5 Differences Between Frappes and Frappuccinos

frappe on a tray

If you’ve been to a Starbucks, you’ve probably seen frappuccinos on the menu. If you’re familiar with traditional coffee preparations, the name might have thrown you a little. You’ve heard of a frappe, but a frappuccino? How has this coffee drink eluded you? What’s the difference between a frappe and a frappuccino anyway? 

A frappe is an iced drink made by shaking or blending instant coffee and water until a smooth, creamy consistency is achieved. A frappuccino is a trademarked Starbucks drink made with blended ice, coffee, sweetener, and milk. While a frappe is closer to a traditional iced coffee, a frappuccino is closer to a milkshake. 

But that’s not all. To understand the distinction between these two famous coffee drinks, it helps to take an even closer look at their differences– as well as the histories. If you’ve ever wondered where the frappe came from, or how Starbucks came up with its iconic drink, keep reading!

Frappe vs. Frappuccino: What are the Differences? 

1. The Frappe is a “standard” coffee drink, the frappuccino is not 

The frappe’s origins begin in France, sometime around the turn of the 19th century. The original name for the drink was cafe frappe. While some accounts describe the coffee-based beverage as a kind of slush, composed of chipped ice, cream, and coffee, others describe the cafe frappe as simple iced coffee. 

It wasn’t until the 50’s that the cafe frappe migrated over to Greece, and the standard frappe preparation was invented. This frappe was made using instant coffee, ice cubes, and cold water– all shaken in a shaker until the consistency became creamy and smooth. 

The frappe exploded in popularity across Greece before spreading to the rest of Europe, and eventually the states. While there are many modern variants of the drink, the standard frappe is prepared the same way today as it was in Greece. 

With over 36,000 possible flavor combinations, the frappuccino is less of a standard coffee drink and more of a name Starbucks uses for a certain type of menu item. You can even order a frappuccino without coffee in it! Strawberry frappuccinos and creme frappuccinos are among the most popular Starbucks menu items and contain no coffee at all. 

2. The Frappuccino is a Trademarked Starbucks Drink

The origins of the frappuccino go way back to Boston-area Massachusetts, circa 1990. Unlike in France, in Massachusetts, “frappe” is another word for “milkshake”. This may explain why it occurred to someone at The Coffee Connection (a Massachusetts-based coffee chain) to blend coffee with vanilla ice cream, resulting in the refreshing drink they deemed “the frappuccino”. 

The drink caught on so quickly The Coffee Connection trademarked the name. The popularity of the new drink eventually drew the eye of an even larger up-and-coming coffee chain by the name of Starbucks. 

At the time, Starbucks was buying up every small coffee house it could find. When the company eventually purchased The Coffee Connection in 1994, it also bought the rights to sell the frappuccino under its original trademarked name. 

3. The Frappuccino is Made with a Powdered Mix, the Frappe is Made with Instant Coffee

When Starbucks first began serving the frappuccino, the drink was prepared with a genuine shot of espresso. But, as the company soon found out, espresso can be challenging to make, even in the hands of a seasoned barista. Also, the flavor of espresso can vary depending on many factors, such as brewing temperature, extraction time, and the amount of coffee used. To save the time and money spent training each new employee to make the perfect espresso shot, the company eventually switched to a much more consistent– though lower-quality — pre-packaged powdered mix for its famous drink. 

This coffee-flavored powdered mix is formulated to taste and smell as closely to Starbucks’ brewed coffee as possible. To make a frappuccino, the powdered mix is combined with cold water, sugar, milk, and ice, along with any additional flavorings and syrups the customer wishes to add. 

A frappe, on the other hand, is traditionally made with plain, instant coffee, water, ice, and cream. 

4. A Frappuccino Contains Sugar (and Lots of it)

If you order a regular frappuccino, be prepared for a sugar rush. A tall Frappuccino contains a whopping 46 grams of sugar, while a grande contains 66 grams. To put those numbers in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 36 grams of sugar a day, while women should consume no more than 25 grams. So, even if you go with the smallest size, you’re getting at least 10 grams more sugar in your frappuccino than you should. 

