Is A Cappuccino Sweet?

a cappuccino

So you like your traditional drip coffee with cream and sugar, but you feel like you could be getting something more out of your cafe run. You’ve considered cappuccinos, but you’re not sure they’ll be sweet enough for you. 

In general, cappuccinos are an unsweetened drink. Cappuccinos often taste sweet because of the sugar naturally found in milk, and the rich flavor and thick texture make it feel even sweeter in comparison to drip coffee. 

A well-made espresso beverage can be the perfect step to take your morning to the next level — it’s worth putting in some time and experimentation to determine which one is right for you.

How Sweet Is A Cappuccino?

Generally, a cappuccino is one of the less-sweet options among blended espresso beverages, but it should still be significantly sweeter than drip coffee that hasn’t had a lot of sugar and milk added to it.

To understand this, we need to dive into how a cappuccino is made. 

How To Make A Cappuccino

A cappuccino has three core ingredients and a debatable fourth:

  • Espresso
  • Steamed Milk
  • Frothed Milk
  • Dark Chocolate Powder (depending on local preference)

The first three ingredients should be essentially equal, so you can make a cappuccino with one or two shots of espresso and then match that volume with steamed milk. Top with a layer of milk foam and possibly a sprinkling of chocolate powder.

So other than the chocolate powder, a cappuccino doesn’t have any sweeteners added to it. However, milk makes up two-thirds of the drink, and milk has a significant amount of natural sugar. 

In addition to this natural sweetness, the relatively small amount of liquid in a cappuccino means it has a strong espresso flavor, and the milk foam gives it a richness and thickness that add to the overall experience. 

In comparison, a latte has a two-to-one ratio of steamed milk to espresso, which means it has significantly more natural sugar, but the espresso taste is masked a little more, and it’s not as thick and creamy.

Drip coffee has no natural sugar, so you would need to add a significant amount of milk and sugar to make it as sweet as a cappuccino is naturally. 

Is A Cappuccino Healthy?

Finding the right coffee is always a delicate balance of evaluating ingredients, portion sizes, caffeine content, and taste preference.

While cappuccinos contain significantly more calories than black, drip coffee, for people who like their coffee rich and sweet, cappuccinos provide lower calories than most lattes and don’t require adding additional, possibly unnatural sweeteners. 

Most cappuccinos are a little over 100 calories per cup, and those calories come predominantly from whole milk, which provides a good mix of protein and fat. There are no inherently unhealthy ingredients in a cappuccino, and those calories could help round out a good breakfast and keep you satisfied longer.

Cappuccinos are generally lower in calories than lattes, because they’re made with less milk, and they don’t require the kinds of additional sweeteners often added to drip coffee. However, if you’re the kind of coffee drinker who goes through 4-6 cups a day, those 100 calories will add up fast and you might want to consider some other options.

How To Make A Healthy Cappuccino

If the whole milk in a traditional cappuccino has too many calories for you, or you prefer to avoid dairy, you can experiment with making a cappuccino with different kinds of milk. Just be ready for some trial and error.

If you’re concerned about the fat content in whole milk, you can try low-fat milk like 2%, or even fat-free. All of these kinds of milk produce slightly different kinds of foam but a foam that will do the job. What’s more concerning is that the lower the fat content, the thinner the steamed milk portion of the drink will feel and taste. 

In my opinion, you can get away with making a cappuccino with 2%, but lower fat content than that will produce something that tastes like poorly brewed drip coffee.

If you’re lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk still has the necessary fat and proteins to create the thickness and foam you would expect in a cappuccino. But again, lean towards whole milk or at least 2%.

If you’re looking for non-dairy alternatives, soy milk most closely mirrors the protein and fat contents of whole milk and therefore produces a relatively thick cappuccino with a nice foam. Other alternatives like rice milk and almond milk can be used to make a fairly convincing latte but don’t have enough protein to produce the kind of foam you’d expect in a cappuccino. 

With all of those possibilities, it’s worth experimenting with multiple brands to find what works best for you. However, unless you have a dairy allergy, my recommendation is to enjoy a traditional, whole milk cappuccino in all its glory and then consider lower-calorie coffee options if you need an additional cup. There’s nothing wrong with whole milk, and you’ll get the best cappuccino experience, by far.

Should You Add Chocolate Powder To A Cappuccino?

While the recipe for a cappuccino is largely agreed on, it’s up for debate whether powdered chocolate should be sprinkled atop the finished drink.

This mostly depends on where you’re located and who you’re making a cappuccino for. If your inspiration is Italian cappuccinos, you’ll want to avoid the chocolate, but it’s the standard in plenty of other places like Australia and Britain. In the US it varies from cafe to cafe.

That being said, unless you’re considering opening a cafe, you can probably just go with personal preference. Not enough chocolate is added to significantly impact the sweetness or calories of the cappuccino. A light sprinkle just adds a hint of chocolate to the flavor and also makes your drink look a little fancier. Try it both ways and see which works for you.

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.

Recent Posts