Flat White vs. Latte: Which Drink Reigns Supreme?

Flat White, Latte, Cappuccino, Ristretto, Double Espresso, Caffe Mocha, Americano… These are just a few coffee drinks we can start our day with, and the list just grows longer as trends rapidly change. But what is the difference between them? What makes them so distinctive?

Espresso took the coffee industry by storm when it first appeared, which resulted in new and innovative coffee drinks. In certain cases, though, it is not so easy to distinguish their characteristics and Flat White vs. Latte dilemma is the perfect example of just such a case. Although they appear to be very similar, each offers quite a unique coffee experience.

The origins of Latte and the Flat White

The origins of Latte and the Flat White can be traced in different ways, however, there are facts we can follow in order to better understand why they were created and what led to their popularity. 

Latte, for example, means milk in Italian and is derived from an Italian phrase caffee latte which translates to coffee with milk. But, while the name does originate in Europe, it has taken a different form in other parts of the world. For example, in the United States Latte represents something different – a coffee drink made with steamed milk and a shot or two of espresso.

Served in the 8 oz cup, this creamy beverage appeared in Seattle in the ‘80s as a milder alternative to Cappuccino and soon gained popularity all over the state. Therefore, this is where Latte shaped into its modern form, the one we know so well today.

Flat White, on the other hand, started its journey later on, around 1985. The debate about its origin is a never-ending story, some say it is Australia, and some claim it appeared first in New Zealand. Whatever the case, the invention of Flat White was, in a certain way, also inspired by Cappuccino. The customers wanted a beverage with less foam so baristas offered a new solution- a 6 oz cup filled with microfoam and one or two shots of espresso. Over the course of several years, the Flat White became so popular that it reached coffee shops all around Europe and North America.

Microfoam or steamed milk?

Flat White vs. Latte—what makes them so distinct? Both share one common denominator: they are espresso-based coffee drinks that contain a large ratio of milk while the biggest differences hide in the size of the cup, and the way milk is poured into the espresso shot. For example, Flat White is usually served in 6 oz cups as opposed to Latte that is served in slightly larger cups which are around 8 oz in size. 

A Latte being prepared

Although some baristas use ristretto to prepare the Flat White, both drinks usually contain one or two espresso shots. The true difference, therefore, hides in the way the milk is prepared and then poured into the cup.

In the case of the Flat White, the steaming process is slightly more complicated because the froth and the foam are consistently mixed back into the steamed milk which results in that recognizable smooth texture. The next step is slightly easier because a barista simply needs to pour the microfoam into the espresso, however, the time is of the essence. The process needs to be done immediately after steaming is completed so that the microfoam can mix with the crema from the espresso.

Flat White
Flat White Coffee

Latte requires another approach. In this case, the milk is simply frothed with a steaming wand while the pouring requires more skill. The common method is to use a spoon to hold back the foam on top while the rest blends with the espresso shot. Afterward, the foam is added to rest on the top and with time it actually became a rather famous Latte landmark. A perfect example of Latte would have an inch of foam that easily emphasizes the taste of espresso.

So, which side wins in the Flat White vs. Latte dilemma? Coffee lovers who like a smaller cup of coffee with a stronger espresso kick should definitely try the Flat White whose smooth texture won’t disappoint. Latte, on the other hand, is more suitable for those who prefer larger quantities of coffee with a milder espresso aroma which is perfectly balanced with steamed milk.

In any case, whichever one you choose, you’re bound to enjoy an amazing coffee experience!


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