With such a plethora of espresso-based coffee drinks, even a seasoned coffee drinker can get confused about the names and definitions. Especially when comparing a latte vs cappuccino vs macchiato, they can all seem like the same combination of espresso and warm milk.
As an espresso drink with warm milk, each one incorporates rich espresso flavors with the sweet creaminess of hot milk. But each has a unique balance of these elements, resulting in different textures and flavor profiles.
So yes, in one sense, a cappuccino vs latte vs macchiato are all the same—they involve coffee beans, steamed milk, and froth. But let’s explore their differences to help you find the best choice for your palate.
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Latte vs Cappuccino vs Macchiato: Basic Definitions
Before getting into the details of what makes each espresso based drink unique, let’s first go over some basic definitions, especially how much hot milk and froth they use.
What Is a Caffe Latte
A caffe latte, commonly shortened to latte, is one of the most popular milk coffee drinks. It typically blends espresso and warm milk to give a balanced flavor. The ratio is one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, usually with latte art made with microform on top.
But it is much more than just milky coffee. You can read more about latte coffee to get the full details.
What Is a Cappuccino
The cappuccino is often confused with a latte. But the ratio for a traditional cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth. The thick foam on top makes it visually easy to spot, and the milk foam integrated into the liquid tends to be more aerated.
Cappuccinos have less sweetness and bolder coffee flavors that balance with a foamy mouthfeel. You can read more about cappuccino coffee drinks to learn some recipes, ratios, toppings, and variations.
What Is a Macchiato?
The term “macchiato” means “stained” or “marked” in Italian, which describes the preparation and visuals of this beverage. We’ll discuss a latte macchiato later since it is distinct. But for now, the term macchiato refers to an espresso macchiato, a small amount of steamed milk stained with one or two espresso shots.
This preparation creates a beautiful layering to the drink. And since the ratio leans heavily toward coffee, the macchiato has a bold and concentrated espresso flavor. The small dollop of milk adds a touch of creamy texture and sweetness. If you are at a specialty coffee shop with high-quality espresso, we highly recommend trying a macchiato to let the best coffee flavor come through!
Basic Difference Between Latte and Cappuccino
So while a latte and cappuccino both incorporate espresso, steamed milk, and froth, the primary contrast is in their ratios. Because a latte has more milk than a cappuccino, expect a smoother and sweeter taste.
And since a cappuccino has less milk and more foam, you will notice a bolder coffee flavor and a lighter/fluffy texture. But these ratios are not firm, and people often alter them to their preferences.
For example, a wet cappuccino adds more liquid milk and less foam. And a dry cappuccino does the opposite, bringing out more coffee flavor and dryer/lighter froth.
Macchiato vs Latte vs Cappuccino: Milk Ratios
The picture above represents the milk ratio between a cappuccino vs latte vs macchiato. The total amount of liquid can vary depending on the size. A macchiato is usually tiny since espresso dominates. Expect two ounces of espresso and one ounce of foamed milk.
Which Is Stronger Latte or Cappuccino?
In terms of flavor, the cappuccino will have a coffee-forward taste since there is less milk sweetness to balance the espresso. The extra milk foam on the top contributes less to the flavor and more to the overall mouthfeel.
But with caffeine, both drinks should have the same amount of espresso if the sizes are comparable. Many people make espresso drinks stronger by adding extra shots. And the specific espresso coffee beans also affect drink strength.
Details: What’s the Difference Between Cappuccino and Latte?
Now that you have a basic idea of what distinguishes these drinks, let’s explore deeper what sets them apart, including health considerations.
Cappuccino vs Latte Calories
Coffee beans alone contain very few calories. On average, people who drink plain coffee consume 69 fewer calories per day than those that add sweeteners and dairy. So the difference in caloric content between a cappuccino and a latte comes down to the milk content.
Since a latte contains more milk, expect it to have more calories. But the difference is not huge, and either drink consumed in moderation is perfectly healthy.
Is a Cappuccino or Latte Healthier?
Technically speaking, a cappuccino is healthier because it contains fewer calories. But whole milk also contains beneficial nutrients and minerals like protein, calcium, and other vitamins. So from a nutrient density perspective, you could also consider the latte healthier.
The primary factor that makes these drinks unhealthy is adding sugars and syrups.
Steaming Milk Latte vs Cappuccino
The steam wand on an espresso machine heats the milk while introducing air. The air mixes into the liquid to create textured milk with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. But the amount of steaming/foaming changes depending on whether you’re preparing a latte or cappuccino.
BIZEWO Milk Frother
For a latte, you only introduce a small about of air. The texture should be smooth like wet paint, containing microform and tiny bubbles that incorporate perfectly with the espresso.
But frothed milk for a cappuccino should have denser foam. The barista will add more air to the milk while steaming (more of that chirping sound.) The foam for a cappuccino should be light and dry, looking much more frothed than the smooth latte milk.
