If you’re heading to your local coffee shop or experimenting with new coffee drinks at home, it’s important to know the key differences between some of the most popular coffee drinks out there!
Two classic drinks that you’ll see at every coffee shop is a cappuccino and a regular black coffee.
While you may know the main difference between the two (one has milk added and uses espresso while the other uses coffee beans and water), there’s actually quite a bit to know about these 2 drinks!
What is a Coffee?
This one doesn’t need much explanation – black coffee is simply a mix of hot water and coffee! There’s no milk or sugar added. (Unless you add it yourself, of course.)
The French name for black coffee is “café noir,” which is good to know if you’re feeling fancy or just want to annoy your spouse by insisting they call it by its proper name.
What’s a Cappuccino?
Love your froth? Then a cappuccino is your drink! A cappuccino is made with espresso and equal parts steamed or frothed milk. It’s a smaller volume drink compared to a latte with much more froth.
The froth is also made differently than a caffe latte. The foam on a cappuccino has a more air included which results in a thicker foam. This is also why you won’t see latte art on your cappuccino. As you can probably tell by its name, cappuccinos originated in Italy.
The name cappuccino comes from the word “capuchin” which comes from the Capuchin friars. The color of the hooded robes monks and nuns of the Capcuhin order wore was the same color as the coffee drink where milk was added to coffee (aka the cappuccino as we now know it).
History of Coffee
Coffee has been around for centuries but nobody exactly knows when or how it was discovered! We do know the Arabian Peninsula was where coffee cultivation and trade first began.
Coffee in homes as well as at coffee shops became wildly popular. Coffee made it’s way to Europe in the 17th century, New Amsterdam in the mid-1600’s and the Americas in the 1700s.
History of a Cappuccino
The cappuccino was invented in the early 1900s in Italy after the espresso machines were introduced. The drink went through a few changes after World War II to make it into the drink we know today – equal parts espresso, steamed milk and froth.
In some parts of the world like Vienna, they’re still made with whipped cream as well as things such as cinnamon or chocolate shavings on top.
Cappuccinos didn’t become popular in America until about the 1980s.
(There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between two popular drinks, cappuccinos and flat whites too). The key difference is that a flat white is made with textured milk or milk foam and no froth while a cappuccino is made up of equal parts steamed milk and milk froth.)
How to Make a Cup of Coffee
This is a bit of a loaded question because there’s so many different ways to make a coffee! You can use a traditional coffee maker, an Aeropress, a Chemex, a french press or more.
There is a general way of how to make a drip coffee in a regular coffee maker so I’ll share that.
- Grind your coffee beans
- If you are using whole beans, you’ll first want to grind your means into a medium or medium-fine grind size.
- Add ground beans to machine you’re using
- You will need some sort of coffee filter whether it’s a paper filter or the one built in to your machine.
- Add Water
- Add filtered water to your machine
- Run the Brew Cycle
- Brew your coffee!
- That’s it! As soon as your coffee is finished brewing, drink it!
How to Make a Cappuccino
A cappuccino is made up of espresso, steamed milk and milk froth.
(Fun fact – a dry cappuccino with dry foam has less milk and more milk froth while a wet cappuccino with wet foam has more steamed hot milk and less foam. A true cappuccino has equal parts espresso, milk and milk froth.)
Here’s how to make a cappuccino at home:
- Make your espresso shot
- Do this with either an espresso machine, espresso maker, Nespresso or Aeropress
- Steam your milk
- For the best latte, use whole milk. For one with less calories, use skim or 1% milk. If you have an espresso machine use that to steam your milk. Otherwise use a milk frother or heat it on the stove to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the milk
- Add the milk to your espresso.
- Add the Foam
- Then add a layer of the froth on top!
Obviously this can be made with a higher caffeine content by adding more shots of espresso. Just remember that if you have a double shot of espresso, you’ll need to also increase the amount of foam and milk to the drink to make it a true cappuccino.
Let’s talk an important topic when it comes to coffee – the caffeine content! The amount of caffeine can differ greatly depending on many factors – how strong you brew your coffee, the type of coffee you’re brewing, the amount of espresso in your drink, etc.
For the sake of simplicity, if you’re comparing a regular one shot cappuccino and an “average” cup of coffee, a cup of coffee has a bit more caffeine than the coffee. As a whole, espresso drinks contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
Moving on to flavor. The flavor of these 2 coffee beverages vary but both have very strong flavors. While again, the taste and flavor of your coffee drink depends on the type of beans you use but a regular drip coffee has a much stronger flavor than the cappuccino.
Since the cappuccino has milk added, it has a much more smooth flavor. Keep in mind, though, that there isn’t that much milk added to a cappuccino so you’ll get a good taste of the espresso.
One commonality between all coffee grounds is that it includes ground coffee! A good coffee grinder (or one of these options if you don’t have a grinder) is a necessity for all coffee beverages!
An interesting thing about coffee and cappuccino is the type of grind you use! The espresso you use for a cappuccino should be ground to a very fine ground. This will give you the best shot of espresso for your coffee.
When you grind your coffee for a cup of drip coffee, you’ll want to get a medium coarseness! This will give you that perfect cup of coffee that’s also appropriate for your coffee maker!
Time of Day
One interesting thing about coffee is that you’ll see some drinks offered all day long while other are clearly more of a “breakfast” drink than a post dinner drink. Obviously you can drink a cup of coffee or cappuccino whenever you want, there’s just a a more normal time for both!
Traditionally cappuccino is served in the mornings and that’s mostly it. As mentioned above, cappuccino contains milk making it a not-so-great option for a post dinner or post lunch drink.
A cup of coffee, however, is a drink that’s offered all day long! Clearly it’s offered in the morning alongside your breakfast but it’s also often offered (usually in the decaf version) after dinner! You especially see this at large events when coffee is brought out alongside dessert.
There you have it! Now the next time you head into your local coffee shop or your at home coffee bar, you’ll be able to quickly know (and taste!) the different between a cup of cappuccino and a cup of coffee!