If you’re not a coffee aficionado or a purist, then you probably aren’t the best when it comes to differentiating between brews. So it might surprise you that two coffees, both made of foam, steamed milk, and espresso, can be quite so different.
We’re talking, of course, about cappuccino and latte. ‘Wait,’ you may say, ‘is there even much of a difference between the two?’ This is just the kind of question that may earn you a scowl or even an intense scolding from your purist friends.
The reality is that there’s a strong rift between those who drink cappuccino and those that prefer latte. So if you ever hope to survive amongst friends or family who are coffee fanatics, you had better choose a team. If you’re not much of a coffee fanatic or can’t claim to have a sensitive palate, don’t worry. With our detailed comparison below, we’re going to help you figure out the differences between the two and help you pick a team.
What They’re Made With
The difference between the two coffees in terms of the basic ingredients is…none. That’s right, both lattes and cappuccinos are made with espresso, foam and steamed milk, which makes it all the more confusing to most people. Furthermore, they both handle additives perfectly well.
However, the advantage here is that both can be easily made at home with most espresso makers. Hence, regardless of whether you’re team latte or team cappuccino, you won’t go lacking.
Cappuccino – The Details
It is said that cappuccino was founded in Italy back in the 17th century. No one can say for certain how it came into being or what its name means. Some claim that it was named after the Capuchin Friars, an order of friars of the Catholic Church. The colour of their clothing is said to mimic that of espresso once it has been mixed with milk.
Even though it might have been invented in the 1600s, it wasn’t until the late 1900s that the drink became popular in both European and American cafés.
The cappuccino is said to be the true test of a barista’s skill. This is because a true cappuccino follows a strict ratio of three basic ingredients: one-third foam, one-third espresso, and one-third steamed milk. If you have an automatic coffee brewer, then it’s just a matter of selecting the proper preset. However, for those who prefer to go about it manually, this is quite the challenge. Safe to say, if you have a purist friend who makes an excellent cup of cappuccino on their own, you may never hear the end of their bragging.
Because of this ratio, it’s quite easy to turn the cappuccino into something else if you’re not careful. For instance, if you add too much steamed milk, then you’ve got a latte on your hands or an ‘abomination’, as some overly-passionate cappuccino purists might say. If you forget the foam, this will turn it into a flat white.
If you’re sipping on something that’s strong and airy at the same time, with subtle sweet tones, then you can be confident that you’re holding a cappuccino in your hands.
Latte – The Details
If you don’t see at least one cup of milk coffee with a leafy pattern drawn on your social media feed, that’s quite an anomaly. These designs, which baristas create on lattes, are made possible because of the coffee’s heavier milk content. It’s due to its aesthetics that the brew is preferred by many Instagram influencers.
While the latte may have appeared on the radar of many coffee drinkers only in the 20th century, the brew had already been popular in Italy for a long time. “Latte” is a derivation of the Italian phrase ‘coffee with milk’, and has been a breakfast accompaniment for many centuries in the country.
In comparison to the cappuccino, the latte is a much creamier coffee, thanks to a bigger portion of steamed milk. The mix comprises 4/6 steamed milk and just 1/6 parts each of foam and espresso. The fact that there is a lesser portion of espresso means that you won’t get much of a ‘caffeine boost’ as you would with a cup of cappuccino. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it isn’t any stronger than your average cup of milk coffee.
A Matter of Ratios
As we’ve explained, the cappuccino and the latte aren’t distinguished by their ingredients but rather by their proportions. While both types of coffee have just one or two shots of espresso in them, the latte has more steamed milk. The result is that the cappuccino has a stronger taste and the latte, a more diluted one. The cappuccino is also foamier than the latte.
And that’s where the division comes in: the taste. Those who are more partial to the flavour of espresso may find themselves preferring to go with a cappuccino. That’s why many connoisseurs and those who claim to want a purer ‘Italian’ experience tend to favour it. However, after you read this article, you’ll know that the latte has been a breakfast staple in Italy for centuries. So the next time someone sneers at you for ‘not drinking the real deal’, you can counter them with this fact.
Those who prefer something creamier but still appreciate the ‘kick’ that espresso provides will find lattes more appealing. Of course, the aesthetic designs are an added bonus as well. While aficionados will claim that a cappuccino is a benchmark for measuring the quality of a café, you could argue the same about latte art.
It’s All Subjective
People on either side could argue day and night, and all year-round about which is better: cappuccino or latte. However, the fact remains that it’s all subjective and usually comes down to taste preferences. Just because one is a ‘more authentic experience’ or ‘requires more skill’ to make doesn’t mean that you have to switch teams. With everything we’ve discussed in this article, you can now confidently take part in the latte vs cappuccino debate and debunk any invalid statements that people make about either type of coffee.