The Difference Between a Cappuccino, Latte, and Macchiato

9 min read JAN 29, 2023

Are you perplexed about all the different types of milk-based espresso drinks that are out there? Don't worry. We've got your back. Read on to better understand Cappuccinos, Macchiatos, and Lattes. An educational journey awaits you to learn all the intricacies and differences between these specialty coffee drinks. Let's dive in.

What is a Macchiato?

Macchiato, a popular espresso-based beverage from Italy, is marked with a spoonful of foamed milk. There are many variations and adaptations of this drink today, ranging from the caramelly Starbucks macchiato to tall macs that bear more resemblance to lattes than traditional macchiatos. To ensure you get the right flavor when ordering outside Italy, it's best to ask for an "espresso macchiato." 

Macchiato Variations

The traditional macchiato is a simple espresso drink with steamed milk added, but nowadays, there are many variations - like the 'zebra' or iced 'marble mocha.' Those seeking something sweeter than an authentic macchiato may opt for drinks such as latte macchiatos and cortados from Latin America. These drinks typically consist of espresso combined with steamed milk, but in different ratios and often with the addition of flavoring syrups. 

What is a Cappuccino? 

Cappuccino is one of the most beloved coffee drinks worldwide, and its name originates from an order of Capuchin monks. It consists of espresso topped with steamed milk, foam, and a sprinkle of chocolate or spices for extra flavor - often enjoyed in Italy as part of their morning ritual. This unique combination of coffee, milk, and foam has made Cappuccino a beloved staple in cafes worldwide. 

Cappuccino History 

Even though the name "cappuccino" originated in Vienna, Italy has every right to boast about being the innovator of modern cappuccinos. It was in 19th-century Italy that coffee brewing machines were invented, and cappuccinos made their way onto menus as early as the 1930s. As such, Italians are credited with creating this beloved beverage that is now a staple in the cafe around the globe.

The classic Viennese milky coffee was often enhanced with hints of cinnamon and chocolate, then topped off with a dollop of whipped cream. This sugary rendition became popular in interwar Italy as well – likely due to the need for added flavorings to mask the poor quality of espresso at that time.

After WWII, technology vastly improved, making brewing an exquisite espresso easier. Thus, adding extra sweeteners to cappuccinos became less of a requirement.

In the 1950s, cappuccino popularity spread throughout Britain, and in the 1980s, it was embraced by America. Nowadays, you can find a delicious cup of Cappuccino almost anywhere in the world.

The Certified Cappuccino Recipe 

INEI has a specific definition for Certified Italian Cappuccino that differs from the popular 1:1:1 ratio of milk, coffee and foam. According to INEI, it should consist of...

  • To craft the perfect Latte, start with 25 milliliters of espresso.
  • Next, add 100 mL of cold milk between 3-5 degrees Celsius and steam it to 125 mL.
  • Serve in a snowy white porcelain cup capacity of 150-160mL
  • Crown the top with a delectable dome-shaped cap of frothed milk (6).

To perfect the art of espresso-based drinks, we put our La Pavoni machine to work crafting cappuccinos according to strict Italian standards. The results were delightful - just as good as you'd find in Italy.

Making an excellent cappuccino is all about dialing up the quality and proportions when making your espresso; for this recipe, that means 75% milk and 25% coffee. In short: sometimes standardization can be delicious too.

Cappuccino Variations 

Beyond Italy, it's typical to have a 1:1:1 ratio of coffee, milk, and foam for a Cappuccino. Baristas then alter the proportions of these components to create either a "dry" or a "wet" cappuccino – the former having more frothed milk, whereas the latter has greater amounts of hot milk. To top off this delightful concoction, cocoa powder is often strewn over its surface in many places worldwide.

The flat white is a coffee beverage made with milk. However, it doesn't contain the normal layer of foam that other drinks may have. Additionally, there usually isn't as much milk in this drink compared to others like cappuccinos.

What is a Latte? 

Cafe latte translates to "coffee milk" and is an incredibly popular drink worldwide, with various recipes being concocted every minute. It's impossible to define one exact way of making a delicious latte, but thankfully we have advanced machines that can do it for us.

Away from the coffeehouses of Italy, a latte generally means an espresso topped with steamed milk. It does not need to be made with coffee either; as long as it contains dairy, any drink can qualify for being a latte - such favorite cafe beverages like Chai Latte and Matcha Latte are great examples. In contrast, if you order one in Italy, be prepared to receive just a glass full of delicious fresh cow's milk.

In Italy, it's usual to begin one's day with a latte. All you need is the iconic Bialetti Moka pot and some milk heated on the stovetop - no elaborate foaming process necessary. This luxurious beverage has become popular in Italian culture primarily due to its simple yet rewarding preparation. 

Latte History 

While hardly any one person can be credited with inventing Latte, there is no denying that milk coffee has been a staple in Europe for centuries. From country to country, coffee lovers have crafted their unique takes on the classic drink. In Germany, Milchkaffee is served with a combination of heated milk and strong brewed coffee for an unforgettable flavor experience. Meanwhile, in France, café au lait combines hot steamed milk and espresso for a richly-flavored beverage.

The word Latte has taken prominence in English-speaking countries despite not being a part of Italian café culture. An ordinary recipe for making the drink includes espresso, steamed milk and sweeteners.
If you're at an Italian coffee bar, it's not unusual to find a macchiato or Cappuccino being served. However, the locals regard the caffè latte as more of a morning beverage meant for homemade consumption rather than one you'd order from your local cafe.

