Full Of Beans – Our Straight-talking Cappuccino Vs Coffee Comparison

by | Jul 2, 2020

It’s not so long since being able to order a cappuccino was relatively rare. (Outside continental Europe, anyway.)

Now, however, it’s a rare coffee shop or coffee stall that doesn’t feature cappuccino on its menu. So how do you decide between coffee vs cappuccino? And what’s the difference, anyway?

What Is A Cappuccino?

Not quite sure what cappuccino is? The key thing to remember about a cappuccino is the formula. That’s 1 part coffee, 1 part steamed milk, and 1 part foamed milk. If it’s served in a glass, you get to see the layers. It’s a drink that requires surprising delicacy and precision.

As with so many coffee drinks, a cappuccino starts with an espresso. And an espresso starts with the beans: the fresher the better. A cappuccino is usually made with 1 or 2 shots of espresso coffee.

If it’s made with 2 shots, then you need to make sure you use the same volume of foamed milk and steamed milk. If the proportions aren’t perfect, you end up with a latte (too much milk) or a macchiato (not enough milk).

You might also see the name spelled in several different ways – cappuccino, capuccino, cappucino, cappacino, capachino, or cappachino. In case you’re wondering about the origin of the name, it’s taken from the color of the robes of Capuchin monks.


What Is A Coffee?

The term coffee can cover so many different types of drinks, from Americano to iced coffee, from latte to lungo, from cold brew to cappuccino. What many people think of, however, when they think of a coffee, is a caffeinated drink with an espresso shot as the foundation.

One feature shared by most coffee drinks is that they will, at some point, have started life as a coffee bean. There are two main types of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica usually produces a milder brew, while Robusta, as the name suggests, results in a strong-tasting drink, even slightly bitter.

The original beans or seeds of the coffee cherry are processed in various ways to produce roasted coffee beans or instant coffee.


How To Make A Cappuccino

If you’re really in a hurry, you could opt for a ready-made stick. Just be aware that most of them don’t taste much like a full-bodied cappuccino. You could also pay a visit to the coffee chain with the mermaid logo, and enjoy a special, seasonal or limited edition Starbucks cappuccino.

Start by making your espresso shot, using either a Moka pot, AeroPress, or espresso machine. Espresso doesn’t refer to the type of beans so much as the method of extraction. Each coffee shop, even each barista, is likely to have its own cappuccino recipe.

Following this, it’s time to steam the milk. Whole milk steams easiest. We suggest starting with cold milk in a pre-chilled container. For an 8 ounce cappuccino, you’ll need between 10 and 12 ounces of milk.


Steaming Hot

Using a wand? Turn it on briefly to purge any liquid. Once it’s steamed for a few seconds, turn it off again and place it in the container of milk. Tilt the milk pitcher slightly so that the contents swirl as they heat. The milk will continue to heat a little even after you’ve turned off the wand.

No steaming wand? Heat the milk over a medium heat, allowing it to simmer until you see bubbles around the edge of the pan. Don’t allow the milk to boil though! Then froth with a whisk. You’ll get more bubbles using this method.

You could even use a microwave, although the foam doesn’t last very long; add the milk to a container with a lid, shake for about a minute, remove the lid, and microwave for about 30 seconds.


Crafting The Cappuccino

Once steamed, tap the container of milk gently on a flat surface. This should pop any larger bubbles, leaving only microfoam. Give the jug a little swirl before you pour.

Have your espresso ready in your cup; pour the milk over the top. You could also hold the foam mix back with a long stirring spoon to give a little extra control over when the foam lands on top of the coffee. Serve at once.


What Is In A Cappuccino?

A cappuccino, in its simplest form, is coffee and steamed milk. Although we also like a sprinkling of chocolate powder on top.

Want to add even more pizzazz to this delightfully showy coffee? How about a shot of syrup? We’re huge fans of caramel, butterscotch, and chocolate, but there are many others. For a slightly more unusual flavor, how about hazelnut, cherry, or peach?


Does Cappuccino Have Caffeine?

Given the amount of milk in a cappuccino, you might be forgiven for wondering whether a cappuccino has caffeine in it. The answer’s yes – typically over 65mg of caffeine in that luxuriant, silky liquid. Depending on the type used, a decaf coffee would be much lower – at least 50% lower in most cases.

For comparison, an ordinary 8 fluid ounce serving of caffeinated coffee has around 100mg. A single shot of espresso has around 65mg of caffeine, and a Starbucks cappuccino has about 75mg of caffeine.


Cappuccino Calories

Coffee can be surprisingly good for your health, and you may know it can help weight loss, especially as part of a calorie-controlled diet. Once you start adding cream, and sugar, and syrup, and chocolate sprinkles, however, the calorie count climbs pretty quickly.

With most cappuccinos, the calorie count is relatively high to start. The calories in the coffee shot itself are negligible. (A plain black cup of coffee has around 5 calories.) The calories come from the milk, the chocolate sprinkles, and anything else you decide to add.

So a typical cappuccino, with full cream milk, breaks down as follows, calorie-wise: coffee – 5 calories; milk – anywhere from 40 to 150 calories, depending on the type of milk – almond milk was one of the lowest; low-fat chocolate powder – 4-5 calories; 1 teaspoon of syrup – around 12 calories (we used caramel for the example).

Making the possible calorie count of a serving of cappuccino over 170 calories.


Cappuccino Vs Coffee

The type of beans used in the espresso shot will make a difference to the final flavor of a cappuccino. So, too, will the water used, whether it’s filtered, and the type of milk used. In recent years many types of plant milk have become increasingly popular, with some, like almond, making a difference to the taste profile.

Cappuccino coffees, in general, also score relatively low on the acidity scale.

When it comes to “ordinary” coffee, different brewing methods can also have a profound effect on the result. Some, like cold brew, are low in acidity. Other options are drip coffee, percolator coffee, French Press, and many others.

For “ordinary” coffee, the type of beans, origin, and the lightness or darkness of the roast can all affect the end taste. The grind makes a difference too: the finer the grind, the more intense the flavor, usually. Espresso traditionally uses a fine grind whereas drip coffee uses a coarser grind.

And while some coffee purists may throw up their hands in horror, there are also some excellent instant coffees available now. The same applies to decaffeinated varieties.

There’s one other difference too – cappuccino is traditionally served around breakfast time. In many countries, it’s not served at other meal times. In Italy, the story goes that you may be met with consternation if you try to order a cappuccino after 11 am.


Cappuccino Vs Espresso

What about cappuccino vs espresso, then? Espresso is the base for so many coffee drinks, including cappuccino. One of the distinctive features of an espresso shot is the espresso foam, that brownish froth on the top of the coffee known as crema.

Another feature to note when it comes to espresso vs cappuccino is that espresso will usually taste much stronger. The coffee flavor isn’t diluted by the milk as it is in a cappuccino.


Charming Cappuccino Or Classic Coffee?

In the end, it’s your choice whether you opt for a coffee or a cappuccino. In our experience, however, we’ve generally found that cappuccino is a coffee drink to savor, to sip, to linger over. It’s just not the same if you gulp it down.

While you can, of course, enjoy coffee at your leisure too, it’s also an ideal way to get the day started when you’re in a hurry. In the end, though, it’s your choice – whether you decide on an everyday Americano, a capricious cappuccino, or a simple cup of coffee. Whatever you choose, enjoy it!

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