Difference between Latte and Cappuccino

There are baristas that claim that there is no or very little difference between latte and cappuccino. If you are not trained to see the differences between the two popular types of coffee with milk, there is a good chance that you will be served the wrong beverage without noticing it. In this article we will examine what the differences between latte and cappuccino are.


Latte vs Cappuccino
A cup of latte with the arty foam finish

Café latte is a coffee beverage made with espresso and milk. Latte originated in Italy, where the name “caffelatte ” means “a milked coffee.” The first latte was observed by the American writer William Dean Howells in 1867, in his book “Italian Journeys.”

There is a slightly different interpretation throughout the world of what drink café latte signifies exactly. For example, in Scandinavian countries the similar term café au lait has always referred to the combination of espresso and milk, while in the United States it almost exclusively means brewed coffee combined with scalded milk. In France, they drink café au lait (milky coffee), but caffè latte is found mostly in American coffee chains, while the French equivalent for the mix of espresso with steamed milk is often called grand crème. Some Italian provinces have a tradition of caffè latte being served at home and strictly for breakfast.

Simple way to make a good cup of Latte:

  1. Fill a pitcher with milk. Put a steamer into the pitcher and turn it on. Let the end of the steamer sit in the milk while it is spinning. Heat milk up to the temperature of about 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Slowly pour milk into the espresso. While pouring milk into the espresso, do not hold back the foam on top of milk.

Your cup of café latte is ready.

traditional Italian cappuccino
A cup of traditional Italian cappuccino with a good amount of foam

cappuccino is a traditional Italian coffee drink made with espresso mixed with hot milk and foam on top.

Howard Schultz, the CEO at Starbucks, said that this is an Italian coffee house model that was an inspiration for the Starbucks chain model. However the Italian cappuccino-drinking tradition is somewhat different to the American one. Italians would never order cappuccino after 12 pm because it, as well as many other Italian coffee drinks with added milk, is considered a “breakfast or mid-morning break drink.” It is hard to find a restaurant in Italy that serves milky coffee after dinner hours, as the common after dinner drink is a straight expresso.

The other difference between an American cappuccino and an Italian one is the amount they pour into a cup. In the United States, it is around 360 ml or more, while in Italy it is a smaller amount of 150–180 ml.

How to make a good cup of Cappuccino:

One of the prerequisites of heating good milk for your coffee cappuccino is a cold steam pitcher. There are pitchers that are specifically designed to make steamed milk more easily. You want to steam milk until it reaches around 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. Pour cold milk into a cold pitcher, no more than half full. Position the tip of the steamer right below the surface of the milk, and turn on the steamer full blast. While stirring slowly, move the pitcher a little bit up and down, to create good foam. Make sure you hold the pitcher at a slight angle, to create bubbles on your milk.
  2. Take a tablespoon and hold back the foam while pouring milk into the espresso. When you get a glass about two thirds full, take all the foam with a spoon and put it on top of the beverage.

Comparison chart

Latte Cappuccino
The foam is less dense The foam is rich and dense
Half steamed milk, half espresso One third espresso, one third steamed milk, one third foam
Bubbles are not created in milk during the making process A lot of bubbles in milk are created during the making process
Is sometimes made with an art foam finish Is not usually made with a foam finish
A cup of latte is heavier A cup of cappuccino is lighter

Latte vs Cappuccino

What is the difference between latte and cappuccino?

  • In café latte, the foam is not dense. For making a cup of café cappuccino, on the other hand, the dense foam is required, because the foam is an obligatory ingredient of a cappuccino.
  •  Café latte and cappuccino are different in terms of the ratio of espresso, steamed milk and foam. Café latte is half steamed milk and half espresso, while cappuccino is one third espresso, one third steamed milk and one third foam.
  • During the milk steaming for café latte, bubbles are not created in the milk. On the other hand, milk for café cappuccino is made while producing a lot of bubbles.
  • Café latte is often served with a nicely designed foam finish. In the Starbucks chain, there are special requirements for the design of the foam finish each Latte cup is supposed to have. On the other hand, Cappuccino is normally served without an art finish. The dense foam on top of café cappuccino prevents the making of such a finish. There are exceptions to this, though. A barista with an artistic inclination will always find ways to make any cup of café look beautiful.
  • A cup of cafè latte is heavier than a cup of cappuccino of the same size, because a cup of cappuccino contains foam in addition to milk, while a cup of cappuccino contains only espresso and milk.
A barista making steamed milk using a coffee machine


In this video you can see a guide how to prepare a cup of latte and a cup of cappuccino using an espresso machine: