What is a Frappe (vs Frappuccino)?
You’re not alone if you’re confused about the difference between a frappe and a frappuccino. After all, they’re both iced coffee drinks and have “frappe” in the name; how different can they be? Well, as it turns out, there are quite a few distinctions between these two popular chilled coffees.
This article will teach you about the frappe, including where it comes from, how to make it, and how it compares to the Frappuccino.
What is a Frappe?
A frappe (also called a frappe coffee, café frappé, Greek frappe, or Greek coffee) is a shaken iced coffee drink invented in Greece in the 1950s, though the name derives from the French word for “shaken” (1).
At its most basic, a frappe is instant coffee, cold water, and ice cubes mixed in a cocktail shaker to create a frothy drink.
Sugar is optional, but people usually add it to counteract the bitterness of freeze-dried coffee. Less often, milk or evaporated milk is also added to create a richer, creamier drink.
Famously, the frappe was first devised by a Nescafe representative, Dimitris Vakondios, at the 1957 Thessaloniki International Fair. Vakondios hoped to enjoy his usual instant coffee on his break, but he couldn’t find any hot water. Instead, he stumbled across a shaker that Nescafe was marketing at the time for a children’s instant chocolate drink. He added cool water and instant coffee granules to the shaker, and the frappe was born! As the cliche goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
The café frappé continues to be one of the most popular ways to consume coffee in Greece and nearby Cyprus. It has spread worldwide, especially to countries with a high percentage of Greek immigrants.
You can watch a Greek barista make a frappe and its more formal cousin, the freddo, in this video:
Frappe vs Frappuccino
Aside from their similar names and the fact that both are types of iced coffee best enjoyed on a hot day, the frappe and the Frappuccino have little else in common.
While the frappe is Greek, the Frappuccino is an American invention; its name is a portmanteau of “frappe” and “cappuccino.” It was first served in a New England coffee shop chain owned by specialty coffee pioneer George Howell. The chain, and the rights to the Frappuccino along with it, were purchased by Starbucks in the ‘90s.
Another difference is that Frappuccinos are blended drinks, whereas frappes are shaken or whisked. This gives the Frappuccino a different texture, more like a smoothie than a coffee.
Finally, Frappuccinos use a base of espresso, strong coffee, or a coffee-free concoction Starbucks calls a crème. No instant coffee is involved. While a Frappuccino can be simple, it is more often enriched with things like chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, or confections – plus an extravagant whipped cream topping.
To learn more, you can read our article on how to make a Frappuccino.
Confusingly, New England has its definition of the frappe, which is a thick milkshake containing vanilla ice cream. This American version lends its name to the portmanteau Frappuccino, so there is no connection to the original Greek version.
How to Make a Frappe (The Greek One)
A frappe is one of the simplest coffee beverages to make at home. You don’t need a blender, espresso machine, or other special equipment. Nor do you need the patience to wait for hot coffee to cool or for a cold brew to steep.
What’s in a frappe?
For one frappe, you’ll need to start with 2 teaspoons of instant coffee, 2 tablespoons of cold water, and sugar to taste. In Greece, you order your frappe based on the sugar ratio to instant coffee.
- Sketos is a plain frappe with neither milk nor sugar, best for those who like their coffee bold and bitter.
- Metrios uses equal parts sugar and coffee.
- Glykos uses twice as much sugar as coffee, best for those with a sweet tooth.
Vigorously mix the coffee, water, and sugar using a cocktail mixer, frother, or mason jar until you have an airy foam. Pour the foam over ice cubes or crushed ice in a chilled glass. Top it off with water, cold milk, or a mix of both. In Greece, evaporated milk is common.
If you want to do as the Greeks do, take your time enjoying your frappe, according to Vivian Constantinopoulos, co-author of Frappe Nation (2).
In Athens and throughout Greece, communal coffee drinking is a pleasure and a passion to be savored slowly and in a manner that is cool and relaxed.
The frappe has become emblematic of this ritual because the foam is very long-lasting. Constantinopoulos adds, “The foam endures as long as the sipper wants it to.”
This frappe is a bit similar to our whipped coffee recipe.
Are Frappes Hot or Cold?
A frappe is always served cold, which is why a lack of hot water prompted its creation. For a warm drink with similar qualities, try the trendy Korean Dalgona coffee (3). It uses the same base ingredients as a frappe to create a stable form but can be poured over hot or cold milk.
Now that you know what separates a frappe from a frappuccino, you can safely order your favorite at the coffee shop. Go for the Greek frappe if you want a shaken iced drink made using instant coffee and ice cubes. If you want a blended espresso drink with a smoothie consistency, head to Starbucks and order a Frappuccino.
Yes, you can make a decaf frappe. If caffeine makes you jittery or you want to enjoy an evening frappe without being up all night, you can make the same recipe using decaffeinated coffee.
No, a frappe is not unhealthy. A traditional metrios frappe with just coffee and sugar has about 45 calories and minimal nutritional pros or cons. Adding 2% milk to your frappe adds 18 calories and critical nutrients like calcium, riboflavin, and vitamins A and B12.
No, you can’t make an authentic frappe with brewed coffee or espresso because instant ground coffee is what gives the frappe its long-lasting foamy texture. You’ll need to blend it with ice or whipped cream to achieve a similar texture to brewed coffee.
- Tsolakidou, S. (2022, July 12). Frappe: The History of Coffee That Greeks Are Obsessed With. Retrieved from https://greekreporter.com/2022/07/12/frappe-the-history-of-coffee-that-greeks-are-obsessed-with/
- Constantinopoulos, V. and Young, D. (2018, May 22). Anatomy of a Frappe. Retrieved from https://www.athensinsider.com/anatomy-of-a-frappe-2/
- Clayton, L. (2021, August 5). What is Dalgona Coffee? Retrieved from https://sprudge.com/coffee-basics-what-is-dalgona-coffee-177666.html