Espresso vs Cappuccino – What Are The Differences?

Two people holding coffee cups

When it comes to coffee, people often confuse the two Italian classics – espresso and cappuccino. Both drinks are part of the coffee family, but a few key differences set them apart. So, if you’re wondering what the differences are between espresso and cappuccino, keep reading to find out!

What Is A Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is a traditional Italian espresso-based beverage with equal parts of espresso, hot milk, and foamed milk. The dense foam gives a cappuccino its signature quality and should jiggle when the cup is moved back and forth. The cappuccino is usually finished with latte art when the barista pours the milk into a particular pattern or design on top of the espresso shot.

The Difference Between Cappuccino and Espresso

At first glance, cappuccino and espresso don’t seem to have common traits since they look, smell, and taste differently. Espresso is usually a deep or light brown color and is served in smaller cups. In contrast, cappuccino comes in a bigger cup and has a creamy texture due to its layers of steamed milk and foam.

The main difference between espresso and cappuccino lies in their preparation methods. Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure to create a concentrated shot of coffee with a thick crema on top. On the other hand, Cappuccino combines espresso shots with steamed milk and froth to create a creamy beverage with an intense flavor profile.

Taste Differences

Woman Drinking Coffee from a Blue Ceramic Cup

Espresso and cappuccino are both brewed from the same base ingredient, but the taste of the two can be quite different. Espresso has a distinct, powerful flavor, usually served without extra ingredients. On the other hand, cappuccino has a much milder taste because of the addition of milk which softens the espresso flavor. Additionally, cappuccinos can be flavored with syrups or spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.

How Much Espresso Is In A Cappuccino?

Espresso is a powerful, concentrated drink served in measured amounts known as “shots.” A shot of espresso is one ounce, and two shots are two ounces, which can easily be held in a small cup.

The amount of espresso in a cappuccino can vary from 1 to 3 ounces, depending on the size of the drink. A small cappuccino (three ounces) will have 1-ounce espresso, and a six-ounce cappuccino will have two ounces of espresso.

Caffeine Content

Comparing the caffeine content between an espresso and a cappuccino depends on each drink’s number of espresso shots. If both drinks are made with one shot of espresso, they have anywhere from 63.6 mg to 76.02 mg of caffeine. 


A woman on weighing scales

The espresso and cappuccino differ significantly in terms of calorie content. An espresso has a very low amount of calories, only 5, whereas a cappuccino may contain anywhere between 60-70 calories due to the milk and milk foam added. If you prefer to have your coffee sweetened, the calorie count will rise accordingly. Opt for a lighter option when ordering a cappuccino; opt for non-fat milk instead of the usual whole milk. This will result in a cappuccino with fewer calories.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether espresso or cappuccino is better. Both drinks have unique flavor profiles and can be enjoyed in different ways. Whether you prefer the intense flavor of espresso or the smooth, rich flavor of cappuccino, there’s no doubt that either can be a great way to start your day.


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