The Proper way to Drink Cappuccino Drink (Like the Italians)

Nowadays, it seems like there is a “proper” way of doing everything, and it often contradicts the thing we have been doing all our lives. From “the proper way to walk a dog” to “the proper way to drink water,” the internet seems to be preaching against what you’ve always been doing. This post brings that take to cappuccino.

The proper way to drink cappuccino like the Italians is to pour one-third out, so you’re left with an 8-ounce serving. You should have it standing up and must do so a little before 11 am. Italian coffee bars feature an area to stand and have your cappuccino, and their coffee features less espresso.

In this article, we will explore the differences between Italian and American cappuccino in terms of serving size, the ratio of their respective contents, and the style of consumption. Towards the end, we will compare both methods to see which one is superior across three different dimensions.

Serving Size

In the United States, a Cappuccino is meant to be a large beverage consumed over a period of 10 to 20 minutes. Most coffee chains offer an option to upsize your cappuccino, and cozy seating entices customers to go for the larger portion. 

In Italy, cappuccino is served in cups slightly larger than an espresso shot. Let’s take the example of Starbucks, a thoroughly Americanized coffee chain inspired by the Italian coffee culture.

The smallest serving of coffee, aside from an espresso shot, comes in a 12-ounce cup. Compared to that, the standard cappuccino at an Italian coffee bar is served in an 8-ounce cup. Featuring eight times less cappuccino, Italian coffee can be consumed many more times during the day compared to an American cappuccino.

Serving concentration

Smaller cups equal more caffeine to most people in the states. If you have read my article on the amount of espresso in a serving of cappuccino, you already know that the beverage is more caffeine-dense if you order a smaller serving. In Italy, coffee isn’t celebrated for its caffeine as much as it is for its taste. That’s why smaller servings don’t automatically imply that the coffee is more concentrated.

In fact, the American cappuccino has more caffeine than its Italian counterpart if you compare a single serving of each. An ounce of the American variety has the same caffeine as the equivalent of an Italian cappuccino.

At 1 ounce of espresso per 8-ounce cappuccino, the Italian variety features 1/8th espresso. American 12-ounce cappuccino features 1.5 ounces of espresso, which still equals 1/8th in ratio. However, the other elements vary further, making the difference between the two a matter of more than just the size.

In Italy, a cappuccino contains an ounce of espresso alongside a topping of 50% foam and 50% milk. On the other hand, the American cappuccino contains 1.5 ounces of espresso and over 6 ounces of sweetened milk, with a thinner layer of foam that’s conducive to latte art. This drink is closer to cafe latte than the original cappuccino.

Consumption timing

Since a cappuccino contains a shot of espresso, the American coffee culture has replaced espresso with a cappuccino, making it the go-to “wake me up” drink for those who do not like to down an espresso right after waking up. Cappuccino is sweet and offers a mellow consumption experience, making it ideal for evening meetings as well.

While Americans consume cappuccino in the early morning or late in the evening, Italians have theirs a little before 11 am. The beverage is consumed closer to midday to help control appetite and give the workers a well-deserved break. 

In this way, the two coffee cultures overlap. Both Americans and Italians make coffee drinking an experience that extends beyond instantly dosing themselves with a stimulant. However, the experience itself also varies.

Consumption style

As mentioned earlier, American coffee shops offer cozy seating. Many coffee chains monetize on their well-planned decor that attracts artists, writers, and remote workers. People spending their entire day at a coffee shop isn’t unheard of. Ever since the WeWork hype, many American coffee shops have started offering table space for remote workers.

To Italians, this would seem quite weird because their coffee bars do not have chairs. And yes, they have coffee bars. If you look at a barista machine, the scoop and the frothing both look similar to beer taps at a bar. Upon stepping back from your own cultural assimilation, you will notice that coffee making technology that emerged from Italy looks more fitting for a bar than a restaurant.

In Italy, a cappuccino is consumed standing at a coffee bar. This doesn’t mean the beverage is chugged. Italians take their time savoring the beverage. They even extend the time they take to finish an espresso shot, so they would understandably take longer to appreciate cappuccino. 

However, if you compare the time an Italian spends with his cup and the time someone spends nursing a serving of cappuccino in America, the Italian consumption period will be shorter since the serving size is smaller.

Italian cappuccino drinking vs. American style: which is better?

Now that you know the main differences between each style of coffee consumption and the key distinctions between the Italian cappuccino and the American variant let’s explore which one is better. For this, we will compare the two in health, enjoyment, and sophistication.


Italian cappuccino contains less espresso and fewer calories, which makes it the better option compared to American cappuccino, which contains 50% more espresso and more than that in terms of whole milk calories. If you’re trying to reduce your caffeine dependence or trying to control your weight, it is advisable to have an Italian cappuccino.


American cappuccino is more enjoyable than the Italian variety, which is why the American variation has become the international norm in coffee consumption. Even though coffee purists look down upon the American cappuccino, there’s no denying that our spin has the most mass appeal. Of course, taste is subjective, and you might enjoy the Italian variety more.


Italian cappuccino is the original and is therefore considered more sophisticated compared to the Americanized drink that’s loaded for mass appeal. When you’re in the company of those who judge taste, you will give a better impression having an Italian cappuccino.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for a reason to pour out one-third of your cappuccino or are done with the mainstream version of cappuccino consumption, you can adopt the Italian way. That means you’ll have one ounce of espresso in an 8-ounce container, with 50% foam and 50% milk. Don’t forget to have this a little before 11 am, and do so while standing, or the Gods of coffee will judge 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.

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