When looking at a menu things can sometimes get a little confusing. Both with food and drink. So what's the difference between cappuccino and frappuccino, then ?
You won't find a frappuccino anywhere else than at Starbucks, since they've trademarked the name. But you might find spin-offs, and it's important to know what you're getting.
We'll discuss the main differences between a cup of cappuccino, and a frappuccino. And a couple of tips on how to make your own at home, so you get a wonderful drink.
1. A cappuccino is a hot coffee drink, a frappuccino is an iced drink
Normally a cappuccino is meant to be hot, steaming hot actually. This is because it's made with a shot of fresh espresso, and this is a hot drink.
Then to that hot espresso, steamed milk and milk foam are added. That's a 1:4 espresso to milk ratio, with the rest of the cup being topped off with milk foam. That's a standard 5 oz/ 150 ml cup.
This all results in a very hot coffee drink. It's also the main canvas for baristas to practice their latte art, aside from ... well, lattes.
As for frappuccinos, these are cold drinks. Iced, actually. You will find a mix of crushed ice, coffee, heavy cream, condensed milk and possibly a syrup.
These are all blended together until they resemble a milkshake, actually.
On the top, they will have nice, cool whipped cream, usually drizzled with syrup or sauce as well.
The difference in temperature makes for a very different tasting drink too. I know there's much more to discuss than just the temperature difference, but hear me out.
Hot coffee will give you that caffeine kick faster than a cold coffee. You will also need cold coffee to be brewed a bit stronger than hot coffee. This is partly because it needs to withstand the milk and cream usually added, and because the cold cuts through the taste a bit.
A cappuccino and a frappuccino are vastly different drinks, but they have the same origin. The frappuccino was meant to be a sort of answer for the need for a cold cappuccino.
It's just that you can't make hot milk foam sit on top of cold milk coffee. So we ended up with the frappuccino, and things have progressed from there.
If you want to make the best coffee at home, you absolutely need to check my article on the best coffee gear.
2. Not all frappuccinos contain caffeine, unlike a cappuccino
Things have indeed progressed from the original frappuccino. Actually we've come to the point where many frappuccinos don't even contain caffeine.
This is because frappuccino is such a versatile drink, and can be tweaked in any way. For example you can get a Matcha frappuccino, and it will have no coffee in it.
It does contain caffeine, from the Matcha powder it contains. But that's about it. For the cases of strawberry frappuccinos (or another such drink) where coffee isn't added at all, there is no caffeine.
This can be a blessing for people who are looking for a decaf version of their favorite drink. But ti can also be tricky when you want to stay away from sugary drinks, since a frappuccino is almost always sweetened.
A cappuccino on the other hand is always made with a shot of espresso. It's not a cappuccino if it's made in a different manner. Coffee people are specific like that, I guess.
So this means you cappuccino will always have at least between 120-170 mg/0.004 – 0.006 oz caffeine content. This is because one shot of espresso is used for a cappuccino, unless you ask for it double.
And the caffeine content can vary because of the coffee brand used, and also because of the coffee bean type used.
You can get a decaf cappuccino if you wish, just ask the barista to use a decaf espresso.
3. There is much more sugar and fat in a frappuccino than a cappuccino
Seeing as the way cappuccino is made is very different from a frappuccino, it makes sense that they would have different calories in the end.
A simple shot of espresso, the base of a cappuccino, has nearly zero calories since it's only the small amount of coffee fats that give it any calorie.
Then there is the steamed milk, which would have to be a higher fat milk in order to produce a velvety foam and a tastier drink. This adds several calories on its own, but that's it.
The sugar is not mandatory, you simply add it if you want. That's about 36 calories in a cup of cappuccino, without the sugar.
Not that much, when you look at how much space the drink takes up in your cup. You need to remember that a good portion of it is milk foam, which does contain a whole lot of air.
A frappuccino on the other hand, is another story. Let's take the number 10 spot on a list of the heaviest Starbucks drinks. A vanilla bean frappuccino has about 400 calories, with all the cream, condensed milk, whipped cream, and added syrup. And there is no coffee.
This is a ridiculous difference, and anyone watching their weight will already know what to steer away from.
As an occasional drink, a frappuccino could be a treat I suppose. But on average reaching for a sugary, fat drink will not be great for the body in the long term.
You can check out more about the effects of sugar and cream on your coffee here. Your caffeine will still do its job, just much slower and harder.
Recommended post : Cappuccino VS Espresso
4. Cappuccino is a specific beverage, any tweaks result in a different drink
When it comes to making a cappuccino, there is a certain recipe. Adding more milk or more coffee will result in a different drink.
So this means that your cappuccino is not a cappuccino if the 1:4 espresso to milk ratio is off. Halving the milk will result in an espresso macchiato (1:1 espresso to milk foam).
Making the drink 1:2 espresso to steamed milk, no foam, results in a flat white. Add milk foam over the top of that and you get a caffe latte.
Each drink has its own name, and ordering a latte with more coffee when you mean a cappuccino will probably confuse the barista.
A frappuccino on the other hand is much more flexible, and the ratios can be adjusted to your liking. And still be called a frappuccino.
