Cappuccino Versus Latte

Cappuccino and latte are both espresso-based drinks that have become very popular in recent years. Their basic ingredients are similar but the proportions and preparation details differ between the two drinks. Here's how they compare.


Cappuccino is made in a steam-producing espresso machine by combining espresso with steamed milk, topped off with foamed or frothed milk. A traditional cappuccino is a drink of thirds: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foamed milk. However, coffee shops are increasingly using all microfoam for the milk component - steamed milk textured to a glossy, smooth finish with no large bubbles.

The foamed milk is often decorated in an artistic fashion followed by a sprinkling of shaved chocolate, raw sugar, cinnamon, or other spices are often sprinkled the top of the finished drink. Cappuccinos are typically served with a teaspoon.

Adding the correct amount of foam while steaming the milk requires close attention, making the cappuccino perhaps the most difficult espresso-based beverage to make properly. It is certainly more challenging than latte.


Latte is short for the Italian "caffè latte" which means coffee and milk. The French equivalent is "café au lait". This popular drink has the same ingredients as cappuccino but in different proportions. In particular, it has more steamed milk and less foam. Some think of latte as coffee-flavored milk. It is not as strong tasting as cappuccino.

For those who like the taste of coffee with lots of milk, or want more milk in their diet, latte is a better choice than cappuccino. For whatever reason, the latte is the coffee drink preferred by most Americans.

Typical Serving Sizes

In a traditional European-style cappuccino, the cup size is typically 5–6 ounces. Commercial coffee chains in the US, such as Starbucks, are more likely to serve cappuccino in a 12 ounce or larger cup.

Outside Italy, latte is typically prepared in an 8 ounce cup to which a single shot of espresso is added. Steamed milk is then added until the cup is 70% to 75% full, then topped off with an approximately 1/2 inch thick layer of milk foam. For a larger latte (12 to 16 ounces) a double shot of espresso is often used to maintain the coffee flavor.


A latte has more calories than a cappuccino because of the higher milk content. The actual calories in a given cup of each drink will vary depending on serving size, fat content of milk, and ingredient proportions. As a point of reference, a 16 ounce latte from Starbucks has 190 calories compared to 120 calories for the same size serving of cappuccino.


In Asia and North America, it is not uncommon to find latte variants in which the coffee component is replaced with Asian tea such as chai, mate or matcha.