If you are an experienced barista or a long-time coffee aficionado, you might understand the difference between espresso-based drinks such as cappuccino, macchiato and mocha. But, even then you might not be 100 percent sure how to keep the intended authenticity of such beverages.

Whether you have come to this page to end an argument, learn to make a proper espresso drink or to stop feeling intimidated by your local coffee house’s menu, you have come to the right place.

Most importantly, you do not need a magic wand to make cappuccino, macchiato or mocha. All it takes is the right recipe and some patience. We have provided the former, and hopefully, you can find the latter within you!

READ MORE: Latte vs Latte Macchiato vs Flat White

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What is a Cappuccino

Cappuccino is a non-alcoholic espresso based Italian drink that is prepared with coffee and milk. It has a frothy top and a layer of steamed milk that sits comfortably over a shot of finely brewed espresso.

Authentic cappuccino is made with a 25ml (.84oz) shot of espresso and 125ml (4.22oz) of dairy milk (preferably 3.2% fat) which is steamed and frothed at 55 °C. The perfect serving size for this drink is between 150 and 160ml (5 to 5.4oz).

The microfoam of the cappuccino is a result of the frothed milk and it needs to be no more than twice the volume of the original milk. Interestingly, in order to get the perfect microbubbles in the foam, you should use skimmed milk, rather than whole milk. What not too many people know, is that skimmed milk is actually higher on protein, and the molecules of protein are responsible for producing more voluminous foam.

The most common mistake when preparing this type of drink is to add an equal amount of espresso and milk.

The coffee to milk ratio of cappuccino should be:

  • 1/3 Espresso
  • 1/3 Steamed dairy milk
  • 1/3 Milk foam

Interesting fact:

The word “cappuccino” is not inherently Italian. It actually originates from Latin “Caputium”, which later was borrowed in German and turned into “kapuziner” – meaning, hood. However, the famous drink does not get its name from the word “hood”. Instead, the name is attributed to the monks and nuns of the Capuchin order, because the coffee drink resembles the color of their hooded robes.

What is a Macchiato

Café Macchiato is an espresso-based coffee drink that also contains a little bit of milk. If you guess that it originates from Italy, you have guessed correctly.

Translated from Italian, café macchiato means stained or spotted coffee. I know this does not sound very appetizing, but it refers to the spot of milk on top of the espresso.

Authentic macchiato is prepared with one shot of espresso and just one or two (5 to 10 grams) teaspoons of dairy milk. For best practices, the milk must be heated to 60-66 °C before applied to the drink.

Interesting fact:

Even though café macchiato has its roots in Italy, the name does not simply come out of translation. In fact, it was baristas in Portugal who begun to use the name first, in order to demonstrate waiters the difference between a regular espresso and an espresso with a drop of milk. This is why if you want to enjoy a macchiato in Portugal, you will have to order a “café pingado”, meaning coffee with a drop.

What is a Mocha

Café mocha is every chocolate lover’s first choice. Also known as mocaccino, this espresso-based beverage is what can be described as a chocolate-flavored version of a regular latte.

Unlike other espresso and hot milk-based drinks, there is no authentic way to prepare café mocha. The variety and availability of different chocolates make sure of that. Your mocha can be complete whether you choose to add cocoa powder or chocolate syrup. In addition, the chocolate dark or milk, adding even more distinct flavor to the beverage.

Furthermore, mochas usually do contain milk froth on top, but this is also not necessarily. Baristas often like to experiment by adding whipped cream instead, making this espresso beverage feel more like hot chocolate. Perhaps only missing the floating marshmallows.

As a matter of fact, espresso is not a necessary ingredient for mochas. There is a variant where this beverage can be made with coffee instead. Just as long as hot milk and a shot of chocolate are added.

Even though there are many variants of the café mocha, the preparation still requires high skills and experience. Below is our favorite mocha recipe:

  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup 3.2 dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon hot cocoa mix
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
  • ½ cup strong coffee or single espresso shot

Interesting fact:

The name of this beverage is derived from a city called Mocha, located on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. This city was a major marketplace for coffee around the 15th century and ever since it has been prized for its Mocha beans.

Final Thoughts

As promised, none of the above recipes included the use of a magic wand. However, their preparation does require additional tools.

The best way to make delicious cappuccino, macchiato or mocha drinks is by using a reliable espresso maker with a built-in coffee grinder. This way you truly master the entire preparation process.

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Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.