Cappuccino Vs Mocha – The DrinkStack ‘Know Your Coffee’ Series

Coffee terminology could fill up an entire dictionary. Fortunately, it starts to get easier with experience, although it definitely doesn’t feel that way starting out.

Many drinks are very distinctive from one another, while some are a hairs’ breadth from being one or the other. The Cappuccino and Mocha are commonly confused for good reason, as they’re both small, espresso-focused drinks.

The flat white and white coffee are another frequent mix-up.

If you’re confused about your coffee types, this article will help explain the difference between a cappuccino and a mocha.

What’s the difference between a Cappuccino vs Mocha?

Defining The Elegant, Creamy Cappuccino

I remember being surprised by how often cappuccinos were confused by coffee customers. They’re a very distinctive drink when you break them down.

The cappuccino is a delectable variety that eschews straight-up milk in favor of espresso and a mixture of microfoam and froth. Which one you’ll choose depends on your favorite mouthfeel.

The wet cappuccino is a variation that uses just a little milk with a heaping of microfoam, resulting in a slightly thinner and more velvety consistency. The dry cappuccino, however, is made entirely with microfoam and froth. Some cafes don’t even offer the latter due to the difficulty level.

I haven’t had this drink in a while and have made it a personal goal to get one the second I go back to visiting cafes in-person. The cappuccino is a hallmark of Italian coffee culture and is one of today’s most popular drinks (though regional variance plays a part).

A 2018 UK consumer survey found the latte sitting at number one in popularity, followed close behind by the cappuccino at number two. Cappuccinos are often served in large, flat mugs to show off the art better and sometimes come with a spoon so you can scoop up all the goodness.

What Kinds Of Cappuccinos Are There?

Coffee is much like the trunk of a tree. Each branch comes with its own little details to stand apart from the basic foundation of coffee, water, and milk.

Cappuccinos are just as varied as any latte or mocha. As explored above, you have wet and dry varieties. The wet cappuccino uses just a little milk, while the dry cappuccino is a microfoam and froth-only zone.

You can also increase the fluffy texture by adding a dollop of whipped cream or even a little heavy cream. There are alcoholic varieties that use Irish cream or minty schnapps, which are just perfect on a cold winter day.

Believe it or not, cappuccinos can even come in an iced form. One type is known as the ‘Freddo Cappuccino’, a Greek variation that creates cold foam and puts it over coffee and ice.

The other form you can find in iced drinks that put a large amount of creamy milk, mimicking the cappuccino’s classic texture. If you’re trying to focus on losing weight or reducing sugar, however, I’d steer clear of these and instead keep an eye out for Supercoffee’s new line-up.

Carving Out The Chocolatey Mocha

The mocha is to the latte what an apple is to an orange. Pretty similar, yet pretty different!

Whereas the latte is steamed milk over espresso shots with a little topping of microfoam, the mocha adds chocolate to the mix. Back during my barista days, we were regularly reminded to mix the espresso with the syrup before pouring in the milk, avoiding that annoying clump of chocolate at the bottom of the cup.

The mocha used to be my absolute favorite coffee drink, giving me the best of both worlds: coffee and cocoa! Nowadays, however, I tend to lean toward chocolate flavor notes in my specialty bags.

The mocha takes on a few varieties here and there. White chocolate is an obvious choice (and particularly good with hazelnut), though most cafes also provide caramel as a substitute.

Don’t get that confused with the caramel macchiato, which is a very bungled term that sometimes refers to the espresso drink, sometimes a latte with caramel. Another term you might’ve seen around is the mocha java. While some think this refers to coffee with chocolate, it’s actually referring to a specific type of bean grown in Yemen.

What’s The Healthiest Coffee Drink?

Drinking coffee can be incredibly good for you…provided you’re not overloading it with milk, syrup, and sugar, that is.

Coffee and health is a subject that regularly crops up in consumer and medical circles. There are studies that have extensively explored the benefits of antioxidants, a highly specific compound that protects our body at the cellular level.

You can find interesting information on the benefits (and downsides) of caffeine, right alongside the possible link between regular coffee consumption and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. At the end of the day? Moderation is key.

Drinking coffee black is a great way to boost your antioxidant count without the added calories from milk and sugar, though that can be a little tough if you have a sweet tooth. A great way to circumvent this is to start buying freshly roasted specialty coffee.

Take it from me: I never drank coffee black until I started scouting out local roasteries. Bitter, dry flavors often come from coffee grounds that have sat on the grocery shelf too long. You can also accidentally burn your beans by using scalding water, so keep your kettle away from the boiling point!

The Surprising Link Between Chocolate And Coffee

Here’s something you’ll want to know if you’re a fan of chocolate and coffee: they both have caffeine!

Not the same amount, mind, but it’s an important bit of knowledge if you’re sensitive to caffeine like I am. Chocolate is not a good choice to eat before bed because the combination of sugar and caffeine can keep you up, so time your desserts accordingly. Another common misconception is that decaf coffee doesn’t have any caffeine, which is false!

Whether using the Swiss Water decaffeination method or the ethyl acetate decaffeination method, trace amounts of caffeine are still left in the bean.

While you’re unlikely to notice a caffeine boost from one cup of decaf, you might start feeling jitters after two or three. This can be even higher if you have a sweet tooth and prefer mochas over lattes.

On the flipside, espresso has a lower amount of caffeine than drip coffee. Keep this in mind as you distinguish the difference between cappuccino and mocha and you won’t have to worry about heart palpitations ever again.

The Difference Between Microfoam And Froth

Coffee drinks are beloved for their wispy fluff and charming latte leaves. While microfoam and froth are superficially similar, they couldn’t be more different.

Knowing the distinction as a barista meant the difference between a quality drink and an order that had to be redone. Microfoam is steamed milk that has very tiny bubbles, resulting in a delightfully creamy consistency.

It’s much easier to make latte art with microfoam and it’s thick enough to hold up to repeated detailing with wooden stir sticks. Microfoam is popular for wet cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas, though you can find it in other drinks like the cortado.

Froth, on the other hand, is very dry and very fluffy. It’s difficult to make latte art due to how dehydrated the texture is, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be artful! Froth can be used to top off a dry cappuccino, latte, or mocha. It’s also sculpted to look like all sorts of subjects, from squishy animals to round snowmen. As far as I’m concerned, microfoam and froth work even better together.

So what’s the difference between cappuccino and mocha?

Improving Your Microfoam Technique At Home

Getting the hang of steamed milk takes time and practice. Your first few attempts will look a little runny or even too dry, but that’s okay!

The most common method of steaming milk is through the steam wand, which can be found on home espresso machines or bought separately. It helps to understand the science behind the milk: it doesn’t mix in water, but rather, uses heat and air to fluff up the fat in the milk.

This is why you’ll have to work a little harder to get the same consistency if you’re using, say, the less fatty oat milk or almond milk. That isn’t to say it’s impossible, though!

Steaming your milk should take anywhere between five to fifteen seconds. Any longer and you run the risk of drying your milk out and being left with a frizzy, floppy mess.

It’s also important to give your milk a little swirl once you’re done to keep it from drying out prematurely. These are little habits that will become more natural with time, so give yourself some space to experiment and get comfortable with your tools. You’ll be doing latte leaves and coffee flowers before you know it!

Coffee terminology can be intimidating to start with. Many don’t even bother for fear they’ll be frowned upon.

The way I see it? Coffee is not just like a tree, but also like a language. Learning about its ins and outs is how you become fluent in it. Coffee drink types are like nouns, whereas roast levels and flavor notes are adjectives. They all come together to communicate peace and joy in your day-to-day life.

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