cafe au lait and latte

Are you a coffee lover who wants to know the key differences between three classic coffee drinks - café au lait, latte, and cappuccino?

In this post, we're decoding the milk, espresso, and foam used, the brewing methods, and the taste profiles of these three drinks. Get ready to discover your new favorite coffee drink and become an expert in coffee choices!

Café Au Lait

Overview and Origin

Café au lait, which translates to "coffee with milk" in French, is a popular coffee beverage that originated in France. It has since become a staple in many coffee shops around the world, particularly in New Orleans, where it is often served with chicory, a type of roasted root, to enhance the flavor.

Ingredients and Preparation

Café au lait is typically made with brewed coffee and warmed milk, in a 1:1 ratio. The coffee can be brewed using a French press, drip coffee maker, or any other preferred brewing method. To prepare the milk, simply warm it on the stovetop or in a microwave until it reaches the desired temperature.

Once both the coffee and milk are ready, they are combined and served in a cup or, as is traditional in some regions, in a wide, shallow bowl. No additional foam or froth is added to the beverage, keeping it simple and mild in flavor.

Ingredient Quantity
Brewed coffee 1 part
Warmed milk 1 part


Café au lait is known for its milder, creamy flavor, as the equal parts coffee and milk balance each other out. It is considered to be less strong than beverages like espresso and cappuccino because it uses regular brewed coffee rather than concentrated espresso. The warmed milk also provides a smooth, silky texture, making it a pleasant and easy-to-drink option for those who prefer a less intense coffee experience.

Variations and Specialties

There are regional variations of café au lait that incorporate specific ingredients, such as the New Orleans-style, which incorporates chicory for a unique and slightly bitter taste. Another variation is the "white coffee" found in some European countries, where the coffee is brewed using a lighter roast, resulting in a milder flavor. In some regions, the beverage is traditionally served with a piece of bread or a pastry, ideal for dipping into the milky coffee mixture.

In summary, café au lait is a simple, mild coffee beverage that consists of equal parts brewed coffee and warmed milk, with regional variations that can include chicory or a lighter coffee roast. Its smooth, creamy texture and less intense flavor make it a popular choice for those who enjoy a milder coffee experience.


Overview and Origin

A latte, also known as a café latte, is a popular coffee drink that originated in Italy. It has become a staple in many coffee shops in the U.S. and around the world. The term "latte" comes from the Italian word for milk, and the full name "caffè latte" means "milk coffee."

Ingredients and Preparation

To make a latte, the main ingredients are espresso and steamed milk. A typical latte consists of one shot of espresso, hot milk, and a small amount of milk foam on top. The usual ratio for a latte is 2:1, meaning there are two parts milk to one part espresso. In most cases, baristas steam milk to create a creamy, frothy texture and then pour it over the espresso shot. Latte art can also be created on the surface of the drink by skillful baristas, making it visually appealing.


The latte is characterized by its smooth, creamy, and slightly sweet taste. The flavor of the espresso is mellowed by the addition of steamed milk, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy their coffee with a touch of creaminess. While the espresso provides a strong and robust flavor, the large amount of milk in a latte makes it less intense compared to other espresso-based drinks like a cappuccino or americano.

Variations and Specialties

There are many variations of the latte, which often involve adding flavored syrups or whipped cream to the beverage. Popular syrup flavors include vanilla, hazelnut, and peppermint, turning the classic latte into a flavored delight. A mocha latte, for example, adds chocolate syrup to the mix.

Iced lattes are another popular variation, in which the espresso and milk are poured over ice for a refreshing, cold coffee treat. In addition, there are a few regional specialties and variations in the world of lattes. The cortado, originating from Spain, uses equal parts espresso and steamed milk, while the flat white, native to Australia and New Zealand, contains a double shot of espresso and microfoam, creating a stronger coffee flavor.

With so many creative and flavorful variations available, it's easy to see why lattes have become a favorite coffee choice for many people around the world.


Overview and Origin

Cappuccino is a popular Italian coffee drink that has gained worldwide recognition for its rich taste and creamy texture. It traces its origins back to Italy, where it was traditionally consumed as a morning beverage. The name "cappuccino" likely comes from the Capuchin monks, whose brown robes resemble the color of the drink.

Ingredients and Preparation

The key components of a cappuccino are espresso, steamed milk, and foam. Generally, for a standard cappuccino, a 1:1:1 ratio is used, which means equal parts espresso, milk, and foam. To prepare a cappuccino, a double shot of espresso is made using 20 grams of ground coffee. This yields about 1.4 ounces of brewed espresso. Steamed milk is added, followed by a layer of frothed milk, creating a creamy and rich drink.


  • Taste: Cappuccinos are known for their bold and slightly sweet flavor. The dark roast coffee beans used in the preparation contribute to its stronger taste compared to other espresso-based drinks like lattes.
  • Texture: The combination of espresso, milk, and foam creates a velvety and creamy texture that many coffee enthusiasts find appealing.
  • Caffeine content: As the base of the drink is espresso, cappuccinos contain a substantial amount of caffeine. Typically, this can range between 60-100 mg per serving, depending on the espresso.

