Cappuccino vs. Latte

So I’ve gotten into the Italian thing of having my big milky coffee drink in the morning instead of the afternoon (because, as I learned in “Cooking For Mr. Latte,” one doesn’t want to drink a big milky coffee drink after a big meal like lunch or dinner.) When I was in the habit of drinking coffee drinks in the afternoon, I would have an iced latte (mostly in the summer.) Now that it’s getting cooler, and now that I’m drinking in the morning, I’ve gone back and forth between getting a cappuccino and getting a latte. It occurred to me this morning when I placed my order (today, a latte; yesterday was a cappuccino): “I wonder if people have strong feelings on this issue? I should ask my reading public.”

And so, reading public: If you drink one of these drinks in the morning, why do you drink the one and not the other? Do you have strong feelings about it? Is it really just a difference of foam or no foam? Have you ever been to a foam party? Is it true you can break your hip? Thank you, in advance, for your answers.

31 comments

  1. I just studied in Italy and you always had cappucinos in the morning for breakfast (the idea being the milk would fill you up). Anyway, ever since that cappucinos are the best morning drink… too bad the cappucinos in America can not compare to the cappucinos in Italy (I heard that the closest thing we can get is to order a latte but with half the amount of milk…)

  2. Here in New Zealand it is definately latte for breakfast, with my favourite, a toasted custard filled crossant topped with toasted almonds and powdered sugar! I was in SF and NYC recently, and am sorry to say that I dispair over American coffee!

  3. I have indeed been to a foam party. However, I did not break my hip, just my spirits.

    Now where’s my glow stick?

    I am from the school of thought that puts milk with the coffee in the morning, with my preference being a cafe con leche or cortado since I’m not the world’s biggest milk fan but appreciate it’s ability to fill me up. Come afternoon there’s nothing I like better than espresso to pick me up – even if I can’t sleep by 10pm.

  4. I’m a big latte person in the morning, especially since it is now Pumpkin Spice Latte season at Starbuck’s. I know, I know, it’s slightly shameful, but God help me, I love them.

    And I went to a foam party once. Messy and gross.

  5. Oh I really have strong preferences. I actually prefer cafe au lait for breakfast, but if it’s between a latte and an espresso, I pick a latte in the am b/c it has more milk in it (better breakfast) and then if I need a strong hit of caffeine in the afternoon, I do the espresso. less milk, more foam.

    and I really love the foam, so sometimes I get extra on my latte (but having been to a foam party, I can tell you that while I did not break my hip i was totally grossed out by it and a little incredulous that I would be the kind of person to attend such an event. ugh. now I stick to keeping my foam in coffee situations…)

  6. If I had a cap maker I’d drink that.

    All I have is a french press. So what I do is I do up an arab grind (the kind where it’s so fine it turns to smoke if you blow on it) and I do up a very strong pot of that. Then I go half and half with fatty milk.

    This is blasphemy but I’ve been drinking Hills’ Brothers, from a canister. Yes, I used to be a bean snob, but I’ve found that Hill’s Brothers is just about the same if you keep it in the freezer, especially if you regrind it superfine. I really can’t tell the difference between that and fresh ground. Oh, but my wallet can.

    I’d like to find spices to add. I should do that.

  7. I don’t really like lattes at anytime of day. Never having been to a foam party, I guess I’m just not a foam girl in general so cappucinos are rare too. In the mornings & afternoons, I prefer strong black coffee. After dinner, an espresso with a little Raw sugar.

  8. I don’t think lattes exist in Europe. If you ask for a latte in Italy, I’m told that they’ll bring you a glass of milk.

    I seldom drink commercially prepared espresso ( I make my own) so I don’t really know how the various coffee shops define the milk drinks. From what I’ve seen, a latte is a “big milk” drink – basically milk flavored with espresso. A cappuccino is a “small milk” drink – espresso enhanced by milk. Typically, a cappuccino is one part espresso to one part milk and one part “foam”. I make mine where the total milk is about equall to the amount of espresso.

    I think the popularity of lattes in the USA may be due to the poor quality of the espresso at many shops. So the customers drown it in milk to cover up the taste.

    Ideally, espresso should have a good volume of crema. The holds the odors and also gives it a great mouthfeel. I think there should be a predominant caramelly roast flavor as well as other varietal flavors. The espresso I prefer is natuarally sweet with no sour notes or bitterness and a very light acidity and needs no added sugar. Of course, the desired taste of espresso is very much an indiviual preference.

    I’ve noticed that very few coffee shops foam the milk correctly for cappuccinos. Most of them make the milk way too stiff, like meringue. Or loose and bubbly. Instead, it should be “microfoam”, a very creamy texture. When put together the crema of the espresso mixs a bit with the microfoam and whole thing blends into a drink with an incredible mouthfeel, with the coffee flavors predominating.

