Cappuccino vs Latte vs Mocha, What Are the Differences?

There are a lot of different espresso-based drinks, sometimes this much variety can be confusing. I have a friend who admitted that she didn't like to go to a coffee shop. She couldn't choose between macchiato, latte, cappuccino, mocha, and many others because she didn't know what they were. She was embarrassed to ask the barista what the differences were, so she started to buy a different coffee drink every day.

What makes these coffee beverages different from each other? What are their distinctive characteristics?

Latte with latte art

Espresso-Based Drinks

All the coffee-based drinks in coffee shops are a mix of two base ingredients, espresso, and milk. These are also called espresso-based drinks for this reason. Some recipes call for extra ingredients such as cocoa, chocolate, ice, sugar, vanilla, etc… Espresso and milk-based drinks are great for people with a sensitive stomach because the milk tones down the coffee. Caffeinated beverages such as latte, mocha, and cappuccino are also a great way to break the daily coffee routine or to be served at parties. Espresso drinks are usually made using an espresso machine, which is the traditional method. This is what you are buying from a coffee shop. However, you can make your latte at home using cheap equipment, if you want to ditch your barista.

Cappuccino vs Latte vs Mocha

Here are the major differences between latte, cappuccino, and mocha:

  • Cappuccino – 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 foamed milk
    The espresso is toned down with milk, but the coffee taste is still featured. Full cappuccino recipe.
  • Latte – 1/6 espresso, 4/6 steamed milk, 1/6 foamed milk
    This is a milk-based drink with just a little coffee. More about latte...
  • Mocha – 2/5 espresso, 2/5 chocolate, 1/5 steamed milk
    A strong coffee with a chocolate flavor. Full recipe here.
  • Flat White – 1/3 espresso, 2/3 frothed milk
    Very similar to a cappuccino, but the milk is micro-foamed and it doesn't have the dry foam top.
  • Mocha latte – 1/8 espresso, 5/8 steamed milk, 1/8 foamed milk, 1/8 hot chocolate
    A latte with a hint of chocolate.
  • Mochaccino – 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 frothed milk, 1 tbsp chocolate syrup
    A cappuccino with a hint of chocolate.

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Cappuccino vs Latte

Espresso Machine?

Yes, lattes and cappuccinos are made with an espresso machine. People use various recipes for lattes because the amount of milk sometimes covers the coffee taste. However, for an authentic cappuccino, real espresso is the best choice.

For low budgets, an inexpensive semiautomatic machine is the best choice. They have a milk steamer and a 15bar pump and they are decently reliable.

The next step up is a mid-range semiautomatic, with larger portafilters, better heating elements, and more expensive materials. With these machines, you get more consistent results when pulling the shots, and you can pull more shots in a row.

An automatic espresso machine will get you convenience and consistency, but you will have to adjust your price accordingly. The best part is that you don't need to learn any barista skills.

What Is Latte

Latte is an espresso-based milky drink with a 1 to 3, up to 1 to 9, espresso to milk ratio.

Latte Recipe

The standard latte is prepared in an 8 oz. cup, and it contains the following ingredients:

  • 1 or two shots of espresso (1 shot = 1 oz)
  • Around 5 to 6 oz. steamed milk, (around 5-6 oz.)
  • Top up the cup with a thin layer of frothed milk.
  • Add flavorings as desired.
Latte Macchiato in a glass

Latte is nothing else than milk with coffee, and it originates in Italy, where it is called café latte. Latte is very popular because the coffee content is very diluted, and the recipe can be tweaked by adding various flavorings, making latte a dessert. The frothed milk layer allows baristas to create beautiful drawings.

The most convenient way to prepare a latte is with a latte machine. We have a guide that compares the most popular solutions on the market here: The Best Domestic Latte Machines.

How to Make a Latte (Caffe Latte) | Perfect Coffee

What Is Cappuccino

Cappuccino is an espresso-based drink, of Italian origin, with 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 wet foamed milk. The difference between a latte and a cappuccino is the milk content. Latte has a lot of milk, whereas cappuccino is a strong coffee. The coffee to milk ratio in a cappuccino is around 1 to 1.5, considering that foamed milk is at least double in volume compared to steamed milk. Cappuccino has a rich and bold taste, as any espresso would, but is toned down by the steamed milk.

