italian cappuccino has a single espresso shot, and the rest of the cup has an equal part of milk and foam. In a 180 ml coffee serving, this results in 30 ml espresso and 75 ml of milk and foam each. If you use two shots, you get the same ratios as those used worldwide.
Now let us consider a 240 ml serving size for the Latte with a double shot of espresso. Lattes with a single shot of espresso are not very common, as they contain more milk.
The milk ratio can vary from 1 : 3 to 1 : 9, depending on the drinker’s preference. In a 240 ml drink, with the volume of espresso and milk being 60 ml and 180 ml, respectively, the ratio works out to 1:3. Similarly, in a 600 ml latte drink with two shots of espresso, which are quite prevalent in America, the ratio works out to 1:9 (60 ml and 540 ml).
In expressing the ratios for a latte, we do not account for the foamed milk, as it forms a thin layer of almost standard depth.
Differences in Serving Sizes and Serving Styles
Cappuccinos are served in the standard serving sizes of 150 ml to 180 ml, equivalent to five or six fl oz, and have one or two shots of espresso in them. The serving size of a latte can vary between 240 ml to 600 ml, and they contain two to four espresso shots in them.
Cappuccinos are normally served in cups with handles, while most coffee shops serve lattes in a glass with a napkin to hold it.
Differences in Aeration and Texture of the Milk
Cappuccinos are prepared with highly aerated milk that has a high viscosity. If you spin the pitcher after steaming and frothing the milk, the milk should appear to stick to its walls. The top of the milk should have a glassy and silky texture without any visible bubbles.
In Lattes, moderately aerated milk will do the job. The milk will have a higher viscosity than when it was cold but should not appear to stick to the walls of the pitcher when spun.
The difference in the Depth of the Foam in the Milk
A standard Cappuccino with a five to six fl oz serving size in a cup with a handle will have a foam depth of about 1/2 to 3/4 inches. You can see this depth after the wet foam has completely separated from the milk by pushing the foam to one side with the help of a spoon.
In the same way, a latte served in glass will usually have a foam depth of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, irrespective of the serving size.
The difference in Coffee Flavor and Taste
As you would have guessed, cappuccinos with comparatively less milk but a rich layer of creamy and dense foam will preserve the flavors of a well-brewed espresso and provide a smooth texture. The closer the cappuccino is to being lukewarm, the more sweeter it will appear and give you more pleasure.
Heating the milk to temperatures upwards of 68°C (154°F) denatures the proteins irreversibly, resulting in not-so-pleasant flavors. This is true even for the latte drinks.
A latte is a larger drink with more parts of heated milk. This milky coffee has less intense coffee flavors and is considered milder than Cappuccino.
Differences in Calories and Sugars
Each fl oz of Cappuccino drink generally has between 8 to 10 calories and 0.75 to 1 gm of sugar. Lattes have these values in the range of 11.5 to 13 calories and 1 to 1.2 gm of sugars per fl oz.
Higher-sized drinks tend to have more calories and sugars per fl oz than the smaller serving sizes. You can see that a Latte has about 30% more calories and sugars than cappuccinos per fl oz.
A latte will also have higher amounts of proteins, total fat content, and carbohydrates due to its higher milk content.
Added Flavors and other Ingredients
As cappuccino preserves more coffee flavors, it does not need flavorings except for those flavors that blend easily with the natural flavors of the beans, like cinnamon and cocoa powder.
As milk dominates in any form of a latte over the coffee flavor, you have the flexibility of adding many flavors and syrups, particularly the sweeter ones, like, caramel, hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla, mocha, chocolate syrup, etc.
We hope that you have clearly understood all the differences and intricacies of these two extremely popular espresso-based drinks. If you still have any doubts, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.