What is a Cappuccino? Everything You Need to Know

What is a Cappuccino

We all love having a good, bold cup of coffee to brighten up our mornings. But if you’re looking for a different kind of flavor, you can always try to whip up a fancy cup of cappuccino to change up your morning routine.

If you’re a fan of cappuccino like I am, you must have been wondering what’s in this light, frothy coffee. Here’s everything you need to know about this luscious drink.

What’s a Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage that has a velvety texture because of the layers of steamed milk and light, airy foamed milk on top. The traditional cappuccino recipe uses equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk.

The well-loved texture of this beverage comes from the steamed and frothed milk added to the espresso. Just remember not to use milk instead of water in your espresso machine. The milk is prepared by heating and adding texture to the milk using an espresso machine’s steam wand. This makes the milk lighter and airier, so you’ll end up with a micro foam of tiny bubbles sitting on top of your mug.

How does cappuccino differ from café latte?

On the surface, a cappuccino may seem identical to another popular drink: the café latte, which is also a type of milky coffee. After all, the ingredients are basically the same – espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. 

However, there’s a crucial difference between the two: a café latte contains more steamed milk and less micro foam. Cappuccino tends to have a stronger espresso taste, since it has less steamed milk.

Typically, lattes are served in a larger cup than a cappuccino. The coffee to milk ratio for lattes is usually one single or double shot of espresso to two parts steamed milk (about 170 to 225 mL), so it tends to have a more silky texture compared to cappuccino.

Here are other espresso-based coffee drinks that are easily confused with cappuccino:

  • Espresso Macchiato – Served in a demitasse cup on a saucer,  an espresso macchiato drink is also made by adding frothed milk to a single or a double shot of espresso. The coffee to milk ratio is 2:1.
  • Cortado – Cortado is another creamy coffee drink that has frothed milk. Served in a small glass with a thin layer of microfoam, cortado has a coffee to milk ratio of 1:1.
  • Flat White – This drink is similar to a café latte, but it has a stronger espresso flavor and less milk. It can either be served with a lot of foam or with little to none. A flat white can have a bolder coffee taste than a cappuccino because the milk blends perfectly with the espresso. The coffee to milk ratio is 1:4.

How much caffeine is in it?

The Caffeine Informer lists the caffeine level of a 12 fl oz cup of cappuccino at 154 mg, which it considers very high. A cup contains 97 calories.

Of course, these figures vary depending on the serving size and the number of espresso shots used. So if you’re watching your caffeine intake, you might want to check the Caffeine Informer’s calculator.

Making the Perfect Cup of Cappuccino

Can you make your favorite morning coffee at home? If you have the right equipment, you can whip up a fresh cup of cappuccino from scratch. Here’s a simple way to do it.
What You Need to Prepare

  • 18 g ground espresso
  • 150 mL milk
  • Cocoa powder or cinnamon (optional)
  • A cup with a 200 – 250 mL capacity

Preparation Method

  1. Using an espresso machine, make about 35 mL of espresso and pour it directly into your cup.
  2. Place the milk in a container or a measuring cup. Insert your espresso machine’s steam wand into the container, and hold it so the tip of the wand is just underneath the surface of the milk.
  3. Use the steam wand to texture the milk and make the foam. (If you’re not sure how to do this, check the manual of your espresso machine, as each model can be different.)

    You’ll hear a sucking sound as the air is drawn into the milk. Gradually, the milk will heat up, and you’ll have to turn off the steam wand before it gets too hot.
  4. When the foam is ready, immediately top your cup of espresso with the foamed milk. For a smooth drink, pour the milk over your cup from a low height.

    The foam will settle on the top of the cup, and the liquid milk will mix with the espresso, creating the thick flavor for which cappuccino is well known.
  5. Add a sprinkle of cocoa powder or a dash of cinnamon if you like.

Cappucino can also be prepared with any plant-based milk, such as soy, coconut, rice, or almond milk.

If you’re getting your cappuccino from a coffee shop, you can try asking your barista to add a few pumps of flavored syrup such as vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, or hazelnut to make your cup more exciting.

Where Cappuccino Got Its Name

We know that cappuccino is one of the most popular espresso beverages in the world. It’s one of the most common types of coffee you’ll find in a coffee shop, no matter where you are in the globe. But have you ever wondered where it came from, and where it got its name?

As you may have already guessed, the word “cappuccino” is Italian. However, unlike other terms for coffee that come from Italian (e.g., espresso, which means pressed-out), cappuccino doesn’t come from a word directly related to the art of making coffee.

This coffee beverage takes its name from the Capuchin friars, who are members of the Franciscan order, an order of monks founded in Italy in the 16th century. They wear simple brown robes that include a distinctive pointed hood called cappuccio, from which the name of their order was derived.

When the beverage was introduced in Italy, Italians used cappuccino to refer to the drink because the color of this espresso-based drink is similar to the color of the Capuchin friars’ robes.

As the drink became more popular across Europe after the Second World War, English-speaking coffee lovers adopted the same word. Now, this humble espresso drink with foamed milk has become a staple in coffee shops around the world.

Why is cappuccino supposedly a morning drink only?

When I was in Rome, Italy, I heard from a friend that a cappuccino is supposed to be drunk only in the morning. It’s supposed to be weird to order one in the afternoon.

When I asked why that is, my Italian friend told me it’s because of the milk. Centuries ago, they didn’t have refrigerators.

Milk can be spoiled if not consumed immediately after opening. That is why cappuccino is only served in the morning.