Coffee Insight: Flat White VS Latte, A Guide


Taking into consideration how popular lattes are, you would think that people would be inclined to try flat whites. The similarities outweigh the differences you pin lattes vs flat whites head-to-head. Those slight differences could be what change your go-to order.

Flat whites have a questionable origin, with both Australia and New Zealand fighting for the title of where the drink came from. We will leave that fight to the locals to hash out. It is said though that in New Zealand, the foam of a cappuccino was too much but a latte was found to be too milky. A flat white solved both of these problems. The flat white has only gained popularity in the United States and Europe in more recent years. This has left a lot of us wondering what really makes them so different.

Keep reading to see what there is to set apart a latte vs. flat white!

Learn how to make a latte at home in “How to Make a Latte“.

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The Similarities:

A latte and a flat white are the same as a cortado and a cappuccino, in the sense that they are all espresso and milk. This makes us consider not just lattes and flat whites, but all espresso drinks. It is when a barista takes the different components and combines them that the latte vs flat white conversation begins. Learn more about what an espresso is in “What is Espresso Roast Coffee?“.

The Differences:

The Size

Depending on the coffee shop, this difference may not even exist. The coffee shop has the full creative freedom to serve a flat white at the same size as a latte. It is quite common to serve a flat white in a smaller size glass than a latte, much like you would a cappuccino or a cortado. A flat white may be served in a 160-165 ml glass, but it may just also be served in the same 16-ounce cup as the latte that someone else orders. Complete coffee shop digression.

The Milk:

This part is the most obvious component of a latte VS flat white. In training as a barista, it is a common lesson that a flat white is simply a latte without the foam. This is most applicable to places that serve them in the same size glasses. While it is more complicated than that, it is important to keep this in mind when steaming the milk for a flat white. Happily go all out with foaming for a cappuccino, which you can learn step-by-step here.

A flat white is actually one of the easiest hot drinks to make because you want to bring the milk pitcher all of the ways up so that the milk is not foamed but just simple heated with the steam wand. The process of foaming a cappuccino leads to sweeter milk, so do not expect anything too sweet from a flat white. The latte falls at a sweet medium of this. Keep the pitcher low in order to get some foam, then bring it up to heat the milk to the desired temperature.

Note: You cannot have an iced flat white. Much like you cannot have an iced cappuccino in my book, but that’s another conversation.

Check out Best 10 Milk Alternatives For Coffee You Have to Try to see what kind of kinds of milk to try out with your cup of coffee.

The Crema:

Without the foam there to distract you from the flavor of the espresso, baristas are put to the test more with flat whites. Plus, there is often less milk to take away from the flavor of the shot. The crema is not the entire espresso shot itself, but the visibly lighter part of the shot that develops on top. That part is sweeter and adds depth to the shot.

The crema of the espresso shot is given a chance to rise to the top, literally, so that you can see how well the shot was pulled. A good espresso shot should have a texture in the coloring in it. This will then be visible at the top of a flat white, with an almost orange swirl to it. It should not just look like your classic drip coffee with a ton of milk in it. Similar to how a good shot aids in making latte art, a shot is an important part of the presentation and flavor of a flat white. It might be more important in the case of a flat white.

Thanks for reading our piece on a latte vs flat white! Don’t forget to head back to the basics by reading our tips on how to make the perfect espresso. Master that and the rest is a piece of cake. Be sure to also take a look at “Every Espresso Drink Explained (Espresso Chart)” for a visual on what goes into these espresso drinks.

Check out our Pinterest to see interactive videos and keep the curiosity going! If that just keeps fueling your craving, check out your private facebook group at Daily Coffee Talk. You’ll be a pro in no time!

We’ll brew ya later! ☕️

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