How many drinks can you make by mixing steamed milk, froth and espresso? More than you think. Think Flat White, Americanos, Macchiatos, Cappuccinos, Lattes, etc.
Today we are comparing two drinks that seem almost identical at first glance: Cappuccino and Latte.
First Of All, The Ingredients
Are exactly the same. Yes, these two Italian drinks both use a blend of espresso, steamed milk, and foam.
Since the ingredients are quite easy to find and prepare, you can make these two drinks at home with a little practice, using an espresso machine, or a little ingenuity.
These two drinks are also very versatile and pair well with various added flavors.
What is a Cappuccino?
Cappuccino was born with the original hype around espresso and evolved into the drink we know today during the World Wars. It finally arrived in Europe and the Americas around 1980. Now, it’s a very structure-oriented drink, usually served in a glass or ceramic mug.
This structure is really its hallmark. Divided into thirds, you can almost feel the quality of a Cappuccino by its visual appearance. Ideally, it should consist of 1/3 espresso, a little less than 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 aerated frothy milk.
For this reason, Cappuccinos are often considered the true test of a barista’s skill. If the barista has mastered his subject, your drink will have low acidity and a deliciously rich, airy feel.
What is a Latte?
Although the English term was first used in 1867, Latte derives from the Italian elocution for café au lait.
However, the presence of this drink in cafes is a development of the 20th century. Latte is served in a larger cup compared to a Cappuccino.
For a velvety, creamier texture, you should mix 1 to 2 cups of espresso with about 150 milliliters of steamed milk. This mixture takes up about 5/6 of a cup and the thin layer of foam sits on top.
The coffee should flow gently under the milk. If you are doing well, the coffee should be positioned between 2 layers of milk. This gives a nice overlay of colors.
The main difference between these drinks is the proportion of the ingredients. The barista needs to achieve the perfect balance between milk and espresso.
Both drinks contain 1 to 2 cups of espresso. However, a Latte contains more steamed milk, which is mixed with the espresso while a Cappuccino will have more froth and less milk and the milk is not mixed.
For this reason, a Cappuccino will taste stronger, because it is less mixed and less diluted in the steamed milk. It will also be sharper thanks to the well-defined layers and lighter foam.
On the other hand, a Latte will be much creamier thanks to the denser foam and the increased portion of steamed milk. Thus, the espresso flavor will be more subtle.
The Barista Factor
In order to fully understand the difference between these two drinks, your barista (or yourself if you are at home) should know what they are doing.
Unfortunately, in many bars or cafes the preparation of these drinks can be extremely rough, making them even more difficult to tell apart.
A problem may arise if the milk is frothed for both drinks. Ideally, the foam for a Cappuccino will be lighter and airy and the foam will be denser and creamier on a Latte.
If you can’t find this airy texture, ask your barista to make your cappuccino “drier”.