Latte vs Flat White: What is the difference?

by Mama Loves A Drink

Latte vs flat white: know the difference between these two popular coffee drinks and get your order right every time!

It’s time to point the spotlight on this Aussie favourite coffee – now so popular worldwide that even Starbucks has it on their menu!

Is a Flat White a Latte in disguise? No!

Isn’t it just a small Latte? No!

Then cut to the chase, what is this Flat White you speak of?!

A glass of flat white coffee sitting on a napkin on a wooden table, captioned Introduction to flat white

So what exactly is a Flat White?

There’s no one standard definition of a Flat White coffee, though it is generally agreed it is a strong, white espresso drink. It is served with steamed milk and only a tiny layer of micro foam on top – approximately 5 to 6 ounces in size.

What is a Latte?

A Latte, or correctly a Caffe Latte (caffè e latte) of Italian origin literally means “coffee and milk”, made with espresso and steamed milk, finished with a thick layer of creamy foam. It can be made with one or two shots of espresso, layered with steamed milk then layered with about a 1/2 inch of foam.

The creaminess of Lattes goes great for mixing with other flavours, and the foamy layers work brilliantly for creating coveted “coffee art”.

Lattes are great for when you want to sit back with a big cuppa that’s not too intense in flavour.

Note a Latte in Italy is quite different to elsewhere in the world. In Italy you’ll want to order a “Latte Macchiato” if this is your preferred drink.

Latte vs Flat White

It’s easy to see from the outside why you might assume the Flat White is similar to a Latte but there are several subtle differences.

What is the difference between a Flat White and a Latte?

Both are milky coffee drinks made with espresso and steamed milk, but the ratios of milk to coffee are different as well as the texture of the finish.

Whilst there’s no absolute ratios to follow, top baristas believe that the Flat White gives more opportunity for the coffee itself to be the start of the show as it’s not as diluted with milk.

Ratios in the Flat White: 2 oz espresso, 4-5 ozs steamed milk, 0.5 oz micro foam

It is a strong espresso drink but the emphasis is on pulling out the flavor of the espresso.

Note these exact ratios are, of course, open to debate. You’ll have plenty who’ll agree on more or less which is why finding the café in Melbourne that serves your coffee exactly how you like it is such an art form!

Caffè Latte: 2 oz espresso, 6 ozs of milk and about 1-2 oz of steamy foam

The more milk you add to your Latte, the stronger you should make your espresso.

The Flat White may taste a bit stronger but in a true comparison, they should both have the same amount of Espresso, it’s just the Latte is slightly more diluted and a slightly larger drink.

So it’s as simple as that!

Serving your Flat White

Much like a Latte, it’s your choice really if you want a ceramic mug or you prefer to serve it in a glass, laid on a saucer with a serviette.

Can I still have foam art on my Flat White?

Although not as much foam is going on top of your Flat White, it is still possible to decoratively adorn your Flat White, but perhaps not to the same extent as a Latte.

A beautifully served Flat White in a ceramic cup looks very similar to a Latte
A beautifully served Flat White in a ceramic cup looks very similar to a Latte

How do you make an awesome Flat White at home

If year’s of trying to train your overseas baristas have failed, here’s how to make your Flat White at home:

  • Get a good Espresso machine. (We love the Nespresso range with capsules but there are cheaper options which use fresh beans).
  • Make a single shot of espresso (or double, then double the milk)
  • Steam approximately 5oz/150ml of milk until it is aerated enough for small, dense bubbles to appear
  • Pour your milk slowly into the espresso until about the last inch, then quickly pour the micro foam to finish

The challenge of making your Flat White at home? Steaming your milk right! You could try simply hot milk (microwave or stove top), or use a steaming wand.

If you only have access to a hand frother at home, this is great for Lattes and Cappuccinos, but the bubbles are likely too large to use for a Flat White.

If you really want to create your perfect Flat White at home you will need to invest in an espresso machine with a steaming wand, and practice, practice, practice!

You can find our complete guide to the best espresso machines with steamers for milk espresso drinks here.

What sort of milk should you use for a Flat White at home

Full fat cow’s milk or whole milk always steams best so is the preferred milk for a traditional Flat White, but you could try almond milk or oat milk too.

What sort of coffee should you use?

Again, a bit of personal preference but most expert baristas seem to agree that a premium medium roast works best for a Flat White.

How much caffeine is in a Flat White?

Depending how large a cup you’d going for, a Flat White will typically have 30-40mg of caffeine in a single shot.

Flat White with Sweetener?

Totally up to you if you sweeten your coffee or not. Everything about coffee appreciation is totally personal and no one can tell you whether it’s “right” to sweeten your milky coffee. Many argue that you wouldn’t want to take from the intensity of the flavour with sugar or sweetener – but you decide!

Now don’t get us started whether it was actually a New Zealand invention not Australian…

Variations on a Flat White

Like to spice of your Flat White? Because all our favourite coffees can be spruced up. Here’s our favourite coffee made into an evening favourite!

Learn more about all our favourite brews and get help with deciphering coffee jargon over on the Coffee Connoisseurs section of our website – happy brewing mamas!

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