Coffee is a great way to get our morning caffeine kick, but it can be difficult to choose with so many different options around.
For those who drink coffee there are two main options; milky espresso drinks, or traditional coffee. Cappuccino is a popular espresso drink, but do you know how it differs from a regular type of coffee?
In this guide, we will look at the differences between coffee vs cappuccino so you can decide which option is best for you.
Cappuccino Vs Coffee: Main Differences Explained
Coffee and cappuccino have a lot in common. They're both caffeinated, they both originate from coffee beans, and they're both enjoyed around the world. However, even though a cappuccino is a coffee drink, it is vastly different from a regular brewed coffee.
Let's take a closer look at the key differences between these coffee beverages:
Let's start with the coffee recipes and the ingredients used within the two drinks. This is what determines the taste, texture, look, and aroma of the beverage - so it's a good place to start when getting to know the difference between coffee and cappuccino.
A cappuccino contains:
- Espresso shots (made from roasted coffee beans)
- Steamed milk
- Frothed milk (made by forcing hot air into the milk)
A brewed coffee contains:
- Ground coffee beans (a fine grind is best)
- Hot water
As you can see, the key difference between coffee vs cappuccino is the milk content.
A cappuccino is a drink made with 2/3 milk- so it's a key ingredient. A coffee can be brewed in various ways, but milk is not used in the brewing - though most of the time milk is added afterwards to make it a richer drink.
The other main difference is the espresso. Cappuccino is espresso based, and while an espresso is a coffee drink, it's particularly concentrated. This gives it a bolder, more intense flavor profile than the regular ground coffee used for a standard brew.
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How They Are Made
A cappuccino is brewed in a specific way that doesn't really change from coffee shop to coffee shop. In contrast, there are a lot of different ways to make a regular brew coffee.
A cappuccino is made by pouring steamed hot milk over an espresso shot. It's then topped with a layer of thick milk froth.
A brewed coffee can be made in a variety of different ways, but they all involve passing hot water through ground coffee beans.
Coffee is commonly made using:
- A French press
- A drip coffee machine
- An espresso machine and topping with hot water to make an americano coffee
You generally need some kind of espresso machine to make a cappuccino, and it will typically take 30 seconds to brew a shot of espresso depending on whether you want a single or double shot. It then takes another few minutes to add the milk on top.
This gives you the bold and intense coffee flavor from the espresso with the smooth texture of the milk on top.
In contrast, a brewed coffee is much simpler. It's usually made with some kind of coffee maker and takes around 5 minutes to fully extract the flavors from the ground fine roasted coffee beans.
The appearance of a cappuccino and regular coffee are usually quite different. This is as a result of the ingredients used and the very different brewing technique.
A cappuccino has a light brown appearance with the fluffy milk foam and cocoa powder on top giving it a much lighter color.
A simple coffee is usually black because it's usually served as the brewed liquid without any milk.
The images below show the differences in appearance between each type of coffee.
Regular Black Coffee:
The taste of a cappuccino vs coffee is noticeably different. Both drinks are made from coffee beans so there are a few similarities, but the other ingredients make them very different.
A regular coffee has bold, strong flavors which are influenced by the type of coffee beans used in the brewing process.
A cappuccino has more intense flavor from the espresso, but the high volume of milk disguises the bitterness and makes it a much milder drink.
The main reason for the different taste is the milk. A cappuccino actually has a stronger, bolder flavor from the espresso shot, but the addition of steamed milk and milk froth helps to balance it. This makes the cappuccino a lot sweeter and smoother than a regular coffee.
Many people add milk, cream, or sugar to their coffee which can really impact the taste - but generally a regular brew coffee has a much stronger taste from the ground coffee beans.
Most of the time when you order a coffee drink you'll be looking for a caffeine hit. Coffee and cappuccinos both contain a reasonable amount of caffeine, but there is a noticeable difference.
- A traditional cappuccino contains 70-130mg of caffeine.
- A regular coffee contains 60-100mg on average, but it can vary depending on the brewing method.
The espresso base (with one or two shots) makes the cappuccino stronger than a regular coffee, so it's the better option for those who want a bigger energy boost.
Milk and coffee go very well together and it's often the milk content which impacts the taste of the coffee drink you order.
A cappuccino is made with 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foamed milk.
A regular brewed coffee is served as a black coffee without any milk.
The fact hot coffee is usually served black is what makes it taste stronger. However, most of the time milk is added to brewed coffee to soften the bold flavor and make it a more enjoyable drink.
Common milk additions to coffee include:
- Cold milk (whole milk or skim milk)
- Hot milk
- Cream or full cream milk
There are also several dairy free, vegan milk options you can choose from for your cappuccino or coffee. The most popular options served in coffee shops are:
- Coconut milk
- Almond milk
- Oat milk
- Soy milk
The milk alternatives are often lower calorie, so if you're on a diet it could be a good idea to switch away from traditional dairy.
Coffee is such an exciting beverage because you can customise it however you want. By adding or removing ingredients, or just tweaking the coffee recipes, you can create a unique drink which suits your personal taste.
A cappuccino has two main variations, wet and dry, whereas a regular coffee can be customised a bit more. You can also serve both drinks cold as an iced cappuccino or a regular iced coffee.
A wet cappuccino is just like a traditional cappuccino, but it has more milk. This gives it a really creamy texture and helps to disguise the espresso coffee taste.
A dry cappuccino has less steamed milk and more milk froth. This makes it really creamy too, and makes the drink a bit stronger like a latte macchiato.
For regular black coffee you can add a whole range of different ingredients to change up your cup of coffee:
- Use lighter or darker roasted coffee beans - light roast is sweeter whereas dark roast is nuttier.
- Add hot milk to give it a creamy texture.
