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Cappuccino vs. Latte vs. Macchiato vs. Mocha vs. Americano vs. Espresso

Oct 28, 2019

Cappuccino vs. Latte vs. Macchiato vs. Mocha vs. Americano vs. Espresso

We live in a world obsessed with coffee — and we love it! It's great to pop into a corner cafe and have the option to try out diverse blends and brews. There are plenty of people who know what they like, and that single cup of joe will always hit the spot. However, there are so many different types of coffee that we believe everyone should at least sample each variation once.

At Real Good Coffee Co., we love the taste of coffee. While we're inspired by the different roasting and brewing methods used to create the rich textures that get us going in the morning, we're also fans of simply enjoying great-tasting coffee in any form. If you've ever wondered what the difference between cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, mochas, Americanos and espressos is, we're here to give you a crash course in the different types of coffee drinks.

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What Is Espresso?

Most coffee lovers have heard of espresso, but there are some who don't know exactly what the difference between coffee vs. espresso is. We don't blame them — walk into any coffee shop, and you'll notice that some coffee drinkers order a straight espresso, while others will ask for a shot of espresso in their regular coffee. Let's clarify it once and for all — espresso is a type of coffee drink, not a type of bean. It's different from regular, traditional coffee for one main reason — method of preparation.

How Is Espresso Made?

The science of creating coffee is truly remarkable, and the espresso process revolutionized the way the world drinks, brews and studies coffee. Espresso dates back to 19th century Italy, with the first official espresso machine created in 1884. Eventually, newer espresso machines made their way to the United States in the 1920s, and popularity continued to grow around the world.

Although you can purchase espresso "beans," espresso is a coffee that was prepared via a specific method. Highly-pressurized hot water is forced over coffee beans that have been ground. In fact, the word espresso is derived from an Italian word meaning "pressed out." The resulting drink is highly concentrated, highly caffeinated and rich with a robust flavor. You can order espresso straight, multiply it with a double shot or give your normal cup a boost of caffeine by adding an espresso shot to any coffee.

Espresso is one of the most versatile types of coffee brewed, so it should come as no surprise that you'll see it listed on nearly every coffee shop menu. Even if you've never ordered an espresso alone, you might have had a coffee beverage that's made with espresso. Plenty of types of coffee drinks use espresso as a core component, including cappuccinos, macchiatos, Americanos, mochas and lattes. You'll also taste it in other specialty coffee beverages such as:

  • Lungo: water and espresso
  • Romano: lemon and espresso
  • Corretto: liquor and espresso
  • Con Panna: whipped cream and espresso
  • Marocchino: milk foam, chocolate and espresso
  • Breve: milk foam, half-and-half milk and espresso


What Is a Cappuccino?

Just as you've witnessed plenty of people walk away with their espressos in hand, you've also likely watched coffee lovers sip on cappuccinos at your local coffee shop. Unlike some types of coffee drinks which are just dark liquids without any other visually discernible feature, the cappuccino's appearance usually gives it away. This frothy beverage turns heads whenever it's served. If you're ordering a cappuccino, you're ordering one of the many coffee drinks that rely on the versatile espresso.

How Is a Cappuccino Made?

Making a cappuccino involves three ingredients poured in equal amounts into a cup in three separate steps. First, a rich shot of espresso must be pressed and poured into the bottom of the cup. Steamed milk is then added on top of the espresso. The two substances are finally topped with a thick and airy layer of foamed milk that fills the cup to the rim. The cappuccino's contents are all equal in volume, and the rich taste of espresso is offset by the steamed and foamed milk.

With espresso making up one-third of its ingredients, it should come as no surprise to coffee lovers that the cappuccino also traces its roots back to Italy. Unlike the espresso, in which it was named for its process, the word cappuccino actually has nothing to do with coffee. Instead, this coffee drink was named after the Capuchin friars that lived in Italy since the 16th century. The color of cappuccino was similar to that of the Capuchin robes.

Capuchin Friars

The cappuccino has become a beloved beverage around the globe, providing a quick coffee fix for drinkers on the go and a warm beverage for those who love cozying up in their favorite cafe.

What Is a Latte?

Here's a fun experiment — walk into a coffee shop and watch a barista make a cappuccino. Then, observe them preparing a latte. No, your eyes aren't deceiving you — the barista is using the same ingredients in the same order to make both coffee drinks. This begs the question — if both of these coffee drinks are each made with espresso, steamed milk and milk foam, what are the differences between a latte vs. a cappuccino? And why do these differences matter?

How Is a Latte Made?

Though a latte is made with espresso, steamed milk and milk foam in the same order as cappuccino, the key difference is the amount of milk used. Espresso to steamed milk ratios in a latte can be anywhere from one to three or even one to nine.

In the United States, and in many other places across the world, ordering a latte will get you exactly what you want — a coffee drink made with a shot or two of espresso, a cup of steamed milk and a thin layer of frothed milk to top it off. However, when traveling to Italy and other places in Europe, you must remember that it has different names. For instance, you may want to order a latte macchiato in Italy — a simple "latte" will only get you steamed milk — while in France, you'll probably want a café au lait.

With more milk and less espresso, this is a diluted coffee beverage that is creamier. Some coffee drinkers will add other flavors and enjoy it for dessert. One signature hallmark of lattes are the latte art designs that baristas create. They use their talents to draw impressive and beautiful pictures on the surface of the latte within the foam, serving up a picture-perfect cup of coffee that pleases the eyes and the tongue.

