There are some key differences between these hot beverages, most notably their ingredients, preparation methods, and flavor profiles.
Other differences include their caffeine content, serving size, potential health benefits, and more.
Coffee and cappuccino are both popular hot coffee beverages that are regularly consumed by millions of people globally.
At first glance, these beverages may look similar.
They are both made with ground coffee beans, both are served hot, and also have similar aromas.
If an establishment sells cappuccino, they most likely serve coffee too. Almost all coffee shops sell both, because both drinks are in their wheelhouse of coffee beverages.
Let’s dive deeper and discuss all these differences, so you know exactly how coffee and cappuccino differ from each other.
The ingredients used to make coffee and cappuccino are not the same and this is the first main area where these hot beverages differ.
Of course, both use coffee beans and water as the main ingredients, but this is pretty much where the similarities stop.
At the most basic level, coffee is made by brewing roasted coffee beans in hot water. Coarsely ground coffee beans are the most common and preferred ingredient for coffee.
The resulting beverage is typically served black, with the option to add additives like milk, cream, sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other flavorings to taste.
The most common types of coffees include drip coffee, Americano, and espresso.
Cappuccino, on the other hand, is a type of ‘espresso-based’ drink. It is a three-part beverage made with one part steamed milk, one part espresso, and one part frothed milk.
It is important to note that unlike coffee, steamed and froth milk are not optional with cappuccino, they are core ingredients of the drink.
You may ask your barista to not include one or both, but then you won’t be served what is generally considered a “cappuccino.”
Espresso is the base of a cappuccino and it is typically made using an espresso machine.
The machine pushes hot water through tightly packed and finely ground beans of coffee that are put under immense pressure.
This creates a concentrated, strong shot of coffee, better known as an espresso shot.
As you would expect, this espresso shot has strong coffee flavor and a high concentration of caffeine.
Then, the velvety steamed milk is added to the espresso to create a creamy and smooth texture that cappuccinos are well-known for.
Lastly, the frothed milk is added on top to create a layer of foam, which adds some airy sweetness and helps preserve the coffee flavor and aroma of the cappuccino underneath.
Many people prefer their cappuccino “senza schiuma” or “without foam”, but this is not exactly the complete cappuccino experience.
Coffee, on the other hand, is typically brewed using a coffee maker or a French press.
Drip coffee makers are perhaps the most popular option and they work by pouring hot water over coffee grounds, which then drips into a carafe or coffee pot.
French presses, on the other hand, work by steeping coffee grounds in hot water, which is then “pressed” through a filter.
As you can tell, the preparation of both these beverages are very different.
Cappuccino is made from pressurized coffee grounds and milk ingredients, whereas coffee is made by simply brewing coffee grounds in water.
Another key difference between coffee and cappuccino is their serving size.
Coffee is typically served in larger quantities, with a standard cup of coffee containing around 8 ounces of liquid.
However, it isn’t uncommon to find the average coffee serving size going up to 12 ounces of liquid.
Cappuccinos, on the other hand, are served in smaller quantities, typically around 6 ounces.
This is mainly due to the concentrated nature of the espresso shot, which makes up a significant portion (one third) of the cappuccino.
Of course, most coffee shops will gladly serve you larger quantities of both hot beverages, primarily because it makes them more money.
Flavor Profile (Taste)
Coffee is known for its bold and complex flavor, which can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, like how it is brewed and the roast level and origin of the coffee beans.
Some coffees have a fruity acidity and floral flavor profile, while others have an earthy, nutty or chocolatey taste.
Additives can also enhance the flavor profile and add depth to coffee. You can sweeten it with sugar or flavored syrups, and add texture with creamer or milk.
The range of flavors of coffees is quite expansive, and it can vary greatly depending on the coffee bean, roast level, brewing process, and additives.
In comparison, cappuccino has a much smaller range of flavor, and the flavor profile is primarily milder and creamier than coffee.
The espresso shot provides a strong and rich coffee flavor, while the steamed milk adds a creamy and smooth texture.
The frothed milk on top adds a layer of light sweetness and airiness to the drink.
Cappuccinos can also be flavored with syrups, but these flavors are typically more subtle and meant to lightly enhance the overall flavor profile.
Due to their different serving sizes and preparation methods, coffee and cappuccino also differ in their caffeine content.
A standard 8-ounce cup of coffee typically contains around 120-220 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the type of coffee and brewing method used to make the coffee.
Whereas cappuccinos typically contain less caffeine due to their smaller serving size and because of the addition of milk ingredients that take up two thirds of the volume.
A standard 6-ounce cup of cappuccino contains anywhere between 60-160 milligrams of caffeine in it, primarily depending on the type of coffee used to make the espresso.
Of course, both these hot beverages are widely available decaffeinated as well, which means you can enjoy them with almost negligible caffeine content.
Nutritional Content (Calories)
A major difference between coffee and cappuccino is the nutritional content.
Regular black coffee is a very low-calorie hot beverage, with a standard cup containing just 2 calories, which is an almost negligible calorie count.
However, when you add milk, sugar, or other additives to your coffee, it can significantly increase the calorie count.
Cappuccinos are also a fairly low calorie hot beverage, but they are significantly higher in calorie count when compared to coffee.
A standard 6 ounce cappuccino contains anywhere between 80-170 calories, depending on the type of milk used and any other added flavorings like syrup.
Most notably, however, cappuccinos can be high in fat content, especially when you make them with whole milk or heavy cream.
If calorie count concerns you, you can use a low-fat milk to make your cappuccinos, or switch to coffee instead.
However, low-fat milk will not produce the same thick and rich steamed milk or foam that gives cappuccinos their velvety finish and rich, decadent taste.
Potential Health Benefits
Both coffee and cappuccino offer some potential health benefits when consumed in moderation.
Coffee in general, is a rich source of antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
This is mainly because antioxidants are great at tracking down free radicals in the body and neutralizing their harmful effects.
Coffee has also been shown to improve cognitive function, increase awareness, and reduce the risk of depression.
These potential mental health benefits are due to the caffeine in coffee, which is a stimulant that provides you with the boost of energy and alertness you experience after drinking coffee.
On the other hand, cappuccinos offer some of the health benefits of coffee along with the added benefits of milk.
Milk is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, which are all important for maintaining good skin, strong bones, and healthy muscles.
Of course, there are plenty of other benefits of consuming dairy products as well.
However, you must remember that these potential benefits are only gained when you consume these caffeinated beverages in moderation.
Over-consumption of caffeine and additives like dairy and sugars can have negative effects on your body and health.
Most importantly, caffeine can interfere with some medications and not be suitable for people with certain health conditions.
Always consult your healthcare provider to learn if coffee will interfere with your medication or whether caffeine is suitable for you.
If they recommend against consuming caffeine, you should consider decaffeinated beverages instead.
We hope you learned all the key differences between coffee and cappuccino.
While both are coffee-based hot beverages, they differ greatly in key areas like ingredients, preparation, serving size, caffeine content, calorie count, and most importantly, taste.
One is a bold and strong tasting coffee beverage with a wide ranging flavor profile, while the other is mostly a decadent, rich, and smooth espresso drink.
When it comes to choosing between coffee and cappuccino, the decision ultimately comes down to your personal preference.
Coffee is a more straightforward and versatile beverage, while cappuccino offers a rich and creamy experience.
Coffee is also typically less expensive than cappuccino, making it a more budget-friendly option for the daily drinker.
We recommend drinking both drinks in moderation to enjoy the flavors of both, while reaping the potential health benefits as well.
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