Variations and Specialties

  • Macchiato: Similar to cappuccinos, macchiatos also consist of espresso and foamed milk. However, macchiatos have a higher espresso to milk ratio, resulting in a stronger flavor.
  • Froth: Creative baristas have developed various frothing techniques to achieve different textures of foam, including microfoam, for a smoother finish.
  • Flavors: Cappuccinos can be customized with additional flavors, such as caramel or chocolate, which can be either drizzled on top or mixed into the drink.
  • Affogato: This dessert-style variation involves a scoop of ice cream, usually vanilla or chocolate, topped with a shot of espresso.
  • Garnishes: Cappuccinos can be garnished with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings for added visual appeal and a hint of extra sweetness.

In summary, cappuccinos offer a rich, strong flavor with a creamy and velvety texture, due to the combination of espresso, milk, and foam. Served in various sizes and with different added flavors or garnishes, this Italian classic continues to delight coffee lovers around the world. Moreover, the quality of the espresso plays a pivotal role in achieving the perfect cappuccino. This is where investing in the right equipment becomes crucial. For cafes and businesses looking to serve top-notch beverages, considering an espresso machine for commercial purposes can make all the difference. Offering consistency and quality, a commercial quality espresso machine ensures every cup served is memorable.

Comparing Café Au Lait, Latte, and Cappuccino

Flavor Profiles and Strength

Café au lait, latte, and cappuccino are all popular coffee drinks, but they have distinct flavor profiles and strengths due to the differences in their base ingredients and preparation. Café au lait is made with strong brewed coffee, typically using double the amount of coffee, and less milk compared to a latte, resulting in a stronger coffee taste. Lattes, on the other hand, use a bold shot of espresso and a higher milk-to-espresso ratio, making them mellow in flavor. Cappuccinos are known for their balanced taste, using equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.

Texture and Consistency

The texture and consistency of café au lait, latte, and cappuccino also vary, primarily due to their respective milk components. A latte typically has a creamy texture because of the steamed milk and a small amount of milk foam. Café au lait, with just hot milk, has a smoother consistency compared to the latte. Cappuccinos, with equal portions of milk foam, steamed milk, and espresso, have a rich, velvety texture that features both creaminess and frothiness.

Calories and Nutritional Differences

In general, a café au lait contains fewer calories than a latte due to the lower milk content. However, this difference will depend on the type of milk used, the coffee's strength, and any added flavorings. Cappuccinos have fewer calories than lattes, attributed to their airy milk foam and smaller serving size. Remember that the specific nutritional values of coffee drinks will vary based on preparation, proportions, and ingredients.

Coffee Drink Calories (approx.) Fat (approx.)
Café Au Lait 80-100 4-5g
Latte 100-190 4-9g
Cappuccino 90-120 4-6g

Preparation Techniques

The preparation techniques for café au lait, latte, and cappuccino are distinct, contributing to their unique flavors and textures. Café au lait is typically prepared by adding hot milk to strong brewed coffee. In some regions, chicory is added to the American version.

A latte is made by pouring a shot of espresso into a cup and then filling it with steamed milk, often topped with a small layer of milk foam. Many variations of lattes include flavored syrups or powders.

Cappuccino preparation involves three main components: espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. The process begins with pulling an espresso shot, followed by pouring the steamed milk, and finishing with a dollop of milk foam on top to create a balanced, layered appearance.

By understanding the differences in flavor profiles, texture, nutritional content, and preparation techniques, one can appreciate the unique characteristics of café au lait, lattes, and cappuccinos, and make informed choices based on individual preferences.

Additional Coffee Drinks


A macchiato is an espresso-based drink typically made with a small amount of steamed milk, resulting in a strong, bold flavor. The traditional macchiato has a dollop of milk foam on top, and variations may include flavorings such as caramel or hazelnut.


A mocha combines espresso with chocolate and steamed milk, creating a sweet, rich flavor. Topped with whipped cream, this coffee drink often includes additional chocolate or cocoa powder for garnish. Iced mocha is a popular option during warm seasons.

Flat White

Originating from Australia and New Zealand, a flat white consists of a double shot of espresso mixed with steamed milk. Unlike a latte or cappuccino, it has minimal foam, creating a smooth, velvety texture. The ratio of milk to espresso allows the bold flavor of the coffee to shine through.


A cortado is an espresso drink, similar to a macchiato or flat white, popular in Spain and Portugal. It consists of equal proportions of espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a balanced taste between the bold espresso and creamy milk.


An Americano is made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso, giving it a similar strength and taste to brewed coffee. The ratio of water to espresso can vary, allowing for customization in terms of intensity. Iced Americano is also common, prepared by pouring espresso over ice and then adding cold water.


An affogato is a unique dessert beverage in which a shot of hot espresso is poured over a scoop of ice cream or gelato, often vanilla or chocolate. The resulting combination provides a delightful contrast of hot and cold, with the espresso melting the ice cream to create a creamy, delicious treat.

Latte information
Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

Featured products

Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso Machine - Majesty Coffee
Sale priceFrom $1,495.00 Regular price$1,750.00
Nuova Simonelli Oscar II Espresso MachineNuova Simonelli