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Cappuccino and mocha coffee beverages. Both are coffee drinks with a strong espresso kick and a creamy and sweet layer of milk components to boot.
So it’s no wonder people may have a hard time distinguishing these two specialty coffee drinks at coffee shops.
In this article, I will put them side by side, cappuccino vs mocha, so that you would fully understand how they’re different from each other, from the espresso base at the bottom to the steamed milk layer at the top.
Spoiler alert: One of the most noticeable differences is in the chocolate. Which coffee drink has it? Let’s find out.
What Is A Cappuccino Coffee Drink?
Cappuccino is an espresso-based beverage originating from Italy and well-loved for its pronounced layer of steamed milk foam.
The name of the drink references the color of the hoods worn by Italian monks and nuns who were followers of the Capuchin Order.
That’s because the drink with a dark coffee base (espresso), white milk slowly added, and a dollop of milk foam on top creates a very similar-looking color.
What Makes A Cappuccino
A cappuccino also gets mistaken with a café latte often as they essentially share the same ingredients, just in different amounts. Here’s a bit of Cappuccino vs Latte.
Compared to the latte that’s often served in tall glasses that can contain at least 200 ml (6.7 oz), cappuccino is offered in a relatively smaller size.
You most likely find a specialty coffee shop serving a cappuccino in 5 – 6 oz (150 – 180 ml) ceramic cups, whereas commercial coffee chains may serve them in bigger sizes that suit the consumption habits of consumers.
Some may also serve cappuccino in glass cups to show off the satisfyingly clear-cut layers of espresso, milk, and foam.
The common espresso to milk ratio is 1:2.
Some coffee shops may also add a final sprinkle of cinnamon on top for garnishing and adding more aroma and spice to the flavorful brew.
Use finely ground coffee that is dark-roasted to pull an espresso shot as the base.
You can also make 2 rather than just 1 shot of espresso to better fill a 6 oz cup.
Wondering how to make espresso coffee at home? Check my previous article for clear instructions on how to pull off an espresso shot like coffee aficionados using an espresso machine and alternative coffee makers.
You can use the beautiful thick copper-colored crema on top to help you roughly navigate whether the shot of espresso is good quality or not.
I mentioned above the ratio of espresso to milk in a cappuccino is around 1:2. But within those 2 milk parts, there’s one part for steamed milk and the other for milk foam.
So the ratio that captures cappuccino coffee drinks more precisely is:
- 1/3 espresso
- 1/3 steamed milk
- 1/3 milk froth
Use the steam wand that comes with your espresso machine to carefully steam the cold milk until it forms a thick layer of foam.
Be careful not to overheat the milk which can cause it to develop a sour aftertaste. It’s best to stay below 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a thermometer to have you keep an eye on it.
After you’ve finished steamed and foamed milk, use a tool with a flat surface like a spatula to hold back the milk froth while slowly pouring the steamed milk over the espresso.
Then use the same tool to scoop the microfoam on top of the drink. Sprinkle some cinnamon to perfectly recreate a coffee shop quality cup of cappuccino.
The strong coffee flavor is also more balanced with the sweetness of the milk, perfect for anyone looking for a bit of texture and less intense coffee taste.
What Is A Mocha?
A mocha, also known as a caffè mocha, is another coffee shop menu that belongs to the group of espresso-based drinks.
This espresso drink is named after the Mocha coffee beans used for brewing it. They’re a type of Arabica beans grown and traded in Mocha, Yemen, a major coffee marketplace with a rich history in both growing and trading coffee beans.
Mocha beans are most popular for their natural chocolate flavor.
Some baristas may add a bit more hot chocolate to the mocha drinks to enhance that chocolaty taste.
Is A Mocha Latte The Same As A Mocha?
The mocha coffee beverage that you’re familiar with and most likely what you get upon ordering at coffee shops is actually a different coffee drink that has a taste of chocolate, reminiscent of the OG mocha, but isn’t necessarily brewed with Mocha beans.
There can also be many variations. When you hear the word “mocha”, think of coffee + chocolate. So the drink can be anything under that umbrella.
The simplest example is a cup of hot chocolate with just a little coffee, specifically, a shot of espresso, poured over.
One of the most popular mocha coffee shop menus is the mocha latte. It’s basically a caffe latte with added chocolate, usually in the form of chocolate syrup.
You might have also heard of the mochaccino, a portmanteau, and a combination of mocha and cappuccino. Simply add a couple of drops of chocolate syrup into your cappuccino to give it the signature chocolate flavor of mocha.
Going forward, I will talk about both the OG recipe and common mocha lattes when referring to mocha.
What Makes A Mocha
In the traditional take, Mocha beans are used to brew espresso shots that have distinctly aromatic notes of chocolate.
