What Is a Cappuccino? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Jason Gutierrez

A Cappuccino is one of those drinks you’re used to seeing on coffee shop menus but might not know what it is. You watch other people order it, it looks delicious, and now you finally want to know if it’s worth trying.

You’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll discover all that the cappuccino has to offer, its history, and how it’s different from other commonly prepared coffee drinks.

Let’s get into it.

What Is a Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an espresso-based coffee drink that is traditionally prepared with a single shot of espresso and equal parts of steamed milk and milk froth.


It is commonly prepared with an espresso machine, where the espresso is first poured into the bottom of the cup, followed by an equal amount of hot milk, and then topped with froth to round out the drink. Sometimes, baristas show off their latte art skills by decorating the top to make it more aesthetically pleasing. 

The typical cappuccino is served in a smaller cup, ranging from 150 to 180 ml (between 5 and 6 US fl oz), similar to what’s pictured in the image above.

Since many people tend to confuse cappuccinos and lattes, we figured we should address some of the major differences. When comparing the two, you’ll find that the typical cappuccino:

  • Is smaller in volume
  • Contains less steamed milk
  • Contains more milk froth

Lattes are served in large glasses, as opposed to small cups, and they tend to taste much creamier due to the higher amount and ratio of steamed milk.

The History Behind Cappuccinos

Milk and coffee have been enjoyed together as a beverage since some time in the 1700s. However, the cappuccino as we know it today wasn’t realized until much later.

During the 1930s in northern Italy, a drink similar to the “Viennese”, which is a coffee topped with whipped cream and cinnamon, was first spotted in old photographs. It’s believed that this was the first version of the “cappuccino”, which Italians evolved over the subsequent decades.

It wasn’t until the 1950s, when espresso machines largely came into production, that the modern day cappuccino with hot milk and froth was developed.  From that point forward, the Italians shaped the “cappuccino” into its modern day formula.

Meanwhile, cappuccino spread like wildfire along with espresso and other espresso-based drinks in many Italian-American neighborhoods. Though it originated as a tasty breakfast beverage, it’s popularity in America led to great consumption at all times of the day.

Cappuccino Alterations

If you were to walk into a cafe and order a “cappuccino, please” you’d likely get what we defined earlier in the article:

  • Small cup
  • 1 shot of espresso
  • Equal parts steamed milk and milk froth

Nothing more, nothing less.

The classic cappuccino is delicious as-is, and we highly recommend everyone give it a try at some point. However, if you prefer to stray from the standard cappuccino due to food allergies or just personal preference, there are certainly quite a few ways to spice it up.

You could:

  • Add sweetener, such as sugar or stevia
  • Add a pump of flavored syrup
  • Substitute cream instead of milk
  • Ask for a different variation of milk (e.g. soy, coconut, or almond)
  • Order a “wet” or “dry” cappuccino, which have more or less steamed milk, respectively

No matter what way you choose to drink your cappuccino, you’ll likely find it smooth, delicious, and invigorating.

Enjoy a Cappuccino!

Now that you know what a cappuccino is, where it originated from, and how it’s typically made, you can enjoy this drink anytime, anywhere! Once known as an Italian breakfast delight, it’s made its way onto a global scale and is likely available wherever you get your coffee. So, strut into your local cafe or coffee shop and order a cappuccino with confidence. If it’s your cup of tea (oops, coffee), you’ll know it immediately and fall in love with its unique flavor profile.

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