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Latte vs Mocha vs Cappuccino, What Are the Differences?

Updated on August 18, 2016
Latte Art
Latte Art | Source

Espresso Based Drinks

Espresso based drinks such as latte, mocha, and cappuccino are a great way to break the daily coffee routine and to entertain your guests with a treat.

The espresso based recipes are simple, easy to prepare and they are always appreciated. Your coffee recipes will use espresso as the base, which is the traditional way of preparing it. However, for those who do not own an espresso machine, a great alternative is the instant coffee or the instant espresso. Another way is to use regular coffee, but brew it double strength. The best way to to brew double strength flavorful coffee for lattes and cappuccinos, is with a French press.

Some coffee based drinks, such as macchiato, are more strict, because the espresso shot is the featured drink. In these cases, owning an espresso machine is mandatory. However, for most recipes, the espresso shot will get drenched in milk, and the shot's flavor will be covered anyway.

If you want to take it up a notch, on special occasions you can add a little fine alcohol to your espresso drink. This makes your coffee time an experience.

Milk for Espresso Based Beverages

All milk and espresso based beverages will make use of steamed or frothed milk, and very rare just cold milk. Although not critical, using the right type of milk sometimes makes the difference between latte and espresso.

Frothed Milk vs Steamed Milk

Both steamed milk and frothed milk are obtained by using the steam wand from an espresso machine to heat the milk and foam it. The difference is the amount of bubbles introduced into the milk.

Frothed milk is literally a milk foam, whereas steamed milk is just slightly foamed, and more dense.

In order to obtain steamed milk, you need to introduce the steam wand just a little bit in the milk, and position it in an angle, so that the steam pressure creates a vortex in the milk. When the liquid reaches the perfect temperature, about 145 to 155 °F, stop steaming.

The procedure for frothing milk is similar, place the wand so it creates a vortex, and as the milk gets foamed on the surface, advance the steaming wand little by little, until you reach the bottom. The steaming wand only foams a thin milk layer, so you will have to move the wand to the bottom, so all the milk gets frothed. Don't steam too long in one place, when the volume expanded, go further to the bottom.

Latte Recipe

Latte art
Latte art

What Is Latte

Latte is an espresso based milky drink, that contains more milk than a cappuccino.

Latte Recipe

The standard latte recipe is prepared in an 8 oz. cup, and contains:

  • 1 or two shots of espresso
  • Fill the rest of the 8 oz. cup with steamed milk, (around 5-6 oz.)
  • Top up with a thin layer of frothed milk.

Latte is basically coffee with milk, and it originates in Italy, where it is called caffè latte. Latte is very popular because the frothed milk layer allows talented baristas to create beautiful draws in the coffee cup. Latte art has become very popular, and many baristas perfect their art to greatness.

Cappuccino Recipe


Cappuccino is an espresso based drink, of Italian origin. Unlike latte, cappuccino is a stronger coffee, because it contains 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 frothed milk. Cappuccino has a rich and bold taste, as any espresso would, but is toned down by the steamed milk.

In fact latte is only popular in North America, in Europe latte is considered milk, and not coffee, (and considering the milk coffee ratio, seems right).

So once again, the recipe for cappuccino is mixing equal volumes of: espresso steamed milk and frothed milk.
In cappuccino's case, the art in the cup is made using cocoa powder, and not the frothed milk. This is because the foam layer is too thick, so the coffee below cannot be exposed.

Cold Cappuccino Variant - Frappuccino

Some variants of mochaccino and mocha latte are prepared with a whipped cream top layer, instead of the frothed milk.

The cold version of cappuccino is called frappuccino, and is always made with whipped cream instead of frothed milk. Frappuccino also contains a lot of ice cubes to chill the beverage. Here is the recipe:

  • 2 long espresso shots
  • one cup milk (cold)
  • one cup ice
  • whipped cream top layer

Mix in a blender the first three ingredients. Optionally, add some sugar, or caramel. Pour in tall glasses, and top it with whipped cream. Serve immediately with straws.

Instant Coffee for Cappuccino

Instant coffee or instant espresso are great for preparing your coffee recipe. They are easy to use, they taste great, and avoid the complications of pulling two espresso shots per beverage.

Nescafe Espresso Instant coffee is as close as possible to the genuine espresso shot. Obviously, for an espresso lover, the fresh pulled shot can't be replaced by anything. You can't use it either in recipes such as macchiato, where you only add a hint of milk. For coffee based recipes such as cappuccino, or latte, where the espresso taste is covered by milk anyway, the instant coffee is a great option. The advantage is clear, no need for expensive machines, no need for barista expertise, just add water, coffee, and milk and it's ready.

