Cappuccino vs Mocha: All the Key Differences Explained

Introduction: Cappuccino vs Mocha 

In the world of espresso-based beverages, there are several choices with distinct differences for coffee lovers to choose from. Two popular coffee drinks found at most coffee shops are the cappuccino and mocha. Both of these drinks share a foundation of milk and espresso, but they have several key differences. In this post, you will learn all the key similarities and the main differences between a cappuccino vs mocha. 

Cappuccino vs Mocha: What is the Main Difference?

Cafe mochas contain freshly-brewed espresso that is sweetened with chocolate sauce, and topped with steamed milk and a thin layer of milk froth. Cappuccinos on their own do not contain any sweetener, and instead contain equal proportions of espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth. 

blue-green mug containing a mocha. The mug is sitting on a napkin on a wooden cutting board with cocoa powder sprinkled on the napkin and cutting board.

Cappuccino vs Mocha: Name and Origin

Cappuccino Name and Origin

The name “cappuccino” is derived from the name of a type of Franciscan Italian Friar, known as the Capuchin Friars. It was thought that the appearance of the cappuccino resembled the attire of these friars, which included a brown robe and a haircut in which they shaved the top of their heads. 

Mocha Name and Origin

Mochas are named after a type of coffee bean known for its chocolatey taste that originated in Yemen. These coffee beans were exported out of the Port of Moka in Yemen and were thus named “moka beans.” Mochas as we know them in the United States do not actually contain mocha beans, but they are named because the addition of chocolate sauce to the coffee is reminiscent of the chocolate flavor of the mocha coffee bean.

Cappuccino vs Mocha: Preparation

How Are Mochas Made?

To make a mocha, skilled baristas add freshly-brewed espresso and chocolate sauce to a cup. Then, they add steamed milk over the chocolate and coffee. This mixes the ingredients together, creating a beautiful rich chocolatey brown beverage. A topping of whipped cream adds a final layer of sweetness and creaminess. 

To Make a Basic Mocha:

Step 1: Brew a double shot of espresso

Step 2: Add 1 oz of chocolate sauce to a coffee mug

Step 3: Pour 6 oz of cold milk into a milk pitcher.  Use a steam wand to heat the milk until the temperature registers between 145-165F. Avoid heating above this temperature or you will scald the milk and alter the flavor. The volume of the milk should expand by about 1/3.

Step 4: Pour the brewed espresso into the mug, then pour the hot milk over the top to fill the mug. Feel free to do some latte art if you are proficient in it. 

Step 5: Add any desired toppings such as a dusting of cocoa powder, whipped cream, or chocolate shavings.

How Are Cappuccinos Made?

Cappuccinos begin with a base of two shots of espressos. Next, equal proportions of steamed milk and milk foam are poured over the espresso. This results in a layered drink with a light and airy appearance due to the milk foam.

To Make a Basic Cappuccino:

Step 1: Brew a double shot of espresso and pour it in a mug

Step 2: Use a steam wand or hand held milk frother to steam 1/3 cup of milk, slightly tipping the pitcher. You want to hold the steam wand just below the surface of the milk until it has doubled in size. Then, you can lower the wand deeper into the milk and steam it until the temperature is between 145F-165F.

Step 3: Pour the milk over the espresso and enjoy. You will have a bit of extra milk, which you can add to your cappuccino or use it for another espresso drink (like a macchiato). 

Cappuccino in white coffee mug that has a silver spoon to the left of the mug and saucer. They are sitting on a brown table.
Cappuccino Photo by Bryan Burgos on Unsplash

H2 Mocha vs Cappuccino: Appearance and Presentation

Cappuccinos have a much simpler appearance compared to a mocha. Cappuccino’s ingredients give it a simple appearance with a delicate layer of microfoam that sits on top of the drink. It may or may not have a dusting of cinnamon or cocoa to augment the appearance. 

In comparison, mochas often have several different types of toppings. Some of these options include whipped cream, chocolate syrup, cocoa or chocolate powder, or chocolate shavings. 

H2 Mochas vs Cappuccino: Taste

What Do Mochas Taste Like?

The fusion of espresso and rich chocolate from a mocha creates a delightful drink that has a perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness. The sweetness from the chocolate evens out the strong, bitter flavor from the espresso. 

White mochas, have even less bitterness because white chocolate does not contain any of the cocoa solids. This component of the cocoa bean imparts the bitter flavor dark chocolate is known for. White chocolate only contains the fat solids from the cocoa bean. When white chocolate is used in a mocha to create a white chocolate mocha, the result is a rich, creamy, sweet coffee, that is less bitter than both a cappuccino and a regular mocha. 

What Do Cappuccinos Taste Like?

Cappuccinos have a strong coffee flavor, but it is balanced by the addition of steamed milk and milk foam. They are often likened to lattes, however these drinks are quite different. Cappuccinos have significantly less milk than a latte, and contains more frothed milk. This results in a stronger coffee flavor that is complemented by the velvety milk and thick, cloud-like layer of milk foam that sits atop the drink. 

Which Tastes Better: Cappuccino or Mocha?

Which of these espresso drinks tastes better comes down to personal taste preferences. Mochas are an excellent choice for those who love rich and indulgent coffee drinks. In terms of their taste and creamy texture, mochas fall somewhere between a hot chocolate and a latte. This sweeter coffee beverage is also a great option for people who are new to drinking coffee and are getting used to the bitter flavor of coffee. 

