Last Updated on January 27, 2022 by John Moretti
Walk into any cafe, and you’ll see dozens of coffee options, from blends and flavors to artisan drinks and custom mixes. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of caffeine. So if you’re wondering what the difference between a mocha and a cappuccino is, you’ve come to the right place.
Even though the basic ingredients of mocha and cappuccino are the same, the real difference between a mocha and a cappuccino is in the espresso to milk ratio, along with additional flavoring and toppings.
In this article you’ll learn what exactly sets these two coffee drinks apart. That includes where they come from, how they’re brewed, and differences in flavor and texture. You’ll also learn about the flavor differences between the two drinks so you can better pick your favorite!
Background and Origin
- Cappuccino is the Italian word for the clothes worn by monks of a specific religious order. These robes provided a contrast between the color of the skin and the color of the cloth. Similarly, there is a distinct contrast between the various layers of a cappuccino.
- On the other hand, the mocha originates from Yemen. It is named after the local word for a type of wild coffee that grows in the area. So the origins of these two drinks vary greatly. However, despite their different backgrounds, both are loved by coffee lovers throughout the world.
Mocha and Cappuccino Ratios
Even though the two are very different drinks, the basic formula for making a cappuccino or mocha is essentially the same. Each starts with a base of espresso, and steamed milk is then added on top.
The difference, however, is in the specific quantities of each ingredient, along with the flavors and textures:
For a mocha, the barista adds in two shots of espresso at first. These make up 2 out of 5 portions of the drink, making it a relatively strong beverage in terms of caffeine content compared to a cappuccino.
Mochas have a 2:2:1 ratio with 2 parts of espresso on the bottom, layered with 2 parts of chocolate on top of that. Finally, a thin layer of steamed milk forms the final layer.
This makes the mocha a much more complex drink than a cappuccino in terms of its flavor. Not only do you get a strong hit of coffee, but there are also notes of chocolate mixed in there to provide an additional flavor.
Finally, the addition of dairy at the end helps lighten up the flavor a little, giving the drink a more refreshing note, especially for those who do not like a very concentrated flavor.
For the cappuccino, the barista may add 1 or 2 shots depending on your preference and the coffee shop. However, the main difference is that here, the espresso makes up only 1 out of 3 portions of your drink. Due to this, the cappuccino has a lower caffeine content when compared to a mocha.
Cappuccinos typically have a 1:1:1 ratio, with 1 part espresso, 1 part steamed milk, and 1 part light froth. The heated milk gives the drink a creamier texture. Moreover, the additional dairy content also makes the drink a bit more forgiving for new coffee drinkers who may not yet be used to the bitter taste.
Another thing to note is that due to the lower content, the drink is overall slightly less acidic, which can be a benefit to anyone who suffers from a sensitive stomach.
How Do Mocha and Cappuccino Taste?
Cappuccinos are characterized by their distinct, layered flavor, while mochas are loved for their chocolatey taste. So, there’s a clear difference between the two drinks. Of course, that isn’t all there is to it.
When it comes to texture and flavor, there is a clear standard for a good cappuccino. Skilled baristas will compete to create the perfect brew, painstakingly prepared in a tall, transparent glass, so each layer is crisp and visible.
Some baristas may even go a step further to add their own unique twist to the drink, including some art on the top made with the help of coffee powder. These days, many coffee shops even use machines to ‘print out’ custom images on top of the drink.
On the other hand, mochas leave a lot more room for personal interpretation, making these drinks highly customized depending on the drinker and the coffee shop.
Each barista will prepare this coffee drink in their own way, with different chocolates, recipes, and additional flavorings, so a mocha from one cafe will vary greatly from a mocha in another cafe. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find two drinks that have the same taste.
In case you enjoy a great deal of variety in your drinks, mochas may be the right choice. Thanks to the endless varieties available, you can try a new one every day for weeks upon weeks. The downside, however, is that you may not know what you are getting yourself into since each drink is different.
This is why ordering a regular cappuccino is definitely the safer choice. Every time you order a cappuccino, you will know what to expect. Although there may still be some variation between coffee shops, cappuccinos are likely to be more similar to each other than different mochas.
However, once you find a cafe that serves a rich and chocolatey mocha that delights your tastebuds, you’ll never go back. These drinks are simply richer and more luxurious than their more down-to-earth counterparts.
What Are The Best Toppings For Mocha and Cappuccino?
Another aspect that sets these coffee drinks apart is their toppings. A cappuccino is topped with light milk foam. The froth makes up a third of the drink and is stiff and airy.
For longtime cappuccino drinkers, this is one of the best parts of the drink and adds a fun twist to the classic milk and espresso combination.
With a mocha, things are a bit more variable. You can get the top layer personalized to suit your taste. You can ask your barista for a subdued flavor with the inclusion of a thick layer of microfoam on top. The microfoam will be denser and help make the flavor of the coffee a little bit less punchy.
Alternatively, you can also request a richer, creamier combination by including a layer of whipped cream on top. The texture of the whipped cream adds a luscious and interesting aspect to the drink by breaking up the usual liquid texture.
Another favorite inclusion is a small layer of chocolate powder on top of the whipped cream or foam. This is particularly suitable for coffee lovers who simply cannot get enough chocolate in their mocha.
Thus, the mocha brings a lot of flexibility to the table. Depending on what toppings you go for, you can make it very similar to a cappuccino with only the addition of chocolate. Or, if you go all out with whipped cream and chocolate powder, this drink can become very similar to hot chocolate.
Although cappuccinos and mochas share a series of similarities, such as the inclusion of espresso shots for the base and milk for the body, both also have a few crucial differences that make them enjoyable to different types of coffee drinkers.
Whichever of the two you prefer, one thing you are guaranteed to get from both is the satisfaction that coffee and caffeine bring to its drinkers!