Espresso vs. Cappuccino vs. Latte

Espresso vs. Cappuccino vs. Latte

By Coffeenated Stories | 5 min read

Updated On: OCT 23 2023

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Whenever we walk into a coffee shop, they're written on top of the wall menu, hung as framed wall art, or illustrated on a blackboard. We can not miss reading, seeing, and smelling the aroma of the world's three most popular coffee drinks: espressocappuccino, and latte.

Coffee Shop
Coffee Shop
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Whether you are a beginner in the world of espresso-based coffee drinks and just starting to learn various coffee drinks, or you are pretty familiar with many of them, you want to learn more about what goes inside and how we can prepare and brew them.

Espresso is a small, black, and syrupy coffee drink topped with a red-brown crema with an intense coffee flavor and aroma. On the other hand, cappuccino and latte are coffee drinks with espresso as a base, mixed with steamed milk and milk foam.

An image of espresso
An image of Cappuccino
An image of Caffe Latte
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The different ratios between these three ingredients, espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, create these various coffee beverages.


Espresso is a brewing method that produces a little coffee beverage named espresso, just like its brew method. We brew an espresso with a machine capable of running a small amount of hot water under pressure through a basket of finely ground coffee to produce a single shot of espresso.

Brewing Espresso
Brewing Espresso
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Initially, espresso got invented in Italy, and from there, the little beverage became famous throughout Europe and the rest of the world. First, in coffee houses and shops, and later, with the invention of the home espresso machine, it entered coffee lovers' kitchens and into the daily lives of all of us.

Extracting a dose of grounded coffee with a small amount of hot water under pressure produces an espresso of a thick consistency and a concentrated coffee flavor. The ratio between the grounded coffee and yielded espresso shot for a traditional espresso is 1:2, meaning from a dose of 15g of coffee to get a 30g of espresso. By changing this ratio, we will produce a different type of espresso. For example, we'll make a ristretto by lowering it from 1:1 to 1:1.5, and by increasing it from 1:2.5 to 1:4, we'll produce a lungo. To learn more about espresso, read our article What is espresso?

The Ratios of Ristretto, Espresso and Lungo
The Ratios of Ristretto, Espresso and Lungo

So, besides being enjoyed traditionally alongside a glass of water, espresso can be mixed with other liquids or diluted to create various espresso-based coffee drinks.

The recipes of some of the most popular espresso-based coffee drinks consist of espresso combined with milk in most cases, hot water for an Americano, or even alcohol for a Caffe Corretto.

An image of Americano
An image of Caffe Corretto
Caffe Corretto
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Cappuccino and latte are some of the most popular espresso-based drinks made with milk, steamed milk, to be exact, and milk foam.


The cappuccino is undeniably one of the oldest and best-known coffee drinks. Today we made cappuccino with espresso, but the drink itself predates the espresso.

Firstly, it was introduced in the coffee houses of Vienna in the 19th century, when it was named kapuziner. The drink's recipe was for coffee to be mixed with cream or milk until the color started to resemble that of a robe or the hood of a Capuchin Monk, which is soft brown.

The drink eventually made its way into northern Italy. With the invention of the espresso machine, it started being made with espresso and began to resemble the beverage we know today.

The Italian word for a robe or a hood is Cappuccio, and at that period, the drink started to adopt the Italian name cappuccino. From Italy, along with espresso, cappuccino begins to spread to the rest of the world.

Cappuccino and Breakfast
Cappuccino and Breakfast
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In Italy today, cappuccino is prepared and usually enjoyed in the mornings along with breakfast, and Italians avoid it after 11 am has passed.

Today's cappuccino recipe calls for a drink that we should make in three equal parts. One part espresso, the second part steamed milk, and a third part milk foam.

Cappuccino Recipe Illustration
Cappuccino Recipe

The milk for cappuccino needs to be made with a thicker layer of milk foam, doubling the volume of milk. We finish steaming the milk when the foam's texture resembles a melted marshmallow.

We make it in a 5 to 6 oz cup (180ml) with a double shot of espresso as a base, about 2 oz, mixed with 2 oz of steamed milk and as for the milk foam, it needs to be volumetrically the third part, not in weight.

Of course, this recipe is only an idea of how we need to make a cappuccino, and it's not fixed in any sense.

Many modern coffee shops use a double espresso of about 1.35 oz (40 ml) as a base for their cappuccino, with a slightly larger milk layer, and the foam on top is not as thick to make lovely latte art on top of the cappuccino and dusting with cocoa powder.

A traditional coffee shop will prepare a cappuccino with a single shot of espresso as a base. Because of that, they'll serve smaller cappuccinos that are less milky with more coffee flavor, giving an impression that cappuccino is a relatively strong drink than other milk drinks. If you want to learn more, you can read our article about cappuccino.


Despite its Italian name, Latte or Caffe Latte is another espresso-based milk drink that probably got invented and evolved outside of Italy. The fact that we rarely see it served in coffee shops in Italy confirms that.

Caffe Latte is a relatively weak coffee drink. The proportion of espresso to milk is slightly higher than at cappuccino. We mix a double espresso with steamed milk with a ratio of 1:4 or 1:6 and prepare it as a large coffee drink in an 8 to 12 oz (240 to 350 ml) cup.

Latte Recipe Illustration
Latte Recipe

Latte typically has some milk foam on the top. The milk foam for the Caffe latte is made silky smooth and thin, and it's not much in volume. To learn more, please read our dedicated article on a latte.

Latte Art
Latte Art
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The foam on a latte a skilled coffee enthusiast or a barista will usually pour with some beautiful latte art. If we prefer a more sweet and milky drink latte is an excellent choice for us.

Read Next Espresso vs. Coffee.