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What is a Cappuccino & How to Brew It?

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A cappuccino is an espresso-based drink with 1 part espresso, 1 part steamed milk, and 1 part foam. Read on to learn how it differs from other espresso beverage types.

As an espresso enthusiast, I want to know everything about different drinks. That inspired me to write about what cappuccinos are.

Here’s what I’ll cover in this guide:

Read on to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • Cappuccino is a mixture of espresso, foamed milk, & steamed milk.
  • Many folks like adding flavors to cappuccinos, like chocolate sprinkles.
  • This drink is creamier than other espresso drinks.
  • There are 4 types of cappuccinos; dry, wet, iced, & freddo.

What is a Cappuccino?

TasteBold & sweet
AromaLighter than coffee with smooth base
Mouth feelVelvety, creamy
Caffeine level63–175 mg (per 8 oz)

A cappuccino is an espresso-based coffee drink with a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. Baristas typically serve it in a cup of about 5 oz. The foam should be velvety and smooth, with tiny, barely visible bubbles.

Cappuccinos originated in Italy in the early 18th century, and are named after the Capuchin friars, whose robes are brown and white, like the coffee drink [1]. Cappuccinos are often decorated with latte art, which is the practice of creating designs in the foam using a spoon or other tool.

There’s more than one type of cappuccino, though.

Types of Cappuccinos

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What is a Cappuccino & How to Brew It? 2

When ordering a cappuccino, you’ll want to know the differences among variations of this drink:

  • Cappuccino Freddo: Iced espresso with frothed milk.
  • Dry cappuccino: More foamed milk than steamed.
  • Wet cappuccino: More steamed milk than foam.

The following sections will explain what each of these drinks are and who they’re popular with.

1. Cappuccino Freddo: Iced Cappuccino

A cappuccino Freddo is an iced version of a cappuccino topped with a thick, cold layer of frothy milk. The word “Freddo” means “cold” in Italian. A name fitting for this chilled drink.

A Cappuccino Freddo also doesn’t have steamed milk, which makes it much more different than their hot counterparts.

Despite having Italian origins, the Freddo cappuccinos are a popular coffee drink in Greece. Where many Greeks will drink them to cool down on a hot day.

2. Dry Cappuccino

A dry cappuccino is a type of cappuccino that has a greater proportion of foamed milk than steamed milk. The traditional ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk in a cappuccino is 1:1:1, but a dry cappuccino may have a balance of 1:1:2 or 1:1:3.

This means the drink will have a thicker, more pronounced layer of foam, and a less creamy, smoother texture.

Dry cappuccinos are popular with people who prefer a more robust coffee flavor. The less steamed milk in the drink means that the espresso flavor is more pronounced.

3. Wet Cappuccinos

A wet cappuccino is a type of cappuccino that has more hot milk and less foamed milk than a traditional cappuccino. The ratio of espresso to milk is typically 1:1:1.5, with the extra half portion being hot milk.

The extra hot milk gives the wet cappuccino a smoother, more milky flavor than a traditional cappuccino.

Wet cappuccinos are popular for people who prefer a less intense coffee drink.

Where did cappuccinos come from, anyway?

History of the Cappuccino

The first mention of a drink called “cappuccino” was in the 18th century in Vienna, Austria. The drink had coffee, whipped cream, and sugar. Baristas named it after the Capuchin order of friars, whose robes are brown and white.

The Italian cappuccino, made with espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk, didn’t appear until the early 20th century.

Britain was the first place outside Italy where the cappuccino gained popularity since British people had a custom of drinking coffee with milk. Come the 1930s, Italian restaurants in the United States served them. Introducing them to the states.

From the 1980s on, the cappuccino gained popularity worldwide.

Let’s learn how to make a cappuccino.

How to Make a Cappuccino

What you’ll need:

  • Espresso machine
  • Coffee beans: 18–20 grams (finely ground, espresso grind)
  • Softened water: enough to fill the espresso machine’s water reservoir, usually 1–2 liters
  • Milk:
    • 4 ounces of steamed milk
    • 2 ounces of foamed milk
  • Milk frother & steam wand
    • Typically attached to the espresso machine
  • Coffee grinder

Opt for filtered or bottled spring water when brewing espresso. Both water types improve your espresso’s taste and will extend your machine’s lifespan. It’ll make your machine’s life since it reduces scale buildup.