Which Is Sweeter Cappuccino or Latte?
Generally, the higher milk content of a latte makes it sweeter—eight ounces of milk contains roughly 12 grams of sugar. The steaming process also enhances the natural sweetness of the milk. So with the same milk, expect a cappuccino to have less sweetness.
But with the popularity of plant-based milk, the sweetness can be all over the place. Dairy alternatives like almond, soy, or oat milk often have added sugar. So compare the same milk type and ask your barista if the plant-based milk is sweetened.
Cappuccino vs Latte Caffeine Content
Most latte and cappuccino recipes use approximately the same amount of espresso, either one or two shots. For a similarly sized drink, expect the difference to be more in flavor and texture instead of caffeine content.
But each coffee shop can have a unique recipe, so you should ask your barista for the details. Using Starbucks as a reference, single and double shots contain:
- Single Shot: 75 mg
- Double Shot: 150 mg
But these are just approximate values since caffeine content varies based on brewing technique, coffee bean type, and other factors.
Caffe Latte vs Cappuccino Cup Size
There is no standard cup size between a macchiato, cappuccino, or latte. But taking milk content into account, the cups logically progress in size.
But taking milk content into account, the cups logically progress in size.
The macchiato, at 3-4 ounces, uses the tiniest cup. Cappuccinos have less liquid milk and can fit in a 5-6-ounce cup. Often, the cappuccino foam sits above the rim and can hold together because of how fluffy it is.
But a latte cup tends to be the biggest, like these 10.5-ounce Coffeezone Latte Cups. There is room for more liquid, and the wide rim is perfect for showing off latte art.
Coffeezone Latte Art Cup
Cappuccino vs Latte Macchiato
A variation of the traditional latte coffee drink is the latte macchiato. Unlike the espresso macchiato, which uses one ounce of milk, a latte macchiato will use the standard 6-8 ounces.
The difference is in preparation. Holding to the macchiato’s name, you pour the milk into the cup first, followed by the espresso shot.
This technique creates a visually appealing layering effect where the espresso stains the milk. The beautiful visuals look fantastic in a glass latte cup.
Cappuccino vs Latte vs Mocha
Mocha lattes are another popular member of the espresso drink family. As the name implies, you add chocolate to add even more sweetness. You can make a mocha cappuccino or a mocha latte. With cappuccinos, the thick foam pairs well with sprinkling mocha powder on top, adding to the whole experience.
The best coffee beans for mocha drinks are a darker espresso roast, allowing the sweetness of chocolate to create balance.
Iced Cappuccino vs Iced Latte
As a cold coffee beverage, you can broadly consider iced cappuccinos and iced lattes a form of iced coffee, and they can be a game changer on a hot day. But they do not taste like the typical cold brew or iced coffee you are probably used to.
These refreshing drinks have different ratios, like their hot counterparts, but they both use cold espresso and cold milk. But an iced cappuccino also has froth on top to help give that wonderful light texture.
But unless you can make cold froth with a handheld foam maker or an instant milk frother, we recommend sticking to iced lattes if you want the refreshing version of these drinks. We think hot foam tastes weird on an iced cappuccino, and you have to waste a lot of milk to make it!
Zulay Handheld Foam Maker
Caffe Latte vs Cappuccino: FAQ
Before you graduate with your new barista skills, let’s answer some common questions people ask when comparing a caffe latte, cappuccino, and macchiato.
Is a latte weaker than a cappuccino?
In terms of espresso coffee content, a latte is not weaker than a cappuccino since they both contain one or two shots. But with the higher milk content of a latte, the taste will be smoother. Since a cappuccino has less milk, the coffee flavors will be more pronounced.
Are a latte and cappuccino the same?
Even though both drinks contain espresso and milk, a latte and cappuccino are not identical. They differ in their milk ratios and the presence of milk foam. A latte has a higher milk content, resulting in a creamier and milder taste. But a cappuccino has less milk, more foam, and a bolder coffee flavor.
Does a latte or cappuccino have more milk?
A latte has more milk compared to a cappuccino. The caffe latte typically consists of one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, whereas a cappuccino has equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
Does a latte or cappuccino have more caffeine?
Assuming the drink sizes are the same, a latte and a cappuccino have similar caffeine levels. Each uses one or two espresso shots, giving approximately 75-150 milligrams of caffeine.
Cappuccino vs Latte: Conclusion
Whether you’re a long-term coffee lover or new to the world of espresso drinks, hopefully, you now have a clear idea of the differences between a latte, cappuccino, and macchiato. The milk texture, ratio, and overall flavor can be quite different. Don’t be afraid to wander away from regular coffee to try each drink.
You can feel confident finding out which one you like best, especially now that you have this proper coffee knowledge!
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