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Home » What is a Cappuccino?

What is a cappuccino?

Cappuccino is an espresso-based coffee drink found at coffee shops worldwide. It is a popular drink made of one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third frothed milk. Cappuccino is characterized by its airy, frothed milk topping. 

The cappuccino was invented in the late 1900s, and it originated in Italy. The name cappuccino derives from the brown hue of the drink, which is comparable to the shade of the clothes worn by Capuchin friars. 

What is a cappuccino

What kind of coffee drink is cappuccino?

Cappuccino is an espresso drink with a thick layer of foamy steamed milk poured on top. Depending on the recipe, you usually make it with one or two espresso shots. Importantly, cappuccino has a considerably stronger espresso flavor than other milk-based drinks like lattes. But it also has a thick layer of milk foam, which makes it delicious and extremely popular among the many drinks made using coffee

You can vary your cappuccino by altering the ratio of steamed to frothed milk. A cappuccino with mostly foamed milk is called a bone dry cappuccino.

Where does cappuccino come from?

The cappuccino comes from northern Italy in the 1930s. Originally it was made in the Viennese style, using whipped cream, and was known as “Kazupiner.” As espresso machines with steam wands grew in popularity in the 1950s, steamed milk replaced whipped cream, and the drink became the cappuccino.

How to make a cappuccino

  • 18 g ground coffee
  • 4 ounces milk



10 minutes


6-ounce cappuccino

Special equipment:

  • Espresso machine with steam wand
  • Milk steaming pitcher
  • 6-ounce cappuccino cup

What’s in a traditional cappuccino?

  • While you can use any coffee, it is traditional to use a dark roast for a cappuccino because the bold flavor of a dark roast holds up against all the milk in this drink. In Italy, a blend of Robusta and Arabica coffee beans is often used, for even greater intensity of coffee flavor.
  • The coffee needs to be finely ground to prepare a proper espresso. Most pre-ground coffee at the grocery store will be too coarse. If you can’t grind your own, look for something labeled “espresso grind” or buy your coffee at a coffee shop that will grind them for you.
  • The best choice for a cappuccino is to use 1% or 2% dairy milk. Skim milk or whole milk will also work but will change the drink’s texture.
  • If you want to use non-dairy milk for a vegan cappuccino, be sure to use one that has been specifically formulated for barista use. These are produced with the same ratio of fats and proteins as dairy milk, so they behave the same way when steamed.

Step 1: Ready your supplies

Ensure your espresso maker is adequately warmed up and the ground coffee to the portafilter – we recommend one of these top-rated cappuccino makers. Tamp the coffee, and slot the portafilter into the espresso maker.

Add the 4 ounces of milk to your steaming pitcher.

Pro tip: This is also a good time to prepare your cappuccino cup by filling it with hot water to pre-heat it. Otherwise, you risk cooling your espresso as it extracts into the mug. 

Don’t have a cappuccino cup? Check out this list of the best cappuccino cups.

Step 2: Make the espresso and steamed milk

Extract a 2-ounce double shot of espresso into your pre-warmed cappuccino cup.

Depending on your espresso machine, you may be able to steam milk simultaneously by extracting espresso. If not, begin steaming milk after pulling the shot of espresso as soon as the machine reaches the correct temperature.

Steaming the milk is the most crucial aspect of the process. During the steaming process, the temperature should reach approximately 160 °F. Because the cappuccino requires a substantial amount of milk foam, position the tip of the steaming wand closer to the surface of the milk as steaming progresses. This allows more air to be incorporated, yielding an airy froth rather than a dense microfoam. 

Pro tip: It is possible to prepare a cappuccino without an espresso machine, though the results won’t be quite as good. Substitute 2 ounces of strong brewed coffee for the espresso, made using an Aeropress or Moka pot, for example. You can prepare frothed milk with a French press, milk frother, or even a mason jar.

