Cappuccino vs Traditional Coffee Types – How well do you know the difference?


Half espresso, half frothed and steamed milk, you really can’t go wrong with a cappuccino. An elegant combination of simplicity and creamy bitterness, whether you’re a brew beginner or veteran, chances are you’ve got a weak spot for this espresso-based delight.

That said, we all have our preferences. Personally, I prefer the bitter, acidic taste of a dense, untethered espresso, while others often opt for a calmer, creamier breve. If you’re struggling to pick your poison, you might just not know all your coffees and their traits yet.

The cappuccino vs coffee question is an important one, are you aware of all the nuances? Who knows, that trusty cappuccino might not be what you thought it was, and you might have been drinking a latte this whole time, let’s find out!

What makes the perfect Cappuccino?

You’ll only ever drink the perfect cappuccino if you do it according to what you like. I’d be lying if I said coffee creation was simple enough that there’s only 1 right way to do it.

Generally, the proportions for a cappuccino should really be at a 1 to 1 ratio of espresso to steamed full cream milk. Any more steamed milk and you’re treading in latte territory.

And though that might not be a fatal fate, you might just want to know the difference the next time a guest galivants through for coffee. Bearing all of that in mind, if you want to prepare this brew at home, you’re going to need both a milk steamer and espresso machine.

That might set you back a good bit, but the steamer I bought has been put to relentless use and I don’t regret the purchase for a second.

Also see: Frappe vs Frappuccino – How well do you know the difference?

What’s the Difference Between Coffee and Cappuccino?

The cappuccino may seem as conventional as they come, but that doesn’t mean that it’s free from nuance or incorrect labelling. Coffee, at the most has a handful of ingredients per brew, which means one ingredient or portion change can make or break its taste.

For example, on paper, the traditional latte is practically the same drink as the cappuccino, merely containing a dash more milk and a splash more foam. Regardless, both brews have a completely different flavor profile and mouth feel, it’s the equivalent of asking for a milkshake and just getting milk!

And if it isn’t the ingredients that set coffees apart, then it’s the way their processed. Your typical Turkish coffee is made in a cezve, a brass pot that doesn’t filter your coffee and thus gives you an earthier, oilier taste you wouldn’t expect in an espresso product.

Needless to say, there’s a cacophony of coffee making methods and ingredients which isn’t even getting into whether you want your brew served hot or cold. Between drip coffee, macchiatos or mochas, what differentiates the coffee from the cappuccino is never the same. Let’s see!

Cappuccino vs Americano

The americano, may have originated from the gruelling ranks of American soldiers in World War II, but it’s an elegant and subtle brew that, even if you’re not aware of the name, have probably already had about a million times.

If you want to make one of these at home, just add 7 parts water to one part espresso and wait for the cuppa to cool. When you buy an americano, you get what you pay for every time, a reliable, working man’s mug of brown stuff, no more, no less.

In terms of health effects, you’re going to find the americano to only have about 2.7 calories per serving, a number dwarfed by the milk rich cappuccino.

Nevertheless, the coffee beans it contains provide micronutrients such as magnesium and riboflavin, that act to both enrich taste, and quality of life.

Your morning cappuccino shares these nutrients with the added drawback of a fattening, high content of steamed milk.

The fact remains that both of these concoctions are a great alternative to the, at times overpowering and over-acidic espresso shot. If you’ve been drinking pure espresso shots and suffer from acid reflux, it might be a good idea to look into these brews to soften its passage to the tummy.

Studies have shown overly acidic coffees to be a major cause of harmful acid build-up in the stomach that can often lead to stomach ulcers and other health complications.

Cappuccino vs Latte

The latte is without a doubt the best candidate for doppelgänger of the trusty cappuccino. In fact, both coffees were invented at the same time in the same Viennese coffee house.

Owing their existence to their predecessor, the Kapuziner, these goliaths of the grog game are now separate drinks, distinguished solely by serving size and milk content. Contrary to the cappuccino’s half milk half espresso mantra, the steamed milk in a latte dwarfs the beans and their bitterness.