While some versions of the frappe are made with sugar, the traditional preparation of the drink does not call for the addition of sugar. So, if you’re looking for a cold coffee drink, but prefer a guilt-free option, the frappe may be the drink you’re looking for.

5. The Frappuccino has a Higher Calorie Count on Average

While both the frappuccino and the frappe were designed to be refreshing drinks, one may leave you feeling a little more sluggish than the other. 

A tall frappuccino comes in at around 170 calories, while a venti comes in a belt-busting 340 calories! These big numbers are due to the frappuccino’s high sugar content, as well as the generous amounts of milk and cream used in the drink’s preparation. 

Depending on whether or not you prefer sugar in your frappe, the calorie count can be much smaller than that of the frappuccino, leaving you feeling refreshed and energized, instead of sluggish and sleepy. 

Similarities Between the Frappe and the Frappuccino

So, the frappe and the frappuccino aren’t the same things. But how are they similar? 

  • Iced Drinks: Both the frappe and the frappuccino are iced coffee drinks, making them ideal beverages for coffee lovers looking for a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. 
  • Ingredients: Because the modern frappuccino is made with a coffee mix not too dissimilar to instant coffee, you could say that both drinks begin with an instant coffee base. Also, the frappuccino’s addition of cream, sweetener, and ice is shared with some versions of the frappe. 
  • Preparations: There is a modern version of the frappe that is prepared with the addition of ice cream, making the two drinks close enough to be nearly indistinguishable. 

Frappe Variations

While there may not be as many versions of the frappe as there is the frappuccino, the frappe remains a highly versatile and customizable drink. The following are a few different versions of the frappe and how to make them.

  1. Traditional Frappe: Using either a whisk, milk frother, or egg beater, whip instant coffee and water until a smooth, creamy consistency is achieved. Add this mixture to a glass along with ice and cold water. Stir until the frappe is well-mixed. You can also add sugar while frothing if you want your frappe sweet. 
  2. Frappe with Milk: Prepare this popular version of the frappe the same way you would a traditional frappe. Only, instead of cold water, substitute cold milk for a creamier, smoother frappe experience. 
  3. Frappe with Ice Cream: More of a dessert than a refreshing midday pick-me-up, this version of the frappe is indulgent and delicious. It’s also easy to make! All you do is follow the recipe for the traditional frappe. Then, top off the drink with a generous scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. You can also blend the whole thing into a milkshake, reminiscent of the original frappuccino. Enjoy with a straw or a spoon!

How to Make a Frappuccino

While you won’t have access to Starbucks’ frappuccino mix, it’s not difficult to make a world-class frappuccino at home– assuming you have the right equipment. It’s worth restating that the frappuccino is a trademarked Starbucks’ drink, so making this drink to resell it isn’t legal. However, if you’re making this drink to enjoy in your own home, the following recipe will do the trick. 

  1. Espresso: While the modern frappuccino is made with an instant mix, nothing beats the flavor of a high-quality shot of espresso. Add an espresso shot to the blender for a more gourmet version of the frappuccino. 
  2. Ice: The frappuccino is famous for those crunchy ice chips. Toss some ice into the blender for texture. 
  3. Vanilla ice cream: While the modern frappuccino is made with a powdered mix, there’s just no substitution for vanilla ice cream. The ice cream not only sweetens the mixture but also creates that classic milkshake consistency that made the frappuccino so famous. 
  4. Milk: Add a little milk to loosen up the mixture. You can use whole milk, 2%, or any vegan alternative. 
  5. Blend: Blend it until your desired consistency is achieved. 
  6. Toppings: Traditionally, frappuccinos are topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. You can also add a drizzle of caramel or chocolate syrup to get that Starbucks experience.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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