What Is Cappuccino Coffee? (Guide to History, Types, Tips, Differences)


This website contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

A coffee shop staple, there’s no person in this world that hasn’t heard of the classic cappuccino coffee.

Cappuccino has been on the coffee charts for many years and beloved by avid and casual coffee drinkers. Most famous for its creamy taste, the perfect balance of cream, espresso, and foam, and the elegant coffee swirl on top —cappuccino has strong roots in the coffee industry.

Making the perfect cup of cappuccino is indeed for most, the true test of their coffeemaking skills. In this post let’s find out what makes this coffee beverage on top of your list.

Volcanica Coffee Student discount is Now Available!

Unlock 20% off the first subscription student discount at Volcanica Coffee with Student Beans

What is in a Cappuccino?

The majority, if not all, of coffee drinkers, have tasted cappuccino at least once in their life. But what exactly is in a cup of cappuccino and why is it beloved by many?

The perfect cup of cappuccino starts with the shot of espresso. The ideal beans for this coffee are light to mildly roasted coffee beans that don’t have any bitter aftertastes. Many professional coffeemakers love a blend of Arabica and Robusta.

Next is the steamed milk. To maximize the richness and velvety mouthfeel of cappuccinos, whole milk is used because it stabilizes better and it aerates beautifully to create the signature texture of the coffee. The froth from whole milk is also thicker and creamier, giving more body to the cappuccino.

Milk substitutes are possible like low-fat milk or skim milk (some even use non-dairy variations), but the texture won’t be as luxurious compared to steamed whole milk.

Lastly, the cappuccino is topped with at least a centimeter-thick foam. The stability of foam and the clear distinction between the layers of the drink are proof that the coffeemaker or barista is skilled. Of course, chocolate shavings or a sprinkle of cinnamon can be added —along with coffee accents or art that tops off the whole experience.

History and Origin of Cappuccino

The history of cappuccino is just as fascinating as the drink itself. Cappuccino is believed to originate from Europe as an aftermath in the late 1700s when the British and the French started the practice of filtering their coffee, instead of simply boiling it with water.

The cappuccinos first appeared as “Kapuziner” in coffee houses in Vienna. The description for Kapuziner is simple: coffee with cream and sugar.

The name cappuccino came to be because of the color of the drink. Traditional cappuccinos have shades of brown that are similar to the color of the robes worn by the Capuchin (Kapuzin) friars in Vienna. If translated, Capuchin directly means hood or cowl in Italian which refers to the hooded robes of the Capuchin monks.

The modern-day cappuccino is also regarded as a coffee of ratios —the most common formula is equal parts of espresso, milk, and foam. But traditionally, the cappuccino is made by simply diluting the espresso base with steamed milk until it matches the robe color of Capuchin monks.

While the concept of cappuccinos as Kapuziner originated in Vienna, the creation of Cappuccino is actually credited to Italy. The records show that the term “cappuccino” was first used in Italy in the early 1900s and it was popularized when espresso machines became a thing for coffee houses.

What are the Different Types of Cappuccinos?

The cappuccinos that we all know and love doesn’t only come in the form of hot coffee served in cups to be enjoyed in the morning. There are now different types of cappuccinos that many coffee shops serve.

1. Iced Cappuccinos

Iced cappuccinos or cappuccini freddo is a cold version of the traditional cappuccino. In Italy, iced cappuccinos don’t have ice in them. Rather, it is usually made and served with hot espresso topped with cold, frothed milk.

But to the other parts of the world especially in the US, iced cappuccinos are usually made with hot espresso and steamed milk, to be made cold by putting ice before topping it off with foam. 

2. Wet Cappuccinos

If you’re just starting to drink coffee and you still have yet to like the bitter tones in your drink, a wet cappuccino might be the perfect beverage for you.

Wet cappuccinos or Cappuccini chiaro are made with higher portions of steamed milk with minimal foam. This makes the flavor profile lean more on the milky and creamy side which masks the bitter flavor of the espresso.

This type of cappuccino is likened to a caffe latte except with foam on top.

3. Dry Cappuccinos

The exact opposite of wet cappuccinos, the dry cappuccino or Cappuccini scurro is made with less milk and more foam.

The flavor profile of dry cappuccinos is similar to a straight shot of espresso but stained with a little bit of milk. But the presence of foam makes a better mouthfeel and hints of creaminess in the drink.

