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What is a Mocha? 

If you love chocolate as much as I do, why not combine it with coffee? 

Enter the cafe mocha. It’s an easy-to-prepare popular indulgence – part breakfast and part dessert. Make it the right way, and it’s so good it’ll knock your socks off.

In this blog post, I’ll share some background on what makes a mocha unique from your other favorite coffee drinks.

We’ll also cover how to make one at home and a few awesome variations to level up your coffee flavor and presentation.

What is a Mocha?

Let’s start with the basics. A mocha is basically a latte with chocolate in it. 

If you’re a latte fan and have a sweet tooth, then a mocha is for you. It’s got a combination of espresso milk and the sweet and luxurious flavor of chocolate.

Like a latte, a cafe mocha is prepared as a 10-12 ounce drink with espresso doppio as its backbone. The main difference is the first and (often) final ingredient in the cup – chocolate.

Not every mocha is the same. You can create a wide range of flavor profiles based on the type and volume of chocolate applied. We’ll discuss some of the common variations momentarily.

A typical cafe mocha has about 150 mg of caffeine from the coffee, plus another 2-10 mg depending on the type of chocolate.

Like many modern coffee drinks, the cafe mocha was created in Italy in the 1800s and modified significantly once it hit North America. We certainly like having options here!

What is the difference between a mocha and a latte?

latte in white mug

A latte is a 10-12 fluid-ounce espresso and milk drink. It starts with 2 ounces of espresso; the rest is steamed milk. This latte drink has a velvety texture and a thin layer of foam to top it. 

Since it’s a large coffee drink, the milk is steamed rather hot (150 F or more) to keep a latte warm from the first sip to the last. If you’re ordering from a specialty coffee shop, expect your drink to arrive with latte art built into the presentation of the cup.

Cafe mocha is exactly like a latte, but you add chocolate. The espresso is often pulled directly into a base layer of chocolate syrup waiting in the cup. It’s mixed together and then combined with steamed milk in the same way as a latte.

A latte is a great everyday drink. Mocha the the gold standard if you’ve got a sweet tooth, but maybe not every day. It’s more like a breakfast-time dessert.

Unlike a latte, it’s also common for a mocha to have delicious and decorative toppings added on.

Ingredient Notes


Coffee – 2-ounce espresso doppio is the standard base for a mocha. If you don’t have an espresso machine, it’s possible to substitute strongly brewed coffee for espresso.

Milk – Whole milk provides the best body for a mocha, but isn’t required. You can easily substitute with any variety of dairy or plant-based milk.  

Chocolate Syrup – The store-bought stuff works fine. You can also substitute cocoa powder in a pinch. But, if you want a drink that is more customizable and better tasting, make it at home instead. I’ll explain how momentarily.

Sweetener (optional) – It’s easy enough to tame a bitter chocolate syrup with a little sweetener. Honey, sugar, agave? They all work. Maple syrup is my favorite option.

Vanilla (optional) – Although it isn’t a customary ingredient, I like adding a few drops of vanilla to my mocha. It adds an incredible aroma and a “marshmallowy” texture to the drink. 


Ceramic Mug – I like using a short 10-ounce mug (300 mL) that has been preheated.

Small Whisk – If you’re using a whisk, make sure it’s tiny. We’ll use it to combine the espresso and chocolate. A spoon also works.

Espresso Machine – To create a true cafe mocha, you’ll need proper espresso. But if you don’t have one, don’t fret. We can make a very similar drink using strong coffee brewed via another method. Here are 4 of our favorite De’Longhi Espresso Machines.

Easy Instructions: How To Make A Mocha

Mocha on a table

1: Prep Chocolate

Preheat your mug and add 1-2 ounces of chocolate syrup to the bottom. Two tablespoons are the equivalent of one fluid ounce. 

Include any other sweeteners or flavor inclusions, like vanilla, in this step. I like to use ⅛ tsp of vanilla extract in my mocha. Do what’s right for you.

2: Add Espresso

Pull a double shot of espresso (2 ounces) directly on top of the chocolate syrup. 

When the espresso extraction is complete, use a small whisk or spoon to combine the contents of the mug. Stir vigorously, but not so much that any liquid spills out.

The drink should smell awesome but will taste bitter and strong at this stage.

3: Steam Milk

With your espresso machine’s steam wand, heat the milk to 155 F. Use a thermometer to measure and watch for the consistency of wet paint.

The entire process should only take about 5-8 seconds, depending on the type of machine you’re using.

You’ll only want a thin layer of foam in the final cup, so froth briefly. Maybe 1-2 seconds of paper-ripping sounds before the steam wand should be fully submerged. Then steam, fold, and swirl.

4: Pour Milk

Pour the steamed milk into the coffee-chocolate mixture to assemble the drink. If you’re feeling creative, try adding latte art to the pour. Even if you aren’t Picasso, the drink will still taste great.

A short layer of foam should settle atop the cup. About ¼”.

5: Top It

This step is optional and a lot of fun. Because I’m not a talented latte artist, I prefer adding creative toppings to my mocha. Shaved chocolate is my go-to, but you could also try a swirl of syrup or anything else that strikes your fancy.

Alternatives To Espresso

If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, strong coffee brewed using another method will also work for this recipe.

I prefer using Aeropress for “espresso-like” coffee. It’s affordable, highly portable, and makes awesome coffee. My secret is to modify the standard dose to maximize the coffee’s intensity.


