There are so many specialty coffee drinks that, unless you work at a coffee shop, it’s easy to get confused with all the similar-sounding names.
If you’ve ever lost time staring at a menu, trying to decide what the difference is between a frappe vs frappuccino vs cappucino, after reading this article you’ll have new confidence in all your future orders!
So what are the main differences between frappes, frappuccinos, and cappuccinos? A frappe is a blended drink, typically made with espresso, ice and milk. A frappuccino is a Starbucks-trademarked series of blended drinks, generally considered to be frappes. A cappuccino is espresso topped with steamed milk and a heavy layer of milk foam; it is similar to a very foamy latte.
Through the rest of the article, we’ll go into more detail about each beverage choice, carefully explaining the differences and similarities between all your favorite coffee shop treats.
A quick note: Some terms can be used differently depending on the shop – or country!
However, as always we’ll go with the traditional and “official” coffee definitions – the kind your local barista would prefer – whenever possible. It’s the fairest basis we can find.
When a drink has different “official” definitions in different countries, we chose the U.S. definitions, because it’s what we know it best.
What is a Frappe?
The frappe (pronounced frap-pay) may seem like a relatively modern invention, having only been popular in North America since the rise of Starbucks, but they were actually invented in 1957.
Coffee frappes have been a favorite warm weather and sunshine indulgence in Greece and Cyprus since shortly after the second world war.
Frappe is generally credited as coming from the French term for a frozen or blended drink such as a milkshake or frozen juice. However, it is also an Italian word meaning more or less the same thing.
So it’s no surprise that the term frappe typically refers to blended coffee or similar blended drinks in coffee shops around the U.S. – and elsewhere.
The original coffee frappe specifically was invented by a representative of Nescafe in Greece. This is likely why they usually refer to a coffee beverage blended with ice. However the original version was made with instant coffee.
The original coffee frappes can be made either with a cocktail shaker or using a milkshake machine. Instant coffee, some water, and any sugar, is shaken or blended until it becomes foamy. It’s then poured over ice and, if desired, topped off with some milk
These frappes are usually served in tall glasses with straws because the foam itself can be quite bitter. Sometimes frappes are topped with whipped cream to combat this bitterness.
However, in the United States, a frappe is nearly always a smoothly blended coffee, made with espresso, milk, ice and any desired flavors.
The coffee-based frappe you are more likely to encounter in coffee shops is made by throwing espresso, ice, some milk, and any sweeteners in a blender to get that perfectly creamy texture.
Nowadays, more and more coffee frappes around the world are made with espresso and either fit the U.S. milkshake-like consistency or more of a slushy consistency, if little or no milk is added.
Depending on where you go ‘frappe’ can also refer to milkshakes and similar coffee-free drinks such as blended juices, so it’s always a good idea to check with the locals before ordering, unless you like surprises!
Iced Coffee Vs Frappe
If the definition of a frappe sounds a lot like an iced coffee to you, you’re not alone. There is a difference though.
Iced coffee refers to pretty much any coffee served over ice – though it is rarely used to refer to a blended coffee or frappe.
Iced coffee can be “regular” (drip) coffee poured over ice or any espresso-based drinks served cold on ice. It’s generally prepared the same way a hot coffee would be, with espresso, milk (cold, unsteamed), and often with sugar or another sweetener.
A frappe, as previously discussed, is nearly always blended to a creamy, milkshake-like texture. Though in some countries, including Italy, a frappe may have an icier, crunchier texture, because little to no milk is added.
Although the traditional term frappe can refer to shaken drinks, these beverages are rarely called such.
In the U.S. they are often referred to as merely ‘shaken coffees’, ‘shaken iced coffees’, or simply ‘iced coffees’, with no reference to how they are made. In Italy, these coffees are often called caffe shakerato – which, you guessed it, means shaken coffee.
Frappe Vs Smoothie
Frappes, especially if you’re using the French definition of an iced drink or a drink blended with ice, is often confused with a smoothie or even a milkshake.
