You cannot talk about coffee drinks without mentioning a Cappuccino; the most popular and most ordered coffee drink.
That is why a Cappuccino appears on every coffee menu. But apart from a Cappuccino, there are a whole lot of other espresso drinks to try; like the Americano.
This post compares these two drinks to help you tell them apart by going through their histories, ingredients, preparation, and taste profiles.
You will also know when to order a Cappuccino and when to savor an Americano.
Having said that, let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
A Cappuccino is an Italian-origin espresso-based drink containing 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 microfoam. On the other hand, an Americano is 1 or 2 shots of espresso diluted with hot water. Unlike a Cappuccino, an Americano does not contain steamed milk.
Apart from that, an Americano does not have milk, there are more ways that it differs from a Cappuccino. Below is a simple table comparing an Americano against Cappuccino.
|Espresso and hot water
|1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 microfoam
|Number of espresso shots
|3 to 20 Oz
|Milk, cream, sugar
|Chocolate powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon
|Dilute espresso. Flavors depend on the beans.
|Bold espresso taste. Slightly sweet. Smooth and creamy.
The tradition of diluting espresso with hot water is said to have originated in Italy during World War II from American soldiers stationed in Italy.
According to coffee scholars, some American soldiers found the Italian espresso too strong and started diluting it with water. Italians named the drink a Caffè Americano.
The soldiers would then popularize the drink back at home after returning. Eventually, the drink slowly became popular.
A Cappuccino originated in Italy back in the 18th century. The drink’s name was inspired by the habits worn by the Catholic Capuchin friars.
When milk was added to brewed coffee, the resulting drink turned brown similar to Capuchin friar habits’.
Initially, Cappuccinos were prepared with brewed coffee up until the invention of espresso machines, when Italians started using espresso to make a Cappuccino.
While the Italians invented Cappuccino in the 18th century, the rest of the world started embracing the drink between 1950 and 1980.
Here is the thing:
Due to modernization, there are different definitions and specifications of a Cappuccino.
Luckily all of them agree that a Cappuccino comprises espresso, steamed milk, and microfoam.
The most popular Cappuccino recipe is 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 microfoam. However, that is not the original recipe.
The Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano (INEI) states that the perfect Italian Cappuccino should be made with 25 ml espresso and 100 ml of steam-foamed milk.
The milk should be fresh cow milk with more than 3.5% fat. The 100 ml should be steamed up to when volume increases to 125 ml.
The drink should then be served in a 150-160 ml white cup with no decoration.
There is also the World Barista Championship definition that states that a Cappuccino drink is a single shot of espresso and milk combined to a volume of fewer than 240 ml.
The WBC does not define the type of cup that should be used. The competition allows for latte art but disallows toppings.
On the other hand:
An Americano is simply one or two shots of espresso diluted with hot water of about 185F. The ratio of espresso and water can be anything from 1:2 up to 1:16.
The specific amount of water to add will depend on how big and dilute you want your Americano.
While preparing an Americano may sound simple, finding the perfect amount of water to add to 1 or 2 shots of espresso is a big challenge.
The hot water should be poured into the espresso and not the other way. This is to preserve the crema of the espresso that gives the drink a creamy mouthfeel.
The reason hot water is added to espresso is to dilute the intensity and flavors of the espresso. The resulting drink will have a weak coffee taste almost similar to drip or filter coffee.
The less the water added the stronger the drink and the more the water the weaker the Americano.
A Cappuccino on the other hand has a strong espresso taste but it’s a little bit sweet. The microfoam layer on top makes the drink feel smooth and creamy.
Cappuccino’s three distinct layers should not mix so that you can feel and taste each of the three components when you take a sip.
A Cappuccino is traditionally a small drink. The most common serving size is 5-6 Oz but you will also find larger serving sizes of up to 20 Oz.
For instance, Starbucks Cappuccino serving sizes range from 8 Oz to 20 Oz.
In Italy, Cappuccino and other espresso+milk are drunk before 11 am.
The Americano or Americanized espresso can be as small as 3 ounces when 1 shot of espresso and two parts of hot are added and as big as 16 Oz.
Many people who order Americano are espresso lovers who want a drink they can enjoy for some time as they read or chat.
According to the USDA, a shot of espresso has 63 mg of caffeine. So, a Cappuccino and Americano will have 63 or 126 mg of caffeine when made with 1 and 2 shots of espresso.
When it comes to calories, an Americano has very low calories since it does not contain milk. On the other hand, Starbucks’ Cappuccino contains between 70 and 220 calories
And there we have it – the key differences between a Cappuccino and Americano. Here is a recap of what we have covered.
- An Americano is 1 or 2 shots of espresso diluted with hot water.
- A Cappuccino contains espresso, steamed milk, and microfoam.
- Americanos don’t contain steamed milk.
- Both Americano and Cappuccino originated In Italy.
- A Cappuccino is smooth and creamy, unlike an Americano.
- Both Cappuccino and Americano are espresso-based drinks.
I hope I have answered all your questions regarding these two drinks and that you can now differentiate the drinks. If you have questions or if you’d like to contribute, talk to me in the comment section.
Anyways, consider ordering or making one of the two drinks and see how you like it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Two cups of Americano made with 1 and 2 shots of espresso contain 63 and 126 mg of caffeine. This is whether the serving is as small as 3 Oz or as big as 15 Oz.
A cup of Cappuccino containing 1 shot of espresso has 63 mg of espresso and 126 mg when 2 shots are used.
A cup of Americano containing 1 shot of espresso and 2 ounces of hot water is stronger than a 5 Oz Cappuccino.
However, a heavily diluted Americano will be weaker than a standard 5 Oz Cappuccino.