Cup of cappuccino

Cappuccino Recipe

A standard cappuccino should contain:
• 1 shot of espresso, (cannot be instant or drip coffee). Cappuccino is not drenched in milk so that the espresso is the featured taste.
• 1 oz steamed milk
• 1 oz microfoamed milk
So once again, the recipe for a cappuccino is mixing equal volumes of espresso steamed milk and frothed milk.

Dry cappuccino is a variant that has more of the dry foam, and less of the steamed milk. An interesting variation is the bone dry cappuccino, nicely explained by Thomas.

A convenient approach to cappuccino making is the super-automatic cappuccino machine. The machine will grind the beans, brew the espresso shot, and froth the milk automatically, you just need to press one button.  

Mocha Cafe

Mocha coffee is an espresso-based coffee with a strong chocolate flavor, containing 2/5 espresso, 2/5 hot chocolate, and 1/5 steamed milk. Mocha breve is a variant with 1/3 espresso, 1/3 hot chocolate, and 1/3 half & half cream.

Mocha Coffee Recipe

Mocha coffee is actually a type of coffee beans with a natural chocolate flavor. These coffee beans originate in Mocha - Yemen. In order to enhance the chocolate taste, baristas have added a little chocolate to the mocha recipe. If we were to compare latte vs mocha, the latte is a very light drink, with little coffee per ounce of milk, whereas mocha is even stronger than a cappuccino.

Mocha coffee in a glass

Mocha coffee recipe, as we find it in most coffee shops is a combination of three elements as follows:

  • 2 espresso shots
  • 2 oz hot chocolate
  • 1 oz steamed milk
  • Optional, a thin frothed milk top layer

Mochaccino is simply a cappuccino with some chocolate syrup, or a few squares of chocolate added.
Mocha latte is simply a latte with chocolate added. If you want to go with your mocha recipe a step further and add a hint of booze the beverage. You can add Sambuca, Baileys Cream, Cognac, Metaxa, or coffee liqueur. The Italian way to booze your coffee is with Sambuca.

Breville BMF600XL Milk Frother

For those who want to make a latte at home, one of the biggest challenges is frothing the milk. Nailing a perfect texture and temperature of your foamed milk is not that easy, and many give up before even trying.

There is the super-automatic route, but not everybody affords an expensive machine. The manual frother works, but you still have to know how to use it, and it does take some effort from your part.

One of the best options on the market is the Breville milk frother. The unit comes with separate frothing disks for latte and cappuccino, and it automates the process to pressing a couple of buttons and adjusting the dial button. Pretty neat...

We also wrote an in depth article comparing the best milk frothers on the market, if you need more info.

Flat White

A flat white is a a coffee beverage consisting of steamed milk with espresso. It is very similar to a cappuccino, though it contains slightly more milk than cappuccino. 

There is quite a debate of the real origin of the beverage, with Australia and New Zealand claiming the invention. 

Many people compare the flat white it to a latte, because of the similar milk consistency,  but we think that is more like a cappuccino because it has the same volume, and the milk to espresso ratio is much closer. 

Flat White with Latte Art

Flat White Recipe

The flat white recipe is a beverage in between a latte and a cappuccino, and to prepare it you need:

  • 1/3 espresso
    typically one shot of a normale espresso, or two shots of ristretto
  • 2/3 microfoam steamed milk
    The texture of the milk is key here, the milk is steamed in such way that there is no dry foam

Because the milk in a flat white is micro-foamed and there is no fluffy foam like in a cappuccino, latte art is possible. This is probably another reason people confuse the flat white to a latte.

Become a Home Barista – Make Your Latte at Home

Latte with latte art

When my cousin asked me a couple of weeks ago: “What is the best latte machine?” I didn't have an answer on the spot. In my defense, I am not a latte drinker. I can fix a perfect one, I can even throw in some latte art if I'm in good mood, but it never occurred to me that many people are actually using the espresso machine to make exclusively lattes…
If you want to know what machine I recommended my cousin Read this »

Milk for Espresso-Based Beverages

All coffee-based beverages require steamed or frothed milk, and sometimes cold milk. It might seem unimportant, but using the right type of milk makes a great difference between various recipes. The milk density is different, hence the volume ratios are changed, and the texture is definitely different. Here are a few tips on how to prepare steamed and frothed milk.

Frothing milk in a pitcher

Frothed Milk vs. Steamed Milk

To obtain steamed milk and frothed milk you need to use either the steam wand of an espresso machine or a special milk frother. The frothing device blows steam into the milk, heating it up, and incorporating air into it. The major difference between various foamed kinds of milk is the amount of bubbles introduced. Frothed milk is milk foam with a volume doubled by the air bubbles, whereas steamed milk less foamed, with a volume increased by a third.

