Coffee lovers are often particular about the taste and quality of the coffee they drink. Few drinks are as beautifully simple and complex at once as coffee.

But how do you know what you are drinking? What distinguishes a cappuccino from an espresso?

The main difference between an espresso and a cappuccino is that an espresso is a single shot of coffee while a cappuccino is a beverage made with espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk.

In this article, I’ll go over all the differences between these drinks, so you can decide which might suit you better!

Espresso vs. cappuccino, what are the differences?

Before getting into detail about each difference between these two drinks, here’s a quick overview:

Espresso vs. cappuccino comparison.

Below, you’ll find all the differences between an espresso and a cappuccino in detail:

Comparison: Espresso: Cappuccino:
Which coffee? A single serving of coffee One espresso shot
Milk used? No milk used Yes, 2 oz (60 ml)
Flavor notes A smoky, complex, and bittersweet flavor Slightly sweet, creamy, and well-rounded flavor
Caffeine content 68mg of caffeine 68mg of caffeine
Number of calories Virtually no calories 38 calories
Any toppings? Has a nice crema on top Milk foam topping

Now that you have a good idea of how these drinks differ, the rest of the article will go in-depth into what makes each drink special.

What is an espresso?

An espresso is a coffee made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. It is typically served in a small cup and has a strong, concentrated flavor.

Espresso is the base for many other coffee drinks and drinking it as is. A few popular coffee drinks that use espresso as the basis are a latte, macchiato, Americano, and red eye coffee.

An espresso shot in a small glass.

Along with those popular drinks I’ve mentioned above is also the cappuccino, which I’ll go into detail about below:

What is a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is a coffee drink made with espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. The proportions are 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foam.

Homemade cappuccino.

Cappuccinos are also typically decorated with latte art, which creates patterns or designs in milk foam. You can do this by pouring milk into a pattern on top of an espresso shot.

Tip: If you’d like to learn how to make a cappuccino at home, you can check out this complete guide!

Now that you have some information about both drinks let’s get into all their differences.

What is the flavor difference between an espresso and a cappuccino?

The main flavor difference between an espresso and a cappuccino is that espressos are stronger and have more of a bitter taste, while cappuccinos are milder and have more of a sweet taste. Espressos are also generally less creamy than cappuccinos.

Espresso is much more concentrated and has a stronger flavor, so the milk plays a big role in setting these coffees apart.

The added steamed and foamed milk that a cappuccino uses will give it its sweet and silky smooth flavor, perfect for most coffee drinkers.

There are also many variations to the cappuccino. You can use many homemade coffee syrups to flavor the cappuccino to your liking.

Homemade French vanilla cappuccino.
French vanilla cappuccino

A French vanilla cappuccino is one of those examples. It’s made with the addition of vanilla syrup for a sweet touch. You can check out the complete recipe here.

Which has more caffeine? Espresso or cappuccino?

The espresso and cappuccino have an equal amount of caffeine. Both drinks are made from one shot of espresso, which has 68mg of caffeine. (source)

If you prefer drinking a stronger cappuccino, then you can always ask your barista to add an extra espresso shot to your drink.

Brewing espresso shots.

Do you like making a cappuccino at home? Then you can easily make a double espresso shot and prepare your cappuccino with it as a basis.

For example, an iced cappuccino is prepared with a double espresso shot, so it’ll have a slightly more robust flavor to it!

Is a cappuccino stronger than espresso?

Generally speaking, a cappuccino is weaker than an espresso because it’s made with milk. However, some people prefer a stronger cappuccino. It all comes down to individual preference.

  • Espresso is made with just coffee beans and hot water, so it has a stronger flavor that doesn’t get drowned out by milk and foam.
  • A cappuccino is made with espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk, making it less concentrated and giving it a milder flavor.

Espresso is just brewed espresso coffee, so it’ll have a stronger taste than a cappuccino because that’s made with 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foamed milk on top.

How many calories are in an espresso vs. cappuccino?

A standard espresso has about five calories, while a cappuccino has about 30-40. This is because a cappuccino has added milk and milk foam, which are high in calories.

Depending on how you like to drink your coffee, you might want to sweeten them slightly, which will also increase the number of calories.

Frothing milk with a handheld mixer.

For most cappuccinos, whole milk is used, which has the highest number of calories. If you’re ordering (or making) a cappuccino with non-fat milk, you’ll get a cappuccino with fewer calories.

Do you like ordering a coffee with low-fat milk? Ask for a skinny version of it, like this skinny latte.

Which is better, espresso or cappuccino?

It depends on what you like! If you’re looking for a stronger coffee, espresso is definitely the way to go.

However, if you want something a little lighter and creamier, a cappuccino is a great option. Ultimately, it’s all about personal preference!

If you’re unsure which might suit you better, I recommend the following:

  • Espresso is a stronger, more intense coffee drink. It’s the perfect drink if you prefer a robust flavor and like drinking black coffee.
  • On the other hand, a cappuccino consists of espresso mixed with steamed milk and foamed milk. The result is a lighter-colored drink with a frothy top, perfect if you like a sweeter coffee with lighter notes of coffee!
Espresso vs. cappuccino comparison next to each other.
Espresso on the left. Cappuccino on the right

I like both drinks equally as much. A single or even double espresso shot is delicious after lunch, but a cappuccino is also a great way to start the day.

So it’s all about what you’re looking for, also in terms of flavor. An espresso shot might be too strong for most, so a cappuccino is the way to go!

Related coffee comparison articles

Are you wondering how the espresso 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

So there you have it – the difference between an espresso and a cappuccino. I hope this article was helpful in clearing up any confusion about these two coffee drinks.

Now that you know the difference between an espresso and a cappuccino, what’s your favorite? I’m personally a fan of a good cappuccino in the morning.

Coffee 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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