You could argue that coffee drink names are sometimes ridiculous, and you'd be right. But there's a certain tradition to each coffee drink's name, and some people might get offended over these things.
So back to tweaking a cappuccino. The only accepted tweaks are doubling the espresso, which will usually result in a large cappuccino. Unless your barista is easy going and understands you just need a little more coffee for the same amount of milk and foam.
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5. Frappuccino can be made with any coffee, cappuccino needs an espresso shot
Making yourself a nice, cold frappuccino doesn't necessarily require an espresso machine. Really, it doesn't even require coffee.
The only constant in the recipe of a frappuccino is the ice blended with heavy cream and the whip cream on top.
Other than that, feel free to mix things up as you like. As a sort of recommendation, know that French press coffee or even Vietnamese coffee will work wonderfully in a frappuccino.
Both are very strong brews, and they'll hold up to the generous helpings of milk, cream, and whipped cream. Only you'll need to wait on them a bit to cool down.
You can always make your frappuccino with a cold brewed coffee, though. This will result in a more subtle coffee taste, because the taste of a cold brew coffee is different.
So feel free to use whatever you feel would work best for your drink. Remember that the frappuccino is partly inspired by the frappe invented in Greece about half a century ago. And that's made with instant coffee.
When making a cappuccino though, aside from only using a specific ratio of espresso to milk to foam, remember to only use espresso. Again, coffee people are very specific.
Using a filter coffee, while still delicious, will not result in a cappuccino. This is partly because of the taste, the ratio problem, and the texture as well.
But mostly it's the crema on the espresso. If there's no crema on the cappuccino, how are you going to enjoy your milk foam flower ?
6. A cappuccino is a certain size, smaller than a frappuccino
A cappuccino is always going to be much smaller than a frappuccino. This is because a cappuccino is usually made with a 5 oz/150 ml cup, while a frappuccino is a 12 oz/350 ml drink at the smallest.
This makes your cup of cappuccino seem like a dwarf by comparison. If you were to set an tiny espresso next to them in comparison, the frappuccino would probably start to laugh.
This doesn't mean the frappuccino has more caffeine though, unless you specifically request a double shot of espresso in it. Which I'm not sure is possible, give that the espresso is hot.
Serving size is another thing to think of when you get your coffee drink. It might not seem like it, but think about it. You're sitting down, eating, and would like a small cappuccino to go with your meal (or after).
Bringing a large drink like a frappuccino into the equation would be just too much for your stomach.
Which drink you get is going to depend on whether you want to sip from a straw for the next hour something sweet and vaguely coffee tasting, or would like a short and simple coffee to get things over.
A few quick tips for brewing these two drinks
You can always make your own cappuccino, and you own frappuccino. They might not end up like they would by the hands of a barista, but hey you made them at home.
This means you need a good blender, and a good enough espresso machine to use for the espresso and steaming the milk. But let's see some actual, nice tips for brewing cappuccino or frappuccino at home.
Do try and use an espresso shot, it gives a better flavor
Obviously for a cappuccino, you'll need an espresso shot. But for a frappuccino, you might just get away with a filter coffee or even instant coffee.
But for a good coffee flavor, and one that's going to make your drink extra swirly and colorful, do try and get yourself an espresso shot. Make it a double if possible.
This will give you much more flavor and strength in your frappuccino, and the crema on top will add a nice color to the drink. Just add the coffee only at the end, after the cream was blended with the ice. This way you'll get both the cold coffee, and the streaks in the drink.
For a frappuccino, try using cold brew coffee
Another idea is to use a cold brew coffee for your frappuccino. The whole idea of a cold brew coffee is that it's easier to make iced drink with it. There is very little acidity in the drink, so there is less need for sugar and cream.
It's also a more subtle tasting coffee than hot coffee. It's stronger since this drink is meant to be more of a coffee essence rather than a drink on its own.
You can brew it as you like, and add it to your frappuccino. It would make it a stronger drink, and a great treat on hot summer days.
If you're adding powdered ingredients, put them in the cream
If you're looking to add powdered ingredients like cinnamon or cocoa, you should add those in the cream. Sprinkling hem on the top of the drink will only give you that burst of flavor on the top of the drink.
Adding them to the drink will be kind of pointless, since most ground spices do not dissolve in water. Cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa, pepper, they all have a good amount of fiber in them and they means they will float down to the bottom of your cup.
You're better off mixing the powder ingredients into the heavy cream, or into the whipped cream before applying it to your drink.
If you're making a cappuccino and you're wondering where to put the cinnamon, no worries. Add it to the milk foam, since it will hold the particles well enough.
Frappuccino and cappuccino are very different drinks, but they're both delicious in their own way. One is a simpler version of a latte, while the other is a much more complex and decorated version of a latte.
In a way a frappuccino is like a Christmas tree: it has everything, and we all like it colorful, but very specific about the colors.
I've had a frappuccino before, and it reminded me very much of a milkshake. I guess they're not terribly different, though connoisseurs will lash me for saying that. The differences are minimal, is all I'm saying.
Whichever drink you get, just know what you're getting and whether you like it or not. For me a frappuccino turned out to be too sweet, but I know I have less of a sweet tooth than most people I know.
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