  9. I work as a supervisor in a cafe (as well as a book store) and I love our espresso. We have to use it within 10 seconds or it is bad (which is probably why a lot of cafes seem like they have crappy espresso because they’ll use it 3 minutes after it’s made.) It has a nutty flavor and crema that lasts for a minute at least. As for the foam, velvety smooth. I prefer caps with an extra shot of espresso. :-)

  10. When you order a cappuccino at Starbucks, ask for a “short.” The ration between foam and coffee is better. It’s not on the menu, but they serve it . . .click my name for the Slate link where I learned this: “Starbucks doesn’t want you to know: They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it.”

  11. My only strong feelings revolve around whether or not the barista pulled me a good shot of espresso.

  12. About now I’d drink anything! Hubby used the last of the coffee beans and didn’t tell me!

  13. Don’t drink coffee, but as for the foam parties: no amount of soap bubbles will make those things clean. I magically lost my bellybutton ring in one. I was amazed that my stomach didn’t fall off from infection after that.

  14. espresso is a bit too sharp for me sometimes.

    i prefer a cafe au lait in the mornings.

    i have a french press (i actually really like Don Francisco in Hawaiian Hazelnut. also easy on the wallet. note: i get made fun of quite a bit for this choice from my coffee snob friends.)

    i like 1% or 2% milk, heat up in the microwave and then frothed using one of those awesome little hand held frothers.

    i also like one in the afternoon to pull me over between meals.

    or like now. for my office foam party.

  15. I recently converted to black coffee all the time (stovetop espresso in the morning and generally an Americano or Espresso mid day if I’m not at home), so am not doing the milk thing at all. But. My experiences in Italy were that yes a cafe latte was for mornings only — or for children/young folks, capuccino was for those who still liked milk in their coffee midday and that by evening really espresso is best. I can see a logic to this, but for those of us who think of it all as “coffee” I think it requires a bit of a shift of thinking to actually thinking of these as each being different types of drinks, so more like how you might not generally think “I want a beer” but more specifically “i want a dark stout” or a “light lager” depending on your mood/time of day etc. Though of course if you’re starting your day with a light lager that might be a whole different set of issues to evaluate.

    Anyway.

    Here’s a rule/norm that I encountered that threw me for a bit of a loop being the naive visitor that I was: no coffee with icecream. I would often go into the coffee bar in the small town where I was living mid afternoon for a coffee and a gelato — afterall, they had both and it seemed like a darn fine idea. After a few of these afternoons the woman behind the counter explained to me that one didn’t typically have ice cream and coffee at the same time and she confessed to finding it a strange habit. Not sure what you should do with that one, but wouldn’t want you to get stuck in a similarly akward situation …

  16. Like Chris I also order a “short” cappuccino at Starbucks, usually in the morning (although I do enjoy a nice cap for dessert after a dinner out). I’ve found that the proportion of milk to espresso is definitely better.

  17. Yes Adam – as you stated – it really is a difference between foam and no foam, but sadly (as one my fellow commenters mentioned) it is tough to find a quality espresso drink in the US – particulary a cappucino – with the foam having a meringue-like consistency. So – I prefer cappucino truly, but only if I know it will be made properly. A capuccino is more of a treat – and actually now that I think about it I don’t recall having a latte in Italy ever – it does exist – but I am just not sure how they view it over there. In Italy I know a cappucino is something you get only at cafes(hence the treat part), at home they make what they call “cafe” – my nonna made it from this crazy contraption that I am sure you have seen, but its made on the stove – more like a latte but not sure if it is really espresso – its more like an au lait – probably still espresso beans, just brewed differently so that it is more like drip coffee than a shot of espresso. Starbucks has intoduced espresso to the masses but than has confused Americans around Italian coffee drinks. It is just another example of corporate America covering up the true use, taste and health benefits of foods by watering them down or filling them with sugary substances and making the portions way too huge. Cappucino and latte are meant for breakfast and meant to be richly flavored, smallish, and filling. Espresso is meant to be a pick me up and a digestive.

  18. the reason that coffee shops in america make such stiff foam is that customers demand it. if you make most people a proper, creamy, perfect cappucino, they will give it back and ask for more foam. i don’t know why. i think they like to play with it or something. tell your coffee shop person that you want it wet. dry is the stiff foam. you will also not get a perfect cappucino or latte with skim milk. so embrace the fat, or drink inferior drinks.

    they do have lattes in europe, but you have to say cafe latte cause latte means milk in italian. just like machiato means “dirty” so you have to ask for a cafe machiato if that’s what you want. otherwise you’ll get some strange looks. and that’s not that big old caramel starbucks thing. it’s just a shot of espresso with a dollop of foam.

  19. I like to heat up about three or four tablespoons of half & half in the microwave and then add two shots of espresso to it. I don’t know what that’s called. It’s not a cappucino, because there’s no foam party, but it’s not a latte because there’s not alot of milk. Actually there’s no milk, just half & half.

    So good.