Latte Recipes Around The World 

 Although there are two primary methods for preparing a latte - the Italian and American ways - many other variations exist of this beloved beverage.

The Latte in Italy: You can prepare an intense cup of coffee with either a Moka pot or espresso machine and then add heated milk plus your desired amount of sugar. It's uncomplicated and delightful, and you don't need anything complicated to start.

The Latte in America:

  1. Start off by brewing a rich shot of espresso and then steam the milk to create an ultra-creamy microfoam, approximately 1 part coffee to 6 parts steamed milk.
  2. For added flavor, feel free to add your favorite syrup or sugar.
  3. Top it off with some artistic latte art for the perfect finish. 

The Latte in France: The café au lait or commonly known as cafe crème, is the ideal beverage for dipping your croissant or breakfast baguette due to its creamy consistency. It's usually served from a bowl and contains an equal mixture of dark filter coffee and steaming milk. This deliciousness is traditionally prepared tableside by mixing both ingredients together in two pitchers simultaneously.

The Latte in South Africa: Rather than using coffee, a red latte is created with rooibos tea as its base. 

THE Bottom Line 

It can be tricky to distinguish between a macchiato, Cappuccino, and Latte. However, the key difference lies in their respective coffee and milk ratios.

Macchiato – Combination of espresso and steamed milk - 90% coffee to 10% milk.
Cappuccino – A shot of espresso with a perfect blend of milk and foam. The ratio is 1:2:2 according to the INEI, yet usually, it's just 1:1:1 in other parts of the world.
Latte – In Italy, coffee with a hint of warm milk. Outside Italy, you'll find espresso with heaps of steamed milk. As far as proportions go, usually, it's split between 15% coffee and 85% milk. 

10 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Cappuccino, Latte, and Macchiato 

What is a Mocha? 

For those who crave indulgence, the Mocha is a must-try. This delightful beverage blends hot chocolate or chocolate syrup with coffee beans sourced from the Red Sea port of Mocha, which is renowned for producing some of the finest quality coffee in the world. The combination produces notes of cocoa and caramel on your palate, so you get two delicious flavors in one drink. Wondering how it differs from Latte? Read our full comparison below to learn more.

Which one is stronger- Latte vs Cappuccino ?

Cappuccino is usually more flavorful than Latte, as its original form incorporates less milk. Nevertheless, adding an extra shot to either one will surely make your drink stronger. 

Which one has more Caffeine-Macchiato Or A Latte?

When featuring one espresso shot each, a latte and a macchiato contain exactly the same amount of caffeine - 64 mg per 1 oz (30 ml) shot. However, if more shots are added to either beverage, then its level of caffeine will be notably heightened. 

What is The Difference Between Latte vs Cappuccino?

If you're trying to decide between Cappuccino and Latte, the main distinction is the overall preparation. A classic cappuccino has a 1:1 ratio of coffee, steamed milk, and froth; lattes contain thicker steamed milk but no foam. Moreover, it is typically bigger than its counterpart, with room for two espresso shots. 

Are You Able To Steam Milk For Lattes And Cappuccinos Without An Espresso Machine?

Suppose you crave a latte or Cappuccino but don't have an espresso maker, no need to worry. Using ordinary items or specialized tools, you can steam milk in your kitchen. We've got all the tips and techniques for steaming milk without an espresso machine outlined in our article on at-home steaming methods. 

Can You Make Lattes Without An Espresso Machine?

Absolutely. While espresso machines are ideal for creating creamy, quality lattes in record time, you can make delicious coffees without one. Just use any high-quality ground coffee bean blend and brew it in your regular French press or drip machine. Then add warm milk and a bit of sweetener if desired - there's no need to worry about frothing or microfoam textures when making manually brewed lattes.

What Is The Difference Between A Macchiato And A Latte?

A macchiato is an espresso shot with a dollop of steamed foam on top, while a latte features espresso shots combined with generous amounts of steamed milk. Both drinks are served in a glass, but the macchiato will have a stronger and more intense coffee flavor than the Latte, which is milder and creamier. 

What Is The Difference Between A Macchiato And A Cappuccino?

The main difference between macchiatos and cappuccinos is the amount of milk used in each. Cappuccinos are made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam. On the other hand, macchiatos use only a small amount of steamed milk to top off the espresso shot. This creates a stronger coffee flavor and a crisp texture with just enough creaminess from the milk to make it enjoyable. 

Which Is Healthier: Latte vs Cappuccino?

When it comes to choosing between a latte or Cappuccino, the most important factor is how much sugar and other ingredients are added to your drinks. Chocolate syrups, flavorings, and whipped cream can significantly increase the calorie count of both beverages. At its core, cappuccinos feature less milk than lattes, so if you're looking for something with fewer calories, then go with a cappuccino. 

How Much Milk Should I Put In My Cappuccino Or Latte?

The ideal ratio for making a traditional cappuccino or Latte is 1 part espresso to 2 parts steamed milk. This can be adjusted to your preference, whether you want less or more coffee taste in your drink. You can use whole milk or a combination of half-and-half and skim milk for some extra creaminess.

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Espresso

Drop a Comment

All comments are moderated before being published