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Frappe vs Frappuccino

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By Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Iced coffees are huge across the world these days. Enjoying delicious coffee in a way that can cool you down on the hottest days is an absolute treat. But do you find yourself confused by Frappe vs Frappuccino and whether there’s really any difference?

Here we’ll break down these two iced coffee giants from their origins to recipes to calories. So, next time you need a cooling but caffeinated refreshment you will know whether to opt for a Frappuccino or a frappe.

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Frappe vs Frappuccino
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What is Frappe?

Frappe is an iced coffee made by blending instant coffee with ice, water, and milk. The whisking of the instant coffee with milk and water creates a foam which can then be used as the base for a coffee drink. Ice, milk, syrups, and whipped cream can be added to make your frappe whatever style you desire.

Where Does Frappe Come From?

The frappe as we know it today started life in Greece, as anyone who has ever worked with a Greek will have been told at least 100 times. As is tradition, there is a fun story. In 1957, at the International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki, a Nestle employee needed hot water to make his instant coffee, but couldn’t find any.  

He improvised using cold water and ice cubes, which he put in a cocktail shaker with his instant coffee. After shaking it all up a bit, he poured out his delicious, iced concoction, and frappe was born. There are no doubt many Greek Nestle employees who claim it was them who did this. 

How to Prepare Frappe

  1. Add 1-2 tsp instant coffee and 1-2 tsp sugar to 35ml water (depending on desired strength and sweetness). 
  2. Use an electric whisk or cocktail shaker to whisk the mixture until it’s entirely foam and the coffee and sugar have dissolved.
  3. Pour into a glass with ice, milk, and water to desired strength.
Using electric whisk to make frappe

Tips for Making Frappe

  • Use an Electric Whisk: If you have one of these for foaming milk in general then great, if you don’t but want to make lots of frappe at home then it’s worth the investment. It’s much easier to get that great sugar/coffee foam if you use the little whisk. It also means less washing up as you can whisk it in the glass you drink from. 
  • Add Flavors: Your frappe doesn’t need to be just coffee and milk. There is a multitude of coffee syrups available that you can pick up very cheaply. An endless array of flavored coffees are at your fingertips. 
  • Use Good Instant Coffee: Not all instant coffee is created equal. You’ll have a much nicer frappe experience, and maybe need less sugar to enjoy it, if you splash for a higher-quality instant to begin with. 
Waka Instant Coffee

Best Instant Coffee Brand: Waka

Good quality instant coffee isn’t always easy to find. But Waka is changing that. They freeze-dry the ground coffee to preserve flavor and you can really taste the difference.

As an added bonus, they donate 4% of all profits to clean water projects around the world.

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What is Frappuccino?

Frappuccino is a trademark of Starbucks for their iced coffee drinks, though many of them don’t include coffee. They use a pre-made “Frappuccino blend” coffee base before adding the flavors, milk and whipped cream of your choice. This trademark was acquired in 1994 when Starbucks bought over a north-eastern coffee chain.

Where Does Frappuccino Come From?

The Frappuccino was first trademarked and sold at The Coffee Connection, which was a chain of coffee shops owned by George Howell. It was created by an employee named Andrew Frank. In 1994 Starbucks bought over The Coffee Connection and inherited the trademarked Frappuccino. In 1995 it was relaunched as a Starbucks trademark drink. 

The name is derived from the combination of frappe and cappuccino. In New England, a Frappe was the name for a milkshake with ice cream on top. Using the same word for the Greek-style iced coffee would be confusing for customers. The addition of the “uccino” at the end was probably to make the drink sound more like a coffee and less like a dessert. 

Holding a Starbucks Frappuccino towards the camera

How is Frappuccino Made?

  1. Frappuccino Roast Coffee: Starbucks has replaced the standard shot of espresso with a special instant coffee designed for the Frappuccino. This has improved the texture of the drink and has removed the issues of using hot espresso on a drink designed to be cold. You’ll usually see the barista using the Frappuccino roast pump for adding the coffee.
  2. Frappuccino Crème: The custom Frappuccino blended crème base is just a flavored syrup designed to give the flavor and texture of crème patisserie. This means it is actually vegan friendly, though weirdly the “light” version is not. It does come in multiple flavors depending on the drink ordered.
  3. Sauces and Syrups: The Frappuccino flavors are made by adding sauces and syrups. Some will use both a sauce and syrup of the same flavor, such as caramel. While some Frappuccinos will use a flavored syrup as the base. Many Frappuccinos have a special coffee Frappuccino syrup as the base. Many of these contain coffee flavors for Frappuccino that don’t contain any coffee. This is used for those who want to get the full experience without caffeine.
  4. Whipped Cream: Nearly all Frappuccinos are finished with whipped cream. There are other Frappuccino ingredients based on seasonal specials and your own preferences. These, and their variations, are the core of the Starbucks Frappuccino menu. 
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McDonald’s Frappe vs Starbuck’s Frappuccino

Though McDonald’s use the original Greek name for the drink, they are much closer to the Starbucks Frappuccino than the original iced coffee from the 1950s. McDonald’s has limited options on their frappe menu whereas Starbuck’s have a dizzying 15 varieties. The McDonald’s offerings are also significantly cheaper than their Starbuck’s counterparts.