Step 3: Combine the milk and espresso

Pour the milk into the cappuccino cup by holding the milk pitcher approximately 3 inches above the cup and pouring in a somewhat circular motion to blend the hot milk and espresso. The foamier milk will naturally linger behind, but you can also hold it back with a spoon. Once the denser steamed milk is added, remove the spoon and pour the lighter foamed milk on top.

Now that you know how to make a traditional cappuccino, why not spice it up by making churroccino?

What are the differences between a cappuccino and a macchiato?

The unique differences between a cappuccino and a macchiato are the proportions. Both drinks consist of espresso and milk. But in a cappuccino, there are equal amounts of milk froth, steamed milk, and espresso. On the other hand, a macchiato is mostly espresso with just a splash of steamed milk on top.

Interested in how the cappuccino compares with other popular espresso-based drinks? Check out our articles on espresso vs cappuccino, flat white vs cappuccino, and the difference between cappuccino, latte, and macchiato.

What are the benefits of a cappuccino?

Cappuccino has many benefits. Because the coffee in a cappuccino contains caffeine and antioxidants, it offers health benefits. It will help wake you up and boost your energy. It reduces your odds of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.

The addition of milk in a cappuccino offers benefits above and beyond just coffee. Milk is packed with vitamins and minerals and is an excellent source of protein, and it is rich in calcium, making it suitable for bone health.

Adding milk to coffee, as in a cappuccino, has some synergistic benefits. The milk serves to temper the acidity in coffee, which is good news for anyone with acid reflux. Adding milk can also lessen the impact of caffeine, so you’re less likely to end up with the jitters.

Lastly, cappuccino is a drink without added sugar because steamed milk has its natural sweetness. If you’re hoping to lose weight or avoid sugar in your diet, a cappuccino is a great choice compared with something like a frappuccino or syrup-filled flavored drink.

What are the side effects when you drink cappuccino?

The side effects of drinking cappuccino are the following:

  • Energy boost: The caffeine in cappuccino reduces fatigue and increases alertness.
  • Reduction in bad cholesterol: Caffeine has been shown to affect the body’s capacity to process and manage LDL cholesterol, which is also known as the “bad” cholesterol.
  • Reduced risk of health problems: Consuming the recommended amount of caffeine every day can lower the likelihood of developing health problems like diabetes or certain cancers.
  • Muscle breakdown: A high dose of caffeine consumed quickly, particularly by someone who is not accustomed to it, increases the risk of muscle breakdown.
  • Irritability and mood changes: Caffeine abuse can lead to impatience, stress, and even aggression because it impairs your capacity to control your “fight or flight” adrenal response.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Experts consider caffeine to be one of the most widely used psychoactive chemicals in the world. The consequences of caffeine consumption regularly will be similar to those of any other drug, including dependence and withdrawal.


Yes, a cappuccino does have coffee in it. More specifically, a cappuccino contains espresso, a richer form of coffee. Espresso has a heavier body and a more powerful flavor than coffee. This is important in a cappuccino because it ensures coffee flavor doesn’t disappear under all the steamed milk.

No, a cappuccino does not contain sugar, and it consists solely of espresso and milk. However, it still tastes sweet thanks to the 12 grams of naturally occurring sugars present in the milk, and it has been shown that milk tastes even sweeter as it is heated.

A cappuccino has a stronger coffee flavor when compared to other milky drinks like a latte. If you are used to lattes, you may find it bitter. The dark roast coffee often has flavors of dark chocolate and toasted nuts. At the same time, a cappuccino has a natural sweetness from the steamed milk, with a creamy texture.

Yes, cappuccino can be iced, although it is a little different than the traditional cappuccino. An iced cappuccino contains a shot of espresso or strong coffee poured over ice with cold or steamed milk. It also has a layer of frothed milk cold foam on top. Read our guide on how to make an iced cappuccino.

Julia Bobak
I love trail running, rock climbing, coffee, food, and my tiny dog — and writing about all of them. I start every morning with a fresh Americano from my home espresso machine, or I don’t start it at all.

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