For coffee based cakes instant coffee is even better than brewed coffee because you can effectively control the concentration of your coffee base, and the amount of liquid in your recipe.

What is your favorite espresso drink?

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Mocha Coffee
Mocha Coffee | Source

Mocha Coffee Recipe

Mocha coffee originates in the Mocha town in Yemen. The coffee harvested there has a natural chocolate flavor. While there are very limited sources of real mocha coffee, the easier and cheaper way to make a mocha coffee is to add a little chocolate to the drink.

Mocha coffee is simply coffee with a hint of chocolate, added in the form of syrup, or cocoa, or just two or three chocolate squares.

Mochaccino is basically a cappuccino with 3-4 chocolate squares added.

Mocha latte is a latte with chocolate added:

  • 1 or 2 espresso shots
  • 3-4 chocolate squares, or 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 5 oz steamed milk
  • Thin frothed milk top layer

Bring the mocha recipe a step further, and add a hint of any of these spirits or liqueurs to the beverage: Cognac, Metaxa, Baileys Cream, or coffee liqueur. The Italian way to booze your coffee is with Sambuca.

A very interesting mocha recipe calls for white chocolate. In this case you need to add the white chocolate to the hot milk to melt it before using it in the recipe.

How To Make a Cappuccino Video

Latte vs Mocha vs Cappuccino - What are the differences - Espresso Based Drinks Infogram

Cappuccino vs Latte vs Mocha
Cappuccino vs Latte vs Mocha

If we were to synthesize the major differences between the three, (and a fourth popular one), here is the simplest way to do it:

Cappuccino - espresso with milk to tone it down

Latte - milk based drink with some coffee

Mocha latte - is a latte with a hint of chocolate

Mochaccino - is a cappuccino with a hint of chocolate

The infographic shows you a table with most of the popular espresso based drinks, and their recipes.


Caramel Espresso Recipe

Prepare caramelized sugar or buy it. To caramelize sugar add ¼ cup sugar and two spoons of water in a saucepan and cook over low-medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Keep it on the heat, stirring continuously until the sugar becomes golden or brown. Remove from heat and add two spoons of water and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Prepare two long shots of espresso, or prepare ½ cup hot water with 2 teaspoons instant coffee or instant espresso.

Add the caramel, the coffee and ½ cup of steamed and foamed milk or simply hot milk. If you don’t have frothed milk, add whipped cream.

© 2014 Dorian Bodnariuc

Guestbook Comments

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    • profile image


      10 months ago

      All this time...I should've asked for a mochaccino! They should invent more coffee/ chocolate creations.

    • Erudite Scholar profile image

      Jeff Zod 

      15 months ago from Nairobi

      This is a very interesting article. It is very useful to note the differences between the variants of coffee.

    • Tiaotiao LI profile image

      Tiaotiao LI 

      21 months ago

      I like Late!

    • profile image


      2 years ago


      I live in Italy, am working as a barista and would like to kill this myth right away. There is no such thing worse then when a tourist comes in and asks for a "caffé latte". It doesnt exist. At least not anywhere in Italy, and it can get very messy because many tourists get really angry because all their life they have been drinking a "latte" and now they want the real deal.

      We have three options to your "caffé latte":

      "Caffé macchiato" - an espresso with frothed milk, 1:1

      "Cappuccino" - espresso 1:3 frothed milk. The ONLY kind of coffee you ever see an Italian do milk figures in. Important part: first the espresso, then the milk.

      "Latte macchiato" - espresso 1:4 frothed milk. First the milk, then the espresso. This is most likely the coffee we will serve you when you stubbornly demand a "latte" in any Italian coffee shop, but I have learned that our simple cappuccino is the one most tourists prefer instead of the mysterious latte.

      So please stop quoting it to be Italian.. it only brings up confusion and disappointed tourists. And trust me, I live in Milan and have travelled most of the country without ever seeing anything else than despair in the faces of my colleagues whenever a "caffé latte" get brought up.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      2 years ago from Norfolk, England

      You know your coffee! I normally drink instant coffee, but I do like a latte sometimes when I go out.

    • Kara Skinner profile image

      Kara Skinner 

      3 years ago from Maine

      This is really useful. I've been wanting to know the difference between a latte and cappuccino for awhile now. I can't wait to try these recipes!

    • Coffee-Break profile imageAUTHOR

      Dorian Bodnariuc 

      4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Canada

      Thanks Kristen.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub on the different types of coffee drinks. Voted up for useful!

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      5 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I live in the heart of latte country. So I can good job. Voted up and shared.


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