Cappuccino vs Latte: What is the Difference?
Is your cafe doing it right? Join Whole Latte Love’s “Espresso Professor” Mark Jackson as he shows you the difference between a latte and a cappuccino.
One serving of cappuccino is about 1 1/4 ounces (In Italy) or up to 2 ounces (In United States) of espresso, topped by hot milk and froth. Classic cappuccino consists of about one-third espresso, one-third milk, and about one-third rather stiff foam, in a heavy 6-ounce cup. In Italy, the milk is not frothed as thoroughly as in the United States, and is presented as a heavier, soupy foam that picks up and combines with the espresso, rather than floating on top of it, as is often the case with the lighter, drier froth typical of American production. The hot, frothed milk is always added to the coffee in the cappuccino. Like most espresso drinks, the cappuccino is usually drunk with sugar.
Caffe Latte, Latte
One or two shots of espresso and about three times as much hot milk, in a big bowl or wide-mouthed glass, topped with a short head of froth. Caffe latte has a greater proportion of milk to coffee than a cappuccino does, and tastes weaker and milkier. Strictly speaking, the milk and coffee should be poured simultaneously, from either side of the bowl or glass.
Different Milk Texture for Lattes and Cappuccinos
Proper cappuccinos and lattes require microfoam—a pourable, virtually liquid foam that tastes sweet and rich. The pouring consistency runs from completely liquid for latte art to a slightly thickened sauce for traditional cappuccinos. If the foam becomes thicker, like soft peak beaten egg whites, its taste turns to cardboard, and its appearance in the cup suffers. Microfoam in the pitcher does not look like a foam, since the bubbles are too small. The only distinction it has from liquid milk is a soft, slightly spectral sheen in the right light. If the frothed milk has visible foam, it was incorrectly prepared. The picture below shows a bad foam (left) and a slightly thick microfoam suitable for cappuccinos (right). Frothing milk to a microfoam is very simple when you know how to do it, but it does take time to learn. Two processes occur when milk is frothed: first, when the tip is at the right depth, the milk is converted to microfoam; second, the milk is heated. These two do not happen at the same rate on every machine or tip design, so the point at which you transition from foaming the milk to simply heating it varies from machine to machine. Finally, the amount of steam varies from machine to machine too, so the time spent to heat enough milk for a six ounce cappuccino can go from 10 to 40 seconds.
Where to put the tip?
There are three zones distinguished by sound. In the first zone nearest the surface, the tip makes a bubbling noise and as it gets slightly deeper, a sucking or tearing noise. In the second intermediate zone, there is very little noise. In third zone near the bottom of the pitcher, the milk begins to roar loudly. The tip should stay in the second, silent zone for the entire process. In order to create microfoam, position the tip at the top boundary, so you occasionally hear a sucking/tearing noise. Too much of the sucking/tearing noise and the foam will stiffen and not be micro enough. To just heat the milk after the foaming is done, position the tip near the lower boundary so you occasionally hear a roaring noise. The milk in the pitcher should whirlpool or form a standing wave of turbulence in order to fold foam into liquid. With a one hole tip, angle the entry, and keep it close to the edge of the pitcher to rotate the milk into a whirlpool. With a multi-hole tip, point it straight down and keep it near the center of the pitcher—the hole dispersion pattern on a properly designed tip will create a whirlpool or a standing wave of turbulence for you. If your multi-hole tip does not do this, change it for another, or block some holes and convert it to slower, single hole use.
How long to foam?
As the liquid turns to foam, the volume of the milk increases. This is called stretching. Keep foaming until the milk has gone up about 50% in volume. If you foam more than that, you will get a light microfoam for the classic cap-on-top cappuccino, but latte art will be impossible. Typically, the side of the pitcher will be lukewarm (40°C, 100°F) at this point. However, volume increase is a far more reliable indicator, and with some frothing setups, one even keeps the tip at the foaming point until the milk is fully heated.
How much longer to heat the milk?
The milk should be heated to about 70°C (160°F), which is just below the point where protein curdles and the foam is destroyed. The easiest way to do this is to hold one hand on the side of the pitcher and stop when it gets uncomfortably hot. If the milk suddenly increases in volume, the proteins are curdling, and you’ve gotten it too hot. With experience and a slower frother, you can hold the pitcher by the side rather than the handle and have your other hand free (it also helps to have a higher pain threshold!).
How to pour latte art?
The prevailing usage calls a drink of any size with latte art patterns a latte. If a drink of any size with a shallow cap of soft foam on top is called a cappuccino. A drink with a hard foam cap is called ruined. The exception is the macchiatto, which is a ristretto espresso with about one ounce of milk either in cappuccino or latte art form, depending on your wish, and the barista’s whim or skill. Good cafés will not serve anything in larger than a twelve ounce cup. Most purists frown on any milk drink larger than six ounces. If you are pouring a cappuccino, let the frothed milk rest for 30 seconds prior to pouring. A cap of soft foam will form automatically. The softness of the foam cap is a check on how well you’ve micro-frothed. Do not attempt latte art until you get the soft foam cappuccinos, since this confirms that you are frothing correctly. Below are the steps to pouring latte art:
- Turn the handle of the cup to the left and turn the saucer away from you if it has lettering. The setup should be facing the person being served.
- Let the frothed milk sit 10 to 20 seconds.
- Tilt the cup towards yourself until it is close to spilling. The more the tilt, the more quickly the milk will mark the surface (rather than sinking out of sight).
- Slowly start pouring the milk at the lower end (closer to you) until you see a cloud of white billowing up.
- For a heart, move the pour towards the center, and oscillate it side to side.
- For a rosette, move the pour to the far end and zig zag it towards your end.
- End the pour with a very light stroke away from you to the far end of the cup.
- As you pour the milk, level the cup smoothly so nothing spills.
Hope you enjoy your Latte and Cappuccino
Congratulations you’ve now learned about Latte and Cappuccino! Make sure to match it with next guide on making espresso.