Walking into a coffee shop today you are faced with a plethora of choices. Espresso? Latte? Cappuccino? Macchiato? Mocha? It’s easy to get confused. While all of these drinks are espresso-based, the differences in proportion yield different flavors and textures.
Today we will take a deeper look at two popular coffee beverages; Cappuccino vs Mocha. One a quintessential Italian drink, the other a chocolate lover’s dream. So let’s get into it!
Cappuccino vs Mocha- In Short
In short, a cappuccino is a small, strong coffee drink, characterized by a layer of espresso, a layer of steamed milk, and then topped with luscious milk froth and perhaps a sprinkle of cocoa or cinnamon. The Cappuccino has a strong coffee flavor and is one of the most popular coffee recipes to date.
In contrast, a Mocha is more like a hot chocolate with 1-2 espresso shots added. The drink consists of espresso, a chocolate component, and steamed milk, and is topped with chocolate syrup or powder. The mocha is a much sweeter drink and is often considered a gateway drink for those not accustomed to strong coffee.
What is a Cappuccino?
While the Cappuccino is considered a classic Italian drink, the drink actually dates back hundreds of years, to 18th-century Vienna. Here coffee houses served an early version of the drink, known as a Kapuziner, made with brewed coffee, whipped cream, and sugar. This was the first appearance of the word Cappuccino, but the drink itself was a lot different from the modern cappuccino.
Years later in the early 20th century, the Italian Cappuccino emerged after the invention of the espresso machine. The name of these two drinks stems from the brown color of the robes that Capuchin monks wore, which resembles the color of both drinks. The Cappuccino was an integral part of Italian culture, commonly consumed in the morning. The Italian Cappuccino was still quite a different drink from the modern cappuccino. It typically had a white top of frothed milk with a brown ring of espresso around the edge and was intended to be drunk quickly.
Fast forward to the modern day and the cappuccino is a staple in coffee shops around the world. The anatomy of the cappuccino is sometimes described in a rule of thirds- ⅓ Espresso, ⅓ Steamed Milk, ⅓ Milk Froth. However, this description is not particularly accurate as that would mean a single espresso shot (30ml) would only yield a 90ml drink. Rather this idea is helpful in describing the distinctive layers that form in a cappuccino when steamed milk is poured into the espresso.
In reality, the modern cappuccino varies from shop to shop. The espresso is prepared with an espresso machine and typically a darker roasted coffee bean is used. Steamed milk is then added to the espresso followed by a layer of milk froth on top. A traditional cappuccino is served in a small cup with some sort of latte art on top. Some coffee shops also garnish the top with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or cinnamon. Most use a ratio of 1:3 to 1:4 espresso to milk with a 1-2 cm layer of foam on top. At the heart of it, the Cappuccino is about two things; a strong coffee flavor and a thick layer of foam.
What Is A Mocha?
On the other hand, we have the Mocha. Whereas a Cappuccino is all about the coffee with a sprinkle of chocolate sometimes added, the Mocha is the opposite. With this drink, chocolate really takes center stage, made from espresso and chocolate syrup in steamed milk.
The Mocha is said to be named after a type of coffee bean from Yemen. The Mocha coffee bean had a naturally sweet and chocolatey flavor. While the modern Mocha is not made from these coffee beans it shares a similar flavor profile with the addition of chocolate.
In modern cafes, there are no real ratios agreed upon for a Mocha, each cafe has its own version. In general, a Mocha consists of a single or double shot of espresso, with a similar amount of chocolate syrup or powder added, topped with steamed milk. The espresso is prepared on an espresso machine in the same way as for a cappuccino, but the chocolate is then added to the drink before the steamed milk is poured in. The chocolate gives the drink a sweet and rich flavor, and it is typically served in a larger cup than a cappuccino. The Mocha is often graced with latte art on top and a sprinkle of chocolate powder or a drizzle of sauce.
The chocolate component varies from cafe to cafe. Some use cocoa powder, others chocolate syrup, or for a really decadent Mocha, chocolate ganache made with dark chocolate and cream.
The Mocha is often dismissed as a drink for those not serious about coffee. And while it is a lot sweeter and more decadent than traditional espresso-based drinks, it is a good stepping stone for those not accustomed to strong coffee.
Differences Between A Cappuccino and Mocha
While the Cappuccino and Mocha both have the same core ingredients; espresso, milk, and chocolate, there are a lot of differences between the two beverages.
One of the key differences between a Cappuccino and a Mocha comes down to the milk preparation. A distinctive of the Cappuccino is that the drink is topped with a thick layer of foam. Given this, the milk is aerated slightly longer to produce a decent amount of foam. In contrast, with a Mocha, you steam the milk in a similar way to steaming milk for a latte, producing silky microform.
Although both drinks often have similar amounts of espresso in them, they taste rather different and this really comes down to the chocolate component. A Cappuccino has a strong, bold coffee flavor. Coffee really is at the forefront of this drink. With a Mocha, the addition of chocolate makes it a lot sweeter drink. The chocolate pairs well with the espresso and cuts through the bitterness.
While there are no set rules for how to top each drink off, the toppings typically reflect the purpose of the drink. The cappuccino is all about celebrating the coffee flavor, so the drink has thick foamed milk and sometimes a sprinkle of chocolate or cinnamon powder.
The Mocha is all about chocolate so once again this is reinforced with the toppings. Some have steamed milk topped with cocoa or a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Other more decadent versions have whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
The number of calories in a Cappuccino vs Mocha will ultimately come down to how the drink is prepared and factors like the type of milk used and the amount of chocolate added. In general, a standard Cappuccino has somewhere around 80 calories while a Mocha has around 400 calories. Unsurprisingly, the Mocha is not all that healthy especially if it is loaded with chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream.
A Cappuccino and Mocha both have similar amounts of caffeine in them, given they are typically made with a double shot of espresso. If the drink is made with a single shot of espresso you can expect around 63mg of caffeine, or if it is a double shot, around 125mg of caffeine.
Which Is Better? A Cappuccino or Mocha?
Deciding between these two coffee drinks will really come down to personal preference. If you are a coffee purist then a Cappuccino is the obvious choice with the strong, complex coffee flavor at the forefront. If you have a sweet tooth or are not used to drinking coffee, a Mocha is an excellent starting point. With a sweet, decadent chocolatey flavor that mellows out the bold coffee.
|Espresso||Yes- single or double shot||Yes- single or double shot|
|Milk||Textured milk with a thick layer of foam||Steamed milk|
|Flavor Notes||Smooth, strong, complex coffee flavor||Sweet, decadent, rich chocolate flavor|
|Caffeine Content||63-125mg of caffeine||63-125mg of caffeine|
|Topping||Milk foam, sometimes with a dusting of chocolate or cinnamon powder||Steamed milk or whipped cream with a sprinkle of chocolate powder or a drizzle of sauce.|
Cappuccino vs Mocha- In Summary
In conclusion, while the Cappuccino and Mocha both feature the same core ingredients; espresso, steamed milk, and (in some cases) chocolate, these two coffee drinks are very different in flavor. The key difference between a Cappuccino vs Mocha comes down to the role of chocolate.
A Cappuccino is a coffee-forward drink, where espresso is paired with creamy, frothy milk and sometimes a dusting of cocoa on top. If you like coffee with a strong espresso flavor and frothy texture then a cappuccino is the obvious choice. In contrast, a Mocha is heavy on chocolate, making it a lot sweeter and richer drink.