Without a doubt, two of the most popular coffee drinks across the globe are flat white and the latte. And while they both look fairly similar and contain the same ingredients, there are a couple of things that set them apart. 

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Let’s take a look at the flat white vs the latte. We’ll see how the two differ and how they have changed over the years!

What Is Flat White Coffee

A flat white is a popular espresso-based drink. It combines smooth, excellent steamed milk and rich espresso to create a flavourful coffee drink. Not too milky and not too strong. The perfect balance of creamy and rich.  

While flat whites are super common in cafes worldwide, they are by far the most popular in Australia and New Zealand.  

The basic idea of the flat white is a combination of around 40ml of espresso coffee, followed by about 110ml of steamed milk. 

This is only a very rough guideline, though, as every cafe does its flat whites differently. One cafe might use two shots in a 5oz mug; another cafe might use a single shot. There is really no exact recipe for the flat white, other than the combination of steamed microfoam milk and some amount of espresso coffee.  

Benefits of Drinking a Flat White

Delicious

Above all, the flat white is delicious! 

It has the perfect amount of each ingredient. Not too much milk to cover up the taste of the coffee, and not too much coffee to overpower the milk’s sweetness. Both of its 2 ingredients work together to form a velvety smooth and rich coffee experience. 

Often Made Stronger Than a Latte

While this is entirely dependent on the cafe, flat whites often taste stronger than a latte. If you go to a cafe that serves both flat whites and lattes, chances are the flat white will be the stronger of the two. While it may not have more espresso per se, it may be served in a smaller cup, meaning it is less diluted. This gives the flat white its flavorful taste. 

How Does a Flat White Work

How Does a Flat White Work

A Flat white is brewed using an espresso machine. The barista will load around 19 grams of finely ground coffee into the espresso machine’s portafilter. She will then tamp the coffee using what is known as a tamper. In doing this, the barista compresses the ground coffee down into a tight puck of coffee. 

The portafilter is placed into the espresso machine’s group head; then, the shot is engaged. The barista will watch carefully here as the coffee slowly drips into the cup below. The barista is watching to ensure that water is flowing through the coffee puck at the correct rate. Too fast and the resulting espresso will taste weak and watery. Too slow and the shot will taste bitter and burnt. 

If the barista is happy with the shot, she will continue with the next part of the flat white— the milk. She will add cold milk to a milk pitcher and place the steam wand just below the milk’s surface. As she engages the steam, she will make sure that small amounts of air are incorporated into the milk. 

Once the milk is around 55 degrees celsius, she turns the steam wand off, leaving her with beautiful, creamy, microfoam milk. 

From here, all she needs to do is pour the milk in the shot of espresso. And viola, a flat white!

Short History of the Flat White

There is much contention as to the origin of the Flat White. Ask the Australians where the flat white came from. They’ll tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a purely Australian invention. No doubts about it. 

Coffee lovers from neighboring New Zealand feel differently about the matter! The Kiwis claim they are the true keepers of the flat white!  

Either way, it seems clear the flat white emerged sometime in the ’80s in both countries. Perhaps it naturally evolved in both origins.

Pros and Cons of Flat White Coffee

Pros

  • Rich and creamy.
  • Not too much milk.
  • Isn’t overly foamy. 

Cons

  • Difficult to make a good one.
  • Some flat whites can be too strong for some people.

How to Make Flat White Coffee 

How to Make Flat White Coffee

The flat white isn’t the easiest thing to master. Unlike the latte, which often uses lots of milk covering up any espresso mistakes you might make, the flat whites espresso is loud and clear. But it’s not impossible. All it takes is a little practice and you’ll be steaming milk like an expert!

To make a real flat white, you’ll need an espresso machine. If you don’t have one, you might be able to get away with using a pod-based espresso shot and a milk frother. Milk frothers are designed to work fast, and you can get an incredible variety of Bestpresso pods if the DIY route is something you are interested in. 

Today, we are going to brew using an espresso machine. 

You’ll need:

  • Espresso machine.
  • 19g of finely ground coffee.
  • Tamper.
  • Milk thermometer.
  • Milk pitcher.
  • Milk.
  • Your favorite mug.

Step 1 – Brew the espresso

The first step is to brew a shot of espresso. To do this, add 19g of ground coffee to the portafilter. Tamp the coffee into a tight puck, then insert the portafilter into the group head. Place the mug under the portafilter and engage the shot.

