Flat White vs Latte: Unraveling the Key Differences for Ultimate Coffee Bliss
Flat whites and lattes are two popular espresso-based coffee drinks that enthusiasts enjoy around the world. While both consist of espresso and milk, there are key differences in their preparation, taste, and presentation that may influence your choice when ordering in your local coffee shop.
Understanding the unique characteristics of each coffee can enhance your appreciation for these beverages and leave you better equipped to savor their rich and intricate flavors.
In this article, we will dive into the details that distinguish flat whites from lattes, highlighting their respective origins, milk texturing techniques, and how their contrasting ratios impact the overall drinking experience.
Before diving into the differences between a flat white and a latte, let’s first understand the basics of each coffee beverage.
What Is a Flat White?
A flat white is a popular espresso-based coffee drink that originated in Australia and New Zealand. It consists of a double shot of espresso, combined with steamed milk that has a velvety, microfoam texture.
The milk in a flat white is expertly steamed to create a consistent and silky texture, allowing the rich and bold flavor of the espresso to shine through.
The beverage is known for its distinct milk-to-coffee ratio and typically comes in a 165ml cup size. Since it contains less milk than a latte, the flat white can offer a stronger and more intense coffee experience for those who value the taste of espresso.
What Is a Latte?
A latte, short for a caffe latte, is a popular espresso-based coffee beverage that originated in Italy. It consists of a single or double shot of espresso, combined with steamed milk and topped with a layer of frothy milk foam.
The milk in a latte is typically more voluminous than in a flat white, resulting in a creamier and slightly sweeter taste. This is due to the higher milk-to-coffee ratio, which dilutes the espresso flavor to some extent.
Lattes are often larger than flat whites, usually served in a 240ml cup size. Despite the additional milk content, lattes still provide a satisfying coffee experience for those who appreciate a more subtle espresso flavor coupled with a creamy texture.
One of the primary differences when comparing flat white vs latte lies in the milk texture.
While lattes can be made with any type of milk, flat whites must be made with microfoam milk. Microfoam milk is steamed milk that has been aerated to create a thick and velvety texture. It’s denser than regular steamed milk, so it creates a richer texture in your coffee drink.
Size and Proportions
Flat white and latte also differ in size and proportions. Flat whites are typically served in smaller cups, around 6.5 to 8 ounces, while lattes are more commonly served in larger cups, varying between 10 to 12 ounces.
This size difference impacts the milk-to-coffee ratio, with lattes having a higher ratio of milk to coffee. Lattes contain a milk-to-coffee ratio of ⅓ espresso and ⅔ milk, while flat whites have a more balanced ratio.
Strength and Flavor
Due to the differing proportions, the strength and flavor of these two drinks are also distinct.
- Lattes have more milk, so the end result is a sweeter beverage with a less intense coffee profile.
- Flat whites have a richer espresso flavor due to the lower milk content and the use of microfoam milk, allowing the coffee taste to shine through.
Caffeine and Calories
Despite the size differences, both flat whites and lattes usually contain similar amounts of caffeine, since they’re both espresso-based drinks. The primary factor affecting the caffeine content is the number of espresso shots used.
However, the calorie content may vary due to the larger milk volume in lattes, which may add more calories as compared to flat whites.
Choosing Your Favorite
Both flat white and latte have their unique characteristics and flavors, and choosing between them often comes down to personal preference.
Which Suits Your Taste?
Ask yourself this: do you prefer a richer, more intense coffee flavor, or a milder, creamier experience?
Flat whites typically have a stronger coffee taste due to their higher ratio of espresso to milk, and the microfoam creates a velvety texture.
Lattes are typically milder and sweeter, with more milk which can be more comforting and filling.
Factors to Consider
There are several factors that may help you decide between a flat white and a latte:
- Size: Lattes are generally larger, with sizes ranging from 10 to 20 ounces. Flat whites, on the other hand, are more compact, at around 6 ounces.
- Sipping time: If you prefer a longer-lasting, leisurely coffee experience, a larger latte might be the better choice. Flat whites are smaller and get cold more quickly, which makes them better suited for a quick, rich boost.
