Do you like indulgent coffees, or do you prefer a sophisticated brew? That's the question you need to ask yourself when you're choosing between a mocha and a latte. But let's face it, there are so many coffee drinks out now that it's pretty much impossible to know what's in them or which you're going to prefer.
Both mocha and latte drinks and served around the world and are universally popular. While there are distinct differences between the two, there are also a surprising number of similarities.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what's the difference between a mocha and a latte, dive into their origins, explore their contents, answer frequently asked questions, and give you all the information you need to make an informed decision about what to try on your next visit to a coffee shop.
Mocha Vs Latte (The Bottom Line)
You've probably walked into a coffee shop and seen a latte and a mocha coffee on the menu a thousand times. If you’ve always wondered what the difference is when it comes to mocha vs latte then the table below will provide you with a great overview.
Average caffeine content of 85mg
Average caffeine content of 80mg
Mocha has less milk volume than a latte and is stronger.
Latte has a high content of milk, noticeably more than a mocha.
1 ounce of steamed milk and a thin layer of milk foam to top it off
4/6 steamed milk and ⅙ foamed milk
With or Without Foam
Comes with a thin layer of foam.
Typically topped with a decent amount of foam, and sometimes even adorable designs.
Hot or Cold Options
Yes to both
Yes to both
One main difference between a mocha and a latte is that mocha has a sweeter flavor as it comes with chocolate or chocolate syrup.
Not sweet (just milk and coffee usually).
Topped with chocolate shavings
Sometimes there’s even the addition of marshmallows
Not really a whole lot of additions for the latte, but there are many popular types of latte.
Variations are typically based on the type of chocolate. You can use white chocolate, dark chocolate, or even a mixture of both (also known as a Tuxedo Mocha).
Matcha latte (with green tea)
Soy latte (swapped with soy milk)
Almond latte (swapped with almond milk)
Chai latte (using chai tea instead of espresso)
Plenty of other versions were created by Starbucks, from the pumpkin latte to an eggnog latte and more.
What Is A Mocha?
Both coffee and chocolate have plenty in common – they are both start as a bean, and are roasted for flavor. The mocha coffee beverage is made with both these ingredients, specifically a double shot of espresso, chocolate (shavings, syrup, etc.), and steamed milk.
A mocha is often considered to be very similar to a hot chocolate, with the key difference being that an espresso shot is added in before it's served. It's easy to see why people think this, but a mocha has a lot less in common with a hot chocolate than you might think.
For starters, the amount of espresso in a mocha is surprisingly high. The hot chocolate flavor does help to disguise it, but a mocha is definitely a beverage for coffee lovers, not just chocolate lovers.
A mocha is also sometimes thought of as a mild, sweet drink, which is completely untrue. The richness of the chocolate flavor, and the espresso add a complex and indulgent level to a mocha that you just don't get with a hot chocolate.
The type of chocolate used in a mocha coffee will differ between cafes, and it can also come with a wide variety of toppings, including whipped cream, marshmallows, caramel, and even cinnamon. The coffee in a mocha always has an espresso base, and is usually made from arabica coffee beans.
A delicious cup of mocha will always have a balanced flavor which isn’t overly sweet or bitter. This is typically achieved by ensuring that the final beverages have the right amount of ingredient ratios.
Mochas can be served hot or cold, and are an excellent year round drink.
While the word “mocha” is now associated with a coffee beverage, but the espresso based drink actually has an interesting history. The word actually comes from a location – the city of al-Makha or Mocha situated in Yemen. This city used to be the world's major coffee marketplace in the 15th to early 18th century.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and the mocha is now a popular beverage you can buy all over the world. The only real difference is that modern coffee doesn't taste as harsh, so your mocha is less espresso forward in taste. It also has added chocolate flavor, whipped cream, and other sweet ingredients added on top.
Now, the mocha coffee is known as a drink that appeals to individuals who aren’t fans of a strong coffee taste but still want a caffeine kick. Since mocha has chocolate in it, it’s easier to on the pallet than full strength coffee, and is also perfect for the cold winter months.
Mocha Flavor Profile
The mocha recipe is based around chocolate, coffee, and steamed milk, so it's no surprise that mochas have a strong taste. The distinctive roasted flavor of coffee, the sweet flavor of hot chocolate, and the smoothness from the milk all combine beautifully in a cup to give the distinctive taste we all know well.
