Dry vs Wet Cappuccino – What’s the Difference?

Dry vs Wet Cappuccino – What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably ordered a cappuccino at the cafe before, but did you know there are several variants of it?

There is a standard cappuccino, wet, dry and bone dry cappuccino.

While they are technically still a cappuccino, there are slight differences between them. So, let’s take a deeper look into the differences between a dry and wet cappuccino.

Dry vs Wet Cappuccino – A Quick Comparison : 

A wet cappuccino has more steamed milk and less milk foam, while a dry cappuccino has more milk foam with little steamed milk.

Origins of Cappuccino

Pouring Milk into A Cappuccino

The origin of the word cappuccino refers to the Italian word for hood or hooded.

This signature cap or hood of milk foam at the top is what makes a cappuccino so distinctive from other types of coffee beverages.

In other words, it isn’t a cappuccino without the hood of milk foam to top it off.

What Makes It a Cappuccino?

Cappuccino is made up of 3 main components:

  1. Espresso
  2. Steamed milk
  3. Milk foam

A standard cappuccino in many places is often equal parts each of espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. In some cases, many baristas and coffee aficionados will argue that it should be closer to 40% espresso and 30% each of steamed milk and milk foam.

Personally, I would argue that I don’t care much rwhat the percentages round up to as long as the shots are pulled properly and aren’t burnt.

Steamed Milk vs Milk Foam

No matter how much espresso is in your cappuccino, however, the levels of steamed milk and milk foam within the drink are what really make up the key difference between what is considered a wet cappuccino and what is considered a dry cappuccino.

Let’s take a look into the difference between steamed milk and milk foam in a cappuccino.

Steamed milk is heated with the aid of the espresso machine’s milk wand, but the texture does not change. Steamed milk remains the typical consistency of milk, just at a higher temperature.

Milk foam, on the other hand, has been structurally altered by the amount of air injected into the milk by the same wand. This is the fluffy white froth that tops cappuccinos and many other coffee drinks, including some lattes.

None of the ingredients of the cappuccino have to change in order for this distinction to be made, only the levels of the steamed milk and milk foam.

Wet Cappuccino has More Steamed Milk

Composition of Wet Cappuccino
A wet cappuccino has more steamed milk and less milk foam.

As the name suggests, a wet cappuccino has more liquid, which means that this type of cappuccino will have more steamed milk and less milk foam.

Since less air has been injected into the overall components of the drink, it is not as dry.

If you ask your barista for a very wet cappuccino, you are asking that they add significantly more steamed milk than usual and less milk foam on top.

If you’re a fan of watching your barista pour some exciting looking artwork onto the top of your drink, a word to the wise – they will have a far easier time doing so with a wet cappuccino as more liquid allows more freedom to shape their pour. 

Isn’t that a Latte?

Well, not necessarily.

A latte will have far less milk foam, or even none at all in many cases. 

While wet cappuccinos are closer in nature to lattes, so long as the drink has a noticeable amount of milk foam on top, it is still generally considered a cappuccino. 

Fun Fact : If you can get to the steamed milk fairly quickly as you sip the beverage, you might be drinking a latte. 

If it’s hard to get that far into your drink without some milk foam sticking to your upper lip, then you are still in cappuccino territory. 

Ask for a super wet cappuccino, on the other hand, and you’ll most surely be presented with a latte.

Read More : Latte vs Cappuccino – The 2 Most Common Coffee Compared

What about Flat White?

Not quite! 

A flat white will have almost no milk foam at all. 

The froth you notice on top of a flat white is mostly a layer of the espresso’s crema that has blended with the steamed milk.

Read More : Flat White vs Cappuccino – How Different Are They? 

A Dry Cappuccino Has More Milk Foam

Composition of Dry Cappuccino
A dry cappuccino has ore milk foam and little to no steamed milk.

By contrast to both the latte and the flat white, a dry cappuccino has far more milk foam and much less steamed milk added to it. 

This means that more air has been incorporated into the drink and it is therefore dry. 

Some would argue that a dry cappuccino stays hot much longer than a wet one because the milk foam will insulate the espresso from its exposure to the air, it is more likely simply a matter of preference. 

A dry cappuccino will retain more of the espresso’s natural flavor, while a wet cappuccino will allow the steamed milk to add a flavor of its own to the espresso. 

What is A Bone Dry Cappuccino?

Bone Dry Cappuccino

When you hear someone say that they would like a bone dry cappuccino, what they are saying is that they do not want any steamed milk at all added to their cappuccino.

A bone dry cappuccino has only espresso with milk foam on top of it.

There is no steamed milk to mix with the espresso, and as it is drunk, there is often quite a lot of milk foam left behind in the cup because it is much more difficult for that light and airy milk foam to blend into the rest of the drink. 

The coffee is easier to drink than the froth on top of it. This is part of the reason it can be much trickier for a barista to achieve any latte art on the surface. More air makes the foam more challenging to control into that beautiful rosetta pattern. 

A bone dry cappuccino will usually take a little longer for the barista to prepare as it takes time to froth much more milk foam with the milk wand.

Read More : 21 Common Types of Coffee Around the World

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About Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee is a former barista who discovered the power of coffee while maintaining a rigorous dance and writing schedule. She trained as a barista in the third-wave coffee industry, receiving in-depth instruction about how to assemble traditional espresso drinks and perfecting her latte art skills.