Americano vs. Cappuccino: A Barista Weighs In

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Americano vs. cappuccino…wait, what’s the difference? If you’re a bit confused about what’s on offer at your local coffee shop, I don’t blame you. Although both Americano, as well as cappuccino, are made with espresso, technically, they are very different beverages.

So what’s the difference between Americano and cappuccino?

Americano is made by adding hot water to 1-2 shots of espresso whereas cappuccino is made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam (⅓ each). While Americano has a dark, earthy flavor, and a sweet taste, cappuccino, on the other hand, has a creamy and stronger taste of coffee.

Key Takeaways:
  • The caffeine content in an Americano or a cappuccino depends on the shots of espresso used, the quality of coffee, and the shot run’s length.
  • Americano typically has a dark, earthy flavor and a rich taste whereas cappuccino has a creamy, velvety texture with a bold coffee taste.
  • Americano is a low-calorie beverage as it’s mostly made of water and coffee.
  • Cappuccino has milk which makes it a bit higher in calories.
  • Americano tastes stronger than a cappuccino as the addition of steamed milk gives cappuccino a smooth mellow flavor.

While both these beverages originated in Italy and have espresso as the base, they are quite different when it comes to how they are made and what they taste like. To learn more about Americano vs cappuccino differences, I highly recommend you read this entire article as there’s a bit of interesting history involved in their stories.

 (At a glance)

  • Origin: Italy
  • Ingredients: Espresso, Hot water
  • Strength: Medium-Strong
  • Taste: Strong, Bold, Rich
  • Service: Ceramic Americano Cup
  • Origin: Italy or Austria
  • Ingredients: Espresso, Steamed Milk, Microfoam (⅓ each)
  • Strength: Medium-Strong
  • Taste: Fluffy, Espresso, Creamy, Balanced
  • Service: Ceramic Cappuccino Mug

Key Differences Between Americano and Cappuccino

To clearly understand the differences between an Americano and a cappuccino let’s first try to get to know them individually – Where they come from, how they are made & served, and what they taste like?

Americano vs Cappuccino

What is an Americano?

An Americano is an espresso-based beverage made by adding hot water to 1-2 shots of espresso. Americano is quite low in calories and has a strong, earthy flavor and a rich taste. Milk and sugar can also be added to make a sweeter and creamier version of the beverage called White Americano.

The Americano, also known as Caffè Americano, was first developed during World War II when American soldiers were fighting in Italy. 

Americans had a problem with the coffee that Italians made, as it was very dark and rich. 

They were used to their drip-brewing coffee and adding milk to make the coffee taste lighter.

Italians drank cappuccino, as well as espresso. Cappucino was closer in taste to what the Americans were used to, but it was served in a small cup.

So the Italian coffee shops started serving espresso shots in full-size coffee cups and filling up the rest with hot water to accommodate the soldiers. It was also possible to add sugar and milk to taste.

This drink quickly became famous and got the name ‘Americano’.

How is Americano made?

The Americano is made by pouring a single or double shot of espresso into a cup or mug and filling the cup or mug to 6 ounces with hot water.  

There are many different variations on the exact ratio of espresso to water and where the water is drawn from- some suggesting water must or should come from the same espresso machine that has pulled the shots- but, at its most elementary, an Americano is 1-2 espresso shots with hot water added.

The iced Americano follows the same recipe, except for the obvious use of cold water rather than hot water and ice. Sugar and milk are less often added to Iced, but that is a matter of personal preference. 

Two Ways To Make an Americano

You can make an Americano in two different ways.

The first method is the traditional way of first pouring the espresso in a cup or a mug and then adding hot water to it.

With the second method, you can also choose to start with the hot water already in the cup or mug and then add 1-2 shots of espresso.

The second method is actually preferred by most people because it kind of preserves the original crema of the espresso. 

It results in more foam on top when you first start sipping it since it doesn’t dissolve when the water is added into the espresso. 

Although you will get the same beverage any way you make it, they actually have different names depending upon the way you make them.

The original Americano is when the espresso is poured first, but when the espresso is poured second, into the hot water, the drink is referred to as a Long Black. This drink was named by the Australians when the Italians first introduced the drink in Australia.

Also, if you decide to add milk to your Caffe Americano, you would be making a drink that is called White Americano. 

What is a Cappuccino?

Cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage made by adding espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam in a 1:1:1 ratio. In some countries, however, it’s customary to add toppings, like cacao powder, cinnamon dust, or even whipped cream. Cappuccino has a creamy, and strong taste of coffee.

Originally, a cappuccino in Italy was just coffee, cream, and sugar—but it has changed quite a bit over time. 

Once espresso was invented in Italy, the cappuccino took its most well-known form: 33% espresso, 33% steamed milk, and 33% milk foam, in a 5-6 ounce size. 

Most coffee shops in the world still recognize this definition.

A standard cappuccino has ~2 ounces of espresso, ~2 ounces of liquid steamed milk, and ~ 2 ounces of microfoam in a 1:1:1 ratio. As a result, the cappuccino is considered a well-rounded drink that blends the best of a coffee’s flavor with the smoothness of milk.

A cup of cappuccino consists of three distinct and equal layers: Espresso at the bottom, steamed milk in the middle, and rich, airy froth on top.

How to make a Cappuccino?

To make a cappuccino too you will need to make an espresso first.