Frappuccino Calories

As you may expect from something that has sugar and whipped cream as two key elements, a frappe or Frappuccino carries a fairly hefty calorie count compared to your regular coffee. This isn’t something to really worry about unless you plan on drinking several a day of course, but it’s good to be aware of it so you can enjoy them as an occasional drink, rather than a frequent one. 

A 12oz McDonald’s mocha frappe weighs in at 450 calories, honestly, I thought it would be much higher than that. The Starbucks 12oz mocha Frappuccino has a mere 250 calories though. So if you’re a frappe/Frappuccino fan, it might be worth paying extra for the Starbucks versions since this means you can drink more of them without feeling like you should do some exercise or maybe eat a salad. 

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What’s the difference between McDonald’s and Starbucks Frappe and Frappuccino?

The proprietary Frappuccino blend coffee for Starbucks is the main difference between the two drinks. Coffee, milk, sugar, syrup, and whipped cream are common ingredients in both, though in surprisingly different quantities. It’s this difference in ratios that accounts for the astonishing difference in calorie count between the two.

McDonald’s has a whole extra 25g of sugar in their Frappe. Nearly double the amount of sugar as the Starbucks Frappuccino. Really an astonishing difference considering the drinks are the same size. They also have double the saturated fat, but this is 6g to 12g so not really something to write home about. 

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Frappuccino Recipes to try at Home

The great thing about making Frappuccino at home is that the base recipe is really easy, and you can chuck in whatever you want depending on your preference. The process is much easier if you have a blender though.

Love a cold coffee but concerned about Frappe/Frappuccino calorie counts? Check out our article about making Nitro Cold Brew Coffee for your cooling caffeinated needs

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Frappe/Frappuccino FAQs

Can you prepare hot frappe/Frappuccino? 

You can’t prepare frappe and Frappuccino as hot drinks as they are both made with ice. If you were making a hot Frappuccino, that would just be a type of latte with whipped cream on the top. This doesn’t sound like a terrible idea to many, but it isn’t a frappe/Frappuccino. 

Does Frappuccino have coffee in it?

Frappuccinos are available with and without coffee at Starbucks. The Starbucks Frappuccino menu has two sections that are helpfully labeled “Coffee Frappuccino” and “Creme Frappuccino”. The crème Frappuccino does not contain coffee, though some contain coffee flavoring. 

What is the Difference Between Latte and Frappe?

A latte is a shot of espresso mixed with textured milk and a small amount of foam, a Frappe uses the instant that is blended with milk and topped with whipped cream. They are made with different types of coffee, so even ignoring the temperature difference, they are fundamentally different. Many specialist coffee shops make frappe as an espresso drink, rather than using instant.

Demystify other coffee shop classics with these guides:

Cortado vs Flat White | What is an Americano? | Ristretto vs Long Shot | Red-Eye Coffee | Flat White vs Cappuccino
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What is the Difference between Frappe/Frappuccino and a Milkshake?

The difference is that frappe/Frappuccino are coffee-based while milkshakes are not. Milkshakes also tend to have ice cream, though they don’t have to, whereas frappe/Frappuccino do not. These differences are very fluid however as there are Frappuccinos available with no coffee and there is no doubt coffee-based milkshakes out there.

Psst.. An alternative variation is to add protein powder to iced lattes or a frappuccino. Find out why here:

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Final Thoughts

Frappe and Frappuccino are essentially the same thing, it’s just Frappuccino is trademarked by Starbucks. Though they were initially made with instant coffee, many coffee shops will use espresso in their frappe drinks. For those who don’t like coffee, there are a multitude of flavors to try. Though these are really just milkshakes under a different name.


Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Matt's coffee obsession started in 2006 when working as a Barista. A tendency to turn up to work hungover kickstarted his coffee journey which quickly turned into a love affair. As he moved on to work as a Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, the obsession continued to grow. Now, his passion is helping others to enjoy better coffee at home.

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