Please note: If you decide to purchase a product through a link on Bean Ground, we may earn a commission without additional cost to you. Learn More >
For coffee lovers, there are a plethora of different coffee drinks to choose from. However, it can be difficult to differentiate between some of the most popular ones, such as flat whites, lattes, and the cappuccino. Made with espresso, these drinks have subtle differences that can be challenging to discern.
This article aims to provide a clear understanding of the differences between a flat white, a latte, and a cappuccino.
Whether you’re a seasoned coffee drinker or just starting to explore the world of coffee, this article will help you make an informed decision about which drink to order next time you’re at your favorite coffee shop.
Let’s dive in!
What Is A Flat White?
A flat white is a coffee drink akin to a latte but containing a reduced amount of milk and milk foam. It is named after the flat layer of steamed milk that sits on top of the espresso shot.
The microfoam layer should be thin and velvety, not too thick or too thin. The drink originated in Australia and New Zealand but has gained popularity worldwide in recent years.
Origins Of The Flat White
It is believed by some that the individual credited with originating the term ‘flat white’ was Alan Preston, an Australian who established a café in Sydney back in 1985.
Some argue that its roots trace back to Wellington, New Zealand, in 1989 when a barista by the name of Fraser McInnes unintentionally crafted a cappuccino using low-fat milk that stubbornly resisted frothing.
Flat White vs Latte
Both flat white and latte are popular coffee drinks that consist of single or double espresso topped with steamed milk. However, the two differ in terms of size, texture, and taste.
A flat white is typically served in a smaller cup with a thinner layer of foam on top, while a caffe latte is served in a tall glass with a thick layer of foamed milk, and often latte art is added to the top.
The milk used in a flat white is steamed to create a velvety texture and glossy finish, resulting in a more delicate and smooth taste.
On the other hand, a latte contains more milk, making it creamier and sweeter.
Due to the higher proportion of coffee to milk, flat whites taste stronger than lattes.
In summary, those who prefer a stronger coffee taste may opt for a flat white, while those who enjoy a creamier and sweeter taste may choose a latte.
|Origin: The Flat White is believed to have originated in Australia or New Zealand, although its precise origin is still debated.
|Origin: The Latte has Italian origins and is a well-known coffee drink worldwide.
|Ingredients: A Flat White consists of espresso and steamed milk. The milk is micro foam, meaning it has a velvety and silky texture with fine microbubbles. This microfoamed milk is poured over the espresso.
|Ingredients: A Latte is made with espresso and steamed milk, similar to a Flat White. However, it also includes a small amount of milk foam on top.
|Proportions: In a Flat White, the coffee-to-milk ratio is higher than in a Latte, but it has less milk than a Latte.
|Proportions: The key characteristic of a Latte is that it has more steamed milk and less foam compared to a Flat White. The coffee-to-milk ratio leans more towards milk (it’s a more milky coffee).
|Texture: The milk texture in a Flat White is smooth and silky, with a smooth texture. It’s often described as having a “flat” or “microfoam” layer on top, which means it lacks the thick layer of frothy foam found in some other espresso drinks.
|Texture: A Latte has a creamy texture due to the steamed milk, and it has a thin layer of milk foam on top, which can vary in thickness depending on the barista’s preference.
|Size: A typical Flat White is served in a smaller cup, usually around 5-6 ounces.
|Size: A Latte is typically served in a larger cup, often ranging from 8 to 12 ounces or more.
It’s All About The Milk
Both the latte and a flat white are an espresso based drink, so the best way to tell the two drinks apart is by taking a closer look at the milk – it’s all about the milk!
A latte is made using steamed milk and a 5mm layer of milk foam on top.
In contrast, the flat white is made with microform. Microfoam starts its life as regular steamed milk, but with a bit of extra aeration, you end up with microform.
Microfoam has many tiny air bubbles, is much more velvety in texture, and has a distinct glossy finish. Most people forget how vital milk is when making good coffee. When milk is frothed using a steam wand, three distinct layers form:
- At the bottom of the pitcher is heated milk.
- In the center of the pitcher, you’ll find the smooth, light microfoam (very small bubbles).
- At the top, you’ll find stiffer-frothed milk (large bubbles).
How the milk froth is poured into both the latte and flat white is also different.
When you’re making a latte, you hold back the layers of foamed milk with a spoon, gently pour in warm textured milk, and then finish with a spoonful of foam on top.
When you’re making a flat white, you only need to add the microfoam to your espresso – that’s it.
The process of “stretching” the milk by frothing, folding, and then swirling is a technique that blends the large bubbles and the liquid milk to maximize the amount of microform.
Flat White And A Cappuccino
When it comes to coffee, the difference between a flat white and a cappuccino can be confusing for many people. Although they share similar ingredients and cup sizes, the preparation method sets them apart.
A cappuccino is typically made with a single shot of espresso and two parts milk froth, while a flat white is made with a more concentrated version of espresso, two ristretto shots, and a finer-poured milk foam.
How To Make A Flat White
For those who want to make a delicious flat white at home, here is a simple guide:
Start by preparing 3 ounces of espresso (2 shots) and 1 cup of steamed milk. If you prefer your coffee sweet, add sugar to taste.
Use an espresso machine with an integrated milk frother or steam wand to froth the milk for at least a minute, to create a microfoam.
Transfer the espresso into a vacant mug or cup and allow it to gently cool for approximately 30 seconds, to prevent any risk of tongue scalding.
Add sugar if desired.
Top off your flat white by pouring the steaming, frothy milk over the espresso.
Keep in mind that a flat white utilizes a smaller quantity of milk compared to a cappuccino, leading to a paler hue and a smoother texture. Additionally, the flat white uses less foam than a cappuccino, making it a great option for those who prefer a smoother coffee experience.
By following these simple steps, you can enjoy a delicious flat white in the comfort of your own home.