4. Flavored Cappuccinos

Flavored cappuccinos are very popular in the United States and in countries that are not used to the bitterness of coffee. Usually, coffee shops recommend flavored cappuccinos as the “entry-level” for newbie coffee drinkers.

This type of cappuccino can literally be anything. The most common ones are chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon. Some coffee shops would serve specialty flavors such as peppermint, raspberry, and even unique spice blends.

Grove Square Cappuccino Pods
Amazon.com

Is Cappuccino Stronger than a Regular Coffee?

Cappuccinos are both stronger and “weaker” than a regular coffee depending on which factor you’re looking at.

In terms of flavor, cappuccinos tend to have a more mellow flavor profile compared to regular black coffee due to the steamed milk added into the drink. At the same time, there’s a wide adjustment to the volume of milk in the drink depending on your preference.

So essentially, you can create a cappuccino until the flavor leans on the creamier side rather than the bitter or strong taste of the coffee.

However, the espresso in the cappuccinos is stronger compared to regular coffee. The coffee concentrate present in a cup of cappuccino is higher compared to a cup of regular coffee. The concentration even goes higher if you made a dry cappuccino.

What is the Difference Between Latte and Cappuccino Coffee?

The distinction between a latte and cappuccino coffee might not be clear for some people since both are popular creamy coffee drinks.

The main differences between the two are:

  • The ratio of ingredients
  • Presence of foam
  • The way that it is served

A cappuccino has a generally accepted ratio of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam. On the other hand, a latte has more steamed milk and a minimal layer of foam.

Cappuccinos also contain at least a centimeter of foam while the foam in the latte is very minimal to the point that it sometimes goes unnoticed. Lastly, there are distinctive layers in a cappuccino while the latte is served mixed.

5 Tips in Preparing the Best-Tasting Cappuccino at Home

This favorite coffee shop drink is definitely achievable to be brewed at home. Of course, if you want a barista-level of drink, you need to level up your coffee game.

Here are some tried and tested tips in making sure that you have the best-tasting cup of cappuccino every time.

1. Texture the Milk Properly

Milk plays an important role in the overall taste and texture of your coffee. Ideally, you would want to use whole milk since it produces the richest foam suitable for cappuccinos.

You can also use milk alternatives and dairy-free substitutes if you don’t want whole milk. A nice trick that some home-brewers use is replacing the whole milk with chocolate milk to make a quick and easy mocha cappuccino.

Fair warning though, milk substitutes don’t behave the same way as whole milk so you might need some extra time to make sure that the milk reaches its ideal froth.

2. Use A Thermometer in Heating Up Your Milk

If you’re not used to the steaming wand or you’re manually heating your milk, it’s better to use a thermometer to keep an eye on its temperature. That way, you can monitor once the milk reaches 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Normally, you wouldn’t see professional baristas using a thermometer because they go by feel and touch while steaming. But this can be quite painful for people who are not used to it.

3. Tap and Swirl the Pitcher Before Pouring the Milk

To make sure that your cappuccino will achieve that smooth and silky texture, tap the milk jug once you’re done steaming it. This removes any big bubbles in the milk so you’ll only have microfoam present that is smooth and pleasant to the palate.

When pouring the steamed milk into the cup, swirl the cup along with it to evenly distribute the foam and create the signature brown-white look of cappuccino.

4. Warm the Cup Before Making the Cappuccino

Not a lot of people do this especially at home but it’s important to warm the serving cup before you pour the espresso and the milk. By doing so, you’re not “shocking” the coffee and the milk with drastic temperature changes. This also helps keep the warm temperature of your coffee for a longer time.

5. Use a Spoon to Create Distinct Layers

The aesthetic of cappuccino is all about the distinct layers between espresso, milk, and foam. This is even more important if you’re serving it in a clear cup or glass.

To achieve the distinct layers, use a spoon to “catch” the milk while pouring it from the jug. This is an easy trick that beginners use to achieve the clean layers that otherwise can only be achieved by the practiced techniques of a barista.

You can also scoop out the foam and set it aside before you pour the milk into the cup. This will help you in determining if you have the right amount of foam to top off your cappuccino at the end.

Wrapping it up!

The cappuccino is already a staple in the coffee world. After all, no one can resist the perfect balance of creaminess and boldness of its flavor.

With enough practice and love for this beverage, you too can skip the long lines during the morning rush at your coffee shop and start making your perfect brew of cappuccino.

Like this Article? You Might Want to Read: What is a Mocha? Exploring a Tasty Coffee Drink
What is a Ristretto?