Step 2 – Steam the milk

Wait until your shot is finished brewing, then we can start steaming the milk. Pour enough milk into your milk pitcher for the size of your cup. In this example, we’ll use a 5oz cup to use around 110ml of milk.

Insert the tip of the steam wand just below the surface of the milk. Engage the steam wand. 

The milk will begin to spin. This is good! Keep it spinning, and add little ‘kisses’ of air to the milk by dipping the milk pitcher slightly. Keep spinning until the milk reaches about 55 degrees celsius. Once it is there, turn off the steam, remove the jug, wipe the steam wand, and purge it. 

Step 3 – Pour the flat white

Now, all we need to do is pour our creamy milk over the coffee. Pour slowly in a swirling motion, and try your hand at some latte art! Enjoy!

 

What Is a Latte

Like the flat white, a latte is also a trendy espresso-based drink. The latte, also known as cafe latte, is a combination of creamy steamed milk and espresso coffee. 

Like the Americano, the latte is often made using only 1 shot of espresso coffee. But an Americano and a cafe latte taste different thanks to the latte’s use of steamed milk.

Every coffee shop in the world might do a latte slightly differently. Some use one shot of espresso, while others use two. Some serve a latte in a glass, as this is what was traditionally done, while others have ditched the glass entirely.

These days, in modern specialty coffee shops, lattes and flat whites are indistinguishable. Sometimes lattes will be a little bit weaker or served in a larger cup, so they are perceived as such.  

Benefits of Drinking Latte

Smooth and Creamy 

The latte is super smooth and incredibly creamy. Thanks to the fine, textured milk used, the latte is velvety and delicious. Because it is often served with a higher concentration of milk, a latte might taste creamier than a flat white. 

Often Not as Strong as the Flat White

Traditionally, lattes were served in larger vessels, often glasses. This would make the latte appear a little less strong because it is more diluted. While this isn’t the practice in every cafe, you are bound to find a few that still use glasses in an old-school way!

How Does a Latte Work

A latte is a combination of rich espresso and creamy steamed milk. Both of these elements require an espresso machine.

The espresso is prepared by finely grinding coffee beans at an espresso setting. This is much finer than your standard filter settings. It’s much closer to Turkish coffee grinds. 

From here, the coffee is transferred to the portafilter, where it is tamped and added to the espresso machine. Depending on how the barista wants to make the latte, they will either pull a single or a double shot.

Cold milk is added to a milk pitcher, which is then steamed using the espresso machine’s steam wand. The milk is heated while having tiny amounts of air added to it. This creates textured milk that is creamy and smooth.

The milk for a latte is often made slightly thicker and foamier than for a flat white. But again, this totally depends on the cafe and who is preparing the drink. 

Short History of the Latte

Short History of the Latte

The cafe latte has its roots firmly planted in Italy. There are no arguments about that, as there are with the flat white! After its inception, it was eventually adopted by the rest of Europe, with the US and other countries following shortly after. 

While the latte is now popular anywhere that there is espresso, areas of the US, particularly Seattle in Washington, are trendy. 

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origin of the latte’s invertor, as coffee and milk in that part of the world have been combined for centuries. 

Pros and Cons of the Latte

Pros

  • Smooth and creamy. 
  • Good for people who don’t like strong coffee.
  • Less acidic tasting than many other espresso-based drinks.

Cons

  • Is often served with too much foam, resembling a cappuccino.
  • Lattes are often too milky tasting for some people. 

How to Make Latte 

Making a latte and a flat white is basically the same process from start to end. The only difference might be that you’ll add a little more air into the milk than you would for a flat white. 

If you’re keen on making a delicious latte at home and are on a budget, either look into getting a cheap espresso machine or try brewing espresso in a Moka Pot instead of a machine.

You’ll need:

  • Espresso machine.
  • 19g of finely ground coffee.
  • Tamper.
  • Milk thermometer.
  • Milk pitcher.
  • Milk.
  • Your favorite cup or glass.

Step 1 – Brew some espresso

First, we’ll pull two shots of espresso. Add 19g of ground coffee to the espresso machine’s portafilter. Using the tamper, press down the coffee into a tight puck. Now place the portafilter into the group head. Put your cup or glass under the portafilter and start the shot.

Step 2 – Steam your milk

Once your espresso is ready, we can start steaming the milk. Pour some milk into your milk pitcher. Use enough for the cup you’ll be using. 

Place the tip of the steam wand below the surface of the milk and engage the steam wand. 

