Americano vs Cappuccino: What are the Differences?

Maybe you were standing in your local coffee shop the other day looking at all of your options wondering “americano vs cappuccino” which is the better option?

I mean, better is relative, because better for you might not be better for someone else. The completely different flavors of these two espresso-based drinks make the choice between them a matter of personal preference.

In short, an americano is made from espresso and hot water whereas a cappuccino contains espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam (the foam can be replaced with cream).

What is a Cappuccino?

The cappuccino originated in Italy and spread to the rest of the world during the 1930s. Is composed of one to two shots of espresso. It also has equal parts espresso and steamed milk. There is always a layer of milk foam on top which has to be a minimum of 1cm thick. Some sprinkle a bit of cocoa powder, cinnamon, etc on top.

Cappuccino in white cup.

The texture of the foam varies from one barista to another, but generally, it has a thick and creamy texture.

Some coffee shops also offer flavored versions of cappuccinos such as vanilla, caramel, peppermint, chocolate, and cinnamon.

How are Cappuccinos Made?

  1. Here are the steps for making a cappuccino:
  2. Grind the beans (optional)
  3. Brew one or two shorts of espresso
  4. Pour the espresso into a mug
  5. Optionally add some flavoring
  6. Froth the milk
  7. Add the same amount of steamed milk as coffee
  8. Top with milk or cream foam
  9. Additionally: sprinkle something on top
  10. Choosing the right milk
Cappuccino topped with cinnamon surrounded with coffee beans and sugar cubes.

Your best option is full cream milk as it makes better foam, but 2% milk can also do the job. If you are vegan or just prefer a non-dairy alternative, oat milk also produces good foam.

Your best choice for preparing the milk for your cappuccino is to use the steam wand of your coffee machine, but if you don’t have a coffee machine there are many other ways in which you can make yourself this delicious drink.

Ways to froth your milk include using a french press and some hot milk. You can also opt for a hand-held frother, use a blender or whisk it by hand.

Different Kinds of Cappuccino

Cappuccino topped with cinnamon. Cup is on coffee beans and next to cinnamon sticks.

Traditional Cappuccino

The version of a cappuccino that I described above with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam is a traditional cappuccino. However, no one ever said that we always have to stick to the same things. Variation can be great.

Dry Cappuccino vs Wet Cappuccino

A dry cappuccino has less milk and more foam whereas a wet cappuccino has less foam and more milk.

What is an Americano?

Like cappuccinos, the americano also has its roots in Italy, but this time it is not the Italians that we have to thank for this drink but rather the Americans. During World War II the American soldiers weren’t quite as fond of the espresso that the Italians so dearly loved. They missed the regular coffee that they had back home. Thus, they started to add hot water to the espresso to mimic the American coffee that they were so fond of.

Americano in white cup.

Because an Americano is simply espresso diluted with some hot water, it is quite similar to a long black coffee and also traditional drip coffee. However, the different ratios of coffee to water and the different ways of preparing the drinks has an enormous influence on the taste and strength.

As compared to regular coffee an americano has a greater flavor and is also less acidic. An americano is also quite a strong coffee as compared to regular coffee.

How to Make an Americano

There are many opinions on the ratio of espresso to hot water in an americano. It ranges from equal parts espresso and water to a ratio of 1:4. In the end it is up to you and how strong you like your coffee. Thus, it is quite easy to prepare this particular coffee beverage.

Here are the steps for making an americano:

  1. Pull a shot or two of espresso
  2. Add hot water to the espresso
  3. Add sugar to your liking
Small americano.

Some people add milk or cream, but in my opinion that ruins the idea of an americano. If you prefer milky coffee, I’d rather opt for a cappuccino or another similar drink that already includes milk.

Iced Americano

There is no rule saying that an americano has to be hot. It can also be served cold on days when you don’t feel like drinking something hot.

The Similarities Between an Americano and a Cappuccino

Americano in front of chocolate doughnut.

The Amount of Espresso Shots

For both of these drinks, you can opt for a single shot of espresso, but you can also use a double shot if you like.

How Much Caffeine it Contains

As the number of shots in these two drinks is the same, the caffeine content is the same. One shot of espresso has about 64 milligrams of caffeine. This means that if you were to drink a coffee with a double shot of espresso, you’d be consuming about 128 mg of caffeine. 

The Differences between Cappuccinos and Americanos

Cappuccinos with cinnamon and marshmallows.

The Presence or Absence of Steamed Milk and Foam

The main difference between an americano and a cappuccino is that where an americano gets hot water added to the espresso, a cappuccino gets steamed milk and milk foam on top of the espresso.

Flavor

Because the ingredients of these two popular beverages are so different it stands to reason that it has quite different tastes too. A cappuccino is creamier and has a smoother texture. It also has a sweet taste thanks to the milk. An americano has a much lighter taste.

Choosing the Right Coffee

Both of these espresso drinks have a place in the coffee world and asking which is the better choice might not be the right question. Next time that you are at a café looking at all the different types of coffee drinks available, rather ask yourself “what is the perfect choice for me?”.

Because a great way of starting your day is with the taste of coffee, but then you need the right coffee for you.

Other Coffees to Try

Iced Latte vs Iced Mocha

When summer rolls around, iced coffee is always a good idea in my books. Yet, the question remains, which one will you like best?

Here is a detailed comparison between an iced latte and an iced mocha so you can easier decide which you want.

An iced mocha and an iced latte in takeaway cups.

Macchiato vs Espresso

Both a macchiato and an espresso is strong coffee, but deciding between the two might be hard if you don’t know what they are.

Here are the differences between a macchiato and an espresso.

Macchiato vs Espresso: the differences.
Cappuccino vs Americano coffee. What are the differences between them?

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