Difference Between Espresso And Cappuccino


You’ve probably heard the terms espresso and cappuccino before. They’re both coffee beverages that appear on coffee shop menus across many countries. An espresso and a cappuccino are both very different in their own way, in terms of flavour, aroma and ingredients.

The main difference between an espresso and a cappuccino is that an espresso is a single shot of coffee while a cappuccino is a beverage made with espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk.


The term “espresso” comes from the Italian word meaning “pressed out” or “expressed,” which describes the brewing process involved. The method for making espresso was patented in the late 1800s, with Luigi Bezzera’s creation of the first espresso machine.

The process involves forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans under high pressure, resulting in a small, concentrated shot of coffee with a layer of crema on top. Espresso is the base for many other coffee drinks, including cappuccino and latte. The name Espresso came from the method of brewing (‘express’) and because of the coffee grounds under pressure.

Espresso is made using an espresso machine that makes use of electric pump to create the pressure required to turn coffee powder into espresso, usually at a pressure of around 9 bars. The taste of espresso can vary depending on the beans used, the roast level, and the brewing parameters.

While espresso is often enjoyed on its own for its potent flavor, it also serves as the base for numerous beloved coffee beverages. Classics like cappuccinos, lattes, and Americanos all incorporate espresso as a fundamental component. The strength and depth of espresso provide a solid foundation that can be creatively combined with various milk textures and ratios to craft an array of delightful drinks.

In Italy, sipping an espresso is a cultural ritual that signifies taking a moment to savor life’s pleasures. Similarly, in many countries, espresso bars and specialty coffee shops have become hubs for social interaction and a symbol of sophistication.


Originating in Italy, the cappuccino’s name is derived from the Capuchin friars’ distinctive brown robes, which the drink’s colors are said to resemble. Over time, the cappuccino has evolved from its humble beginnings as a simple espresso with a dash of milk to become a masterpiece of coffee craftsmanship.

A classic cappuccino consists of three distinct layers: the espresso at the bottom, a layer of steamed milk in the middle, and a thick layer of milk foam on top. The balance between these layers is crucial to achieving the desired flavor and texture.

Crafting the perfect cappuccino requires skillful barista techniques. The process begins with brewing a shot of espresso using a high-quality coffee blend. Simultaneously, milk is frothed to achieve the desired consistency and texture. The steamed milk and milk foam are then meticulously poured into the espresso in a controlled manner, creating the distinct layered effect.

In other words, cappuccino starts with one or two espresso shots at the bottom, perfected and popularized during both World Wars. The second layer of steamed milk is added on top, followed by a thick layer of foam to give the drink a luxurious velvety texture.

The cappuccino’s flavor profile harmonizes the intensity of espresso with the smoothness of milk. The rich, bold notes of the espresso are tempered by the sweetness of the steamed milk, resulting in a balanced and approachable taste. The milk foam contributes a silky texture and a subtle creaminess to the overall experience.

In the recent past, cappuccino has become a beloved staple in cafes and coffeehouses worldwide. It is usually enjoyed as a morning breakfast or a midday indulgence. In some places the drink is seen a symbol of comfort and leisure.

Espresso vs Cappuccino: Key Differences

Basis of ComparisonExpressoCappuccino  
IngredientsIt is a strong and concentrated coffee made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans.It consists of equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
PreparationPrepared by using an espresso machine to extract a small amount of highly concentrated coffee.Prepared by adding steamed milk and milk foam to espresso.
Coffee-to-Milk RatioPure coffee, with no milk added.Contains a significant portion of milk and milk foam in addition to espresso.
TextureTypically has a thicker and more concentrated texture due to the brewing process.Has a creamy and velvety texture due to the addition of milk and foam.
Foam LevelNo milk foam; just the concentrated coffee.Contains a generous layer of milk foam on top.
Serving SizeServed in small shots of around 1 ounce (30 ml).Generally served in larger cups, typically around 6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 ml).
LayeringServed as a single shot or double shot, without layers.Typically consists of three layers – espresso at the bottom, followed by steamed milk, and topped with milk foam.
Strength and FlavorStrong and intense coffee flavor, highlighting the characteristics of the coffee beans.The milk and foam in a cappuccino mellow out the coffee’s intensity, creating a balanced flavor profile.
PresentationServed in small cups or shot glasses.Often presented in larger cups, showcasing the milk foam on top
CustomizationTypically consumed as is, but can be the base for various other coffee drinks.Can be customized with different types of milk, flavor syrups, and toppings like cocoa powder or cinnamon.

Key Takeaways

  • A traditional cappuccino uses espresso for its base, topped with steamed milk and milk foam to create a rich, creamy and frothy texture.
  • Espresso is made using high amounts of pressure to force hot water through a “puck” of densely packed, very fine grounds.
  • Espressois a small, concentrated liquid. It comes in regulated quantities called “shots.”
  • Cappuccinoshave some size variation but always have a greater serving size than espresso.
  • An espresso does not contain any milk. It is just a shot of plain black coffee.
  • An espresso has a layer called ‘crema’ on top which is a thin, delicate, brown layer of foam. It is formed on the espresso as a result of its extraction process. A cappuccino on the other hand, has layers of milk foam on top, giving your coffee that rich texture.
  • Espresso has 3 parts to the shot. The body is the darker bottom, the heart is slightly lighter and in the middle, and the crema is the light espresso head.
  • Cappuccinos are known for their fluffy foam and creamy texture, while espressos have a reputation for possessing a strong flavor.