They are very similar, but the secret to a true frappe, at least traditionally, is in the frothy texture.
While a smoothie or milkshake is blended long enough to create a smooth, creamy consistency, a traditional frappe is shaken or blended with the specific purpose of creating froth.
Unless you’re speaking French, however, a frappe is almost always used to refer to a coffee-based blended drink, as defined previously. Smoothies in the U.S. are most commonly made using fruit.
And milkshakes, for that matter, are usually made with ice cream or frozen yogurt.
What is a Frappuccino?
Frappucinos are a beverage invented, named, and trademarked by Starbucks.
They define ‘Frappuccino’ as a beverage with a base of either coffee or crème, and blended with ice and flavored syrups, then topped with whipped cream and chocolate or spices.
Flavors and toppings will vary by preference as well as by signature drink. The Frappuccino options vary by location and season, but there is usually a lengthy selection to choose from. There are some 30 different varieties listed in their online menu.
At most other coffee shops in the U.S. however, these are just referred to as frappes or blended drinks. Most consider them the same basic type of drink.
Are Frappuccinos Coffee?
If you’re still not quite sure what a Frappuccino is made of and are wondering how much coffee is in a Frappuccino, the truth is that it varies!
While Frappuccinos with coffee are popular, they can also be coffee-free.
Starbucks’ coffee Frappuccinos are made using their special Frappuccino roast coffee and whole milk. Added flavors and toppings vary by which one you order. You can also typically substitute the milk for a non-dairy option.
Typically, these should have 95 mg of caffeine in a grande or 16-ounce-size drink. Their espresso Frappuccino has a shot of espresso on top of the standard coffee, increasing the caffeine content to 155 mg.
On the other end of the spectrum, their crème frappuccinos have no coffee in them at all. They are flavored exclusively with their signature flavorings and any spices or syrups requested.
Frappuccino Vs Latte, What’s the Difference?
Both Frappuccinos and lattes are based on coffee and milk, so the two are often confused, especially by people who aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of coffee-making!
However the drinks are quite different.
The most obvious difference is that a Frappuccino is a cold blended beverage whereas a latte is traditionally a hot coffee.
Lattes are always made with espresso whereas Frappuccinos made be made with regular roast coffee, no coffee at all, or perhaps espresso (if requested). The high ratio of milk is really the only comparative aspect.
Lattes can be made iced instead of hot, which brings the two a little closer, but they are still fundamentally different drinks.
A traditional latte is an espresso-based drink, to which steamed milk with a thin layer of microfoam is added. The texture should be slightly frothy and creamy, but still quite milky. The foam will look like tiny bubbles on the surface.
You can add sugar or flavors to a latte to spruce it up. A latte can also be made iced, by pouring the espresso shots over ice and added cold milk to fill the cup. Iced lattes are usually served without any kind of foam, because foam is typically made by steaming milk (which defeats the purpose for an iced drink).
Iced lattes may resemble a shaken frappe, and if a shaken frappe is espresso-based the two will taste pretty much the same.
If you blend a latte, however, your blended coffee will effectively become a basic coffee frappe! But at this point, it normally takes on a different name.
When you hear the word latte, you should assume it’s the hot version, and you should assume an iced latte is not blended.
What is a Cappuccino?
A cappuccino is basically a type of latte made with more foam and a smaller layer of steamed milk.
The ratio for a traditional, “proper” cappuccino is 1/3 espresso to 1/3 steamed milk to 1/3 milk foam, in that order from top to bottom. Traditional cappuccinos are about 6 to 8 ounces.
Nowadays, there is often much more milk and foam in the cup, especially when ordering larger sizes such as 16, 20, or even 24 ounces! While there is typically more espresso added, the ratio will not keep up with the milk added (which is a good thing, since that would be a lot of espresso!).
