Cappuccino vs. Latte
Cappuccino vs Latte
Even for a coffee enthusiast, it’s not always easy to tell all the existing coffee drinks apart from each other. What with all the exquisite sounding names and overlapping ingredients and recipes. Defining cappuccino vs latte is one such task that can make us scratch our head with a confused frown.
They may seem alike, but there is a well-defined line between them. Some coffee bars might have blurred the line between the two either intentionally or unintentionally (I’m looking at you, Starbucks), but if we look into their origins and traditions, the difference easily becomes apparent.
Cappuccino vs Latte: What’s the Difference?
What Exactly is a Cappuccino?
This coffee drink is of Italian origin. Traditionally concocted with espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, cappuccino is so named after its semblance in color with the garments worn by Capuchin friars.
It requires an espresso machine to make the cappuccino we know today. Espresso consists of a third of one serving and goes at the bottom of the cup. Hot milk is poured over onto the espresso adding another third. This milk had been heated and textured using the machine’s steam wand. Finally, milk foam completes the drink by adding the top third of the cup.
History of the Cappuccino
The word cappuccino means ‘small capuchin’. Germans and Austrians adapted and modified it to kapuziner which was a coffee drink in 18th century Austria.
The use of milk is a relatively late innovation that came with the invention of the fridge. Before that, kapuziner was prepared using whipped cream and egg. It became a popular drink in Austria and Italy during World War I.
It was in the 1930s in Italy when cappuccino was first mentioned and photographed. The following decades saw new ways of preparing the drink by topping with steamed milk and milk foam.
Espresso machines came after World War II, further redefining how cappuccino was made.
The Taste and Texture of a Cappuccino
Cappuccino retains its bitter taste from the espresso despite the milk that adds a slight sweetness to the drink. Depending on the type of roast and intensity of the espresso, you can taste a varying range of bitter, nutty, and acidic flavors. Some would even note a dark chocolatey taste.
It has a creamy texture due to its layer of microfoam.
What Exactly is a Latte?
It is a coffee drink prepared using one to two shots of espresso and steamed milk. Like a cappuccino, it is also topped with a layer of frothed milk.
The full Italian name for it is caffe latte or caffelatte meaning ‘coffee and milk. It is shortened in English as Latte.
Café au lait is a northern European name for the same blend of coffee and milk, but in America, this name is used for brewed coffee and scalded milk. In French, the drink is called grand crème while Germans refer to it as milchkaffee or mélange.
History of the Latte
As far as we know, drinking coffee with milk has been in practice since the 1600s in Europe. However, it was only in the 1900s that the different terms mentioned above appeared in any record.
Likely, the word ‘latte’ as an English term for the coffee drink in question is relatively new. When the other domestic terms were in use, the English word was not. Even during the rise of espresso bar culture in the advent of the espresso machine, existing records of coffee menus in the era didn’t have ‘latte’ in them.
The Taste and Texture of a Latte
Compared to a cappuccino, a latte is milder due to its higher amount of milk. The bitter and acidic taste of the espresso is suppressed by the sweetness of the milk.
Latte’s layer of foam is still silky but not as thick as that of the cappuccino (microfoam of a cappuccino can be one or two inches thick!).
In general, a latte is a much milder coffee drink. This is why it works well with other flavors like chocolate and vanilla.
Cappuccino and Latte: What Makes them Different from Regular Coffee?
Cappuccino and latte are espresso-based coffee drinks. The first and most important difference between regular coffee and espresso-based coffee drink is in the brewing process. Next is the type of roast and the size of the coffee grounds.
Espresso is brewed using an espresso machine where near-boiling water shoots through the coffee ground tightly packed into cakes. This process dissolves more solid particles of coffee that go into the espresso, making it thick and concentrated. The whole process only takes 30 seconds to complete.
For this specialized brewing process, finely-ground and darker-roasted coffee beans are preferred. This adds intensity to the coffee brew.
Regular coffee, on the other hand, takes longer to brew. It is also not as strong since it lacks the pressure espresso undergoes, and the coffee grounds are usually coarser.
You can add milk to your regular coffee, but the strength and flavor are not as intense and rich as in espresso and espresso-based coffee drinks.
How to Make a Cappuccino Recipe?
It may not be as simple as preparing coffee with a French press or drip coffee maker, but if you have an espresso machine and a couple of basic skills (and a lot of practice), making a cappuccino won’t be too difficult to master.
You’re going to need 2 tablespoons of dark roast coffee finely grounded, 4 ounces of water, and 4 ounces of milk. Cinnamon and chocolate powder are optional.
Follow these 2 sets of steps in brewing the espresso and making the milk foam.
Brewing the Espresso
- Pour water into the machine
- Put the ground coffee into the portafilter
- Pack the grounds tightly by pressing using the tamper
- Lock the portafilter into your machine
- Place the espresso cups under the group head and extract the shot.
Foaming the Milk
- Pour the milk into your container
- Put the steam wand into the milk but keep it close to the surface
- With the steam wand tipped to the side, add air into the milk by moving the container until the bubbles get smaller.
- Turn the steam wand off once the milk foam had doubled in size
- Slowly pour the milk into the espresso until the foam settles on top.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon or chocolate powder.
How to Make Latte Recipe
Latte is easier to make than a cappuccino since it doesn’t require the same amount of foam.
What you’ll need:
- 9 ounces of milk (vegan milk is also okay)
- 16.5 grams of ground espresso coffee beans
- 12-ounce cup
- Follow the same brewing instructions for cappuccino
- Put the steam wand into the milk and heat up to 160 degrees F
- Pour the steamed milk into the espresso at about 4 inches from the cup
- Serve hot
If you’re still a bit confused with the details, here’s the short answer:
In a cappuccino, the espresso is stronger and more intense. It also has a thicker and creamier top of microfoam. Latte is milder, if not a bit sweeter, due to the higher amount of milk. It’s preferred by those who find cappuccino’s bitter and acidic taste too overwhelming.