First, pull a shot of espresso using either:

  • Espresso machine  (Recommended)
  • Portable espresso maker, or
  • Aeropress coffee maker

After pulling the shot of espresso, pour it into a mug.

Next, steam some milk and slowly pour it over the espresso.

Top it with chocolate, cinnamon, or whipped cream (Optional).

Variations Of The Cappuccino

Outside of Italy, it’s common for a cappuccino to use coffee, milk, and foam in a 1:1:1 ratio. Variations between the ratio of milk and foamed milk are how baristas create a “dry” or a “wet” cappuccino. 

A wet cappuccino has more hot milk, while a dry one has more milk froth. In many places, cappuccinos are sprinkled with cocoa powder or cinnamon and topped with whipped cream.

The flat white is another milk coffee drink, which lacks the traditional cap of foam and often has slightly less milk than a traditional cappuccino.

Americano vs. Cappuccino: Caffeine

On average, an 8-ounce cup of Americano can have up to 160mg of caffeine whereas a standard 6-ounce cup of Cappuccino typically has 80mg of caffeine. The caffeine content in an Americano or a cappuccino depends on the shots of espresso used, the quality of coffee, and the shot run’s length.

All coffee-based drinks are bound to have some caffeine. It may be whittled down to a small percentage, but even decaf will have some caffeine. So it stands to reason that your regular cup of cappuccino or an Americano has caffeine as well.

So If you’ve been wondering how much caffeine is in a cup of Americano vs cappuccino, then it’s important to know how many shots of espresso have been used to make either of the beverages.

A 2-ounce shot of espresso typically has 80mg of caffeine, and most cafes use 2 shots of espresso to make a standard 8-ounce cup of Americano. So it’s safe to assume that a cup of Americano made with 2 shots of espresso will have around 160mg of caffeine.

Cappuccino, on the other hand, is typically made with one shot of espresso, so a standard 6-ounce cup of cappuccino will have around 80mg of caffeine.

But overall, the caffeine content in an Americano or a cappuccino depends on several factors such as the number of espresso shots used to make the beverage, the shot measurement accuracy, quality of coffee, and the shot run’s length. 

Americano vs. Cappuccino: Taste

Americano typically has a dark, earthy flavor and a rich taste whereas cappuccino has a creamy, velvety texture with a bold coffee taste. Americano typically tastes stronger than a cappuccino. Cappuccino, on the other hand, has steamed milk in it, which gives it a sweeter and more balanced taste. 

When milk is steamed, its natural sweetness shines through. Thus, because of the presence of steamed milk and microfoam, a cappuccino will taste sweeter than an Americano. 

It’s worth noting, however, that neither of these beverages is traditionally served sweetened, so the amount of sugar you add is completely up to you.

Because of the addition of milk, cappuccino is considered a well-rounded drink that blends the best of a coffee’s flavor with the smoothness of milk.

And the foam, it’s supposed to be dense. Not big bubbles, but tiny bubbles that feel super smooth along your lips and tongue, and give the cappuccino its velvety and smooth texture and taste.

The Americano is usually made with espresso so that it can have a richer taste. However, the drink’s flavor can depend on the roast level, quality of beans, and the grind.

Americano vs. Cappuccino: Calories

Americano is a low-calorie beverage as it’s mostly made of water and coffee.  If you choose to add milk and sugar, an 8-ounce Americano will have around 30 calories. However, since cappuccino contains milk, a standard 6-ounce serving of it has around 70 calories.

Cappuccinos and Americanos are both made differently, which gives them their own unique taste and texture.

Because they each contain a different set of ingredients, they also vary in terms of calorific value.

Therefore, whichever drink you decide to order on your next trip to the coffee shop, your total calorie consumption comes down to your personal taste and preferences.

Americano vs. Cappuccino: Which one is healthier?

This one is tricky—namely because there’s nothing necessarily unhealthy about milk. Still, if calories and fat content are the primary concern, then a cappuccino could be considered the less ‘healthy’ option between the two, given the quantity of milk involved. (But again, one beverage isn’t really healthier than the other.)

Americano vs. Cappuccino: Which one is stronger?

Americano tastes stronger than a cappuccino as the addition of steamed milk gives cappuccino a smooth mellow flavor and a balanced taste. Americano, on the other hand, is made with hot water and espresso which gives it a bold, rich taste. 

Due to the addition of steamed milk in the making of a cappuccino, the beverage will taste milder than an Americano. 

Americano is a diluted version of espresso, so it tastes like a mild espresso but still stronger than a cappuccino which gets a sweet taste from the steamed milk.

That said, both drinks typically contain the same amount of espresso, so the caffeine content is identical; strength here is simply a measure of how much you taste the bite of the espresso in the beverage. 

In other words, the milky cappuccino has a far smoother flavor when compared to an Americano.

Conclusion

So now you’ve got the full scoop—but to sum things up, all you really need to know is that an Americano is a beverage made by diluting 1-2 shots of espresso with hot water, while a cappuccino is a smoother, creamier, and foamier espresso-based beverage that packs a bold coffee taste. Now go forth and get the caffeine fix you’re craving.

Written by:
Amit Gupta
Amit Gupta

Hi, my name is Amit Gupta, and I am the owner and contributor at Cafeish. My obsession with coffee started when I received my first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, my love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets I own – has grown considerably.

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