They’re among the most popular coffee drinks, but they have some unique distinctions, in both taste and how they’re made. Let’s take a look at the main differences between Americano vs Cappuccino coffee drinks.
Coffee lovers have a lot of choices when it comes to satisfying their java cravings. But perhaps no two espresso-based drinks are more widely consumed than the Americano and the cappuccino.
And it’s easy to see why. They’re simple to make — and they’re a great, tasty way to get a caffeinated boost of energy. But they each have a distinct taste and texture which sets them apart.
Read on to learn more about the history of these iconic espresso drinks, how to make them, and their key differences.
What’s the difference between Americano and cappuccino?
While both drinks are made with espresso, the most significant difference between these two popular drinks comes down to a key ingredient: milk.
A cappuccino includes steamed milk and a creamy top layer of milk foam that gives this drink a luscious, velvety texture. By contrast, an Americano is made with simply espresso and water.
But that’s not where the differences end. So, let’s start at the beginning.
What is a cappuccino?
A cappuccino is basically equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
It has its roots in Europe and stretches back hundreds of years. The drink which gave cappuccinos their name first appeared in Viennese coffee houses in the 18th century. It was originally named “Kapuziner,” because its brown color resembled that of the robes worn by Capuchin friars. And it consisted of coffee, sugar, and whipped cream.
The cappuccino we know today originated in Italy a couple of hundred years later, after the invention of the espresso machine. And it was perfected after World War II, when espresso machines became more sophisticated and were able to produce Crema, the signature foam that rests on top of a shot of espresso.
Traditionally, cappuccinos are now made with a single shot of espresso and served in 5 to 5.5 oz cups. But it’s not uncommon to see them served in larger sizes with a double shot of espresso.
It has a pleasant coffee taste with only slight bitterness, but not overly so thanks to the addition of the milk. The milk foam gives it a luxuriously creamy texture.
It’s similar to a latte in that they both share the same ingredients. But with lattes, the milk foam layer on top is much thinner. Still, each offers a delicious coffee taste that is mellowed by the hot milk.
How do you make a cappuccino?
You don’t need to go to fancy coffee shops to get a good cappuccino. Making one at home is easier than you may think. To get started, you’ll need some equipment and just a couple of ingredients:
- An espresso maker to make the espresso, or a coffee machine that can produce a very rich cup of coffee (in order to get the right consistency, it really does need a shot or two of espresso or rich coffee – instead of just regular coffee)
- Ground coffee
- Whole milk
- Milk frother or espresso machine (or whisk) to make the milk foam
How to make a cappuccino at home step-by-step
- First, make your espresso — one or two shots.
- Then either steam your milk with the espresso machine steam wand or warm it on the stovetop. If you’re using the stovetop, heat the milk until it’s hot but not boiling.
- Use a whisk or milk frother to create the milk foam.
- Pour the espresso into a 5-8 oz cup, then add the milk and milk foam.
- Top with powdered cinnamon or cocoa powder if desired. Enjoy!
What is an Americano?
An Americano coffee contains only espresso and water. After the espresso is made, it’s combined with hot water. This dilutes the espresso and increases the volume of the drink.
Also referred to as a Caffè Americano, one theory about how this coffee drink got its name dates back World War II. Some say it was a reference to American soldiers in Italy who liked their coffee watered down to more closely resemble drip coffee they had back home.
Americanos taste somewhat bitter, as espresso is the main ingredient. And they are not sweet. Though you can add sweetener depending on your personal preference.
How do you make an Americano?
In order to make an Americano at home, here’s what you’ll need:
- An espresso maker, or a coffee machine that can produce a very rich cup of coffee
- Ground coffee
- Hot water
How to make an Americano at home step-by-step
- Make 1-2 shots of espresso.
- At the same time, heat some water in a tea pot or on the stovetop.
- Add 4-6 oz of hot water to a cup. Then pour the espresso carefully over it. This will help preserve the crema from the espresso.
- That’s it!
Note: You can make an Americano by switching the order of the ingredients and pouring the hot water over the espresso. However, the method above, pouring the espresso over the hot water, can produce a better texture. This is also referred to as a “long black,” especially in Australia and New Zealand.
💡 You can also make a cold iced Americano. Just switch the hot water for cold water and add ice.
Differences between cappuccino vs Americano
Here’s a breakdown of the main difference between these two drinks:
- Originated in the early 18th century in Europe.
- Modern-day version popularized after World War II.
- A hot drink consisting of one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third milk foam.
- Contains roughly 65 to 130 mg of caffeine, depending on whether it includes 1 or 2 shots of espresso.
- Rich taste and creamy texture. Not very sweet as no sugar is added.
- Usually served in 5 to 8 oz cups.
- About 80 calories per 6 oz serving.
- Believed to have originated during World War II; named after American military members stationed in Italy who preferred the stronger espresso watered down.
- Consists of espresso and hot water.
- Has about 65 to 130 mg of caffeine, depending on whether 1 or 2 shots of espresso are used.
- Strong coffee flavor. Not sweet unless sugar is added.
- About 10 calories per 6 oz serving.
- Can be made cold by swapping hot water for cold, and adding ice.
Is a cappuccino or an Americano stronger?
In terms of caffeine, they both will have the same amount of caffeine if they each contain an equal number of espresso shots. Typically, each is made with 2 shots. That works out to about 130 milligrams of caffeine per drink.
When it comes to taste, an Americano is very coffee-forward and can have a distinct bitterness, depending on the espresso used. That astringency can be lessened by adding a sweetener or cream.
On the other hand, cappuccinos are smooth and creamy, with a milder coffee flavor, thanks to the addition of the steamed milk and milk foam.
Is an iced cappuccino a thing?
Technically, you can make an iced cappuccino by using cooled down espresso, cold milk and ice. But in order to get the milk foam, you still have to heat it up and steam it.
When you pour that hot foam over the ice, you’ll just get a watered-down, milky coffee drink.
Part of what makes a great cappuccino exceptional is the feeling of the hot, steamed milk and creamy milk foam, mixed with hot espresso.
You simply don’t get the same texture with an iced version.
An Americano uses hot water with espresso that’s poured onto it. The espresso is made by pushing very hot water through ground coffee under high pressure to produce an intense coffee flavor. Drip coffee is made by more gently passing hot water through ground coffee in order to extract the flavor and color. So you don’t get the same intense flavor as espresso-based Americano.
An Americano can be made quickly by simply pouring a shot or two of espresso over hot water (or cold water and ice). Cold brew is made by steeping ground coffee beans in cold water for up to 24 hours, then straining the grounds. Cold brew will usually produce a mellower-tasting coffee than an Americano, and it will typically have more caffeine.
This refers to the amount of milk foam that’s used. A wet cappuccino uses less foam and more steamed milk. A dry cappuccino uses less milk and a thicker layer of foam.
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