    And if you want it at Starbucks just ask them to heat up some half & half for you before they put the espresso in. They don’t charge you for the half & half so it comes out two almost $2 cheaper than a latte.

  20. Starbucks’ cappuccino is a pale imitation of what I had growing up and what I make now. But… I was actually LECTURED today by a barista (do they call them baristas when the Starbucks is inside a Target) on how their cappuccinos were not what I would be used to at a convenience store or gas station. All because, apparently, they now ask, “wet or dry?” and, after hundreds of cappuccinos all over the country and then some, I’d never been asked this and (GASP) asked to have it explained.

    Give me a triple shot espresso any day over anything else, but a cappuccino will do when I don’t care for the flavor of the espresso being brewed ;)

  21. Espresso. And only ever espresso, except for a capuccino on sunday mornings.

    and I like the shot pulled short, so it’s a little thicker and a little less bitter.

  22. I’m off caffeine, alas, but when I did drink it, it was cafe au lait in the mornings and capps in the evening (largely because I will happily eat until I am full and then ten minutes later I am hungry again, so the capps help with that)

  23. In the US I drink lattes – but outside the US – cap all the way. You just can’t get the proper taste of a cap in a paper cup…

    When I was a barista way back when, people would order a cap b/c that was all they knew – then get all angry when they found it was equal foam to milk. Then we would end up adding more steamed milk to make the customer happy – and they were, because they got a latter for the price of a cap.

  24. I like whichever one has more milk because the flavor of coffee or espresso isn’t my favorite. So if I can dilute it with milk and foam, I’m happy. I had a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Caribou this week — YUMMM! (and only probably a million calories too!)

    As for a foam party? No way Jose. That just grosses me out. Or maybe I’m just too old to even consider that sort of thing fun. ;)

    ~Monica

  25. Cappuccino is just the right amount of milk to cut the bitterness of coffee without watering it down.

  26. I’m one of those “I like my sugar with coffee and cream” type people, so I’ll always pick a cafe latte (single shot of espresso, at least two shots of flavoured syrup, and a minimum eight ounces of steamed milk) over a cappuccino.

    the reason that coffee shops in america make such stiff foam is that customers demand it. if you make most people a proper, creamy, perfect cappucino, they will give it back and ask for more foam. i don’t know why. i think they like to play with it or something. tell your coffee shop person that you want it wet. dry is the stiff foam. you will also not get a perfect cappucino or latte with skim milk. so embrace the fat, or drink inferior drinks.

    I was just about to say the same thing. People want what they’re used to, and they’re used to bad foam. Hence, meringue-like foam. However, ordering it “wet” isn’t a surefire guarantee, since to many baristas it means “more milk than usual,” not “creamy silky awesomesmooth foam.” Similarly, “dry” indicates you want less milk than usual.

  27. i don’t know what it is, but capuccino sounds so frou-frou compared to ordering a latte. but yeah i prefer lattes over capuccinos, because if the espresso sucks (it was bad quality to begin with or it got burnt in the process) you can tell right away. also latte fills you up, and i usually substitute latte for breakfast. which i don’t recommend people doing. makes you all jittery during morning lecture.

  28. Depends on the beans and the style you’re looking for; if the beans are fresh and your size somewhere between 6-12 oz, a cappucino is king because there is minimal milk interference with the bean to soften the flavor. If you were going to, say, Cafe Grumpy, this’d be the drink. If you were looking in for a larger drink/beans are of questionable quality, the caffe latte tends to be the way to go.

    If the beans are top notch, espresso + sparkling water. No better deal in the world. Then again, this is a coffee geek talking, so something of an outlier opinion on the grand scale of things.

  29. The cappuccino is most defiantly the highest of all the espresso drinks, and it requires more skill to make than any other drink (i have worked in various cafe’s for the past for 3-4 years). But i do admit, that in the states i will some times indulge and have a cappuccino in the afternoon (not cool by italian standards) ; this is because in the states they dark roast every kind of bean, and it usually makes the espresso too bitter, or too sharp. for those of you with home expresso machines, and lets hope they

    are quality machines and not from star bucks, i recommend experimenting with with lighter roasts. A truly great express shot, will be of a slightly lighter roast, as in italy, sadly we usually use dark roasts in the states (which is because we put to much milk in coffee, in italy you would never see someone walking around with a 20oz latte). a shot pulled from a lighter roast (and the right kind of beans) will never be to bitter or too sharp. espresso is my preference when i have the opportunity to enjoy a quality shot, but unfortunately it is hard to find in the states, so i opt for a cappuccino, made right (where the milk is mixed into the foam).

    right now im in japan and drink coffee mostly out of vending machines, “Boss cafe au lae”in the morning “boss espresso” at night. you get used to using vending machines as your primary supply of caffeine.

  30. I am indeed enjoying this cappuccino I’m drinking right now for my breakfast, it is much better then the one I had before bed which kept me up all night making me in need of my morning cappuccino.

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