Flat White vs Latte – Find Out the Differences

Can you differentiate between a flat white and a latte?

If you can’t, you’ll find out how by the time you finish reading this page.

And if you’ve tried, you’ll soon realise that it’s not as straightforward as it seems. On the outside, even a perfectly done flat white and latte looks very similar.

So what sets them apart?

Let’s take us a closer look at a flat white vs a latte.

Flat White vs Latte  – A Quick Comparison

The difference between a flat white and latte lies in the milk foam. A flat white’s milk foam looks glossy and smooth while a latte’s milk foam is denser.

Flat White Originates from Australia and New Zealand

The origin of the flat white is almost as elusive as its rightful composition. The country responsible for the flat white has been narrowed down to either New Zealand or Australia. So, it’s safe to say that this variation of espresso was founded in both countries at around the same time.

Flat white has only been around since 1984, making it a relatively new option to coffee drinkers, especially in the U.S. and Europe. Over the past few years, the flat white has become something of a novelty. 

The main goal of a flat white is to create an extremely smooth experience on the tongue with the micro-foam.

How is that done?

Let’s take a closer look at the composition of a flat white.

Micro-foam and Espresso as the key elements of a flat white.

Flat White is Meant to be Creamy and Glossy

Composition of Flat White Coffee

The main difference between a flat white and a latte lies in the composition of the steamed milk. 

In a flat white, the objective is to produce an even creamier drink where the steamed milk and the micro-foam feel as if they are one and the same.

The flat white appeals to coffee lovers who find the foam in a traditional latte to be too dense. The micro-foam made for a flat white is meant to taste as glossy as it looks and be extremely smooth in texture.

The texture of the foam is responsible for the usage of flat to identify this drink. The foam for a flat white is flatter than that of a cappuccino and a latte because of the thinness of the micro-foam bubbles.

Read More :  Flat White vs Cappuccino – How Different are They? 

Barista Pouring A Flat White

This well crafted foam will be poured over either 1 or 2 shots of espresso. During the pouring process, latte art can also be added.

The traditional size for a flat white is 5oz. 

Similar to a latte, a flat white can be ordered in larger sizes at various shops. However, it can be argued that going any larger on this drink would make a flat white cross over into being classified as a latte. 

A flat white is meant to maintain the strength of the espresso and going any higher messes with that ratio.

Latte has Italian Origins with an American Twist

Translate - Caffe Latte means Coffee with Milk

A latte or more specifically, Caffé Latte, is primarily an American invention. 

Technically, Italy takes credit for its entrance into the coffee world, but their version of a latte is quite different from ours in the U.S.

An early Italian latte was made with espresso and milk that was warmed. The varation that has become so popular among Americans is made with espresso and steamed milk.

The full name, Caffé Latte translates to coffee milk though simply asking for a latte in the U.S. provides sufficient information to most baristas.

Our modern version was first brought into the spotlight during the 1980’s, continuing to grow in popularity over the decade that followed.

The Micro-foam is Central to A Latte

Composition of Latte Coffee

A latte is made up of three different parts:

  • Micro-foam
  • Steamed milk
  • Espresso

Micro-foam is the foam created when the barista steams the milk. The bubbles in this type of foam are extremely small, ensuring they leave a smooth taste upon the tongue.

Throughout the third wave coffee scene, most lattes are served in either 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz cups. In less traditional ones, a latte can often be ordered as a 20oz or 24oz drink.

Barista Tip : One thing to note when ordering a larger sized latte. You’re not scoring more coffee when you order up. The barista is using the same number of shots, just diluting them with more milk to increase the volume.

So, if you do decide to get a larger latte but want to make sure the power of the espresso remains present, I’d suggest asking for a couple extra shots.

Now that we have that straightened out, let’s not forget about the prettiest part of this drink.

A Skillful Barista will Create A Beautiful Latte Art

Beautiful Latte Arts in Coffee

A skilled barista has the ability to create marvelous designs on top of a latte using the foam that has carefully been created through the steaming process.

A lovely Rosetta or heart make a perfect cherry on top when it comes to an excellently executed latte.

Sarah Lee Headshot

About Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee is a former barista who discovered the power of coffee while maintaining a rigorous dance and writing schedule. She trained as a barista in the third-wave coffee industry, receiving in-depth instruction about how to assemble traditional espresso drinks and perfecting her latte art skills.