As the milk spins, add a small amount of air by dipping the milk pitcher slightly. This will allow the steam wand to rise slightly, working air into the milk. Spin the milk until it reaches around 55 degrees celsius. Then turn off the steam, remove the pitcher and wipe the steam wand, followed by a purge to clear any milk stuck inside. 

Step 3 – Pour your delicious latte.

Give the espresso a swirl, then pour the milk into the espresso. Pour in a circular motion, like you are blending the milk into the coffee. Try to pour some latte art and you’re done! 

Enjoy your tasty latte!

 

Differences Between Flat White and Latte

Coffee

Both the flat white and the latte use the same coffee. You can use premium Cuban coffee or even a berry-forward Kenyan coffee. Use either one or two shots— it varies from cafe to cafe and country to country.  

Milk

Often the only difference between a latte and a flat white is that a latte has slightly thicker, foamier milk. While this isn’t always the case, it is probably the biggest difference between the two drinks. If you want to try something different from either drink, try adding a light vegan coffee creamer that will turn your latte into a breve! 

Pouring Process

Using a slow, circular pattern, both coffees are poured in the same way. Though many people know a nice pattern on a coffee as latte art, almost all good cafes serve flat whites with art on top too!  

Serving

Traditionally, a latte is served in a glass, while a flat white is served in a cup. This isn’t really the way anymore as many cafes no longer use glasses for their drinks. 

Does More SpendingMean More Quality

When it comes to buying both a flat white and a latte in a cafe, spending more doesn’t always buy you a tastier coffee. Many chain stores make a terrible latte and an awful flat white. And these same chain stores charge far more than most very high-quality specialty coffee shops. A good latte will never be dirt cheap, but an expensive one won’t always be good.

It’s entirely up to the coffee and milk used, and just as importantly, the barista’s skill in making the drink. 

Do’s and Don’ts With Flat White Coffee

Do’s and Don’ts With Flat White Coffee

Do’s

  • Do try a flat white if you visit Australia or New Zealand. It really is something special!
  • Do use quality espresso. If you don’t use good coffee, you’ll be able to taste it in your flat white. 
  • Do taste flat whites from different cafes. See how they differ from lattes and other flat whites.

Don’ts

  • Don’t be afraid of making a DIY flat white at home. All it takes is good ingredients and a little practice.
  • Don’t use poor quality milk when making your flat white. Good coffee and milk are key! 

Do’s and Dont’s With Latte

Do’s

  • Do try to compare flat whites and lattes from different cafes. See what the similarities are and how they differ. 
  • Do make a latte at home. Lattes are a little more forgiving than flat whites.
  • Do ask for your latte, stronger or weaker, depending on how you like it.

Don’ts

  • Don’t use low-quality milk. Lattes contain a large portion of milk, so we want to use good milk! 
  • Don’t go crazy with the amount of air you add to your milk. Add too much air and you’ll end up with a cappuccino.

FAQ About Flat White vs Latte

Is a flat white stronger than a latte?

Because a flat white is often served in a smaller cup, it may taste stronger as a result. It won’t necessarily have more caffeine or espresso coffee, though. 

Which has less milk, flat white, or latte?

Depending on the cafe, a flat white may have less milk than a latte. Because if 2 shots of espresso are often used in both drinks, and a flat white is served in a smaller cup, it will contain less milk.  

Does a flat white have more caffeine than a latte?

Generally, no. Most cafes use 2 shots of espresso in each drink. A flat white may appear stronger because it is served in a smaller cup. It is less diluted because there is less milk added. 

Does a flat white have fewer calories than a latte?

If a flat white and a latte both have the same amount of coffee, but the flat white is served in a smaller cup, it will have fewer calories. If everything is equal, cup size and all, a flat white and a latte will contain the same calories. 

As opposed to sugar-free flavored coffee, or a cup of black coffee that won’t break your fast, flat whites and lattes contain calories. If you want something sweet and organic to add to your latte, honey is a natural sweetener and delicious addition to coffee drinks.  

Does a flat white have less milk than a latte?

Because flat whites are often served in smaller cups, they do contain less milk than a latte. If both drinks are served in the same size cup, they will contain the same amount of milk.

Why is flat white more expensive?

Flat whites are far less common than lattes in places like the US. This may be why they are pricer than a latte.  

Conclusion

It seems that these days, for better or for worse, the latte and the flat white are very close to being the same thing. Both are creamy, both are delicious, and both are available in the best coffee shops worldwide. So try both at your local cafe and see how they differ! 

Photos from: AntonMatyukha / depositphotos.com, belchonock / depositphotos.com and Ischukigor / depositphotos.com.