The same amount of hot chocolate is then added to further enhance the chocolate taste. And, finally, the barista prepares milk to top the drink off with a bit of steamed milk and light milk foam.
The common preparation ratio is:
- 2/5 espresso
- 2/5 hot chocolate
- 1/5 steamed milk + a thin layer of foamed milk
Coffee drinkers with a sweet tooth can also enjoy some whipped cream, chocolate powder, syrup, cocoa powder, cinnamon, or even marshmallow for garnishing.
But all of those adornments can make the mocha more like a hot chocolate with a less intense espresso flavor. No judgment here, since everyone’s preference is different, but keep it low so that the espresso still peaks through.
And, to make the more common espresso-based drink mocha latte, you don’t have to use Mocha beans. Coffee shops often replace the hot chocolate part with chocolate syrup to make this milk-based drink still rich, luscious, and enjoyable.
All of the extra-ness in preparing this drink and the large volume make mocha better presented in a glass. But it’s not unusual to see mochas in the typical ceramic cups that most popular coffee drinks are served in, either.
Brew 2 shots of espresso (2 oz/59 ml) following my instructions for making the espresso base for a cappuccino using an espresso machine.
Use Mocha beans to perfect the traditional mocha.
Chocolate (Hot Chocolate/Chocolate Syrup)
Prepare 2 oz (59 ml) of hot chocolate made with white, milk, or dark chocolate to add on top of the espresso.
If you want to minimize the sweetness in your mocha, opt for the less sweet chocolates that have a higher cocoa content such as dark chocolate.
If you’re looking for something less intense, go with milk chocolate. The sugar and fat can make your mocha sweeter and lighter, easier to consume.
Otherwise, you can pull out your trustworthy chocolate syrup to do the job.
Use a milk frother to make 1 oz (30 ml) of steamed milk that’s sweet and creamy.
You don’t have to worry too much about creating a pronounced layer of microfoam as all you need is a light and thin layer.
Though there’s not that much milk, you can still make latte art to put on top of your delicious mocha.
You can also drizzle chocolate syrup on top of the milk foam and create a beautiful spider web, just in time for Halloween.
Differences Between Mocha And Cappuccino
That was probably a lot of information at once.
The section below will summarize exactly what you need to know about how these espresso-based drinks are different to determine which suits your personal preferences better.
You can taste a low-acid espresso flavor from a good cup of espresso due to the usage of dark-roasted beans.
Even though there are two milk components, which means there’s more milk than coffee in the cup, the deep coffee taste isn’t overwhelmed but instead elevated.
The layers of steamed and frothed milk add a sweet and creamy texture to the drink that makes you crave more.
Mocha tastes different from cappuccino from the espresso base. Mocha beans naturally give this drink a boost in the chocolate tone department.
Then comes the hot chocolate layer that boosts that chocolate flavor even further, creating an interesting blend of dark and intense chocolate with deep and luscious chocolate.
The steamed milk with a little bit of froth adds a little more sweetness and creaminess as a cherry on top.
If you’re using chocolate syrup, that can add more thickness to the brew as well. Overall, it’s a ride every sip you take.
Is mocha lighter than cappuccino?
Contrary to many beliefs, mocha when done right can be stronger than a cappuccino with its choco-ffee combo.
As I’ve explained above, the Italian drink cappuccino is known for its 3 distinctly equal layers of espresso, creamy steamed milk, and airy frothed milk.
On the other hand, milk is less of a centerpiece in a cup of mocha because the focus is on the coffee and the chocolate.
But that one ounce of steamed milk and a thin layer of milk froth still can’t be missed as they help lighten and add more texture to the drink.
Caffeine can be found in coffee, which is espresso, in this case.
So, depending on the preparation of each barista, different espresso-based drinks can share the same amount of caffeine content if they share the same base.
For cappuccino and mocha, following my recipes, that base should be a double shot of espresso which contains 103 mg of caffeine according to Caffeine Informer.
And lastly, one of the most obvious differences that can be observed at first sight is the number of garnishings added on top of each drink.
Cappuccino can do fine with just a sprinkle of cinnamon. But mocha gives coffee drinkers a lot more freedom to play around with the decorations.
To compensate for the thin layer of milk foam, you’ll most likely see baristas adding whipped cream to your mocha.
Other sweet ornaments may include more chocolate syrups and different kinds of powders and sprinkles. But don’t go overboard so that you can still preserve the espresso flavor.
The Final Verdict: Cappuccino vs Mocha
Get a cup of cappuccino if you prefer the classic taste of espresso that’s complemented by some fun and steamy milk.
And if you enjoy the excitingly deep taste of chocolate and coffee together, grab a mocha. Bonus points if you want your coffee like Michael Scott’s pretzel.