Lattes will often be served with 1 shot espresso and 2 shots steamed milk, this makes for a much more luxurious, smooth and digestible drink, a staple of artisan breweries worldwide. If you’ve never ordered one at a restaurant of brewery, here’s what to expect.

The serving size will be rather large, about a 1/3rd bigger than a cappuccino and about the same as an americano. Most importantly, if the barista sculpts a fine design into the top of your coffee, it means the milk has been expertly steamed and your drink was made the right way.

Oftentimes, averse to wispy light milk, you might be faced with a blobby, dense white pattern. Keep that in mind when you tip the waiter, that sort of milk will often taste sour and miss the mark on being both fluffy and flavorful.

This brewer’s obsession with making the most expertly steamed milk has now turned into a medium of creativity. Nationwide competitions take place every year in the discipline of latte art, a not so mean but milky feat for those who dare to compete!

Cappuccino vs Macchiato

The macchiato, when seen first-hand really feels like the ugly duckling of the pack. Among the other elegant espresso-based drinks like the cappuccino and the latte, the macchiato, an espresso shot with foam on it, looks sickly to say the least.

I say all this with the caveat that the macchiato is one of my favorite at home brews, a simple recipe and a delicious result! How do you make one and how’s it different to the cappuccino? Well, seeing as it’s only made of espresso and foam, you’re not going to need any extra utensils.

Not only that, but with the drink being so small in size, the preparation takes half as long for the same volume of caffeine. This sort of drink is quite strong so, if you’re weening yourself off the delights of dairy and don’t like your caffeine watered down, this might just be the next concoction you need.

The lower milk content of the drink allows for a significantly lower calories count and removes some of the risks steamed milk may have. For example, studies have repeatedly shown that a hormone present in milk-producing cows, known as bovine somatropin, has clear links to colon and breast cancer.

Cappuccino vs Mocha

The mocha, moderately modern in comparison to the cappuccino, is yet another milky espresso derivative. So, what’s the difference? This one, adverse to the bitter cuppa cappuccino is often served sweet.

A mocha, more often than not, can contain cocoa powder, sugar, sweeteners and other such gourmandize. If you’re on a diet, you might want to switch to one of these at the brewery, but you really shouldn’t.

Plus, the milk you get in one of these isn’t steamed, and so makes the drink, thicker, denser, richer and unfortunately, much more calorific.

That fact, combined with the sweet tooth condiments your barista chooses makes it a nastily, deviously delicious treat. If you drink coffee for its bitter, rough taste, look elsewhere, this one’s got a different target audience.

Cappuccino vs Drip Coffee

Drip, brewed, filtered, pour-over coffee, whatever it is to you, it’s not a cappuccino for a good few reasons. Firstly, it’s important to remember that drip coffee is much more of an umbrella term than the previous recipes.

All you really need for coffee to be “drip” is to pour hot water over grounds and let them brew. Realistically, you can use a percolator, paper filter, French press or any other of the literal hundreds of methods available to brew your coffee.

The cappuccino, on the other hand, can’t be counted as brew coffee. Though the creation of an espresso shot needs hot water to go through grounds, it forcefully pushed through the coffee, and so can’t be given the same label as cappuccino.

If you’re drinking filtered coffee, bear in mind that you might be getting a little more than what you paid for. Certain filtering methods such as French presses use metal filtration which doesn’t remove all of the coffee’s harmful oils and products.

Though this attributes to the iconic taste a trademark French press, studies have shown that poorly filtered coffee can raise harmful bloodstream cholesterol levels.

So, is that all in your head? The next time your nosy neighbor quizzes your coffee savvy, snap back with what you know! You’re now full informed and have all the knowledge you need to begin experimenting with new coffee flavor like you did at first.

Remember, you can’t learn everything in text. So put what you’ve learnt to the test and steam up your first latte. And if you don’t have the tools, then take the opportunity to kit yourself up. The healthier the kitchen the healthier the person!

Forget traditionalism and experiment with palate, that’s what it’s there for.

home > Perfect your Brew > Cappuccino vs Traditional Coffee Types – How well do you know the difference?

Evelyn J Stafford

Evelyn is a Coffee enthusiast and writer for Wins Coffee Bar. Her work has appeared in Bean Scene, The Home Kitchen and other publications.

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