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Latte vs Flat White | What’s the Difference?

latte vs flat white with coffee in background

When people hear flat white, they commonly mistake it as another version of a latte. Although, they pretty much look the same, lattes and flat whites are two different drinks. You will generally find that both are available to order from coffee chains and even smaller coffee shops. Of course, if you have your own machine at home, you can make them both there too.

To cover the latte vs flat white aspect, we will look at what is a latte and a flat white, what’s the difference between the two coffee drinks, and how to perfectly create both of them. You can also check out which is stronger.

You can also check out drip coffee vs pour over coffee to see the key differences between them.

What is a Latte Coffee?

A latte is a coffee drink that contains an espresso shot and steamed frothy milk. The word latte comes from the Italian term “café e latte” or “cafe latte” which directly translates to coffee and milk. 

Even though it’s one of the most popular drinks in the world, many people ask what is a latte? A latte is generally 1 part espresso and 2 parts milk. The foam is then applied on top and sometimes with a cool pattern, known as latte art.

In Northern Europe and Scandinavia, the word “café au lait” has been used to describe a coffee drink that is a combination of espresso and steamed milk. Although, in some places, this can be confused and just be a plain black coffee with added milk. It’s always worth checking.

According to Be Your Own Barista, a Latte is the third most popular drink in the US. It is a common choice for those who are general coffee drinkers and aren’t concerned about actually tasting the coffee beans.

The Story Behind Latte Coffee?

Coffee and milk have long been a part of European gastronomy since the 17th century. The domestic terms of traditional ways of drinking coffee are “caffellatte”, “milchkaffe”, and “café au lait” which is usually served as part of breakfast. There was no mention of the terms in public Café’s in Europe and the US until the 20th century. 

The terms behind a latte can be traced back to Italian culture, but the latte itself was actually a creation of the USA.

What is a Flat White Coffee?

A flat white is a coffee drink that consists of espresso and steamed milk. That probably is the most direct definition of a flat white coffee. If you’re craving a coffee with a robust coffee taste and strong caffeine content, with the creamy flavor of steamed milk, then a flat white coffee is for you. 

You could think of it as a latte being milky, creamy, and often sweet, whereas a flat white is milky but has a more prominent coffee taste. A flat white is generally for those who want to enjoy a milky coffee but don’t want to sacrifice the taste. 

A flat white is a popular choice in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. However, like the latte, this coffee drink can generally be found in all coffee chains and local coffee shops. You can also make it at home with a coffee machine such as the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine.

The Story Behind Flat White Coffee

Some people would say that flat white originated in Australia, others suggest it was in New Zealand. Despite the debate on where its origin is, flat white coffee has been around since the 1980s. It since spread around the world and became a popular choice for coffee drinkers.

It entered markets in the US, UK, and all across the globe, making it an addition to specialty café menus. Likewise, it was Starbucks in particular that started to offer flat white coffees on their menu in the USA which demonstrated its popularity.

What is the Best Way to Make a Latte and a Flat White?

What you’ll need:

  • Coffee Beans 
  • Coffee Grinder
  • Tamper
  • Espresso Machine
  • Milk of Choice

Espresso shots are essential to make both coffee drinks, so let’s take a look at making an espresso.

How to Prepare an Espresso?

  1. The first thing that you need to do is to grind your coffee beans. This is an important step for you to do if you want to create that perfect espresso shot. The grind size matters, so it’s essential that you adjust the grind level until you get the perfect outcome. The general rule when making an espresso is to use a fine grind.
  2. You can use pre-ground coffee but if you want to achieve a bold espresso taste, then skip the pre-ground coffee and grind your own.
  3. To make a flat white, you’ll need a double shot of espresso. To do this, measure about 20 grams of finely ground coffee and pour it into the portafilter from your espresso machine.
  4. Next thing to do is to make sure that the coffee is evenly distributed in the portafilter. To do this, draw your finger across the portafilter from side to side, while tilting the device to the sides.
  5. Get your tamper and place your portafilter on a clean, flat surface. Then position your tamper properly on top of the coffee grounds and apply pressure downwards. Twist the tamper a little to create a smooth surface on the coffee grounds for an even extraction.
  6. Place the portafilter in the group head and start making your espresso shot. 
  7. Count around 30 seconds from the point where the shot slowly starts to drip, so you’ll have an idea when to stop the extraction.

How to Make a Latte Coffee?

  1. Pour your double espresso shot into a cup or glass. 
  2. Get your milk and pour it into a frothing pitcher. Put the steamer nozzle around 1 inch from the bottom of the pitcher and start steaming your milk of choice to around 60 °C. 
  3. As the milk is nearly ready, put the nozzle about an inch under the surface of the milk and begin to froth for a second or two. Then gently tap the pitcher on the side.
  4. Tilt your cup or glass and begin slowly pouring the milk, while making sure the foam stays in the pitcher. Then add the layer of foam on top of the milk.
  5. And Voila! Your very own Latte.

How to Make a Flat White Coffee?

  1. When you’ve already prepared your double shot of espresso, pour it into a cup or a glass.
  2. Steam your milk of choice to around 60 °C in a pitcher. If you’re not sure if you have the right temperature, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk. 
  3. After steaming your milk, give the pitcher a good thud on the counter and swirl the milk slowly to produce velvety, smooth milk.
  4. And Voila! Your very own Flat White.

What Makes a Latte Different from a Flat White?

When looking at latte vs flat white, they are both easily confused as two similar drinks, some believe that a flat white is just a small version of a latte, but they’re different from each other. 

The first difference between a latte from a flat white is that a latte has long been existing before flat white coffees came into the picture. Lattes became popular in the 17th century, while flat whites originated sometime in the 1980s. 

The difference between a latte coffee and a flat white coffee all boils down to the milk content.

For a flat white coffee, the milk is steamed and not frothed like a latte is. What you need to remember is that a microfoam is needed to make a flat white coffee, this gives it a velvety and creamy texture. This means that the foam is poured in together with the steamed milk to create a smooth consistency.

For a latte coffee, the foam needs to be held back with a spoon while pouring in the steamed milk. Then the foam is used after all the steamed milk is poured to create a thin layer on top. This can lead to what we now know as latte art. 

The main key difference when it comes to latte vs flat white is the coffee taste. A latte has a milkier taste and is often sweeter. Whereas a flat white has a stronger coffee taste, allowing you to still enjoy the bold flavors of your favorite coffee.

One very important point to remember is that every coffee shop or even barista will make these drinks slightly differently. Some might add 1 cm of foam to a flat white or make a latte with different milk, you will find inconsistencies along the way. 

Which One Wins in Latte vs Flat White?

Bottom line is, both latte and flat white coffees appeal to different people. If you prefer to get a stronger coffee taste, then you should order a flat white. If you prefer a creamy coffee drink, then a latte is the best drink for you. 

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