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Flat White Vs Latte Differences Explained: Which Is Better?

There are tons of different drinks you can make with coffee and milk – such as a latte or flat white.

What’s the difference between them anyway?

Glad you asked!

In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about these two drinks.

Keep reading for an in-depth flat white vs latte rundown.

What is a Flat White?

flat white coffee

These days, a flat white is a staple drink in coffee shops around the US. But compared to other items on the coffee menu, a flat white is a rather new addition. It was first introduced to the US by Starbucks in 2015. 

The exact origins of this drink are disputable. Both Australia and New Zealand claim to be the birthplace of flat white. What we do know is that this drink was a well-guarded secret by these two countries for about 20 years before it made an international breakthrough.

The name of this beverage actually makes a lot of sense if you know how Australians and Kiwis name their drinks. For instance, they refer to espresso as a “short black,” while something similar to Americano is called a “long black.”

So why flat white?

Well, the term “flat” is a term they use down under to refer to a soda drink that fizzled out. So that seems like a perfect way to describe a coffee drink with only a light layer of foam. 

It’s this foam that makes flat white distinguishable from other milk-based espresso drinks. Microfoam, to be exact.

Microfoam is finely textured milk with tiny, dense bubbles. It’s much thicker than foam on a cappuccino, for instance. 

To make a flat white, you need to pour a thin layer of microfoam on a freshly brewed cup of espresso. 

Some coffee shops use a ristretto instead when making flat white coffee. This is also true for Starbucks, the brand that brought this espresso drink onto American soil. Since it’s a more concentrated drink, ristretto gives flat white a bit of a kick.

Iced Flat White is a version of Flat White, one of Starbucks’ most popular drinks. This refreshing coffee is made with ristretto, cold foamed milk, and served on ice.

What is a Latte?

latte coffee

Like flat white, cafe latte is also an espresso-based drink with foamed milk. But while flat white has a thin layer of steamed milk, a latte also has a layer of milk foam on top of it.

Because it’s so sweet yet subtle, a latte is such a versatile drink. It’s suitable for practically any time of the day. What’s more, you can serve it both hot and cold, so you can drink it throughout the entire year. 

The name of the drink means “coffee with milk” in Italian, which is where this drink originates. We don’t know when it was first made, but what we know for sure is that Europeans have been mixing coffee with milk for centuries.  

When it comes to the United States, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it became a popular coffee drink. And that happened first in, you guessed it, Starbucks. 

Flat White vs Latte: What Is The Difference?

At the first glance, these two drinks appear to be pretty much the same. But there are some key differences between them. 

Brewing Method

espresso machine brewing coffee

The brewing process is the same with both drinks. First, you pull a shot of espresso, then you froth milk. Now the actual difference lies in how you make your foam.

Flat white features a very thin layer of microfoamed milk. Latte, on the other hand, has an additional layer of frothed milk on top of it.

If we are to be nitpicky, I must stress out that flat white comes with milk froth that’s more velvety and less bubbly than the one on a latte.

Whichever drink you’re making, you need the same tool to do the job – an espresso machine. 

Some machines offer premade beverages, and most of them have a latte as an option. More high-end models with tons of options can often feature flat white, as well.

If you don’t have these drinks as preset, you’ll have to make them yourself. Some automatic espresso machines have automatic frothers, so you can’t do much aside from the available milk settings. 

Taste

Both drinks are milk-based, so they’re sweet and easy to drink. 

But because flat white has less milk than a latte, but the same amount of espresso, it has a stronger espresso flavor. 

In case flat white is made with ristretto instead of espresso, your drink will also be a bit sweeter and more concentrated.

Serving

a barista preparing flat white coffee

While both drinks have the same amount of espresso, the amount of milk is different. And between the two, a latte is served as a larger drink. 

A flat white usually consists of one or two shots of espresso (1-2 ounces) and 4 ounces of milk. A latte, on the other hand, is served with at least 6 ounces. Some coffee shops add even more milk.

Traditionally, a latte is served in a wide 8-ounce cup and garnished with fancy latte art. Nowadays though, you can often get your order in a tall glass instead.

When it comes to flat white, this drink is commonly served in a ceramic cup. 

FAQ

Still confused about these two coffee drinks? I’ve got you covered. Here’s a short FAQ that should solve your doubts.

Is a flat white stronger than a latte? 

That depends on whether either of these drinks was made with one or two shots of espresso. 

In case flat white was made with ristretto instead of a regular espresso shot, then it’s weaker than a latte. A shot of ristretto has about 58 milligrams of caffeine, while a single espresso shot has 75.

What is healthier, flat white or latte?

Both of these drinks are made with the same ingredients, coffee, and milk. Since latte has more milk than flat white, it has more calories. If you want a low-calorie option, you can always use plant-based milk such as almond milk.

Does a flat white have more milk than a latte?

No, it’s actually quite the opposite. Flat white has 4 ounces of milk, while a latte has 6 or more, depending on which milk ratio the coffee shop uses.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what are those tiny but key differences between a flat white and a latte.

Flat is usually served as a 6-ounce drink with a thin layer of velvety microfoam. It strikes the perfect balance between the intensity of espresso and the rich mouthfeel of the milk.

Latte, on the other hand, comes in a bigger cup and has more froth. It has a very milky and subdued flavor that makes it so drinkable, even if you are not such a dedicated coffee drinker.

Not thrilled with either? No problem. There are tons of other milk-based espresso drinks you can try.

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Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.