Add 2.5 Tbsp of finely ground coffee and 2.25 fluid ounces of water. Agitate, rest, and plunge as you normally would with Aeropress.

Adding more coffee and less water than recommended by the maker brews a cup that is more like espresso and less like standard coffee.

You can use the same approach with a Moka pot, French Press, etc.

Frothing Milk Without An Espresso Machine

In my experience, you’ll always get better-textured milk by using a steam wand. But you can still make a delicious mocha without one.

One simple method is to place the milk in a small saucepan and whisk it as it heats at a medium-low temperature. Be mindful not to overheat the milk.

I don’t prefer the whisking method because it’s easy to make a mess during the ferocious stirring that is required to generate a velvet texture.

An alternative is to heat the milk first and then shake it in a mason jar. I like this method because it’s easy to froth without a big mess. But there is a downside.

The milk will cool down while you’re shaking, meaning that your drink may end up slightly cooler than you’d like.

You can also use a small appliance called a “frothing wand” (here’s one of our favorites from Amazon), which looks similar to an immersion blender. It creates decent results and is significantly more affordable than buying an espresso machine.

How To Make Chocolate Syrup

The simplest solution is to use hot chocolate powder or store-bought syrup like Nestle. Some people also use chocolate milk. But if you want the best drink, then making your own chocolate syrup is the way to go.

With real chocolate, you also get the benefits of cocoa butter. It provides a creamy mouthfeel that you won’t find from a powder or commercial syrup.

I like using sweetened milk chocolate with a 35% cocoa content. But you can vary the type of chocolate you use to fit your specific tastes.

You can make your own syrup by combining chocolate and milk cream or water and heating the ingredients together in the microwave.

When using milk cream, add an equal weight of cream and coffee. Both ingredients should be cold to start. Microwave until the mix is just warm, and then stir with a whisk to combine. 

If you’re using milk, combine one part chocolate for every 3 parts water.

Store the syrup in a plastic bottle with a squeeze top for easy application. Keep it warm so the syrup doesn’t turn solid.


The mocha isn’t so buttoned-up as other types of espresso drinks. Topping for flavor and decoration is all part of the fun when it comes to this latte! Here are a few of my favorites,

  • Shaved Chocolate – Run a chocolate bar across a fine Microplane to shave chocolate onto the surface of your drink.
  • Whipped Cream – It’s easy to make your own. In a blender, combine a cup of heavy cream, a tablespoon of maple syrup, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Your whipped cream will be ready after 20 seconds, on high. Blend longer for a thicker texture.

Other Mocha Recipes

  • White Chocolate Mocha – Mix and match the types of chocolate that will drive your taste buds wild. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or white chocolate? There’s a place for all of them. Just follow the flavor.
  • Iced Mocha – An iced mocha can be sweet and refreshing on a hot day. Prepare it in a mason jar by adding chocolate syrup, then ice, then ½ cup of coffee and milk. Seal the lid and shake it up. It’s delicious when topped with whipped cream.
  • Mocha Frappuccino – For a frozen take on this drink, try your hand at this popular Starbucks drink at home. Add a cup of ice to a blender and top ¼ cup of chocolate syrup, ¾ cup of milk, and a double espresso. Blend until the ice is smooth, and serve in a chilled glass.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a mocha made with coffee or chocolate?

Essentially, ‘mocha’ means a type of good quality coffee that is made from a specific coffee bean. The beans are from the plant species called Coffee Arabica, and it was originally only grown in Mocha, Yemen. It also means a mixture of coffee and chocolate, or a flavouring that tastes of this.

Is a mocha the same as a latte?

Mocha is basically a chocolate latte. Chocolate syrup is combined with espresso before any steamed milk is added. It’s like any other flavor inclusion in a latte, only more luxurious.

Can I make a mocha without an espresso machine?

Without espresso, it’s not a traditional mocha. But you can get pretty close. Try using an Aeropress or French Press and adjusting for a more concentrated coffee dose. You can approximate steamed milk by heating it on the stovetop and then shaking it briskly in a sealed mason jar. 

Mocha on a table


Here's how to make a delicious chocolate mocha espresso drink!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 drink


  • Espresso Machine
  • Mug


  • 2 oz Espresso
  • 1-2 oz Chocolate Syrup
  • 1/2 Cup Milk


  • Add chocolate syrup to the bottom of a pre-heated mug.
  • Pull a double shot of espresso directly into the same mug.
  • Whisk or stir to combine.
  • Steam the milk to 155 F, only frothing a small layer of foam.
  • Pour the steamed milk into the mug until the total volume is 10-12 ounces.
  • (optional) Top with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or sugar.
  • Enjoy!


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Category: Drink

Yield: 1


  • 2-ounces, Espresso 
  • 1-2 ounces, Chocolate Syrup
  • ½ cup, Milk


  1. Add chocolate syrup to the bottom of a pre-heated mug.
  2. Pull a double shot of espresso directly into the same mug.
  3. Whisk or stir to combine.
  4. Steam the milk to 155 F, only frothing a small layer of foam.
  5. Pour the steamed milk into the mug until the total volume is 10-12 ounces.
  6. (optional) Top with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or sugar.
  7. Enjoy!

Looking for more coffee fun? Head on over to one of these coffee guides!

About William

William Mack is a classically trained chef and a coffee enthusiast. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America he spent a decade cooking in top NYC restaurants like Spice Market and Betony. He's now the culinary editor at Kitchen Ambition, and a contributor at Bit of Cream.

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