Do you find yourself debating between a café au lait and a cappuccino? You’re not alone.

These two popular drinks may seem similar at first glance, but they each have their own unique characteristics that set them apart.

Quick Answer: What is the difference between a café au lait and a cappuccino?

A café au lait consists of equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk. In contrast, a cappuccino is made with one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third foamed milk.

Café Au Lait vs. Cappuccino: What Are the Differences?

In this article, I’ll break down the differences between a café au lait vs. cappuccino so you can decide which one best suits your taste and needs to fuel your day.

By the end, you’ll be able to order with confidence and truly savor the subtle yet satisfying variations between these popular café staples.

Café au lait vs. cappuccino, how do they differ?

Before going in-depth about the differences between these coffees, you can have a look at the overview below:

Comparison:Café au lait:Cappuccino:
Flavor notesA robust and smooth flavorA smooth and creamy flavor
Coffee used?4 ounces (0.12 l) of brewed coffeeYes, one espresso shot
Milk?Yes, 4 ounces (0.12 l)Yes, 2 ounces (0.06 l)
Coffee roastAll coffee roastsUsually, a dark roast
Caffeine content85mg to 110mg of caffeine68mg of caffeine
Number of calories76 calories38 calories
Topping?No toppingMilk foam topping and a dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder

As you can see, there are quite a few differences between a café au lait and a cappuccino.

Now, let’s get into the details about each of these differences below:

What is the flavor difference between a café au lait and a cappuccino?

A café au lait is made by combining equal parts coffee and steamed milk. This results in a smooth, creamy beverage with a light coffee flavor.

The milk helps to mellow out the coffee’s bitterness, creating a well-balanced drink with subtle notes of sweetness.

On the other hand, a cappuccino consists of one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third milk foam:

Homemade cinnamon cappuccino.

This results in a bolder and more intense flavor compared to café au lait.

The espresso provides a strong coffee taste that is balanced out by the creamy texture of the steamed milk and the frothy foam on top.

In terms of overall taste experience, a café au lait tends to be milder and more milky, while a cappuccino has a stronger espresso kick.

Is café au lait stronger than cappuccino?

Cappuccinos have a more intense coffee flavor compared to a café au lait.

This is because espresso is used as the basis of coffee, which has an intense flavor compared to the brewed coffee used to make a café au lait.

Brewing espresso shots.

However, the actual strength may vary depending on how the barista prepares the drink or how you make it at home.

You can adjust both drinks for a stronger or weaker taste based on personal preference and preparation methods.

What is the difference in milk preparation?

Unlike a café au lait, which has an even ratio of coffee and steamed milk, a cappuccino has less steamed milk and more foam, giving it a lighter texture and stronger taste.

In summary, both drinks use similar ingredients, such as coffee and heated milk, but have different ratios, resulting in distinct flavors and textures.

Steamed milk.

A café au lait has an equal mix of coffee and steamed milk for a creamy taste, while a cappuccino has less steamed milk but with a frothy foam for added richness.

These variations in milk preparation make each drink unique and cater to different taste preferences.

How many calories are in a café au lait vs. cappuccino?

A café au lait has 76 calories, while a cappuccino only has 38 calories per serving.

The number of calories is for the coffees prepared with whole milk.

If you prefer making (or ordering) these coffees with a different kind of milk, the number of calories will differ.

However, a café au lait will always have more calories per serving, as double the amount of milk is used when compared to a cappuccino.

Is there a difference in caffeine?

There is a big difference in the amount of caffeine when comparing a café au lait and a cappuccino:

  • Depending on the coffee used, a café au lait contains between 85 and 110mg of caffeine per serving.
  • On the other hand, a cappuccino has 68mg of caffeine based on one shot of espresso.

You can brew regular coffee using various brewing methods to make different-tasting coffee. These coffees will also have a different amount of caffeine per serving.

Pour over coffee has the lowest caffeine per serving, coming in at 170mg per cup (0.24 l).

Three espresso shots stacked on top of each other.

On the other hand, French press coffee has the highest caffeine per serving, coming in at 220mg of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. (source)

The amount of caffeine can be split in half for the café au lait, as only 1/2 cup of brewed coffee is used in the recipe.

Which is better, a café au lait or a cappuccino?

It ultimately depends on personal preference, as both drinks have unique qualities. You might already have picked a new go-to coffee drink.

However, if you cannot decide which will suit you better, I suggest the following:

  • If you prefer a stronger coffee flavor, you may want to opt for an espresso-based drink like a cappuccino.
  • However, a café au lait may be your preferred choice if you enjoy milder flavors and smoother textures.
A side-by-side comparison between a café au lait and a cappuccino.
Café au lait on the left. Cappuccino on the right

Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste and what type of coffee experience you are looking for.

Both drinks can be delicious when made well with high-quality ingredients. Try both to see which one suits your palate best!

I switch between these coffees regularly and don’t have a favorite. These coffees have a unique flavor that I appreciate at different times of the day.

Related coffee comparison articles

Are you wondering how the café au lait and cappuccino compare to other coffees?

Great! Check out the articles below for more in-depth coffee comparisons:

And to compare more coffees, visit the coffee comparison hub!

Conclusion

In conclusion, while both a café au lait and a cappuccino may seem similar at first glance, they have distinct differences in taste, caffeine content, and calorie count.

The deciding factor between the two may come down to personal preference. A cappuccino may be your go-to drink if you enjoy a bolder espresso flavor with a frothy texture.

However, if you prefer a mellower-strength coffee with a hint of sweetness, you might be sipping on a café au lait more often.

Regardless of your choice, both drinks offer an enjoyable coffee experience and can be tailored to your liking with various flavor combinations.

Espresso-based recipes to try

Picture of Jeffrey, Author at Your Dream Coffee
Author

On my coffee blog you will find everything you need in order to start brewing coffee at home. Ranging from the basics; to the newest coffee recipes everybody talks about! You can learn more about me here.

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