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What Is a Macchiato?

Knowing the differences between espresso vs. latte vs. cappuccino may be common knowledge to even the average coffee drinker, but the macchiato is certainly a stumbling point for some. It can be especially confusing if you hear others order an espresso macchiato or a latte macchiato. So what exactly is a macchiato, and why should you be aware of how some coffee shops label it differently?

How Is a Macchiato Made?

How is a Macchiato Made?

The caffe macchiato is another Italian-derived word meaning coffee with a spot of milk. It may also be referred to as a latte macchiato, but its preparation is slightly different than the caffe macchiato. There are some coffee shops that may serve macchiatos under the name of a cappuccino and define their own macchiatos as blended drinks with other flavors added. All of this can be confusing if you're trying to order a specific coffee drink, so let's break the macchiato down to its basic composition.

A macchiato can be thought of like a cross between a straight espresso and cappuccino. It's made by adding just a small portion of foamed milk on top of the espresso. Some make it with a splash of steamed milk as well, but the key is that the milk is extremely limited regardless. The caffe macchiato, or espresso macchiato as it can be called, is a shot of espresso with an added teaspoon or two of steamed milk and foam.

The latte macchiato is prepared the opposite way — a shot of espresso poured into a larger volume of steamed milk. Some shops may add flavored syrups like caramel to these types of macchiatos. Unless you're ordering a caffe macchiato in Italy, here's some helpful advice for ordering at your local coffee shop. If you want an espresso shot with a little foamed or steamed milk, order an espresso macchiato. If you want a milkier flavored beverage with a hint of added flavor, order a latte macchiato.

What Is a Mocha?

There are so many espresso-blended coffee drinks that it's a little hard to keep track of all of them. We now move on to the mocha, or a mocha latte as it is sometimes called. However, here's where a bit of confusion arises again. The term "mocha" was actually a generic word for coffee that grew in the Yemen region. Our word "coffee" can be traced backward from English to Dutch to Turkish to Arabic. So if mocha just means "coffee," isn't it just an average cup of java?

How Is a Mocha Made?

The mocha you order at your local cafe is not necessarily the mocha coffee beans grown and harvested in Yemen. These were called such because their taste was considered similar to chocolate. Instead, the general mocha drink you'll find on coffee shop menus is a type of coffee beverage that's flavored with chocolate. Many people consider the mocha drink to be broken down into five parts — two-fifths espresso, two-fifths chocolate flavor and one-fifth steamed milk, with the chocolate flavor usually coming in the form of hot chocolate.

There are two other similar mocha beverages. The first is a mocha latte, which is very similar to an espresso latte. This mixes one-eighth espresso with five-eighths steamed milk, one-eighth foamed milk and one-eighth hot chocolate. If you see a mocha latte listed on the menu, assume it's a standard American latte with a hint of chocolate. There is also a mochaccino, and the name should give you a hint as to how it's made.

The mochaccino is essentially a cappuccino with a hint of chocolate, made with one-third steamed milk, one-third espresso and one-third frothed milk mixed with a tablespoon of chocolate syrup. Although these options may be a little confusing, there is an easy way to order. You could always order a cappuccino with a shot or pump of chocolate syrup or a latte with hot chocolate added in and still get your coffee and chocolate fix.

What Is an Americano?

We've finally arrived at the Americano — perhaps one of the earliest and largest influences American culture has had on classic coffee drinks. The Americano name naturally means "American" in Italian, and it's in that country where the Americano beverage is thought to have been created. During the World War II era, most men and women in the United States consumed black drip coffee brewed at home. United States soldiers serving in Italy were looking for an alternative to the traditional Italian espresso and birthed the Americano.

How Is an Americano Made?

These U.S. soldiers reportedly poured the regular Italian espresso in a large cup and filled it with hot water. This achieved a taste and serving size more reminiscent of the coffee they drank at home in the United States. Typically, an Americano is made with a shot or two of espresso and a higher ratio of water to espresso, usually around two to one or three to one.

How Is an Americano Made

There is some debate among coffee aficionados on how an Americano should be prepared. Although there are only two ingredients, which ingredient goes in first changes the consistency of the beverage. When espresso is poured, a thin layer of tan foam rests on top. This is known as the crema. By pouring a shot of espresso into water, the crema stays on top. If water is poured over the espresso, the crema is mixed into the drink.

The traditional Americano is usually poured espresso first then hot water. Another drink, though, known as the Long Black — the Australian version created after Italians brought their espresso drinks to Australia — is usually poured with the water first and the espresso last. Though it's personal preference whether you want the crema on top or not, it's good to know the difference so you'll always be ready with the right order.

Enjoy Real Good Coffee at Home

Enjoy Real Good Coffee at Home

Heading out for an espresso, cappuccino, latte or Americano is fun, especially when you have the time to sit and enjoy your coffee right there in the cafe. Unfortunately, most of us hardly have time to get from home to the office on time without a stop at the coffee shop. To get the taste of high-quality coffee without leaving your kitchen, brew up a batch of Real Good Coffee. Our fresh beans are roasted in Seattle and shipped to your doorstep with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

Available in whole beans, cups for Keurig and pods for Nespresso, Real Good Coffee provides espresso pods, breakfast blends, French roast, organic beans and light, medium and dark roast varieties for folks who love a good cup of coffee — without the high prices or long wait in line. Browse our coffee options today and fill your cup with Real Good Coffee every morning!

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