Everything you need to know about the Frappuccino

No drink speaks of caffeine-laden, sugary decadence quite like the Insta-worthy Frappuccino:

 

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The blended coffee beverage puts some pep in the step of its consumers while also giving them a low-key vibe. The very thought of a Frappuccino gives most of us a clear image of the sometimes chocolaty, sometimes low-sugar beverage.

But what exactly is a Frappuccino?

Like, seriously? Is it a smoothie, or maybe a milkshake? Blended ice coffee perhaps?

Having never ordered one myself, I needed to find out.

How to pronounce ‘Frappuccino’

Let’s start from the beginning, as in the actual pronunciation of the word. Looking at it, I always imagined it being like frozen cappuccino. But, as I found out, Fro-puccino isn’t exactly right.

Here it is: Frap – uhh – CHEE – no.

It doesn’t seem that bad. A lot of people say Frap – o – ccino. Now you can politely correct them!

Oh, and somewhat fun fact: Frappuccino is not technically a word in the English language, so don’t feel too bad if it’s hard to pronounce. If you check Webster’s dictionary or even dictionary.com, the word is not listed.

An empty dictionary entry where Frappuccino should be
See? No sign of the frappuccino. (© Bean Poet)

Turns out, it really is a combination of two words, as I thought before. Well, sort of. See below.

frappé + cappuccino = frappuccino

We’ll get back to the difference between those three things and why that is the etymology of the drink at hand. Please stay with us.

Frappuccino basics

Answering the basic question of what a Frappuccino is turns out to be a little more complicated than you might think. Our explosive coffee culture has given rise to so many variations of blended coffee drinks and misnomers that almost all drinks now have vague and flexible definitions.

What is a Frappuccino?

A Frappuccino is essentially a blended beverage made from coffee, either cream or milk, and ice. Most, if not all, tend to be a bit more gussied up than that. Typically, a Frappuccino will come with whipped cream, flavored syrups, extracts, sugar, drizzles, sauces, and maybe sprinkles.

A nice blended beverage topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.
A nice blended beverage topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.

Pizza is a good analogy: We eat pizza for the toppings, but that’s not what makes it a pizza. Most people drink Frappuccinos for the extras, but those aren’t what make it a Frappuccino.

Why is Frappuccino capitalized?

Now, interestingly enough, the definition above does not constitute a Frappuccino in itself. The coffee, cream/milk, and ice are just Frappuccino ingredients, but the name itself is actually trademarked. That’s why you usually see it capitalized. Of course, it was Starbucks who did that. Most consumers make a mental association between the Frappuccino and the Seattle-based company. It’s not just marketing, it’s the law.

This gets me into the Frappuccino’s origin story.

Where did the Frappuccino originate?

Coffee Connection, a small coffee shop in Massachusetts, made the first labeled frappuccino (small ‘f’!) in the early 1990s. Back then, it was meant to be a coffee-flavored milkshake. Essentially, they took their frappé and added a cappuccino—hence the name.

When did Frappuccino debut at Starbucks?

Starbucks saw Coffee Connection’s ingenuity and bought the coffee shop, as well as the rights to its frappuccino, in 1994. Now, as a labeled trademark of Starbucks, Frappuccino specifically refers to a product line of blended coffee beverages from the corporation.

A Starbucks Frappuccino topped with whipped cream
Caramel Frappucino is a popular choice of a blended beverage served at Starbucks.

So now you know what a frappuccino was, and what a Frappuccino is. But I’m still thinking about that frappé milkshake business. Let’s talk about that a little more.

Frappé vs Frappuccino

OK, sometimes it is easier to explain something by comparing it to something else. Enter the frappé as a contrast. Technically speaking, the Frappuccino did come from the frappé, so it really is a good starting point.

First of all, a frappé can mean a tremendous amount of things, depending on who you talk to. The word comes from the French verb frapper, which means to hit or to strike, and that’s exactly what a blender’s blades do to whatever happens to be sitting in the blender.

At its core, a frappé is just a milkshake with a wide variation in the flavor profile. Technically speaking, but ignoring the trademark business, a Frappuccino is a variation of a frappé. Basically, a Frappuccino is a coffee-flavored frappé. And that is the most simple way to explain the difference between a frappé and a Frappuccino.

I’m not sure what you would call a coffee frappé now that Starbucks has made it illegal for you to sell it as a frappuccino. Maybe it’s just a coffee frappé.

That’s a lot of side notes. Let’s get back to the delicious Frappuccino itself.

How to make a Frappuccino at home

I want to give you my personal favorite and well-tested recipe for a Frappuccino. Let me say first that there are about a billion out there, so play around with flavors and toppings!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup cold coffee
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1/3 cup sweetener

Directions:
Blend ingredients with a blender until smooth.

Consider adding whipped cream and/or switching out the milk preference.

How many calories in a Frappuccino?

Sigh, there comes a time when we must consider how the sugar in a Frappuccino messes with our metabolism’s bottom line. Let’s talk calories for a moment.

Important disclaimer: There are so many variations that defining a particular calorie count is impossible and irresponsible. If you substitute Stevia and almond milk and skip the cream, you could have a not-so-bad treat.

Starbucks types: Typically, they will run between 300-600 calories for their grande size.

The recipe above: About 150-400 calories, depending on which sweetener you choose.