Cappuccinos are best for those who want to experience the full flavor of the espresso, but enjoy a bit of milk to add creaminess and cut the bitterness of the coffee. 

H2 Variations of Mochas and Cappuccinos

Your local coffee shop might offer several variations of mochas and cappuccinos. 

Variations of Mocha

  • White mocha (contains white chocolate sauce)
  • Iced Mocha
  • Peppermint mocha (this is popular choice during the Christmas season)
There is a white mocha in a white mug. The mocha contains latte art and has a sprinkle of cocoa powder on the left of the drink. This is sitting on a gray table. In the background, there is a blurry image of a green plant.
White Mocha

Variations of Cappuccino

  • Flavored (using flavored syrups such as vanilla or caramel)
  • Bone Dry Cappuccino (contains more foam than steamed milk)
  • Wet Cappuccino (contains less foam and more steamed milk)

Can You Make an Iced Cappuccino?

Technically, an iced cappuccino is the same as an iced latte. Cappuccinos are differentiated from other milk and espresso-based beverages by the proportions of milk foam, steamed milk and espresso. A standard cappuccino has equal proportions of these three ingredients. Milk foam and steamed milk are achieved by heating the milk. When the milk is not heated, a cappuccino cannot be made. 

If you want an iced version of a cappuccino, your best bet is to order a small latte and add an extra shot of espresso. This will result in an iced coffee that is stronger than a regular iced latte, which is more reminiscent of a cappuccino.

Best Non-Dairy Milks for Mochas and Cappuccinos

Cappuccinos and mochas usually contain whole milk, however they can be made vegan and dairy-allergy friendly by using an alternative non-dairy milk: 

  • Oat milk
  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut Milk
  • Macadamia Milk

Unfortunately, most non-dairy milks do not produce as much froth as cow’s milk. However, several non-dairy milk brands have recently produced “barista blends” of their vegan milk offerings. These barista blends respond better to the frothing process and are best for cappuccinos, which requires a thick layer of milk froth.

Milk being poured into a mason jar containing coffee. There is a vase with green leaves on the right. These items are sitting on a gray table.

Health Benefits of Cappuccinos vs Mochas

Do Mochas or Cappuccinos Have More Caffeine?

Mochas and cappuccinos have a very similar caffeine content if they are both made with a double shot (two shots) of espresso. Mochas have slightly more caffeine than cappuccinos because chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine. 

A double espresso shot contains 128 mg of caffeine. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2345938/nutrients  

Many mocha recipes use about 1 oz of chocolate mocha sauce, which has 5 mg of caffeine. 

Because of this extra 5 mg of caffeine from the chocolate, a mocha with a double shot of espresso contains 133 mg of caffeine. A cappuccino made with a double shot of espresso contains only 128 mg of caffeine. 

Do Cappuccinos or Mochas Have More Calories?

Mochas have more calories than a cappuccino due to the larger volume of milk and the added chocolate sauce they contain. An 12-oz mocha, which is commonly served as a size small at coffee shops, contains 240 calories. In contrast, a 6 oz cappuccino only contains 50 calories

Which is Healthier, Mocha or Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is a healthier option than a mocha because mochas contain added chocolate sauce that is high in sugar and calories. Cappuccinos also have fewer overall calories because they are unsweetened and contain less milk than a mocha. 

FAQs

How is a Mocha Different from a Latte? 

Mochas are essentially a variation of a latte. In fact, the mocha is often referred to as a “mocha latte.” Similarly to a caffe latte, a mocha contains espresso, a large amount of milk and a small layer of microfoam. The only difference between a mocha and a latte is that mochas have added chocolate sauce. Here we have a full post discussing the differences between iced mochas and iced lattes.

How to Make Espresso If I Don’t Have an Espresso Machine?

If you want to make  a homemade cappuccino or a mocha but don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a moka pot.* This stovetop espresso maker uses heat and pressure to produce a strong coffee that is very similar to espresso. While technically true espresso, this is the best espresso alternative you can make at home without an espresso machine. 

Are Cappuccinos Sweet or Bitter?

Cappuccinos have a slightly bitter taste due to the espresso. This bitterness is offset by the addition of milk, which adds a slight sweetness. However, those who are not used to the strong espresso flavor will find the drink tastes more bitter than sweet. To offset the bitterness, a small amount of added sugar can help balance the bold flavor of the espresso. Here we have a full post discussing all the best ways to sweeten a cappuccino.

Are Cappuccinos the Same as a Flat White?

Cappuccinos and flat whites are both served in smaller sizes than lattes or mochas. They usually come in 6-8 oz sizes. They differ in the proportions of steamed milk and milk foam. Cappuccinos have equal proportions of steamed milk and milk foam. Flat whites have a high proportion of steamed milk, with only a very small layer of milk foam. 

Conclusion

Mochas and cappuccinos are two popular drinks that have several key differences. They both start with a base of espresso but differ in their proportions of milk, coffee and milk foam. Cappuccinos contain equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Mochas have a large volume of steamed milk compared to the espresso, and only have a thin layer of milk foam.  Mochas are also sweetened with chocolate sauce, whereas cappuccinos are not traditionally sweetened. These espresso-based drinks each have their benefits, and which drink to choose comes down to a matter of personal preference. Those who have a sweet tooth will probably enjoy mochas. People who appreciate the full flavor profile of coffee will likely enjoy a cappuccino. 

*This post contains affiliate links in which I make a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase through the link. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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