Cappuccino vs Latte – What’s the Difference?

One of the most common questions I get asked as a barista is, “what’s the difference between a cappuccino and latte — cappuccino vs latte.

In practise they’re two very similar drinks, but there are a few key differences that set them apart. Today I’ll be providing a barista’s explanation on how they’re made.

Cappuccino vs Latte

Infograph showing cappuccino vs latte difference


As seen by the diagram above the main difference between a cappuccino vs latte (aka “cafe latte”) is the proportions of espresso, milk and milk foam in the beverage.

Traditionally a cappuccino has more foam and less milk compared to the latte. Also a cappuccino has chocolate powder dashed on top whereas the latte does not (some cafes choose not to dash on chocolate powder but more on this later).

In respect to their taste the two drinks are practically identical. A cappuccino tastes slightly sweeter due to the chocolate powder on top, but it’s the texture that you’ll notice on consumption. As a cappuccino has more foam it tastes thicker and can be enjoyed by spooning out the foam. Whereas the the latte has less foam and goes down much smoother and faster.

Below you’ll find instructions on how to make a cappuccino vs latte. You’ll see from the photos the two coffees look very similar. But it’s what’s below the surface that counts.

How is a Cappuccino Made?

An example of a cappuccino

A cappuccino is made as follows:

  1. Extract one shot of espresso into a cup
  2. Pour steamed milk into the cup
  3. Pour 2-3 cm of milk foam into the cup
  4. Dash chocolate powder on top

(Or you can take a short-cut with a automatic cappuccino maker).

How is a Latte Made?

cafe latte in a ceramic cup

A latte is made as follows:

  1. Extract one shot of espresso into a cup
  2. Pour steamed milk to the cup
  3. Pour 1cm or a “finger width” of milk foam into the cup
  4. Latte art is optional

What are Lattes and Cappuccinos Served In?

One thing to note is that countries around the world serve their cappuccinos and lattes differently. For example in the images above both the latte and the cappuccino were served in a ceramic cup. This is the typical serving method in the United States.

However in Australia and New Zealand, a latte would normally be served in a tumbler glass. The drink is exactly the same, just the vessel is different due to local trends.

Does a Cappuccino Have Chocolate Powder On Top?

To dash chocolate powder or not to dash chocolate powder? That is the question. Well, it’s the question that causes the most debate surrounding how cappuccinos are made.

If you were to order a cappuccino in Italy you would not get chocolate on top. Whereas if you ordered a cappuccino in  Australia, UK or New Zealand, you would get a good dash of chocolate powder. The United States varies from cafe to cafe on whether chocolate powder is used.

But why is there such a difference in opinion?

Well there’s two reasons.

The first is that there’s no universal standard or “rule book” on how a cappuccino should be made.

The second has to do with local trends once again. AKA making what consumers expect to find. Being from Australia I’ve always made my cappuccinos with chocolate on top. This is how every cafe does it down here in order to give greater differentiation between a latte and cappuccino. Whereas the consumers near you may have different expectations.

So should you or should you not dash chocolate powder?

The answer quite unsatisfactorily is “it depends on your local trends“. But I recommend making a cappuccino both with and without chocolate powder so you can compare the difference.

What Should You Order? Cappuccino vs Latte

If you’re a fan of chocolate and extra foam, a cappuccino is your beverage of choice. But if you enjoy your coffee with less foam and no chocolate, a latte is the way to go. Try each of them next time you visit a local cafe then let us know which one you prefer in the poll below:

Do you prefer a cappuccino or latte?

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P.S. Let us know in the comments below how you make your latte and cappuccino and where you’re from. Let’s see how the methods differ around the world!

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