Latte Vs Cappuccino: What's The Difference?

Maybe you have fallen into a cycle of ordering the same thing at your local coffee shop out of habit. Or maybe you're trying to learn how to make a few of your favorite drinks at home. No matter what brought the question to mind, chances are you realized that there is very little difference between lattes and cappuccinos. But that certainly doesn't mean that the two kinds of espresso drinks are the same.

There are actually a few things that separate lattes from cappuccinos. From the amounts of some ingredients to the way it is presented, you might be surprised at just what the two drinks have in common. Keep in mind that lattes can also be ordered with added flavors and aromatics like lavender, peppermint, and mocha. But once you understand why the two types of coffee drinks are actually different, you likely won't make the mistake of confusing them again.

What is a latte?

As you likely know, both cappuccinos and lattes begin with some amount of espresso depending on the size of the drink you order or make. But according to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, it is everything that comes after the espresso that creates the different drinks. From this point, lattes are made with steamed milk and a touch of milk foam at the top. While this forms the most basic of lattes, you probably already know just how many variations on the drink are out there.

One twist on the latte is, of course, the many different flavors and syrups you can add to the drink these days. But with the rise of cold brew coffee, the iced latte has also become quite popular. But iced lattes do lack some of the key characteristics of hot lattes, such as the layer of foam at the top. So, keep that in mind when you're considering what drink you'd like to sip on.

What is a cappuccino?

Like the latte, cappuccinos also begin with a shot or two of espresso in the bottom of the cup. And again, the rest of the drink is what determines the difference between the two. Cappuccinos also feature steamed milk and foam, but the amounts vary compared to those that are used in lattes (via The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf).

Another component of a proper cappuccino that sets it apart from lattes is that cappuccinos do not often come with added flavors or syrups. Instead, the drink is very much a coffee-forward drink, according to Starbucks. So those who prefer their drinks to come with a sweetness or another flavor to distract from the coffee flavor itself should skip this espresso drink and stick to lattes. But it could be a useful way to transition from flavored lattes to black coffee if you are looking to make such a change. Just remember that the foam is a huge part of what makes cappuccinos, so don't stir it up into the drink.

Each requires a different amount of milk

One of the biggest differences between cappuccinos and lattes is the amount of milk that is added to each. As Perfect Brew points out, latte literally translates to "milk." So it should be no surprise that it is the espresso drink between the two with more milk inside the cup. Baristas make lattes with twice the amount of steamed milk to espresso, according to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. So, for example, if you order a two-shot latte, you should get double the milk poured in.

Cappuccinos, on the other hand, have milk added to the drink in amounts determined by the weight of the drink. As the MasterClass staff explains, the perfect cappuccino is a balance of equal parts coffee and milk to foam. That means there's a lot less milk and a lot more foam in the drink. And because there is such a difference in not only the milk but the amount of foam in each type of drink, too, that's another major differentiating factor between a latte and a cappuccino.

They have different amounts of foam, too

Apart from the amount of milk in lattes and cappuccinos, the amount of foam added to the drinks is clearly a major characteristic of each as well. The foam is really a defining part of both lattes and cappuccinos. One reason for this has to do with the "texture" the foam gives each drink, according to Perfect Brew.

As said, in lattes, there is far more milk than foam. The foam that this espresso drink is topped with is very thin and doesn't last very long, per The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It often is easily mixed in with the rest of the drink or drunk with the first few sips. So if you don't care much for foam on top of your coffee but love the creaminess of milk, opt for the latte.

Foam plays a huge role in cappuccinos, though. Half of a well-made cappuccino should be foam by weight. With that much foam, you should get a touch of it in every sip you take down to the bottom of the cup. That's why it adds so much to the texture of the drink. So for those who love their espresso with a side of bubbly foam, cappuccinos are the best choice by far.