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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 5oz or 6oz ceramic cup and a latte is served in a 7oz to 8oz 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 the U.S. coffee shops.

Two shots of espresso give these drinks a better flavor 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.

One way or the other, it pays to check out the recipes for the drinks to understand the points of departure.

a comparison photo showing flat white vs latte

latte vs flat white

Flat White Recipe

You should know that the preparation of a flat white is likely to vary from one coffee shop to another. 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 4.4oz 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.” – Anton, Coffee Roasters

The final result should have a lower density than a latte due to microfoamed milk. And again, it needs to allow the espresso flavors to really kick in.

Latte Recipe

By now, you can guess that a latte starts with two shots of espresso, but it features much more milk. To be exact, about 6oz 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 145°F 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.

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?

Final Thoughts

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 flavors to shine through.

Tired of your usual coffee? Here's where you can learn more about the various types of coffee.

FAQs

Does a flat white have more caffeine than a latte?

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.

Does a flat white have less calories than a latte?

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.

Is there sugar in a flat white?

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.


References

  1. Fick, K. (2016, June 23). The science of milk in coffee. Retrieved July 4, 2019, from https://www.diffordsguide.com/encyclopedia/1020/bws/the-science-of-milk-in-coffee
  2. 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/
  3. 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
Scott
 

Hi, I'm Scott, and I've traveled extensively through North America and Europe, exploring food and drink pairings around the world. My Love of coffee began during my teen years when a friend's family introduced me to the glories of the classic Italian Moka pot. That technology got me through too many early-morning final exams in college and eventually led to a manual espresso machine after graduation.

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