For steamed milk, you will put the steam wand in the milk, around 1 inch in, and position it in an angle, so that the steam creates a vortex. When the milk reaches the right temperature, (145 to 155 °F), stop steaming.

Frothing milk is very similar, we place the wand so it creates a vortex, and as the milk gets foamed on the surface, we need to advance the steaming wand inch by inch, until the bottom of the cup. Don't steam too long in one place, when the froth has formed, the volume expands, and you need to go further to the bottom.
This is just a basic guide, for a comprehensive read the frothing guide from

Manual Milk Frother

This is a manual milk frother, very simple, reliable, that produces a great frothed milk. It is made of stainless steel, and it's a sturdy device, and the price makes it so much more attractive. The frother is perfect for preparing any coffee based recipes such as cappuccino, latte, mocha, or macchiato. The genius of it is that it doesn't need power. The HIC milk frother makes a very dense, creamy froth. You will get microfoam for your flat white, and you will also get some less dense, fluffier foam.

You can also use the pitcher to froth milk with an immersion blender, or a manual milk frother.

What Is the Difference Between a Latte and a Cappuccino Machine?

Let me explain this. Ask any barista what are the ingredients for a cappuccino and they’ll tell you espresso and milk; the same for a latte. The difference is that latte contains a lot more milk than a cappuccino, and many times they contain some flavors as well.

We can say that cappuccino is a coffee beverage, and latte is a milk beverage. In a cappuccino, the featured ingredient is still the espresso shot. If the espresso tastes funny, you will notice it right away. In a latte, the espresso shot is there just to provide you with the jolt of caffeine, and to add a little flavor to your milk. Coffee chains, like Starbucks, will take advantage of this and use mediocre espresso because nobody knows how it tastes since it is drenched in milk.

If you are one of the special ones, that can taste real espresso when is drenched in milk, this section is probably not for you. But most of us can hardly detect any difference.

What we are looking for in a cappuccino, is to distinguish the sharp, yet not overly bitter, flavor of the espresso coffee. The milk doesn’t completely mask the espresso aroma. This is what makes cappuccino different from a latte.

As a reminder, a cappuccino needs one espresso shot, an equal volume of steamed milk, and an equal volume of frothed milk. From a flavor perspective, the frothed milk is almost neutral; it does not affect the beverage. The froth gives the beverage the aesthetics and it helps to keep it warm by providing a little insulation. We could approximate the quantity of milk and espresso as equal, (the froth is a lot of volume, but very little milk).

The best espresso and cappuccino maker is a pump-operated semiautomatic espresso machine. If you are on a tight budget, we recommend you to read our inexpensive espresso machines list. If you want a more convenient solution, our review of some popular super-automatic espresso machines is a great start.

If you are new to espresso preparation, we recommend our article on how to make the perfect espresso. Is a great read.

Moka Pot brewing coffee

Another option is to use a stovetop espresso maker and a stovetop milk frother. The advantage with this combination is that the two pieces will last you longer than a pump-driven espresso machine. The disadvantage is that the brewing method is more complicated and the results are different. 

We have a great Moka pot brewing guide if this is your choice. At the end of the day, the macchinetta is still the choice of many Italians when it comes to preparing cappuccino at home.

How to Save Money on Equipment

Based on the difference we talked about, if latte is your beverage of choice, you can save some serious money. You don’t have to buy an expensive machine to make lattes. The espresso-making side of the machine can be easily replaced with any other cheaper brewing equipment. For lattes, you can buy a cheap coffee maker with a built-in milk frother. For cappuccinos though, you still need a machine with a good espresso unit, and this makes it more expensive.

Photo of author

Dorian Bodnariuc

My name is Dorian and I am a former barista. I consume coffee in any form, as a beverage, in savory recipes and desserts. My favorite caffeinated beverage is the espresso. I love to share my coffee brewing knowledge and my geeky coffee research. This blog is one of the places I write about coffee. More about Dorian... If you want to learn more about this site and how I started it, check our About Me page, where I explain all about it.

8 thoughts on “Cappuccino vs Latte vs Mocha, What Are the Differences?”

  1. Very comprehensive!! Everything you want to know about coffees is right there, in this post. Thank you very much. Excellent document!!!

    All the while I was wondering how to differentiate foam milk vs steamed milk. IIwas just about to Google it, and then right there it shows up in the same document. Brilliant!!!

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