Ever wondered what the difference is between an Americano and a cappuccino?
There are at least twenty-two different types of coffee drinks and that’s before you factor in all the different flavors. Even with my love of caffeine in all its delicious forms, I’ve gotten tripped up in my selection a time or two.
Thankfully, it’s easy to sort out the difference between these two drinks.
In This Article
What’s The Difference Between Americano vs Cappuccino?
- Americano Coffee: is an espresso shot with added hot water.
- Cappuccino Coffee: is an espresso shot with an equal layer of steamed milk and frothed milk.
We’ll go into even greater detail about the main differences below.
These drinks each have their own evolution and variations. You can even prepare your perfect version at home with the right tools and knowledge. Let’s learn more about these two quintessential coffee drinks.
What is an Americano Coffee?
In short, an Americano is a shot (or sometimes two) of espresso poured into hot water. Americano will have nutty, earthy notes as the espresso brew eliminates lighter, floral notes.
Here are some interesting facts about American Coffee:
- Where does Americano come from? Americano allegedly emerged from US soldiers encountering espresso in Italy during WWII. Used to the milder taste of drip coffee, they diluted espresso to make something a little more familiar to their palate, hence the Americano was born.
- Is a long black an Americano? If you are ordering this drink in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, you’ll order a Long Black. In some places, the difference comes from the order of the pour – espresso into water is a Long Black, water into espresso is an Americano.
- Is there crema in an Americano? Crema is the byproduct of the method of brewing. When water is forced through the espresso grounds at high pressure, the oils are pushed through first. These oils form a creamy mixture that rises to the top of the drink – the crema. A well-made Americano features crema as well, so long as you don’t break up the oils. Pour the espresso into hot water to preserve this treat.
How to Make Americano Coffee
An Americano is one of the easiest espresso drinks to master. It requires no skill greater than the ability to make a shot of espresso.
- Fill a cup most of the way with hot water. The typical ratio is 1:2 or one part espresso, two parts water. You can adjust to taste.
- Brew a shot (or two) of espresso.
- Pour the espresso into the water, and stir gently to combine and retain the crema.
- If you wish, add milk, sugar, or honey to your Americano.
What is a Cappuccino?
A cappuccino is a delightful concoction made from an espresso shot layered with a rich layer of steamed milk beneath a frothy cap of milk. The milk adds texture and a hint of sweetness and creaminess to balance the natural bitter notes of the espresso.
Here are some interesting facts about Cappuccino Coffee:
- Where does cappuccino come from? Italians have been consuming cappuccino for hundreds of years, where they have largely been consumed in the morning with breakfast or as a mid-morning refresher. They typically serve cappuccino in a pre-heated broad porcelain cup, as they retain heat longer.
- What is a wet cappuccino? Otherwise known as a “cappuccino chiaro” or light cappuccino, they involve more steamed milk and less frothed milk. The drink is creamier and lighter with a thin layer of foam atop.
- What is a dry cappuccino? Otherwise known as a “cappuccino scuro” or dark cappuccino, they involve less steamed milk and more foamed milk. The end result is a darker liquid with a stronger espresso flavor that stays hot longer because of the thicker layer of insulating frothed milk.
- Is there crema in cappuccino? Technically, crema can be found in any good shot of espresso. However, you won’t find the layer of crema in a cappuccino that you’ll find in a well-made Americano. That’s because the process of adding milk breaks the crema and it blends in with the rest of the drink.
- Do you sweeten or flavor cappuccinos? Traditionally, no other sweetener or flavoring is necessary to enjoy a perfect cappuccino, but you can adjust the drink to suit your tastes. Many coffee houses add a dusting of cocoa powder or cinnamon to the frothy cap.
How to Make a (Proper) Cappuccino
Unlike an Americano, a cappuccino takes some skill to perfect. It is possible to make at home with the right tools and patience.
- Espresso, coarsely ground
- Whole milk, fresh.
- Espresso machine with a steam wand
- A milk-frothing pitcher
- A damp cloth, to manage the wand
- A pre-heated porcelain cup, if you are feeling fancy
Steps to Prepare:
- Prepare the espresso.
- Pour milk into a pitcher. You’ll want a large enough pitcher that the quantity of milk needed doesn’t fill it more than a third full. As the milk expands, it’ll rapidly fill up the empty space.
- Moisten a steam wand cloth, then following the manufacturer’s directions for your machine, purge the steam wand. Position it so it’s straight and up.
- Adjust the pitcher so the nozzle will align, ensure the wand is just below the milk’s surface and centered. Tilt the pitcher.
- Begin the steaming process. Your initial steaming will cause the froth to form, which greatly expands the milk. Keep the nozzle just below the surface of the milk until you’ve achieved the amount of froth you desire. If you can, a thermometer will help this process.
