Latte vs Cappuccino – The 2 Most Common Coffee Compared

Have you ever wondered what makes a latte and cappuccino different from one another?

To some, the differences may seem nonexistent. They comprise of milk foam, steamed milk and espresso right?

But if you start digging deeper, you’ll soon realise that these two espresso drinks each possess their own unique identities.

Let’s take a closer look at what differentiates a latte to a cappuccino.

Latte vs Cappuccino – A Quick Comparison : 

Latte is a milk-based espresso beverage that consists of steamed milk and espresso. It’s an excellent option for those who want to enjoy espresso without the bite.

Cappuccino is a foamy drink that offers equal parts foam, steamed milk, and espresso. Due to the ratio, the punch of the espresso is maintained.

The Full Name for Latte is Caffe Latte

Translate - Caffe Latte means Coffee with Milk

The caffé portion literally means coffee and clarifies what type of latte we are talking about. A latte means milk. 

Since there are matcha lattes, chai lattes, and more, stating the Italian word for coffee allows you to be more specific.

As you might have guessed from the Italian name, the latte was first discovered in Italy. In coffee tradition, there is record of this drink from as early as 1847.

Read More : Flat White vs Latte – Find Out the Differences

There are 2 Versions of Latte

Barista Making Latte Art

It’s widely accepted that there are two versions of latte – Italian and American.

Italian version. The Italian version of a latte is quite different from the American version. In Italy, the milk used for this latte is simply heated instead of being steamed. 

American version. Here in the U.S., the foam created by the steaming process has become one of the most identifiable factors of this drink.

Rather than being airy, the milk for a latte is intended to offer a creamy sensation to the palate.

This is accomplished by the creation of micro-foam. 

What is a Micro-foam?

Micro-foam contains bubbles that are so small you can barely differentiate them from one another, accounting for the smoothness of a latte.

Micro-foam is also necessary in order to create latte art on top of the drink. 

This is my favorite part of ordering a latte and was also what I looked forward to most when I worked in coffee. There’s nothing like a snowy white Rosetta or heart on top of rich, brown espresso.

Milk Chocolate is a Great Compliment to Latte

Coffee Latte Art with Chocolate

Since a latte is a milk-based drink, it’s important to make sure the snack you pick compliments it rather than overpowering it. 

Something with a relatively light flavor is preferable.

A fruity dessert might be selected, though you must be careful to choose delicate flavors. A chocolate dessert goes well. Just be careful to avoid anything too bitter or intense like dark chocolate. 

Milk chocolate is great option.

Pastries are also delicious alongside a latte. My personal favorite is a chocolate chip cookie or chocolate-dipped Madeleines. Yum!

At the first coffee shop in San Francisco that I worked in, my go-to breakfast when I opened the shop at 5am was an iced breve latte accompanied by a chocolate chip pound cake.

Now that we know what a latte is, let’s take a look at cappuccino.

Cappuccino is also Known as Cappuccini in Italy

Cappuccino Word Beside Italian Flag

The cappuccino, also known as “cappuccini” by Italians, became recognized when espresso machines were introduced to Europe.

Originally, cappuccinos were comprised of milk, espresso, whipped cream and chocolate shavings, making them quite different from the version we know today.

But once barista training became more refined, the modern-day cappuccino was born. The cappuccino we know today consists of foam, steamed milk, and espresso.

Cappuccino has Equal Parts of Foam, Steamed Milk and Espresso

Cappuccino Composition Explained

A cappuccino is divided equally into three parts:

  • Foam
  • Steamed milk
  • Espresso

It’s generally served in a 6oz cup, allowing each of these sections to claim about a third of the cup. The foam nestled on top of the steamed milk and espresso of a cappuccino should be light as air.

Traditional cappuccinos that adhere to the rule of thirds are served in a 6oz cup. However, if you choose to order a larger size in a more casual setting, you may be asked to specify how much foam you’d like.

There are types of cappuccino that you can order at the cafe:

  • Wet Cappuccino. You’ll still be getting all of the traditional elements in your drink. The difference is that the foam crowning the top of the beverage will be a little wetter, making it something of a mix between a latte and a very foamy cappuccino.
  • Dry Cappuccino. It’s different than a wet cappuccino in that instead of allowing the foam to be denser (wet), the airiness of the foam is embraced fully. This results in a larger portion of the cup consisting of feather-light bubbles. A dry cappuccino is ideal if you’re crazy about foam!

It’s great to have the option to customize your drink. But, remember that the larger the size, the more diluted the espresso is going to be as you’ll need to alter the ratios as you accommodate more milk.

Read More : Dry vs Wet Cappuccino – What’s the Difference?

Choose a Mellow Treat to go with A Cappuccino

Similar to the latte, you’ll want to select a mellow treat to go with your cappuccino.

Ice cream is a common choice, especially during the summer months. Still, if you’re like me, you enjoy some texture. These two are well-matched as far as flavors go, but if you prefer that the two retain their own identities, I’d suggest going with a treat that is a little more robust.

A plain donut, crossaint or cinnamon coffee cake would be great options. They aren’t too strong in taste and contain mostly neutral-tasting white flour. 

However, the little bit of sweetness from the sugar is the perfect match for the strength of the espresso beneath all that foam.

If you want to get crazy, try fig newtons with your capp. You can even pop them in the microwave if you want to add a little extra decadence.

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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.