Espresso Vs Cappuccino – Differences And Similarities

Last Updated on: 25th August 2023, 07:46 pm

Welcome to the world of coffee, where every cup is a unique experience. If you’re a coffee lover, you’ve probably heard of cappuccino and espresso – two classic Italian coffee drinks that have become popular worldwide.

While both are made with espresso as their base ingredient, some key differences between the two drinks set them apart.

Espresso is a concentrated shot of coffee that forces hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure. It’s usually served in small cups and has a strong, bold flavor with a thick layer of crema on top.

Conversely, in a larger cup, Cappuccino combines equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. The result is a creamy, velvety texture with less intense coffee flavor than an espresso shot.

In more detail, we’ll explore the differences and similarities between these iconic coffee drinks.

What Are The Main Differences Between Cappuccino And Espresso

So, you’re wondering what sets cappuccino and espresso apart? The main difference is that cappuccino has steamed milk and foam added to it, while espresso is just a shot of concentrated coffee.

This means that cappuccino is creamier and sweeter than its counterpart. The ratio of steamed milk to foam to espresso in a cappuccino follows a specific chart: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foam.

On the other hand, espresso is typically served in small cups because it’s strong and highly concentrated. It’s made by high-pressure forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans.

Espresso has a bold flavor with hints of bitterness due to its brewing process. Additionally, because there is no added milk or foam in espresso drinks, these beverages are often enjoyed for their pure coffee flavor.

Understanding the difference between cappuccino and espresso will help you decide which drink to order based on your preferences for sweetness or strength of flavor.

Cappuccino And Espresso Ingredients

When making a cappuccino or espresso, it’s important to use high-quality coffee beans and fresh milk to ensure perfect flavors. Espresso requires finely ground coffee beans tightly packed into a portafilter as the base for both drinks. The water is then forced through the grounds at high pressure using an espresso or coffee machine. This process creates a small shot of concentrated coffee, known as ristretto.

For cappuccinos, steamed milk and foam are added to the espresso shot. The milk in cappuccinos should be cold and fresh to create a smooth microfoam for latte art. A cappuccino maker is typically used to steam and froth the milk before adding it to the espresso shot.

In contrast, an espresso shot can be enjoyed alone or with a small amount of steamed milk for a macchiato. Knowing how to select and prepare quality ingredients is key in creating a delicious cup of espresso or cappuccino.

Cappuccino And Espresso Preparation

To prepare a perfect cappuccino or espresso, it’s essential to master the art of milk frothing and steaming.

For a cappuccino, you’ll need to steam the milk until it reaches a velvety texture with microfoam bubbles on top. This can be done using a steam wand attached to an espresso machine. Hold the steam wand just below the surface of the milk and let it spin in circles while heating it to around 150°F. Once the desired temperature is reached, tap the bottom of the pitcher on a flat surface to remove any large air bubbles and swirl it gently.

For an espresso shot, you’ll need freshly ground coffee beans that are finely ground and packed tightly into a portafilter basket. The portafilter is then attached to an espresso machine where hot water is forced through it at high pressure for about 25-30 seconds. This results in a concentrated shot of strong coffee that forms the base of your drink.

Once your espresso shot is ready, pour in your frothed milk for a cappuccino or enjoy your shot alone for an intense burst of flavor in one small cup.

Cappuccino And Espresso Taste

If you want to experience the ultimate coffee flavor, it’s worth exploring the nuances of cappuccino and espresso taste.

Espresso is known for its strong, rich, and intense flavor from the high-pressure brewing process. When brewed correctly, it should have a thick layer of crema on top, which adds a velvety texture and nutty flavor to the shot. The taste of an espresso can vary depending on the blend of beans used, but it generally has notes of chocolate, caramel, or even fruit.

On the other hand, cappuccino is a combination of espresso and steamed milk with a layer of frothy milk foam on top. The steamed milk tones down the intensity of espresso while adding a creamy sweetness. The taste also depends on how much milk is added. A traditional cappuccino has equal parts espresso and steamed milk, which gives it a balanced flavor with hints of cocoa and nutmeg. If you prefer your cappuccino stronger, you can order a doppio (double shot) or add less milk to make it more robust, like an espresso.

Alternatively, if you want something sweeter than an espresso but not as mild as a cappuccino, then try out a latte. It has more steamed milk than foam, making it smoother in texture with subtle coffee flavors.

Variations and Customizations Of Cappuccino And Espresso

There’s a world of possibilities for customizing your cappuccino or espresso, allowing you to create your perfect cup of coffee. Here are some variations and customizations that you might want to try out:

  • Espresso Variations: While the classic shot of espresso is always a great choice, there are many ways to customize it. You can add flavored syrups, such as vanilla or hazelnut, for a sweeter taste. Alternatively, you could try an Americano by adding hot water to your espresso shot.
  • Cappuccino Customizations: A traditional cappuccino is made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam. However, you can customize this drink by asking for extra foam or using non-dairy milk options like soy or almond milk. Additionally, many coffee shops offer flavored cappuccinos such as caramel or pumpkin spice.
  • Latte Macchiato: This drink is similar to a latte but has more emphasis on the steamed milk rather than the espresso shot. It’s made with a single espresso shot layered on steamed milk and topped with foam.

With these variations in mind, feel free to experiment and find your unique blend of flavors and textures that suit your taste buds perfectly!


So, now you know the differences and similarities between cappuccino and espresso. Both drinks have unique qualities that make them a favorite among coffee lovers.

Cappuccino is creamier, sweeter, and has a larger volume than espresso, which is strong, bold, and relatively smaller. But ultimately, it boils down to personal preference.

Perhaps you prefer the velvety texture of cappuccino, or maybe you need that jolt of energy from an espresso shot before starting your day. Whatever your choice, it’s important to note that both drinks require skillful preparation by baristas trained in coffee artistry.

As the famous quote goes, “Coffee is a hug in a mug”- it’s not just about the taste but also how it makes us feel. It’s comforting and familiar – like an old friend who knows exactly what we need.

So next time you order a cappuccino or an espresso, take a moment to appreciate its flavor and all the associated memories – whether it’s catching up with friends over coffee or savoring quiet moments alone with your thoughts. Coffee isn’t just a drink; it’s an experience we share with others and cherish for years.

Mike Shaw

Mike is a fervent aficionado of all things coffee. His journey has taken him from the verdant coffee farms of South America to the vibrant coffeehouses of Europe and many places in between. Over the years, he's delved deep into the intricate tapestry of coffee, savoring, brewing, and analyzing myriad varieties. For Mike, coffee transcends its role as a morning energizer; it's a world waiting to be explored and cherished.