Espresso drinks are a great alternative to coffee or soda if you want some caffeine or if you just want a rich, creamy drink.

Some espresso drinks include lattes, americanos, macchiatos, and cappuccinos, which I will focus on in this article. So what’s a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an espresso drink made of espresso, hot milk, and milk foam, added in that order. You can make cappuccinos at home if you have an espresso machine. There are many variations of the drink that you can try, like making them iced, changing the type of milk, or adding flavor.

This article will explain what a cappuccino is, how cappuccinos differ from other espresso drinks, and what variations there are of cappuccinos.

There’s also a section full of frequently asked questions by cappuccino-making beginners and some resources to help you learn how to make cappuccinos.

What is a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an espresso drink that is meant as a tasty form of caffeine. While there are many different variations of the cappuccino, the most common kind is served hot with milk. They sometimes come topped with added flavor like cinnamon powder.

Homemade cappuccino.

A cappuccino is an Italian coffee drink that is made from espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. It’s usually served with equal parts espresso, steamed, and foamed milk.

When you make an espresso drink like a cappuccino, the order that you add the ingredients is important. When you make a cappuccino, you add the espresso first, then the milk, and top it off with a thick layer of foam.

Depending on the size of cappuccino you’re making, you can use one or two shots of espresso. Then, you steam your milk, usually whole or two percent milk, and add it into your mug on top of your espresso.

Then, add foam to top off the drink. The foam is often used to make latte art on the top of a cappuccino or other espresso drinks, which can take some practice.

How do cappuccinos differ from other espresso drinks?

Cappuccinos are most similar to lattes. They both start with a shot of espresso. Then, you add a layer of steamed milk, but the amount of milk varies between the two drinks. Cappuccinos have less steamed milk than lattes.

To make up for the different amounts of steamed milk, cappuccinos have a thicker layer of foam on top and are usually dusted with some cocoa powder or ground cinnamon:

Dusting a cappuccino with cinnamon.

If you’re making the iced version of the drinks, you add cold milk instead of steamed, with the same amount of espresso as the hot version of the drinks.

Another common type of espresso drink is the macchiato, which starts with the espresso being poured first, then the steamed milk.

There’s just a tiny amount of foam in a macchiato, unlike a cappuccino, where it makes up for 1/3 of the drink. If you’re making an iced macchiato, use cold milk and espresso.

Homemade macchiato coffee.
Macchiato

Finally, there’s the Americano.

Instead of using milk in the drink, Americanos use water. In an Americano, the espresso is combined with the water. For a regular Americano, use hot water, and for a cold Americano, use cold water and pour over ice.

So, while all of these drinks have espresso in them, the amount of each ingredient determines how they taste.

Cappuccinos have a dark, rich taste. They’re not as creamy as lattes but a little stronger. But they’re creamier and less strong than macchiatos and Americanos.

What are some variations of cappuccinos?

While the traditional cappuccino is espresso, steamed milk, and foam, there are other variations of cappuccinos that you can make.

One of these variations is the Freddo cappuccino, which is an iced drink made with two shots of espresso. But, instead of just pouring them into a glass, you shake the espresso before pouring it into your glass.

Once the shaken espresso has a foamy consistency, pour it over ice and top it with cold foam. You can learn more about the Freddo cappuccino here.

Freddo cappuccino.
Freddo cappuccino

You can also make an iced version of the classic hot cappuccino. The difference between the hot and cold versions is the temperature of the milk.

For a hot cappuccino, you steam the milk, whereas you use cold milk, and it doesn’t matter whether you foam it or not for the iced.

Then, for the iced version, you pour the espresso and the milk over ice. There’s no need to top an iced cappuccino with foam as you do for a hot cappuccino.

You can, however, make some quick cold foam to give your iced cappuccino a bit of texture.

Cold foam can be made at home using five different techniques. You can check out this article to learn more about it.

You can find a complete iced cappuccino recipe here.

Iced cappuccino, ready to drink.
Iced cappuccino

Another way to change the standard cappuccino is by changing the type of milk you use in the drink. Most coffee shops and recipes use two percent or whole milk in espresso drinks.

But there are other types of milk that you can use in a cappuccino. If you want to lower the number of calories in your drink, you can use fat-free milk. Or there’s soy milk and almond milk if you want a vegan option for your cappuccino.

Another option is coconut milk for a richer flavor.

Finally, you can add some flavor like cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, or hazelnut to your cappuccino. There are options like powder or syrup, depending on how much flavor you want.

If you like vanilla-flavored drinks, you can check out this homemade French vanilla cappuccino recipe.

Homemade French vanilla cappuccino.
French vanilla cappuccino

It’s made with vanilla syrup (that you can also make at home) to give it some extra depth and flavor.

Cappuccino beginner FAQs

If you’re new to making cappuccinos or even espresso drinks in general, you may have some questions when it comes to making these drinks.

In the following section, I’ve answered some common questions that people ask about cappuccinos.

