What’s The Difference Between A Latte And A Cappuccino?

What's the difference between a latte and a cappuccino? If you're one of many who still aren't precisely sure what the difference is between them, read on and learn.

Difference between a latte and a cappuccino
Lattes and cappuccinos are popular drinks in the U.S.

If you live in the U.S., you probably consume multiple lattes and/or cappuccinos annually. After the Americano, cappuccinos, and lattes are the most popular coffee beverages in the country. Do you know what's the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, though?

As far as looks go, these two foamy beverages seem to be quite similar. However, there are key differences that distinguish the latte from the cappuccino. The main difference is that lattes are made with microfoam, while cappuccinos receive a topping of macrofoam.

Read on to find out more about how these two beverages differ.

Difference Between A Latte And A Cappuccino: Microfoam Vs. Macrofoam Vs. Steamed Milk

Before you can understand the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, you need to understand the basics about the type of milk that goes into these beverages. The three main concepts you want to understand are steamed milk, microfoam, and macrofoam.

Steamed Milk

Steamed milk is what you get when you inject hot steam into milk through a steam wand. Apart from heating the milk, the high pressure of the steam causes the fats in the milk to expand, which creates foam.

However, heated milk without any foam will remain at the bottom of the milk pitcher. It is this runny, heated milk that we refer to when we talk about steamed milk.

Microfoam

When you steam milk, microfoam will start to form. Microfoam contains tiny air bubbles that are so small that the eye can't really see them.

It has a silky smooth and velvety texture and is not as foamy as macrofoam. If you want to create latte art, you need microfoam.

Macrofoam

Macrofoam, also known as dry foam or froth, is what you need when you're making cappuccinos. This foam contains larger and more visible bubbles than you get with microfoam. In addition, it is airier and lighter than microfoam, which means that it sits on top of the espresso and milk mixture.

Overview Of The Latte

A man making art latte
Lattes are made with espresso and milk

Typically, your standard latte is prepared in a cup that's between 8 and 12 ounces in size. It consists of a single or a double shot of espresso, which is then combined with several ounces of steamed milk. The typical espresso to steamed milk ratio is roughly 1:2. Last but not least, a layer of creamy microfoam and, of course, beautiful latte art.

How To Create Microfoam

  • Purge the wand before you start steaming the milk to get rid of any water that's lodged in the steaming circuit.
  • Start by pouring cold milk into a pitcher up to where the spout starts.
  • Put the tip of the steam wand just below the surface. You'll hear a hissing sound, which is the sound of the wand injecting air into the milk.
  • As soon as the pitcher starts to warm up, push the wand's tip deeper into the milk until the milk reaches about 140 degrees.
  • Pour the milk into the center of the espresso. Hold the pitcher high when you start to pour and then lower the pitcher.

Overview Of The Cappuccino

coffee, cappuccino, cafe
A cappuccino is composed of two layers

A cappuccino is typically served in a cup that's 5 to 7 ounces in size. When made correctly, this beverage consists of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 frothed milk, and 1/3 steamed milk. Whereas in a latte, the milk and the espresso are mixed throughout.

A cappuccino has two layers: the mixed espresso and steamed milk, and then the thick layer of dry foam on top. As is the case with lattes, cappuccinos can be made with either a single or double espresso shot.

How To Make Froth

  • Start with the steam tip just below the surface of the milk. You are trying to get air into the milk while the milk is still cold. When making froth, this process lasts longer than when you're steaming milk for a latte.
  • Once you've got the desired volume, lower the wand into the milk until the milk reaches the desired temperature.

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