The flavor of your mocha can vary from place to place depending on the coffee recipes being used. In some coffee shops the recipe has extra chocolate syrup (or chocolate sauce) which make it more sweet, while some recipes actually use dark chocolate to give it a more bitter notes. The key to a mocha is finding that balance, and in most coffee shops you'll find that the taste does reflect that.
If you like the flavor of coffee but find the espresso taste too intense, then you'll enjoy a mocha.
Mocha Milk Content
A mocha is made with steamed milk and milk foam. Some coffee shops choose to flavor the steamed milk with added chocolate sauce, but the recipe does vary. In a 12oz serving there will be 7-9 oz of milk, so it really is a key ingredient.
Steamed milk is usually made by hand using a steam wand, and it's designed to give the mocha a silky smooth flavor. The steam thickens the milk, and gives it a rich, creamy texture which helps to disguise the fact that it's actually an espresso based drink.
Your coffee shop probably uses whole milk as standard, but you can order a mocha with dairy free milk if you prefer. Coconut milk gives it a creamy taste that we love, but soy milk also works well. Large chain coffee shops, like Starbucks, generally have a range of dairy free milk options, but you'll need to check what your individual coffee shop has available.
Pros & Cons of Mochas
What We Like
Things We Don’t
What Is A Latte?
A latte is a coffee-based drink that’s made from steamed milk and espresso. In terms of proportions, it’s typically made of ⅓ espresso, ⅔ heated milk, and about 1cm of it is foam. Sometimes, baristas also create art or characters with the foam.
Interestingly, if you were to order a latte in Italy, you’d get milk instead of a regular coffee-based drink. Outside of Italy, a latte usually come with a standard shot of espresso along with steamed milk and a layer of foamed milk – depending on the country that you reside in, there can sometimes be variations.
Lattes are served hot or cold, and make a great winter or summer drink.
When comparing the history of mocha vs latte it's clear that mocha (in some form) has been around for longer. The term ‘caffe latte’ was first used in English in 1867 in an essay written by Willian Dean Howells. The drink itself, however, was believed to have been invented in the 1950s in Berkeley, California.
The latte began as a truly Italian drink, but it quickly grew popular across Europe and the UK. A modern latte isn't hugely different from the first latte and it's still milk and espresso. However, the evolution of coffee has made lattes less espresso forward in their taste. This difference is down to modern brewing processes which make the espresso smoother, and when the coffee is combined with steamed milk it actually makes it very mild tasting.
Caffe Lattes are commonly drunk by those that want a coffee that isn’t overly strong and has a milky finish. As a milk coffee drink, they are quite palatable, and are easier to drink than a standard cappuccino.
Latte Flavor Profile
There's quite a difference between the latte and mocha flavor profiles, and a latte generally has a more subtle taste. The espresso shots are definitely more noticeable and the flavor is more influenced by the type of coffee bean used in the brewing process, but the high milk content helps to balance it out. It's certainly noticeably less strong than a cappuccino which has a bold espresso taste.
A caffe latte can taste slightly like a milky cup of coffee, but the lighter flavor makes it the perfect vehicle for added sweet syrups and flavorings. The steamed milk helps to enrich it and make it creamier, but if you don't like espresso based drinks then you'll probably still find this too strong.
Latte Milk Content
The latte and mocha recipe is similar in the way milk is a key ingredient. Compared to a mocha, there is a higher volume of milk in every serving, but the steamed milk does give a latte and mocha a similar texture.
Steam is used to thicken the milk and create milk foam, so if you're making one at home you will need a steam wand. The steamed milk gives the caffe latte a luxuriously smooth and indulgent taste, and the thick layer of milk foam works as a canvas for latte art.
Lattes are typically made with whole milk, but you can switch it out and order a dairy free or vegan milk if you prefer. Soy and coconut milk both taste very similar to regular milk in a latte, but we love the nutty flavor of oat or almond milk. In fact, the oat milk latte is now one of the most popular coffee shop orders, even with those who can drink dairy.
Pros & Cons of Latte Coffees
What We Like
Things We Don’t
Making Mochas & Lattes at Home: Barista Tips
Looking to make a mocha and latte coffee drink at home? They aren't too difficult to prepare, and below are two recipes, along with some tips to get you started.
Mocha Coffee recipe
- 1In a small glass or microwaveable cup, add your sugar, cocoa powder, and water before heating it. Stir and make sure that they have combined and completely dissolved.
- 2Stir in the coffee and milk and continue to heat until steaming.
- 3Add your favorite toppings (whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and marshmallows are all good if you aren't worried about the calories).
Latte Coffee recipe
- 1Heat the milk in a pot or in your microwave.
