Our comparison guides look at the differences between popular coffee drinks, helping you to understand what they are, how they are made, and how they taste. Today, it’s Americano vs Cappuccino!
What are the differences and similarities between these two popular espresso-based drinks?
What is an Americano?
An Americano is an espresso diluted using hot water. The purpose of doing this is to create a drink that is less like an espresso shot and more like a strong black coffee.
The Americano was created during World War II, when American soldiers wanted a drink closer to what they were used to drinking at home.
How is an Americano made?
An Americano is made by pouring an espresso shot into a cup and then topping it up with hot water.
The espresso shot is created using an espresso machine, which forces pressurized hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. When undiluted, this results in a small but powerful coffee drink.
What is a Cappuccino?
The cappuccino is another type of espresso drink. It was named after the Capuchin friars whose robes were a similar color to the drink.
The cappuccino is extremely popular worldwide and is made using an espresso shot, steamed milk, and milk foam.
The drink is often topped off with a sprinkle of hot chocolate powder or cinnamon.
How is a cappuccino made?
The first step to making a cappuccino is to make the espresso and pouring it into a cup. So far, just like an Americano. But this is where the similarities end.
Next, steamed milk should be added to the espresso before adding a thick layer of milk foam to fill the cup.
The volume of each part of the cappuccino should be equal. A sprinkle of chocolate powder over the foam adds the finishing touch to this milky coffee.
The Difference Between an Americano and Cappuccino
Even though they both use espresso shots as their base, the Americano and cappuccino are very different coffees.
They are both diluted espresso, but the Americano is diluted with water, whereas the cappuccino is diluted with milk. This results in a very different drink.
The Americano uses hot water to dilute the espresso, which will dissolve the crema on top of the espresso and produce a strong, rich flavor that can be bitter.
A cappuccino can reduce espresso’s bitterness and provide a slightly more sweet, creamy flavor and texture.
Cappuccinos are often topped with chocolate. As you would expect, if chocolate powder is added to the foamed milk, it makes the drinker sweeter and less bitter.
The caffeine levels in a cappuccino and Americano are typically similar as they are both espresso-based drinks.
An espresso shot is a crucial ingredient in both, so they tend to have similar levels of caffeine.
The caffeine levels can be increased by using a double shot of espresso to make the coffees stronger.
Americano vs. Cappuccino
Pitting two coffee drinks against each other will always be difficult because everyone has different tastes. However, taking the time to check their differences can sometimes help make a decision easier.
Because they are both espresso-based drinks, getting the proper equipment to make them at home can be expensive. Learning to brew your coffee correctly can be challenging, so you will likely choose these in coffee shops.
One great way to separate these two options is by looking at how they are diluted.
The robust and rich taste of the Americano is achieved by using hot water to dissolve the crema.
The sweet and creamy taste of the cappuccino comes from the espresso being diluted with steamed milk and foam.
Both coffees pack a weaker punch than an undiluted espresso. However, there is always the option to use two espresso shots, or reduce the milk or water content, to make your coffee stronger.
Americano vs Cappuccino: Final Thoughts
Whether you like a strong, rich coffee or prefer a lightly sweet, creamier taste, choosing between a delicious Americano or cappuccino should be relatively straightforward.
Adding steamed milk rather than hot water to your preferred coffee drink will make it sweeter and give it a creamier and thicker texture.
Alternatively, you might be looking for the strong, black coffee with a rich flavor that the Americano can provide.
Many types of coffee drinks allow you to enjoy the espresso’s natural flavor; you just have to find the right one for you.
FAQs – Americano vs. Cappuccino
Coffee shops are generally happy to add milk, cream, sugar, or other flavors to your Americano.
Using flavored syrup is a great way to sweeten and add a new flavor to your Americano, with great options including vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, and chocolate syrup.
The most common addition to a cappuccino is a dusting of chocolate on top of the milk foam. Most coffee shops will ask whether you want this, and it is of course entirely dependent on your personal preference.
Like the Americano, you can also add sugar or other flavors to a cappuccino.
Because an Americano is just espresso and hot water, it is easy to increase the strength by adding an extra shot of espresso or reducing the amount of hot water used to dilute the espresso.
If you want a strong cappuccino, adding a double shot of espresso will work. Alternatively, you can increase or decrease the steamed milk and foam for a stronger or milder taste.
While most people make do with regular coffee in the house and only indulge in espresso coffee drinks when out, making Americanos and cappuccinos at home is possible.
Investing in a traditional espresso machine will be relatively expensive. However, depending on how often you visit your local coffee shop, you might be able to make savings in the long run.
I’m Joel, an espresso-loving coffee nerd. I got into coffee because I spent a lot of time in Milan as a kid and started liking coffee waaaay too young. I’m all about making sure espresso is treated with the same care as any other coffee – it’s not just a quick drink!