- Add cold milk or cream to cool it down and make it easier to drink.
- Add sugar or sweetener to disguise the coffee taste.
- Add syrup (like vanilla or caramel) to change the coffee flavor.
- Serve cold over ice to make it a refreshing iced coffee.
Some coffee drinks can have a surprising number of calories, so it's important to keep an eye on them if you're on a diet.
A regular brewed coffee contains about 5 calories, whereas a cappuccino contains 80-120 calories.
The reason that cappuccinos have more calories is the milk. Cappuccinos contain a lot of steamed milk and a layer of foam on top, both of which contain a lot of calories.
In comparison, a brewed coffee is just coffee grounds and hot water - so there's basically no calories at all.
You can lower the calories in a cappuccino by switching to a skimmed milk or dairy free milk, but if you're trying to reduce your calorie intake you're better with a brewed coffee.
Just be careful what you add into your regular coffee, because even small additions can contain a fair few calories.
What Is A Cappuccino? (Overview & How They’re Made)
If you drink coffee you're probably familiar with a cappuccino. It's an American coffee with Italian roots that you'll find in many cafés.
It's a drink made up of equal parts espresso (made using fine roasted beans), steamed milk, and foamed milk.
Most coffee shops will also add sprinkle of cocoa powder or some chocolate syrup on top. It's a simple recipe, but it can take a while to perfect and you will need an espresso machine.
The combination of concentrated coffee from the shot of espresso, and more steamed milk on top, make this a strong, but smooth coffee drink. It also has a layer of milk foam which baristas can use for latte art.
Despite being known as an Americano coffee, the cappuccino actually emerged into the coffee scene from Vienna and Italy in the 1800s as an alternative to the harsh espresso. The word is believed to originate from the coffee's resemblance to capuchin monk's hoods.
Different variants include over ice, a ‘wet’ cappuccino with less milk foam, or ‘dry’ with more foam. A cappuccino is exclusively a morning drink in Italy – because of the milk’s fat content, it’s considered too heavy for the evening. They tend to drink espressos later in the day for energy boosts.
However, the cappuccino is a popular American coffee which is served all day. It usually comes in a glass cup and can be enjoyed at any time without any judgement from your barista.
For those who like strong coffee but with a softer and smoother taste, the cappuccino is an excellent choice.
What Is Coffee? (Overview & How Is It Made?)
Coffee is an umbrella term for a brewed liquid made from roasted beans, and it is generally much simpler than a cappuccino.
It comes in different varieties made from different brewing methods; a drip coffee machine, percolator, Chemex, French press, instant, the options are endless - and you don't need an espresso machine!
Most Americans are familiar with drip coffee or instant beans. These are freeze-dried beforehand to be prepared instantly with hot water.
Essentially, anything that isn't espresso coffee based comes under this umbrella. This means that rergular coffee doesn't have the bold espresso flavor, and it's usually brewed in a large quantity instead of a single shot. In a café, the filtered coffee would be this option. It comes with or without milk, and in cold brew.
Traditional coffee has been linked to originating in Ethiopia by a goat herder. He noticed that his goats were more alert and active when they ate cherries from the coffea plant, and so used them to make a brewed drink.
Brewed coffee itself comes from the early 1800s when European coffee brewers began to experiment with different ways to enjoy coffee.
How To Make Coffees & Cappuccinos At Home
Making coffees at home is relatively simple; if you have the equipment then you should be able to make a brewed coffee with no problem.
For tips on a coffee at home, see the table below:
Use hot, not boiling, water. Make sure you remove any finely ground coffee sediment from your brewed liquid.
Flavorful, rich and strong aromas thanks to no filter.
Use coarse grounds in the basket for no remains in your brewed drink. Brew for 6 to 10 minutes.
Very strong, bold and bitter flavor. Extra kick for the day.
Wet the paper filter beforehand for best filter use. Agitate the grounds before plunging to enhance flavor.
Softer, less bitter flavors. Retains less of the oils from the ground.
Wait for grounds to bloom before pouring more water. Pour evenly to catch all grounds.
Rich, full-bodied coffee. Less bitter flavors from oils caught in filter.
A cappuccino can be difficult at home, but if you have an espresso machine with a steam arm, you’re golden. The perfect cappuccino is 1:1:1 foam, milk, and coffee. When steaming, fill your jug 1/3 with milk, and steam it up another 1/3.
It’s possible to do without a steam arm, follow these steps below:
Common Cappuccino Coffee Questions
Which time of day is best for cappuccinos vs. coffees?
A cappuccino is drunk exclusively in the morning in Italy. The fat content is too much for the afternoon or evening meals. Coffee is better for the afternoon for a quick boost.
How does a cappuccino differ from a latte?
A cappuccino has a ratio of 1:1:1 foam, milk, and coffee. A latte is similar to a cappuccino, but the main difference is that it has more steamed milk and less espresso, with the milk foam sitting at the very top.
A cappuccino is actually most similar to a flat white, but a flat white is a drink made using ristretto shots in the bottom layer instead of espresso.
Is an espresso healthier than pour over coffee?
An espresso is considered healthier than a pour over coffee because the natural oils are retained in the extraction process. Of course, this could also raise your cholesterol, but it will be significantly less than some regular brewed coffee (depending on the serving style).
Cappuccinos and coffees have one main similarity - they're both made by forcing high pressure water through coffee beans to create a caffeinated beverage. But that's where the similarities end.
Regular coffee is just hot water through coffee beans - with no other stuff added. Cappuccinos are actually mostly milk. This makes cappuccinos better for those who want a rich, creamy drink, and regular coffee better for those who want a simple, strong, and bitter drink.
Hopefully you now know the difference between coffee and cappuccino, and which is your favorite type.