There are also some products that’ll help you get started making cappuccinos.

How big is a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is one-third espresso, milk, and foam, so your drink will be three times the amount of espresso you have. A standard shot of espresso is around one to one and a half ounces. So a regular cappuccino is usually around four and a half ounces (133.08 mL) once you add the milk and foam.

You can make a larger cappuccino by using a double shot of espresso, which would give you a nine-ounce (266.16 mL) drink.

Espresso coffee in a cappuccino glass.

If you’re making an iced cappuccino, make sure you have a larger cup since you need room for the ice plus four and a half to nine ounces (133.08 mL to 266.16 mL) of liquid.

If you want a stylish cup for your cappuccinos, try these BNUNWISH Espresso Coffee Mugs (available on Amazon.com). They’re seven ounces (207.02 mL), so they’re perfect for a single-serve cappuccino.

The double glass mug will also keep your cappuccinos hotter than a normal mug while not burning your hands.

How do I make the perfect cappuccino?

To make the perfect cappuccino, first, make sure you use the right ratio of ingredients. If you use too much espresso, it’ll be too strong, and if you use too much milk or foam, it’ll drown out the espresso flavor.

You also need to make sure that you make the espresso and steam the milk properly.

If you don’t brew your espresso shot correctly, the drink might be too bitter or taste burnt.

Brewing espresso shots.

If you steam the milk for too long, it’ll taste burnt, and it’ll be hard to properly pour the steamed milk into the espresso, which can mess up your layering.

Finally, you want to try to pour the milk in a way that looks aesthetically pleasing. Latte art is a big part of what baristas do, and they want to do it right.

If you want to learn latte art on your own, check out the book Latte Art by Skyler Breone (available on Amazon.com).

There are more than ten designs that you’ll learn in this book, plus other useful information like how to make foam and how to practice latte art without constantly making drinks.

Tip: Do you want to learn how to make a cappuccino in just five minutes? Check out this easy-to-make recipe!

Where do cappuccinos originate from?

Cappuccinos originated from Italy in the 19th century. The name cappuccino comes from a group of monks called the Capuchin friars. The color of cappuccinos is similar to the color of their robes, so the Italians derived the word cappuccino from Capuchin.

The name cappuccino stuck as the drink became popular worldwide in English-speaking countries, and it has been the name of the drink ever since.

How does a cappuccino differ from coffee?

Espresso is a specialty kind of coffee that’s stronger than standard coffee. The coffee beans used for espresso are much finer than the ones used to brew coffee. You also need a special type of machine to make espresso.

If you compare a cup of coffee and a shot of espresso, the cup of coffee is much larger. A standard shot of espresso is around one ounce, sometimes slightly larger, whereas a cup of coffee is eight ounces.

Even though it’s much smaller, the espresso has a stronger taste and more caffeine.

A side-by-side comparison of espresso and coffee.
Espresso on the left. Coffee on the right

If you enjoy espresso and coffee the same, you may want to consider an espresso-coffee maker combo machine.

The DeLonghi Espresso/Drip Coffee Machine from Amazon.com is perfect for making both kinds of drinks. There’s also a milk frother attached to the machine that’ll help you perfect your cappuccinos.

If you want more information about the differences between espresso and coffee you can check out this article.

Resources you can use to make cappuccinos

If you want to start making your own cappuccinos at home or just want to learn more about them, the resources in this section will help you. All products are available on Amazon.com.

  • Cappuccino & Espresso (Nitty Gritty Cookbooks): This book also has a variety of recipes that you can follow to make cappuccinos. There are also other drink recipes that you can make, including lattes, other espresso drinks, and cold drinks.
  • If you’re serious about making cappuccinos at home, you need to invest in an espresso machine: The JASSY Espresso Machine is a great starting espresso machine for beginners. There’s a steam wand for steaming your milk for cappuccinos, and the machine is easy to clean between uses.
  • SIKEMAY Milk Frothing Pitcher Jug: This frothing pitcher is great for steaming your milk in, and the tools make it easy for you to try new latte art every time you make a cappuccino. The pitcher comes in three sizes: 12 ounces (354.88 mL), 20 ounces (591.47 mL), and 32 ounces (946.35 mL).
  • Coffee Art: This final book will teach you how to make 60 designs in your cappuccinos. There are different styles of designs that you’ll learn in this book, including free pouring, etching, stenciling, and sculpting. There are even 3-D animals you can make using cappuccino foam.

Final Thoughts

To make a cappuccino, you combine a shot of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.

If you change the order of the ingredients, you end up with a different espresso drink and a different taste, so it’s important to make the drink in this order.

You can, however, change the milk that you use, use cold milk instead of steamed and add ice for a cold version of a cappuccino, or add powder or syrup, such as cinnamon or chocolate to make a flavored cappuccino.

With espresso coffee as the basis, it’s a great start to the day as well. Do you like drinking espresso? Then you can check out some more amazing espresso-based drinks below:

More espresso recipes

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