The Difference Between Flat White vs Latte: Everything You Need to Know.
Should you end up in a coffee shop that doesn’t have a flat white on the menu, a small latte could be a good substitute. But don’t get things wrong – these coffees are not the same. Still, the variations are not that obvious right away.
That said, these milk-based drinks are usually served in cups of different size and type. To be exact, a flat white should come in a 150 ml or 175 ml ceramic cup and a latte is served in a 200 ml to 240 ml glass. And if you take a closer look at flat white vs latte, the unique characteristics of these drinks become apparent.
Flat White vs Latte: Similarities and Differences
When it comes to similarities, a latte and flat white are espresso-based creamy drinks. Both recipes may include one or two shots of espresso, though two shots are more common in Candadian coffee shops.
Two shots of espresso give these drinks a better flavour balance because both feature a substantial amount of milk.
You can also get a more distinct punch of espresso by asking a barista to use ristretto for a flat white. In fact, some coffee shops use it by default to make a clear difference between the drinks, taste-wise. And if you are wondering about ristretto, it’s an espresso made with half the usual amount of water.
You can watch Steven compare a latte with other popular espresso drinks in this video, which also includes recipes for everything:
One way or the other, it pays to check out the recipes for the drinks to understand the points of departure. By the way, if you want to pick a good machine for lattes, here are our latte maker reviews.
Flat White Recipe
You should know that the preparation of a flat white is likely to vary from one coffee shop to another (more-so the cafe au lait). However, the drink is supposed to taste and look the same, so some general rules apply.
As indicated, the drink starts with two shots of espresso which are gently topped by microfoamed milk. The trick actually lies in the milk itself. The microfoam needs to have a pure silky texture without any froth. To pull off the desired texture, you should use no more than 130 ml of milk. Of course, there’s also some technique to it.
Going to be adding air for just about a second and then bring the jug up … work that air into the milk until the jug is almost too hot to touch.
The final result should have a lower density than a latte due to microfoamed milk. And again, it needs to allow the espresso flavours to really kick in.
By now, you can guess that a latte starts with two shots of espresso, but it features much more milk. To be exact, about 175 ml of milk is required to make a latte, and the milk is both steamed and frothed.
And again, the secret is in nailing the steaming and frothing technique. This may vary on the type of milk you use, but you should aim for the temperature of 62.5°C since it brings out the optimal sweetness (1). Once you steam the milk, pour it gently over the espresso and add a thin layer of froth.
How to steam milk for latte art:
And here's how you actually do latte art:
History and Origins
History of the Flat White Latte
Interestingly, a flat white is a subject of a heated cultural debate down under. To make things clear, the term itself has been widely used in New Zealand and Australia to describe milky coffee. It came into being in the 1980s and the two countries have been debating about the flat white’s original creator ever since (2).
To make matters worse, some Australian coffee shop owners and baristas claim they are the ones to name the flat white first. Regardless of the origins, the popularity of a flat white spread like wildfire and it is now a staple.
History of the Cafe Latte
The history of latte is not that turbulent. It is also one of the more recent additions to coffee shop menus. As the story goes, latte came into being in the 1950s due to the demand for a less potent cappuccino (3).
Like flat white, latte also became widely popular in the 1980s and it’s still standing strong despite the rising demand for different espresso-based drinks.
Did you know that latte actually means milk in Italian?
A flat white is an interesting example of how espresso-based milk drinks have evolved. It stands out as a palatable crossover between traditional espresso and a latte. Plus, it is a great choice for those who like their coffee with milk but still want the espresso flavours to shine through.
Tired of your usual coffee? Here's where you can learn more about the various coffee drink types. We also discussed the difference between flat whites and cappuccinos here.
No, a flat white doesn’t have more caffeine than a latte. Assuming that both drinks feature two shots of espresso, they should also have the same amount of caffeine. However, a latte tastes milder because there is more milk.
Yes, a flat white has fewer calories than a latte. Again, it’s all about the milk, and a flat white normally has 110 calories. There is also about 6g of fat if a barista uses cream milk.
Yes, there can be sugar in a flat white. For example, a flat white at Starbucks could contain 17g of sugar if you opt for the grande size.
- Fick, K. (2016, June 23). The science of milk in coffee. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.diffordsguide.com/g/1113/coffee/science-of-milk
- Alves, T. (2017, May 6). Here's Who Really Invented the Flat White. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/new-zealand/articles/the-contentious-history-of-the-flat-white/
- Fabricant, F. (1992, September 2). Americans Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/02/garden/americans-wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee.html