What is the difference between a Latte and a Cappuccino?

How often have you come across people seeking answers to the difference between a Latte and a Cappuccino?

I, for one, have crossed paths with many.

Apparently, there is not much of a difference keeping in mind that the ingredients used in both the drinks are similar - Espresso, Steamed Milk and Foam. Then why is it so difficult to distinguish between these two beverages?

The truth is that in most cafes, barring the renowned ones maybe, the preparation of these beverages are very conflicting. Though not on purpose, but it genuinely varies in taste from place to place.

So, coming straight to it: How is a Latte different from a Cappuccino?

Though both these drinks have their origin in Italy, over the time their preparation techniques and presentation have undergone a sea of change across the globe. Let us first understand the process of preparation of both these drinks.

How is a Latte made?

latte coffee

A latte is made with coffee, and hot steamed milk, Also known as “Cafe Latte”, the coffee in Latte can also be replaced with tea, matcha or mate. It is typically a breakfast drink in Italy and is usually prepared by brewing coffee on a stove and then pouring it into a cup containing hot milk. The Italian Latte version does not have foam milk; however, all other versions are made up of one third espresso and two third steamed milk. On top of this floats a five mm layer of foamed milk.

In another alternative version of Latte, very strong coffee is mixed with seared milk in a 1:1 ratio. Though this preparation is similar to a Cappuccino, the foam is not as thick as compared to Cappuccino.

How is a Cappuccino made?

Cappuccinos are prepared with espresso, scalded milk and steamed milk foam. Here the temperature of the milk and the texture is of prime importance. The milk is heated to create tiny bubbles in it and which in turn gives the milk sweetness and a flushed texture. The steamed milk foam is poured into the espresso, which gives a two cm thick foam of milk on the top. Different versions of Cappuccino use a different proportion of milk foam.

More milk foam is used in Cappuccino Scuro or Dry Cappuccino and Cappuccino Chiaro or White Cappuccino. The cold Cappuccino is also known as Cappuccino Freddo and is coated with a small amount of cold, frothed milk.

What makes the difference?

Coming to the fundamentals, both these drinks are defined by their individual textures, which in turn are obtained by the ratio in which the ingredients are used. A Cappuccino would have more foam by volume than a Latte. The Latte, on the other hand, would have mostly steamed milk with a touch of foam, which goes after a sip or two, giving the drinker the actual feel of the coffee. Latte, as the name suggests, means milk in Italian from where this drink has originated.

An ideal Cappuccino would have a perfect ratio of its ingredients: one-third coffee, one-third milk and one-third foam. In most of the specialty coffee shops and bars across the globe, however, use the same technique of equal proportion of components in both the drinks. Where they differentiate, is in the size of the drink. A Cappuccino is served in a smaller server than a Latte, which is usually served in a bigger size. This factor of size brings about the difference in the texture of the drinks.

But this hardly gives the authentic feel that these beverages demand. So, if you love your Cappuccino, you would want it more on the dry side, by stretching the milk more to give it a fluffy texture. Similarly, you could want your Latte to have a minimum or no foam at all.

The difference between a Latte and a Cappuccino is very subtle. It depends on the proportion of espresso to milk. With the advent of single-serve coffee makers brewing Lattes and Cappuccinos at homes have become more manageable and also requires less attention. Even cafes around the world have expanded their coffee menus to serve more variety of coffee to the discerning coffee lovers.

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