- 2Once the milk is heated, take a small whisk and vigorously whisk until you’ve got a nice and frothy milk with little or no air bubbles. You can also use a specific milk frothing device or steam wand if you have one.
- 3Pour the coffee or espresso shot over your frothed milk or brew it over the frothed milk.
- 4Feel free to add extra sweet ingredients into your latte, or even add some vanilla syrup to make it into a flavored latte instead. Prefer something more chocolatey? You can also consider adding one to two tablespoons of chocolate syrup (make sure you do this before you heat the milk!) You can even choose to add cinnamon to give it a slightly spiced taste.
How To Make Espresso Shots At Home
Latte and mocha are both espresso based drinks, so naturally they have espresso shots included in the recipe. You may not have a clue how to make an espresso at home and many people assume that making one involves a lot of added time and effort. Your instinct might be just to brew a regular coffee and pour it in, but making an espresso at home is far easier than you think.
To start with you will need espresso coffee beans (or specific mocha coffee beans if you're making a mocha). You can pick these up at any supermarket or coffee shop and they're not very expensive. Then, you'll have to use one of these methods to create the base for your latte and mocha drink:
1. Use An Espresso Machine
The easiest way to make an espresso at home is to use a machine. You'll just need to put in the coffee beans with some water, and you'll be able to prepare a cup of coffee in minutes. If you love espresso based drinks then an espresso machine can save you a lot of time, but they are expensive so this won't be a viable option for everyone.
Many espresso machines come with a frothing device to help you create the steamed milk and milk foam, but if not then you'll need to buy your own.
2. Use An Aeropress
An Aeropress uses a plunger technique which is similar to a French press. You load up coffee grounds into the device, fill with boiling water, and press down to remove any air bubbles. The air is compressed within the airtight chamber and forces the water through the coffee grounds to create an espresso.
Aeropress coffee is full of coffee flavors and is completely hand operated so you can use it anywhere. The only downside is that it can't make multiple espresso shots at once, which means you'll have to repeat the process several times if you're brewing coffee for a group.
3. Use A French Press
A French press works in a very similar way to an Aeropress. It makes espresso by immersing coffee grounds in hot water. The flavors of the coffee infuse with the water, and are intensified when you push down on the handle to create a vaccuum. The coffee grounds are then filtered out so you're left with a fresh espresso drink.
A French press can save you a lot of time and give you espresso shots very quickly. The disadvantage is that there is a chance of over extraction if you leave the coffee brewing unattended. This can ruin the flavor and really impact the quality of your mocha and latte, so try not to leave it for more than 4-5 minutes.
4. Use A Moka Pot
A Moka pot is one of the oldest ways to brew espresso but it's still popular around the world. The Moka pot has several compartments, one to fill with water, one for coffee grounds, and one for brewing. Heat is applied to the bottom of the pot which generates steam. This increases the pressure in the bottom of the pot and forces water up through the coffee grounds.
The water infuses with the coffee to give you the espresso flavor. it can then be poured out into your mocha, latte, cappuccino, or any other espresso based drink.
Common Mocha & Latte Questions Answered
Which is stronger: latte or mocha?
Mocha and latte drinks both have caffeine, but interestingly, mocha actually has more caffeine than a latte! A mocha coffee drink has about 85 mg of caffeine, while a latte has an average of 80mg.
Is a mocha sweeter than a latte?
When it comes to the sweetness level of cafe mocha vs. latte, a mocha is definitely sweeter as it contains chocolate in it. In some instances (such as vanilla or caramel lattes), lattes can be equally, if not sweeter, than mocha.
Which is the best coffee for non-coffee drinkers, latte or mocha?
If you're someone that isn't a fan of the bitterness of coffee, mocha is a great drink to start with as it's a lot more palatable.
Are lattes healthier than mochas?
Generally speaking, lattes are healthier than mochas as they don’t have as much sugar. It is, however, highly dependent on the latte that you’re drinking. Vanilla lattes and other sugary lattes such as the Starbucks Brown Sugar Shortbread Latte come packed with sugar.
Is a mocha just a latte with chocolate?
No, it isn’t a chocolate latte and they’re actually very different drinks. While they both contain milk and caffeine, the flavors between the two and the percentage of caffeine differ.
Whether you’re new to coffee or are an avid coffee drinker, you should give these two coffee drinks a shot. When you compare a latte vs a mocha you'll see that they are very different, and after you’ve tasted both a mocha and a latte, you’ll have a better understanding of the stark differences between the two, and how they cater to different individuals.