Once this ratio is mastered, variations can be made, just as with a latte. Cream might be used in place of milk for a thicker, richer cappuccino. Flavor shots may be added. The foam might be topped with a dash of cocoa powder or cinnamon.
However it is made, with a cappuccino the espresso is obvious, but smooth and mellow thanks to a fair amount of milk involved.
It is still light to drink, because of the high proportion of foam to milk. The foam itself might have a bitter edge which is one of the reasons the foam is often topped with sweet or spicy sugars and powders.
Cappuccinos are very similar and yet different to many types of coffee, both hot and cold, so let’s take a closer look at the differences between coffee types.
Can You Have an Iced Cappuccino?
No, you can’t make a true cappuccino iced, although you may see it on the menu.
If you are truly desperate to make an iced cappuccino, you would have to find a way to foam the milk cold, but few have the right tools for the job.
Most simply serve iced lattes and call them iced cappuccinos, since the ingredients are the same!
Latte Vs Cappuccino
Confused yet? Let’s review the differences between a latte and a cappuccino.
Lattes are basically espresso with steamed milk. They have a very thin layer of microfoam on top, but they are definitely a milky drink.
They often have patterns or “art” made with the foam on top (thanks to a special way of pouring the steamed milk on top of the espresso).
Cappuccinos are a type of latte, but with lots of milk foam. The resulting drink is lighter and much less milky, although there is still a some steamed milk present.
You can think of a cappuccino as a special latte.
The two beverages are sometimes served differently.
Cappuccinos are typically in small, rounded mugs with a wider top and narrower base. They are easy to cup in the hand. Lattes are often served in wide, short mugs; this is often to show off any latte art made in the foam.
Frappuccino Vs Cappuccino
Frappuccinos and cappuccinos may sound similar, but they are very different drinks!
To recap, Frappuccinos are a Starbucks-exclusive beverage, but the coffee blends are made with regular roast coffee as a base. If requested or in specific varieties, espresso is added to the regular roast coffee.
Cappuccinos are special espresso-based drinks with a particular ratio of steamed milk and milk foam. They are light, airy, hot drinks.
Frappuccinos may occasionally be confused with what some refer to as “iced cappuccinos” or “iced caps.”
As we said before, if you ask a barista, there is no such thing as an iced cappuccino!
What people call an “iced cappuccino” is really just a latte made cold, over ice. Although sometimes people will use the term to refer to a blended coffee drink.
But again, this would never fly in a room of baristas!
Frappe Vs Cappuccino
We’ve covered both frappes and cappuccinos extensively, so we’ll make this brief.
A frappe is a lot like a Frappuccino – except not trademarked by Starbucks. Frappes are usually espresso-based and nearly always blended. It is always cold.
A cappuccino is a special espresso-based drink best known for a significant layer of milk foam. It is made with steamed and foamed milk, always hot, and is generally lightweight.
Both are typically espresso-based and both are traditionally known for their foamy or creamy textures. Although both features may or may not be present in a frappe, depending on where you order it.
Frappes are often sweet. Cappuccinos are traditionally unsweetened; however, you can add sugar or flavors to them.
Related Coffee Terms
Let’s be honest here, if you’re not a barista, the differences between coffee types can be a little confusing! If you don’t know the ins and outs of how each is made, the differences can be hard to remember.
So here are a few more coffee terms to clarify so you can better understand their differences.
In Italy, the world capital of coffee culture, cappuccino drinks are occasionally served to children because the coffee is diluted by so much milk. In most other parts of the world, parents are loath to give their already energetic children any type of caffeine.
Bambinoccinos, using the Italian word for child, bambino, allow parents to enjoy their specialty coffees with their children in tow and no complaints.
Served cappuccino-style, bambinocinnos are made with frothed milk topped with chocolate powder (much like a hot chocolate), with not a spec of caffeine in sight!
Coffee Vs Cappuccino
“Coffee” with no other descriptor, is usually used to refer to drip coffee – or “regular” coffee, the kind you probably make at home or would get in a diner.
