Flat White vs. Latte: Taste, Quality, How to Make
Ordering coffee can sometimes be a little intimidating given the many types of beverage on the menu in a typical coffee shop.
Things are even harder when ordering milk-based brews because most look quite similar. Two of the most commonly and easily confused beverages are flat white and latte.
Many coffee drinkers and inexperienced baristas even think that a flat white is just a smaller latte which could not be further from the truth.
Flat white and lattes have a different taste and feel and the proportions of the ingredients used to make them is also different. To help you know these popular beverages better, in this piece we highlight some of their key differences.
2 espresso shots, micro-foamed milk
2 espresso shots, steamed milk, foamed milk
How it is Made
Pull espresso into a small ceramic cup and then free pour milk microfoam into the coffee
Pull espresso into a glass, add steamed milk then foamed milk and finish with latte art
Typical Brew Size
How it is Served
In ceramic cup
Taste and Flavor
Smoother and creamier
Milder and almost sweet
Flat White vs. Latte
Many coffee drinkers that love the milk-based brews are likely to order either flat white or latte when in the coffee shop, and most coffee aficionados already know which one soothes their taste buds. But, for the many other occasional coffee drinkers out there and budding baristas that cannot tell the two apart, here are some important points to keep in mind.
1. Overview and Origin
Knowing what a coffee-based beverage is all about and where it comes from is always the first step in ensuring that you know what will suit your tastes best and what to order next time.
While both flat white and latte are some of the most widely consumed milk-based brews they come from different parts of the world and at completely different times in history.
The flat white is one of the boldest milk-based beverages given that it does not have a lot of milk like a latte. And instead of being filled up with lots of steamed milk, it uses micro-foamed milk.
While most coffee enthusiasts, experts, and baristas seem to agree that the flat white came out in the 1980s, where exactly it originated from is a hot topic of debate that is probably not going to end any time soon.
There are two sides of the debate with one arguing that the popular coffee beverage originated in Australia and the term was coined by one Fraser Mclnnes to describe an incorrectly frothed cappuccino in 1989.
On the other side of the debate, there are staunch believers that the flat white originates from New Zealand and was invented by Derek Townsend in 1984.
Despite there not being a conclusive answer to its true origin, the fact is that the flat white spread from either of the two countries to the USA, UK Europe.
Lattes are famous for their high milk content and they are one of the best coffee-based beverages for the aficionados that love dairy. A typical latte will consist of espresso, lots of steamed milk, foamed milk at the top and distinct latte art.
Unlike the flat white, the origin of the cafe latte is clear as there is enough proof that it has been part of Italian breakfast for many centuries now.
The name cafe latte means coffee with milk when you translate it from Italian. In traditional Italian society, lattes were made by adding hot milk to Moka pot coffee and did not have foamed milk at the top or latte art which are modern additions.
Read More: 7 Best Stovetop Espresso Makers
2. How it is Made
You can make both flat white and latte from the comfort of your home and with a little practice, you can even make them as good as or even better than what your local barista will make. But, to achieve this, you need to know what goes into each.
How to Make Flat White
The flat white is a mixture of espresso and milk just like a latte but the process is a little different and here are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Extract 1 or 2 (mostly 2) shots of espresso into a small ceramic cup
Step 2: Prepare a perfect milk microfoam (frothed milk with very tiny bubbles)
Step 3: Free pour the milk while swirling the espresso to ensure it is folded in perfectly
Step 4: Finish with a thin layer of microfoam at the top (optional)
How to Make Latte
Given that with the latte you will not need to put in extra work to make the velvety microfoam or when pouring it, the process of making it is more straightforward and only involves the following steps.
Step 1: Pull 1-2 shots of espresso into a tall glass
Step 2: Pour in 6-8 ounces of steamed milk
Step 3: Finish the top with 1 cm of foamed milk
Step 4: Add some latte art for a more authentic look
Read More: 10 Best Latte Machines
3. Milk Texture
The main difference between the flat white and latte is the milk texture that you need to make each other, and it is a significant difference given that it changes how the beverages feel in your mouth and taste.
Steamed milk can be a little complicated when it comes to the texture but it will typically have three layers which are the liquid milk at the bottom, velvet microfoam in the middle and the thicker froth at the top.
With a latte, you get thicker foam at the top but the flat white is a smoother drink given that the microfoam has been mixed throughout the drink consistently.
The way you pour milk is one of the easiest ways to tell the two drinks apart. For a flat white, the microfoam has to be folded into the espresso to create a drink with a consistent texture, but for a latte, the beverage maintains distinct layers.
Given that there will not be any thick foam at the top like in a latte, the top remains flat which should explain where it gets its name.
4. Standard Brew Sizes
A flat white is characteristically smaller than a latte, and this is another good way to tell them apart. But, it is still important to remember that size is not always a reliable distinguishing factor.
Like with everything else nowadays, the brew sizes seem to differ from one coffee shop to the other, but there are still some standard sizes to expect.
A typical cup of flat white will be around 160 to 180 ml while the standard brew size for a latte is between 200 and 240 ml. Note that the sizes of the drinks also change from one locality or country to the other. In countries like the USA, many coffee shops have relatively larger brew sizes.
5. Ideal Serving Method
How you serve your coffee at home is always up to you and many coffee lovers will serve all kinds of coffee beverages in their favorite mugs.
However, all coffee-based beverages have a traditional serving method which might be different in different countries but the original or traditional method of serving the beverage is generally accepted as the correct and ideal one.
The flat white is traditionally served in a small (6 oz) ceramic cup given that there are no distinct layers to display. A latte, on the other hand, should be served in a tall (8 oz) glass to show off the nice layers. However, in many places across the world lattes are also served in small ceramic cups.
6. Beverage Taste and Flavor
Taste and flavor are the reason why many people choose coffee over other beverages like tea, and so when trying to decide between flat white and latte you have to take them into account.
Flat white is a more balanced beverage given the keen folding in of the microfoam milk into the espresso. But, since it has less milk, it will be a bolder beverage than a latte. Also, flat whites are generally smoother and creamier thanks to the velvety microfoam.
With a latte, you will get a milder beverage since it contains lots of steamed milk which dilutes the coffee. Lattes are almost sweet given the high milk content but you can still get a hint of the boldness of the espresso.
Which One is Better?
Now that you know what sets the two popular beverages apart, it is only natural to also want to know which one you will like best. But, like with all other coffee-based beverages, the right one for you depends on your preferences.
However, to choose between flat white and latte, you need to take two important factors into account which are how strong you want the brew to be and the amount of foam you prefer.
For those that want a strong espresso taste and as little foam as possible, a flat white will be a much better brew than a latte. But, for the coffee lovers that prefer something milder with more foam, a latte is the beverage to go with.