The flat white vs latte confusion is very real, especially in the US. Most people think that they are more or less the same drinks.
But if you are going to a cafe that truly knows its coffee then you’ll find that there are some subtle differences. And once you know those, it’s hard to say that there is no distinction.
What’s the difference between flat white and latte?
Difference in the Actual Coffee Content
The coffee content in a particular cup is what sets apart many caffeine beverages.
However, this is not a factor that differentiates between a flat white vs a latte. Both of them have the option to include a single shot or a double shot espresso (although, a flat white is usually made with a double shot).
So, if the difference is not in caffeine, then what is it?
Does Size Matter?
People often say that a flat white is just a smaller latte. But that’s not true.
The general consensus is that flat white is served in around 5 to 6oz cups whereas a latte can go up to 8oz a cup. To be fair, this does make it seem like you get less from a flat latte.
However, if the caffeine content is similar in both then that means a flat white makes for a stronger cup. Now, it’s up to you which one you want based on how strong you like your coffee. This debunks the myth of a flat white being the lesser version of a latte.
Milk – the Hidden Ingredient
What we tend to forget is the ratio of milk to coffee.
In essence, flat whites and lattes are both drinks that use espresso and steamed milk. But that steamed milk makes all the difference.
When milk is frothed by a steam wand, it is divided into three layers;
- The bottom warm liquid
- The middle velvety microfoam
- The top most large air bubbles
Now, this is the key difference. Latte has liquid milk as well as large frothy bubbles on top which gives it a milky taste. A good flat white, on the other hand, only has a thin layer of microfoam milk which gives it a velvety, smooth feel.
While not strictly limited to a latte, you’re more likely to get art on a latte than a flat white. So if you’re a visual person – or love putting pictures up on social media – this might be a big positive for you.
We’ve written another article on latte art if you want to learn more.
Flat white or latte – which should you choose?
The question arises, which one should you go for? And I am afraid, there is no straight answer for that.
Of course, it all depends on your preference.
- Do you like a stronger cup? Then perhaps go for a flat white!
- Do you like your coffee to be a little on the milky side? Then the latte is probably for you.
- How sweet do you want it to be? Either way, you can add sugar to your taste preference.
It also depends on where you’re getting your coffee from.
Your best bet would be to ask your barista about their differences and try out both. Then keep choosing the one you like the most. Hopefully, now, you’ll be able to differentiate between the two on your next visit to the coffee shop.
Or you can just make both at your home and see for yourself. It may take a few tries, but once you get it right, it will be totally worth it!