Make Fancy Coffee Drinks Without The Expensive Equipment

Download our FREE guide to making the best espresso drinks without owning expensive equipment. Just enter your email address to download the guide today!

We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Get our FREE Coffee Lover Newsletter

Sign up for a free newsletter to help you brew amazing coffee at home.

We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.
  • Flat White vs Latte: How to Milk It

    CLICK HERE to subscribe to our weekly emails on finding and brewing amazing coffee!

    Milk+espresso=_____?

    flat white vs latte

    A lot of things can fill that blank, which tends to make ordering coffee a little intimidating. But we’re here to sort things out for you.

    Two easily confused drinks are the flat white and the latte. While some people (including some baristas), believe a flat white is just a small latte, we’re here to prove otherwise.

    Read on for a breakdown on these two milky espresso drinks.

    The Espresso Experience

    Both the flat white and the latte are creamy, espresso based drinks. While either can be severed with a single or double shot, they are both usually served with double shots, especially in the US.

    The double shot is for the sake of balance, since both of these drinks have a lot of milk products mixed into them. However, you will get more of the espresso taste with a flat white than with a latte, because there is less milk in the former.

    The presence of espresso in these drinks also means that, if you want to make them at home, you are going to need one of two things:

    However, in order to differentiate the drinks, some coffee bars will use a single or double shot of ristretto in their drinks instead. Ristretto means you get the same amount of espresso using half the amount of water, so it often packs a more distinct punch.

    Flat White Basics

    The flat white is the newer of the two drinks, originating sometime in the 1980s. However, it’s exact origins are adamantly debated between Australia and New Zealand. 

    Just like its creation, the actual making of flat whites varies wildly depending on what establishment you’re ordering from. The consistent basics is that it is less dense than a latte or even a cappuccino. This is because it uses microfoam rather than regular milk foam or steamed milk.

    Ideally, a purely textured microfoam is integrated into 1-2 shots of espresso in a 5 oz cup to form a flat white. You´ll get pure silk with zero froth and a solid espresso kick.

    Latte Basics

    Originating in the 1950s, the latte supposedly developed as a result of many Americans finding the cappuccino to be too strong. It really took off in popularity in the 1980s and remains one of America´s most popular drinks.

    As mentioned above, a latte begins with espresso, which takes up about 1/6 of the cup (1-2 shots). 4/6 is then filled with 5-6 oz of steamed milk, followed by a thin layer of milk foam.

    Clearly this drink is heavily milk based (even the word “latte” means milk in Italian). This results in a very creamy, smooth beverage that is usually served in an 8-ounce cup.

    Lastly, lattes are often served with art on top, created during the foam pouring process. 

    The Milk Factor

    Like with most espresso based drinks, milk is added to both the flat white and the latte. However, the difference is how the milk is mixed or frothed.

    Ordinarily, when a barista steams the milk, it naturally forms 3 layers as it gets stretched. The bottom layer is the steamed milk, which is topped by a naturally forming microfoam with tiny air bubbles. A more airy foam or froth sits at the very top.

    Pass the Mic(rofoam)

    For a flat white, the foam and froth are consistently mixed back into the steamed milk. This gives the entire portion a texture like that of the microfoam. If done correctly, the mixture should look a bit like a white gloss paint.

    As a result of this technique, flat whites are often described as having a velvety texture.

    Getting Steamy

    Steaming the milk for a latte is a little bit more straight forward. The majority of this drink (about 5/6 of it), is made during this process. The milk is simply frothed with a steaming wand, as normal, creating distinct layers of steamed milk, microfoam, and froth.

    The steamed milk ends up taking up about 4/6 of the end drink with just 1/6 being devoted to the froth and microfoam on the top.

    It’s Raining; It’s Pouring

    While the steaming process is more complex for the flat white, the opposite is true for the pouring process.

    For a flat white, a barista simply needs to free pour the microfoam into the espresso immediately after steaming it. The immediacy of this step is important because if the microfoam is left to sit, the steamed milk will separate out.

    If executed correctly, the microfoam will mix with the crema from the espresso, creating a smooth (flat) golden brown surface for the drink.

    On the other hand, pouring the milk for a latte is a bit more involved. Many baristas will hold back the foam on top with a spoon while pouring in the steamed milk. Then the foam is either simply released to sit on top or the barista goes the extra mile and uses it to create latte art.

    Getting Served

    One more defining factor between these two drinks is how they are served. But keep in mind these rules are only loosely followed, especially in high volume coffee chains.

    The flat white is visibly smaller than most other espresso drinks, including lattes and cappuccinos. They are traditionally served in 5 oz tulip cups. However, a lot of places super-size them (Starbucks usually serves 12 oz flat whites for example).

    On the other hand, a latte is traditionally served in an 8 oz glass (rather than an opaque cup), so that you can see the different layers of the drink. Many places also super-size this drink as well though.

    Wrap Up

    So if you’re looking for a smaller drink with a bigger espresso kick and a velvet-like mouthfeel, try ordering a flat white.

    On the other hand, if you’re here for a bigger drink that tastes like milky espresso, we recommend a latte.

    Happy Caffeinating!

    Recommended Reading

    Breville Espresso Machine Review
    Overwhelmed by all of the espresso machine options offered by this star-quality Australian company? Don't worry; we've got you covered with this comprehensive Breville espresso machine review.
    How to Brew Espresso in a Moka Pot
    Learn everything you need to know to brew espresso in a Moka Pot so you can easily enjoy an amazing espresso in the comfort of your own home.
    Saeco vs De’Longhi: What’s the Better Espresso Machine?
    Do not waste your time or money by purchasing an espresso machine that is not right for you. Join our team at Roasty in an espresso machine showdown as we compare two of the bigger names in automatic home-brewing: Saeco and De' Longhi.
    Best De’Longhi Espresso Machine to Grace Your Countertop
    If you're on the market for an espresso machine, you should probably be considering De'Longhi's products. When you're dealing with this kind of quality, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best De'Longhi espresso machine for you. But don't worry; we've got everything you need to know right here on Roasty.
    Best Commercial Espresso Machine
    Whether you're already established or just starting out, you have to get an espresso machine that suits your needs. If you're having trouble choosing the right machine, read our reviews on the best commercial espresso machines.
    Best Espresso Powder: Why it Should Be in Your Spice Cabinet
    Espresso powder may make for a meh cup of coffee, but it does make for an incredible secret ingredient for other kitchen activities. Read on for our picks for the best espresso powder as well as some tips on how to use it.
    Roasty Coffee

    Learn to Make Barista-Level Coffee From The Comfort of Your Home

    The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.

    Click Here To Learn More