Conventional coffee is simply hot water poured over loose coffee grinds, contained by a filter so that the water is flavored by the grinds but they aren’t consumed directly.
This process is often done inside your coffee machine, so you may not see it. Although there are ways to make drip without a machine, but that’s for another article!
Drip coffee has the same consistency as water.
Once more, a cappuccino is espresso-based, layered with steamed milk and milk foam. They are much milder than straight shots of espresso because they are mellowed by the milk.
Espresso requires a special machine to pressure-force hot water through tightly packed, finely ground coffee beans. The pressure dissolves some of the powdered coffee grinds creating a stronger flavor and thicker consistency, almost syrupy.
When you add milk and foam for a cappuccino, however, it changes the texture to something mostly light and airy.
Beyond how the coffee itself is made, cappuccinos technically follow a strict 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, milk, and foam.
Drip coffee can be served any way you like it. Many people drink it black, with nothing added at all. Others add cream, milk, sugar, or other sweeteners.
Summary: Frappe Vs Frappuccino Vs Cappuccino
To round out this article, let’s review the basic facts about each coffee beverage. First, all of the drinks we talked about in this article have a traditional preparation method but are also easily customized. There is no one way to make a coffee.
To summarize, we’re comparing the most similar variations of each type of beverage: coffee frappe, coffee Frappuccinos, and iced cappuccinos. We’ll leave you with these fast facts:
- Coffee Frappe: Typically a blended drink made with espresso, ice, and milk. Originally made with instant coffee shaken or blended with ice until foam forms. Varies by location.
- Coffee Frappuccino: Can be made with brewed coffee or espresso, blended with milk and flavoring syrups, topped with whipped cream.
- Cappuccino: Made using a ratio of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk, and 1/3 foam.
If you enjoy hot, milky coffee drinks, you’ll enjoy testing each of these drinks for yourself. The differences may seem subtle but they add up to three highly unique and always enjoyable beverages.
Frappe Vs Frappuccino Vs Cappuccino [Chart]
|Type of coffee
Espresso (modern, most of the time)
(Espresso on request)
|Traditionally whole milk
|Any milk or milk alternative
|Traditionally whole milk
|The blended texture is compared to foam, but real foam is only present when shaken
|Hot or Cold
|Blended (most common)
Shaken, over ice, with a foamy texture
|Blended, often topped with whipped cream
|Hot, with plenty of foam
What is a Mocha Frappe?
A mocha frappe is a blended coffee drink that is flavored with chocolate.
A traditional mocha is a latte with chocolate syrup or powdered chocolate added. Since a coffee frappe is basically a latte but blended, a mocha frappe is just the chocolate version.
You may notice that some mocha frappes or other flavored frappes are heavier on the chocolate than the coffee, but this will vary by location.
What is an Espresso Frappe?
An espresso frappe is a frappe made with espresso rather than instant coffee. An espresso frappe can also be any espresso drink blended or shaken with milk and ice long enough to create foam.
This term likely exists in areas where frappes are not already made with espresso. As we’ve said above, frappes were originally made with instant coffee and in some places this is still the preferred method.
You should note, however, that if you’re ordering a coffee frappe in the U.S. it will almost certainly be made with espresso – unless you’re at Starbucks, which typically uses a specially brewed strong coffee instead.
Starbucks offers a sort of espresso Frappuccino made with both their drip roast coffee and an extra shot of espresso.
Are Cappuccinos Sweet?
A traditional cappuccino has no sugar added. The flavor is well-balanced because the sweetness of the milk tempers the bitterness of the espresso, but it doesn’t have sugar added.
Of course, cappuccinos can be customized. Flavored cappuccinos are especially popular in North America.
If you’re ordering your cappuccino at your favorite local coffee shop, you will likely have a wide range of flavors, or sugar, to choose from, some sweeter than others.
Some traditional shops will offer to top a cappuccino with cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa. Although unsweetened, these do add different flavor notes to the drink.
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