- Once roughly half of the milk is foamed, gradually lower the nozzle deeper into the milk, moving towards the side wall of the pitcher to start a swirling motion. Do not touch the bottom of the pitcher with the nozzle.
- Keep swirling the milk within the pitcher until it achieves a shiny, silk look. This also helps release any large air bubbles in the steamed milk.
- Give the pitcher another quick spin to keep the layers distinct, and pour into your espresso from a low height. Give it a quick wiggle to start to allow the steamed milk to start the show. As the foam starts to descend, move the pitcher a bit higher to finish the pour.
How to Make an Easier Cappuccino
While purists might scoff, it’s possible to make a drink that is reminiscent of a cappuccino at home without the coffeehouse equipment. These drinks have been prepared far longer than the world has known espresso machines.
- Espresso, roughly ground
- Whole milk, fresh.2% works, but will be less rich. Old milk may not froth.
- Oat milk, for vegans.
- To foam: A frothing wand, whisk, or French press.
- To brew: An espresso machine, manual espresso machine, Aeropress, or French press.
- To heat: The stove. Microwave in a pinch, just watch the milk closely to prevent scalding.
Steps to Prepare:
- Brew the espresso.
- Heat the milk. You want it hot to the touch but not quite simmering – or 150 F.
- Froth the milk using a whisk, frothing wand, or even your french press. You want about half the milk foamed. If using a French press, pump about 25 times until it’s frothy. Overwhipping the foam will deflate it.
- Pour the milk into the espresso.
Best Coffee Beans for an Americano or Cappuccino
When it comes to choosing the best coffee beans for an Americano or cappuccino, you need to consider the flavor profile you’re looking for and how strong you prefer you coffee. Here are three options to consider:
- Arabica beans (smoother, milder): These beans are known for their sweet, delicate flavor and are often used in specialty coffees. They can be a good choice for an Americano or cappuccino if you prefer a smoother, milder taste.
- Robusta beans (robust, full-bodied): These beans are known for their strong, bold flavor and higher caffeine content. They can be a good choice for an Americano or cappuccino if you prefer a more robust, full-bodied taste.
- Blend of Arabica and Robusta beans (balanced flavor): Some coffee roasters will blend Arabica and Robusta beans to create a balance of flavor and strength. This can be a good option if you want a coffee that’s not too strong or too mild.
Ultimately, the best coffee beans for an Americano or cappuccino will depend on your personal preference. Experiment with different types of beans and roasts to find the one that works best for you.
The 5 Main Differences: Americano vs Cappuccino
1. Americano vs Cappuccino: The Ingredients
- Americano: Espresso, hot water
- Cappuccino: Espresso, steamed milk, frothed milk.
2. Americano vs Cappuccino: Crema Cap
- Americano: Yes, if prepared correctly with good ingredients.
- Cappuccino: No
3. Americano vs Cappuccino: Ease of Preparation
- Americano: Easy
- Cappuccino: Moderate, some skills required.
4. Americano vs Cappuccino: The Taste
- Americano: Stronger than drip but milder than espresso, rich, bitter, with earthy notes.
- Cappuccino: Creamy, rich, and a tad sweet from the natural lactose found in milk.
5. Americano vs Cappuccino: Caffeine
- It’s a tie: Both Americano and Cappuccino contain around the same milligrams of caffeine because they both use the same amount of espresso.
Frequently Asked Questions
Technically they both have the same amount of caffeine, though the cappuccino tends to be a smaller drink and therefore has more concentrated caffeine. Both drinks tend to contain one shot of espresso, which is roughly 64.5 milligrams of caffeine. And doing the math…3 shots of espresso contain 194 mgs of caffeine , while 4 shots have 258 mgs of caffeine.
An Americano is less caffeinated than an equivalent cup of drip coffee, despite the presence of espresso. A 12 oz. Americano typically contains about 40-80 mg of caffeine whereas a similarly sized drip coffee would contain 115-175 mg.
If you really want a boost, blonde espresso has roughly 85 mgs of caffeine, while Vietnamese coffee has 2x the amount of caffeine.
Without added sugar, honey, or milk, an Americano has no calories. It’s a good option for those who are looking to reduce sugar, carb, or calorie intake in their diet.
A cappuccino contains milk, so it has a higher caloric content than you’d find in an Americano. If you are looking for a sugar-free coffee, a cappuccino is a good, flavorful option. If you are looking to reduce your caloric intake or want a dairy-free option, it’s probably not your first choice.
No, as mentioned previously, an Americano contains an average of 40-80 mg of caffeine, and drip coffee in the same size (12 oz) contains 115-175 mg.
Technically, a cappuccino is stronger than black coffee because the drink is usually served in smaller sizes with higher concentrations of caffeine in espresso versus drip.
Final Thoughts on How Americano and Cappuccino are Different
I hope learning the differences between cappuccino and Americano helps you delve into new caffeinated adventures. There’s a world of coffee drinks to explore and they each have their own delights to discover.
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