Coffee Talk: Café au Lait, Cappuccino, Latté, Machiatto

What's the Difference?

Whether we're headed across campus for class or into the office for work, chances are that most of us have a travel mug of something caffeinated in our hands. Chances are even better that your beverage of choice is some combination of coffee, milk, and foam! Do you know the difference between a cappuccino and a latté?

It's incredible how many variations of coffee + milk + foam are actually possible! Change one little thing and the drink goes from bitter to rich, or from creamy to airy.

Café au Lait - This drink is simply half brewed coffee and half warmed milk. You might get a little foam on top, but the essential idea is thinning the strong coffee with a generous amount of warm, creamy milk.

Latté - Similar to a café au lait, lattés are made with a shot (or three) of espresso poured into the bottom of a mug and topped with steamed milk and a thin layer of foam. Some people prefer to add the espresso last so it that sinks through the milk and foam instead, but the idea is the same.

Cappuccino - We've always thought of cappuccinos as the opposite of lattés. A cappuccino also uses shots of espresso, but the proportions of milk and foam are reversed: a little milk, lots of foam. This gives you a much stronger coffee flavor. The key to a good cappuccino in our opinion is really excellent foam.

Machiatto - If you like really intense coffee flavor, try one of these! It's simply a shot of espresso topped with a little foam - no milk! Back in our barista days, we also liked a version where we replaced the foam with a little dollop of whipped cream. Not a bad way to wake up in the morning!

See what we mean? Just a few simple ingredients, but lots of ways to change it up and make a drink that suits your tastes exactly.

What's your favorite way to drink coffee?

Related: Best Coffee for Hot Days: Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

(Image: Flickr member DeaPeaJay licensed under Creative Commons)