Espresso vs. Cappuccino: Origins, Taste, Caffeine, How to Made
Every coffee lover has that one type of coffee that they always turn to when they need something refreshing to kick start their day. And for a huge chunk of coffee drinkers, this favorite coffee beverage is either a shot of espresso or cappuccino.
The two have one thing in common which is that they have some espresso in them and are hence bold and rich. But choosing whether to go for an espresso or cappuccino is not always a straightforward affair.
Many people already have their preferred beverage between the two, and so the choice should be a little easier. However, for those that are still on the fence on what to take, this piece is for you as we highlight what each taste like and also how it is made.
Italy, the late 1800s
Italy, 17th century
1 or 2 shots of espresso
1 or 2 shots of espresso, 2 oz steamed milk and 2 oz milk foam
How It Is Made
Add finely-ground coffee to the portafilter and tamp, fill the reservoir with water and push the start button
Start by making espresso and pull 1 or 2 shots into a glass/ceramic cup, add steamed milk and top up with milk foam
Standard Brew Size
2 oz (double shot)
How to Serve It
Small ceramic cup/small shot glass
Glass or ceramic cup
Taste and Flavor
Strong, rich and bold
Rich, bold but creamier and smoother
1. Overview and Origins
Despite being one of the smallest coffee types as a double shot will only be around 4 ounces, espressos are among the most popular coffee types and many coffee lovers prefer them as they have a bolder and stronger taste and higher caffeine content.
Espresso and most other espresso-based beverages originated from Italy back in the 1900s and the popularity of this coffee has spread widely across the world with Americans now being some of the heaviest espresso consumers.
When brewed correctly, espresso yields a distinct and strong flavor coffee that is thicker and stronger than regular brewed coffee. This beverage is strong enough to ensure even when you add milk like in cappuccinos, you will still have a highly flavorful coffee.
Cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage that also has its origins in Italy around the 17th century when it was simply made as regular coffee with milk or cream. Unlike a pure espresso, modern cappuccinos now contain steamed milk and milk foam which make it smoother while still maintaining the bold espresso taste and flavor.
Also, unlike an espresso which is served in a small shot glass, cappuccinos are served in a 6-ounce glass or a ceramic cup and will also sometimes have a sprinkle of chocolate shavings at the top.
And because milk is added on this espresso-based beverage, you will not need to worry about crema as you would with a shot of pure espresso.
Another distinctive feature of the cappuccino is that everything is balanced out as it will contain equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
2. How It Is Made
Making espresso with an automatic espresso machine is a straightforward process that will entail filling the portafilter with finely ground coffee, filling the reservoir with cold filtered water and then pushing the start button.
Things can become a little hectic when making the beverage without a machine, but it is still manageable as you will only need to follow the simple steps below.
Making Espresso with Moka Pot
Step 1: Start by measuring around 20 to 22 grams of finely ground coffee
Step 2: Add enough water in the reservoir or at least until it reaches the fill line
Step 3: Pour the coffee grounds into the filter basket and screw on the Moka pot’s top
Step 4: Place the pot on the stovetop and keep the heat at medium
Step 5: As the water boils, steam will be driven up through the coffee grounds by the pressure that builds up, and your espresso will collect at the top chamber
Making Espresso with AeroPress
Step 1: Begin by heating about 1 cup of water to around 185 degrees Fahrenheit or a maximum of 205 degrees
Step 2: Rinse the filter with hot water and place it on the AeroPress drain cap
Step 3: Add 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to the filter and place your AeroPress over a cup
Step 4: Pour about 4 ounces of the hot water into the AeroPress and stir
Step 5: Give it about half a minute and then push down the plunger gently until it is fully depressed
Step 6: Your espresso will collect on the cup below and you can now transfer it to another cup
Note: With espresso, it is all about the crema, and so a good cup of it should have enough crema. This thin and bubbly layer of foam at the top of the espresso is usually a good indicator that you are taking top-notch quality espresso.
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Making cappuccino is also straightforward because most of the work goes into brewing the espresso. But once you have your shots of espresso ready, things will be quick and easy.
However, steaming and frothing the milk can also take some effort if you do not have an automatic frothing wand. Here is a summary of the main steps for making this popular coffee beverage.
Step 1: Start by pulling a shot of espresso (or 2 if you want it stronger) into a glass or ceramic cup
Step 2: Steam and froth some milk in a jug
Step 3: Pour around 2 ounces of steamed milk over the espresso while holding the foam back with a spoon
Step 4: Now pour about 2 ounces of the microfoam over the steamed milk
Step 5: Finish with a dazzle of chocolate shavings at the top (optional)
Note: There is also another variation of cappuccino referred to as dry cappuccino, and what makes it different is that it will contain more dry milk foam and less amount of steamed milk.
3. Caffeine Content
Caffeine content is always a big issue for most coffee lovers when it comes to deciding the coffee type to take. Hence, for many people, it will also be a determinant when deciding whether to go for a pure espresso or cappuccino.
But given that both espresso and cappuccino will have the same quantity of espresso which is either a single or double shot, they also have the same amount of caffeine.
A typical shot of espresso will contain around 63mg of caffeine which means that a double shot of espresso will have about 125mg of caffeine.
Since only milk is added in cappuccinos and it does not contain any caffeine or will not in any way dilute out the caffeine in espresso, a cappuccino made with a double shot of espresso will contain the same amount of caffeine as a straight espresso which is around 125mg.
4. Standard Brew Size
Like any other coffee type, you can make your espresso or cappuccino as large as you would like given some coffee lovers prefer to take more coffee than the standard sizes.
However, espressos are typically served in shots with a single shot being just 1 ounce and a double shot is 2 ounces. But in many coffee cafés in America, a single shot can be up to 2 ounces and a double 4 ounces given that many Americans love larger coffees.
For Cappuccinos, the brew sizes start at 6 ounces given that a standard one will have 2 ounces of espresso, 2 ounces of steamed milk and topped with 2 ounces of milk foam.
5. How It Is Served
The serving method for both these beverages seems to vary from one place to another given the different beverage sizes, cultures and preferences.
But traditionally a shot of espresso is served in a small ceramic cup but it is still quite common to find it being served in small shot glasses specifically designed for espresso.
With cappuccinos, on the other hand, you will find it being served in either glass or ceramic cups depending on where you are buying it.
6. Taste and Flavor
When it comes to the taste and flavor, both beverages contain the same amount of espresso, and so they will have quite a similar taste. However, a straight espresso will be much stronger, richer and bolder given that it does not have any additives to water it down.
With cappuccinos, on the other hand, you can still feel the richness and boldness of espresso, but the addition of milk also makes this beverage smoother and creamier. Also, given the equal proportions of the different ingredients, cappuccinos tend to be more balanced beverages.
Which One Should You Choose?
The choice between a straight espresso and cappuccino will always boil down to personal preferences and what you look for in coffee.
For the coffee lovers that like their coffee strong, bold and flavorful and with no extra additives or lighteners, a straight espresso is a perfect choice.
But, if you are in the group of coffee drinkers that want something that adds some creaminess to coffee while still maintain some boldness and the rich coffee flavors, cappuccinos are the way to go. Also, these beverages are more ideal for those that find espresso a little too strong.
However, the good news is that regardless of which beverage between the two you choose, you can be sure that you will end up with a cup of coffee that has strong and nice coffee flavors.