Dry VS Wet VS Bone Dry Cappuccino – What They All Mean

Don’t know if you should order your cappuccino dry or wet ? I didn’t either, until a barista explained it to me, and then I just stared at her.

It’s one of those barista/coffee lover lingo things that will absolutely catch you off guard if you don’t know your favorite order by heart.

So here it is, a (hopefully) comprehensive explanation of dry, wet, and bone dry cappuccinos.

dry cappuccino

General structure of a cappuccino

To begin understanding what on Earth dry and wet mean for a cappuccino, we first need to remember what a cappuccino is made of.

The most widely accepted structure is 1 part espresso, 3 parts steamed milk, and one part frothed milk. That’s an ounce for each part, so you’ll be left with a 5 oz/150 ml drink.

The wet and dry refer to what kind of milk is used the most in your cappuccino.

Steamed milk is ‘wet’, frothed milk is ‘dry’.

What is a wet cappuccino ?

A wet cappuccino is the traditional cappuccino, which contains more steamed milk than it does frothed milk. This results in the cappuccino flavor we all know and love. A very creamy, silky kind of cappuccino.

This is because the steamed milk offers a smooth texture and helps your cup of cappuccino simply taste smoother. It also helps round off the sharp, bitter edges of coffee since milk tends to sweeten and dull harsh flavors (eg. black tea).

You might wonder why people even bothered to come up with a word for the traditional cappuccino, if it was already well known. Well, it became known as ‘wet’ since it’s pretty much the opposite of a ‘dry’ cappuccino.

What is a dry cappuccino ?

A dry cappuccino, as opposed to a wet one, contains only a small amount of steamed milk. Exactly how much is the norm for a dry cappuccino, no one is sure, but it’s definitely more foamed milk than steamed milk.

wet cappuccino
A wet cappuccino in progress.

It gets the name ‘dry’ from the smaller amount of milk that’s actually used in the drink. After all, you drink is topped with foamed milk, which contains mostly air, and is thus ‘dry’.

This is especially true if you ask for foamed milk, and not microfoam. The difference being that foamed milk has larger air bubbles than microfoam, which has the tiniest air bubbles ever.

What’s a bone dry cappuccino, then ?

A bone dry cappuccino is one that only has espresso and foamed milk. No steamed milk at all, which makes for a really interesting contrast.

On one hand you’ve got the strong, bitter, rich espresso shots, and their accompanying layer of crema.

On the other hand you’ve got the buttery, milky frothed milk with its smoother, sweeter flavor. Very much like having a bite of white and 85% dark chocolate, all in one mouthful.

You get to savor one of the most beautiful contrasts possible, in terms of drinks.

My suggestion would be to not add any sugar to a bone dry cappuccino, and instead try your best to understand it, explore it, and really get to taste and feel the difference in texture and flavor between the two halves of the drink.

This is a really fun exercise if you’re a black coffee enthusiast, and it’s also a great way to get used to black coffee in the first place, if you’re headed that way.

A super wet cappuccino is basically a latte

What about super wet cappuccinos ? They’re all wet, from a practical point of view. As wet as they can get.

Well, you’re not wrong. In the case of a super wet cappuccino, it’s actually something that very much resembles a latte. Actually it might even be considered a latte and be done with.

The ‘super wet’ comes from the extra steamed milk added to an already ‘wet’ cappuccino. So if a wet one has 3 oz/100 ml of steamed milk, a super wet one could have double that amount, possible even more.

Again, that’ pretty much a latte if you ask me, so we’re not that far from making things sound way too ridiculous.

Conclusion

Know what drink you’d like before you walk into that coffee shop. Otherwise you might confuse the barista, yourself, and the next 3 customers behind you when asking for ‘a cappuccino, please’.

It may have been the norm back in 2010, but apparently now you need to state the degree of moistness in your drink order as well.

If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?