- Boldness: Flat whites boast a more robust espresso flavor, while lattes have a milder and gentler taste due to the larger milk volume.
- Texture: The microfoam in flat whites provides a smooth and velvety texture, whereas lattes have a thicker and creamier mouthfeel.
Ultimately, the choice between a flat white and a latte comes down to your unique taste preferences and the factors that matter most to you in a coffee experience.
Making them at Home
Understanding how to make both flat whites and lattes is key to appreciating their differences. In this section, we’ll explain how to make each beverage, focusing on their key characteristics.
How to Make a Flat White
To make a flat white, you will need an espresso machine and fresh coffee beans. First, brew a shot of espresso. Use good quality beans to ensure that the extraction of espresso is balanced and not too bitter. Remember that flat whites have a strong coffee flavor, making the espresso crucial.
Next, steam your milk to create microfoam. Microfoam is a velvety, thick texture that results from steaming the milk at the right temperature and aeration level. To achieve this, hold the steam wand at a slight angle and keep it near the milk surface, introducing air as needed. When the milk has reached the proper texture and temperature, stop steaming.
Finally, pour the microfoam milk over the espresso shot, creating a smooth, creamy beverage with a slightly stronger coffee taste than a latte. Serve the flat white in a small cup or mug to highlight its rich flavor and mouthfeel.
How to Make a Latte
Similar to making a flat white, you will need an espresso machine and fresh coffee beans to make a latte. Start by brewing a shot of espresso, just like you would for a flat white. Good quality beans and a balanced espresso shot are also important for a latte, as it forms the base of the drink.
Steaming the milk for a latte requires a slightly different technique as you want to create a layer of foam on top of the steamed milk. To achieve this, steam the milk at a slightly higher angle, allowing more air to be introduced, creating larger bubbles that will result in a frothy layer of foam.
When the milk has reached the desired consistency and temperature, pour it over the espresso shot with a gentle hand. The steamed milk should be creamy, and the foam on the top should be light and airy. Serve the latte in a tall mug or glass to showcase its distinct layers and larger size compared to a flat white.
Customizing Your Drink
Creativity with Latte Art
One way to personalize your drink is through latte art. Although latte art is more commonly associated with lattes, you can still practice this beautiful skill with flat whites. The key difference in creating art with these drinks lies in the milk texture. The microfoam milk in flat whites creates a smoother, more velvety canvas, while lattes use slightly frothier milk.
Some popular latte art designs include hearts, rosettas, and tulips. The key to mastering these designs involves precision and control while pouring the milk.
With practice and patience, you can turn your flat white or latte into a visually stunning masterpiece that’s almost too beautiful to drink.
I have spent many hours trying to make good latte art but the results have not been great. Perhaps I should have spent more time learning in art classes than looking out of the window. I will keep persevering though – it won’t beat me.
Another way to customize your flat white or latte is by experimenting with different flavor variations. Many coffee shops offer a variety of flavored syrups, such as vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut, which can be added to your drink for a unique twist.
If you prefer a more natural flavor, you can try adding spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to your drink. For an unconventional twist, consider using alternative milk options, such as almond or oat milk, which can impart subtle nutty flavors.
By exploring different latte art designs and flavor variations, you can create a truly personalized and delicious drink, whether you’re enjoying a flat white or a latte. Happy customizing!
Which has a stronger coffee flavor, a flat white or a latte?
Flat whites have a stronger coffee flavor due to the higher espresso-to-milk ratio compared to lattes.
Are flat white and latte served in different cup sizes?
Yes, flat whites are typically served in smaller cups (5-6 oz) while lattes are served in larger cups (8-12 oz).
Is the milk froth different between a flat white and a latte?
Flat whites have a smoother, velvety microfoam, while lattes have a thicker, frothier layer of foam on top.
Which has more calories, a flat white or a latte?
Lattes usually have more calories due to the larger serving size and higher milk content compared to flat whites.
Find out about all the different types of coffee drinks in our complete guide.
My name is Dana Dupree and I am an avid coffee lover. Since I began college and realized what a heavy load writing majors took on, I have been a fan of the bean juice.
My job has taken me all over the US on book tours and press conferences, and my favorite part about the trip is exploring the best places to grab my cup of Joe.