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Flat white vs latte: what’s the difference between these two popular espresso drinks? Here’s what you need to know — and how to make each one!

Flat white vs latte
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Flat white vs latte: what’s the difference between these popular espresso drinks? Well, a lot and not so much. For starters, they’re made with exactly the same ingredients. Modern coffeehouses have even started to blend the definition of the two so they’ve become very similar. So, the differences are very subtle! Here’s what to know about these two drinks, and how to make them at home.

Want to learn how to make latte art? Here’s our tutorial on Latte Art Basics!

Flat white vs latte: what’s the difference?

Both the flat white and latte are espresso drinks made with espresso, steamed milk and a layer of foam on top. The difference is in the proportions of these ingredients. Here’s the breakdown of flat white vs latte vs cappuccino, using the modern coffeeshop definitions:

  • Flat White is the least frothy, with about 1/4-inch microfoam at the top. The steamed milk is stretched 20-25%. It tastes like drinking an espresso with smooth velvety foam.
  • Latte is medium frothy, with about 3/8-inch microfoam at top. The steamed milk is stretched 25-35%. It tastes milkier than a flat white, a bit more like drinking milky coffee.
  • Cappuccino is frothy but not foamy, with about 1/2-inch microfoam at top. The steamed milk is stretched the most of the three drinks, at about 30-50%.

Keep in mind, the exact definition depends on the specific coffee shop and location in the world. Our definitions for flat white and latte use a double shot of espresso and roughly the same amount of milk. In some parts of the world, you’ll find coffee shops that serve a flat white in a small mug and the latte in a larger cup with a much higher percentage of milk, resulting in a creamier flavor.

Coffee drink graphic

For you visual learners, here’s a graphic that shows the foam to coffee ratios for each of the espresso drinks! If you taste the two back to back, you’ll notice that the difference in flavor and texture is subtle yet perceptible.

Flat white vs latte

Flat white vs latte: FAQ

Now that you know the technical definitions, here are a few frequently-asked coffee drink questions:

  • Does a flat white have more milk than a latte? A modern flat white has the same amount of milk as a latte: the milk is just less frothy.
  • Which is better: a flat white or latte? It’s really a matter of personal preference! The flat white tastes more like espresso with velvety foam, whereas the latte is more milky. Personally we prefer a flat white when it’s made correctly, but both are delicious! (The macchiato is our preference, though.)
  • Which has more caffeine a flat white or a latte? Both drinks are made with two espresso shots, so they have the same amount of caffeine. One espresso shot has 64 mg caffeine, so both drinks have 128 mg caffeine. (Compare that to a cup of drip coffee, which has 95 mg caffeine.)

Flat white vs latte: which is easier to make?

Both of these espresso drinks require some equipment, but you can make them homemade. They vary slightly in the level of foam. You could argue that the flat white is easier to make since the milk is stretched less than a latte, but they’re essentially the same amount of effort. Here are the methods for how to make them, or jump to the recipe below:

Types of lattes

Another difference of flat white vs latte: there are many flavors of lattes offered at coffeeshops. You don’t hear much about a tea flat white! There are a whole host of flavored lattes and tea lattes to try, including:

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Flat white vs latte

Flat White vs Latte


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

Flat white vs latte: what’s the difference between these two popular espresso drinks? Here’s what you need to know — and how to make each one!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 espresso shots (2 ounces)
  • 4 ounces steamed milk

Instructions

  1. Prep for the flat white: Grind and tamp the espresso, but don’t pull it. Store your milk jug in the refrigerator: the colder the milk is the more time you have to get the right texture.  Or, rinse it in very cold water, dry and refrigerate for a few minutes. Fill your milk jug to just below the spout, about ¾ cup, using very fresh whole milk (or oat milk for vegan). 
  2. Make the espresso: Use an espresso machine or manual espresso maker to make two shots of espresso and pour it into a mug (or try our Aeropress Espresso).
  3. Steaming method (espresso machine): Heat the steam wand. Once prepared, place the wand just below the surface of the milk about ½ inch from the side, tilting the jug slightly. Keep it in that position for about 5 to 10 seconds, stretching the milk by about 20 to 25% in height, with very slight movements up and down. Once stretched and slightly foamy, lower the nozzle about another ½ inch and tilt the pitcher just enough to get a spinning vortex, which incorporates the foam, turning it into a velvety microfoam. Keep that still and spinning until the temperature is about 150 degrees Fahrenheit. (Using a pitcher with a temperature sticker is very helpful.) Turn off the steam before removing the wand from the jug. Wipe the wand with a clean cloth. Turn it on for 1 second to purge the nozzle.  Tap and swirl the pitcher to incorporate any bubbles on top. The final texture should look like wet paint or melted ice cream, smooth and velvety. You’ll use only about half of this quantity and can discard the rest (see the * note below). 
  4. OR, heat the milk to scalding and foam it (without espresso machine): Heat the milk to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot to the touch but not simmering. Measure with a food thermometer, or you can approximate by testing with your finger. Use a milk frotherFrench press or whisk to froth milk into small, even bubbles. For a latte you’ll want small bubbles and lightly thickened milk (if you’re using a milk frother, don’t go too far: you want the milk to mix in with the coffee so you don’t need too much froth**). For the French press method, note that it’s useful to have at least 1 cup to have more milk to work with: this makes enough for 2 drinks. We highly recommend reading How to Froth Milk if this is your first time frothing. Wait 30 seconds to 1 minute to get the foam to incorporate into the milk and separate slightly (exact timing depends on your foaming method).
  5. Serve: Tap the milk container on counter and swirl it to break down any large bubbles. Pour milk into center of the espresso, ending with light foam. 

Notes

*This makes enough for 2 drinks, because it’s easiest to steam a larger quantity of milk. Discard the extra milk. If you have an espresso machine with two espresso taps, you could use this to make another flat white. (The milk becomes less frothy while it sits, so it’s not ideal for waiting to make another espresso.)

**The milk frother works well; for the French press pump vigorously until frothy, about 25 times. Do not overwhip, as the foam will deflate!

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Espresso
  • Cuisine: Coffee
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, in australia this is radically wrong ☺!
    A flat white is like a strong slightly milky long black with a couple splashes of milk, no froth, like an old school white black tea, wheras a latte is much more milky, more like a traditional Indian chai tea, but yes the frothing is used here (which is absent from chai). Cappuccino has chocolate powder on top of lots of frothed milk on top of strong coffe which geys milky from the foamed milk being poured into it.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Thank you!