Time to make: 10 minutes

Steps to take: 

  1. Brew the espresso shots.
  2. Steam the milk: Heat the milk in a pitcher until it is hot but not boiling.
    1. Insert the steam wand into the milk & create a vortex by moving the pitcher in a circular motion.
  3. Pour espresso into a cappuccino cup.
  4. Pour steamed milk into the cup, being careful not to mix it with the espresso.
  5. Top cappuccino with the foamed milk.
  6. Garnish with chocolate powder, cinnamon, or nutmeg, if desired.

Now that you’ve made a cappuccino, learn how it differs from other types of drinks.

Cappuccino vs. Other Espresso-Based Drinks

Here are the differences among popular espresso-based drinks:

DrinkIngredientsCaffeine ContentBrew Time
CappuccinoEqual parts espresso, steamed milk, & foam63–120 mg25–30 sec
MacchiatoEspresso with a dollop of frothy milk63–90 mg25–30 sec
MochaEspresso, steamed milk, chocolate syrup63–175 mg25–30 sec
LatteEspresso, steamed milk, thin layer of foam63–175 mg25–30 sec

The following sections will cover the differences among various espresso drinks. I’ll talk about their texture, flavor, and foam differences. Along with other noteworthy ingredients (e.g., flavors) that differentiate a drink.

1. Cappuccino vs. Macchiato

  • Espresso to milk ratio:
    • Cappuccino: 1:1:1
    • Macchiato: 1 part milk; 1 or 2 parts espresso
  • Foam:
    • Cappuccino has a thick, velvety foam
    • Macchiato has a small amount of foam.
  • Flavor:
    • Cappuccino is rich & flavorful
    • Macchiato is bold.
  • Texture:
    • Cappuccino is smooth & creamy
    • Macchiato is light & airy.

Cappuccinos have more caffeine and steamed milk than macchiatos. The amount of caffeine will vary by the number of shots added. Many macchiatos will use one part milk and 2 parts espresso, making them stronger in that scenario.

2. Mocha vs. Cappuccino

  • Espresso to milk ratio:
    • Cappuccinos have a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk, & foamed milk.
    • Mochas have a 1:2:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk, & chocolate.
  • Chocolate: Mochas have chocolate syrup or powder added, while cappuccinos do not.
  • Foam: Cappuccinos have a thick, velvety foam, while mochas have a thinner, less dense foam.
  • Flavor: Cappuccinos have a rich & balanced flavor, while mochas have a sweeter & more chocolate(y) flavor.

Mochas have a bit more caffeine due to the added chocolate, an ingredient cappuccinos don’t have. And mochas are more of a dessert drink due to their sweeter flavor.

3. Cappuccino vs. Latte

  • Espresso to milk ratio:
    • Cappuccino has a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk, & foamed milk.
    • A latte has a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of espresso to steamed milk, with less foam than a cappuccino.
  • Foam: Cappuccino has a thicker layer of foam than a latte.
  • Flavor: Cappuccino has a richer & more balanced flavor than a latte.
  • Texture: Cappuccino has a smoother & creamier texture than a latte.

Cappuccinos have much more foam and around the same amount of steamed milk as lattes. Otherwise, both drinks aren’t that different.

Lastly, let’s learn about places that serve this tasty drink.

Here are a bunch of places that serve regular cappuccinos:

StarbucksMcDonald’sDunkin’ Donuts
Tim HortonsBurger KingCaribou Coffee
Wendy’s7-ElevenPeet’s Coffee

Whether drinks are available will vary by restaurant. Restaurants, coffee shops, and cafés may not serve the same drinks as in your home country as in the U.S. or Canada, where I’ve seen cappuccinos at.

Most of these places won’t serve drinks like dry or wet cappuccinos. You’ll need to make those at home or request them at coffee shops or cafés.

FAQs for Cappuccinos

Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about cappuccinos.

Does a Cappuccino Have Caffeine in It?

A cappuccino has 63–175 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup [2].


A cappuccino is an espresso-based drink that has a part espresso, a part steamed milk, and a part milk foam. That combination makes it creamier than other types of espresso beverages.

Want to make one yourself? You’ll need an espresso machine and milk frother. Here’s a list of such machines that we recommend.

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Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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