Americano Vs Cappuccino: The Key Difference You Want To Know

Two of the most popular drinks in the world of coffee are the americano and the cappuccino.

Both are espresso-based drinks that you should be able to find on any self-respecting coffee shop’s menu. 

But, despite the fact that they’re both made from espresso, they still have their differences in terms of preparation and components. 

Here’s a rundown on the americano vs cappuccino.

What is an Americano?

americano coffee

An americano is nothing more than a shot or two of espresso topped with hot water. That’s it!

The drink is definitely nothing new and is said to date back to World War II. During the war, the American soldiers stationed in Italy found that Italian espresso was too strong for them. 

They watered it down to make it more like a classic cup of drip coffee from back home. Because this became a regular coffee drink for Americans, the Italians started to call the beverage caffè americano. 

Today, the drink hasn’t changed very much. 

The only difference is that you can now get iced americano as well as the traditional hot version of the drink!

How to Make an Americano?

Making an americano is really simple. If you want to whip up this drink yourself all you’ll need is: 

  • 1-2 shots of espresso
  • Hot water
  • A mug

That’s it! Start by using an espresso machine (if you don’t have one, you can also use a Moka pot) to make two shots of espresso. 

Then, pour the espresso into a mug. Top it off with hot water and you’re all set!

Traditionally, people drink americanos without sweetening them. But, if you want to you can add a little sugar.

What is a Cappuccino?

cappuccino in a cup and coffee beans

The cappuccino is made out of espresso shots, steamed milk, and milk foam. 

Traditionally, you should have equal parts of each, although some coffee shops add a touch more milk foam. 

Cappuccinos have been around since roughly the 1930s when they were first invented in Italy. 

What’s interesting about them is that they got their name from the Capuchin monks. 

Capuchin monks dressed in long, white robes with gold accents, which people thought resembled the milk foam in the cappuccino. 

The name stuck, and today this is a well-known coffee drink around the world!

How to Make a Cappuccino

If you want to make a cappuccino at home, you’re going to need a solid espresso machine

You’ll also need:

  • 2 shots of espresso (60ml)
  • 60ml of cold milk
  • Cinnamon, cocoa, or grated chocolate (optional)

To make a cappuccino, you’ll start by pulling a double espresso and adding it to a ceramic mug. 

Next, take the cold milk and steam it. You can do this on the stove, with a steaming wand, or using an espresso machine with a milk frother

Although you can use room temperature milk, cold milk foams up more. That’s why, for a cappuccino, it’s best to use cold milk. 

Once the milk has roughly doubled in size, so you have 120ml, pour it on top of the espresso.

If you want to, top the cappuccino with a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder. 

Americano vs Cappuccino: What is the Difference?

Now that you know what a basic cappuccino is and what a basic americano coffee is, let’s talk about a few of the differences. 

After all, despite the fact that they’re both made of espresso, they’re definitely not the same drink!

Here are some of the key differences between these two beverages.

Ingredients

espresso shot

At first glance, we know that traditional American coffee is much simpler than a classic cappuccino.

Americanos are made with hot water and espresso. That’s it!

In contrast, cappuccinos are made with an espresso shot and milk. 

The main difference between the two drinks’ ingredients is that americano used hot water instead of milk to dilute the beverage.

Brewing

When it comes to making an americano, you’re going to need an espresso maker and a way to boil water. 

You’ll start by brewing two shots of espresso and topping them with hot water. 

When it comes to a cappuccino it can get a bit more complicated. The cappuccino, like the Americano, is made with an espresso machine to pull shots. 

However, you’ll also need a milk steamer to froth up the milk. 

This part is key because the milk foam on top of a cappuccino is what really makes it stand out from other espresso drinks.

Taste

woman drinking cappuccino

A cappuccino has a notable espresso flavor but is quite low in low acidity, thanks to the foamed milk in the drink. 

Cappuccinos are generally creamy, light, and airy. They may have a slightly sweet flavor thanks to the sugar content in the milk. 

In contrast, an Americano will be more acidic than a cappuccino but less acidic than a traditional espresso.

Americanos taste sort of like a mild, light-roast brewed coffee and it’s perfect for coffee drinkers who like black coffee such as a filter or Turkish coffee.

Serving

To serve a cappuccino, you’ll typically pour the beverage into a rounded, ceramic cup. Ceramic helps preserve the heat of the coffee.

You can also serve it in a glass if you want to see the layers in the drink.

Cappuccinos are often topped with milk foam and a dash of cinnamon, chocolate, or cocoa. Or, you may find that your local barista uses latte art on the cappuccino to give it some extra flare.

Americanos are much simpler to serve since they don’t come topped with milk. 

You’ll typically simply serve an americano in your standard, 8oz coffee mug. 

FAQ

If you’ve still got a few questions about americanos and cappuccinos, I don’t blame you. 

It can be tough getting to know these drinks if you’re new to the world of coffee!

Here are a couple of frequently asked questions about these drinks.

Is an americano stronger than a cappuccino?

Yes, an americano is stronger than a cappuccino. Although they have the same caffeine content in both drinks, the cappuccino contains hot milk which dilutes the espresso drink. The americano only contains coffee and water, so the flavor is much stronger. 

Which is sweeter, cappuccino or americano?

The cappuccino is sweeter than the americano thanks to the frothed milk in the drink. Milk contains natural sugar, whereas coffee doesn’t, so americano winds up quite bitter. Of course, if you add sugar, you can make either drink sweeter.

What is an americano with foam called?

An americano with foam doesn’t have a special name, but you can order it in a coffee shop. However, don’t confuse it with a macchiato. Although both contain espresso and milk foam, an americano is diluted with water.

Final Words

In short, when it comes to the americano vs cappuccino, these coffee drinks are pretty different. 

The cappuccino is a creamy beverage made out of espresso and steamed milk. 

The americano, on the other hand, is a mild drink made out of espresso and hot water. 

Whichever one you decide is for you, they’re both great ways to enjoy the world’s favorite hot drink—coffee.

And, if neither of these drinks catches your eye, maybe you should try a frappuccino instead! Check out this guide to learn how to make one at home. 

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Jessica Ruth Lee Fleming
Jessica is a seasoned caffeine-addict who spent 3 years behind the bar. Her early coffee days took her from the commercial Starbucks scene in urban DC all the way to helping launch a craft coffee shop in California. Today she prefers sharing her years of coffee capers through media, although you’ll find she does it with a trusty cup of coffee by her side.