Flat White vs Latte

A flat white coffee isn’t just a small latte. They’re very different drinks. If you get caught in a cafe that doesn’t serve a flat white, then a small latte might be a passable substitute, but they’re still not the same drink. The flat white vs latte debate is common in the UK and USA where the Flat White is still new.

Flat White and Latte
Flat white and a Latte from Climpson & Sons in Shoreditch. The flat white may look like a small latte, but there’s more to it.

I drink flat whites and my partner drinks lattes so we’ve seen the differences between the two drinks across cafes in the UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Denmark. I’ve had a lot of discussions with baristas and I thought it was time to shine some light on the common debate about exactly “what is a flat white?

How can a a flat white, small latte and a small cappuccino all use the same espresso of coffee and be served in the same cup but still be different drinks?

Espresso shot: How much coffee is there in your coffee?

We can hold the preparation of the espresso as a constant across drinks. You can have a double shot or a single shot in a flat white or in a latte. Some people would say that a single shot flat white isn’t really a flat white, but that’s a bit too purist and there are plenty of cafes in New Zealand and Australia that do serve singles. Likewise, some high-end baristas will make the espresso shot differently for the different drinks (such as a ristretto shot for a Flat White). But on average, the coffee is not really what makes a Flat White different to a latte or cappuccino.

Cup: It’s not the size of the cup, it’s what you do with it

In most cafes, a flat white is smaller than a latte. But that still doesn’t mean that a flat white is just a small latte. It’s a bit like saying that a garden shed is just a smaller house. Sure, most sheds are smaller than most houses, but size isn’t the decisive factor. If a barista has been un-trained (or over-trained) then they may think that size is the only difference between a flat white and a latte. I like asking those baristas what the difference is between a cappuccino vs a latte because they have to fall back on the real differences (beyond just size).

Milk: The forgotten ingredient

If we hold the espresso as a constant, then what makes a flat white different to a latte is the way the milk is prepared and poured. Milk is the hidden ingredient in a modern coffee. Most people forget how important good milk is to a good coffee. When milk is frothed with a steam wand there are three layers that form:

  1. Heated liquid milk at the bottom of the pitcher
  2. Velvet microfoam in the middle of the pitcher (these are very small bubbles)
  3. Stiff froth (these are larger bubbles)

The important process of “stretching” the milk by frothing, folding and swirling it is done to maximise the amount of velvet microfoam by blending the large bubbles and the liquid milk. Without swirling and tapping there would still have some microfoam, but you’d never know it in the cup because it would be lost in the liquid and/or the froth.

Flat White Milk at Flat White Cafe
Pouring a Flat White at Flat White cafe in Soho. The key to a Flat White vs a Latte is the way the milk is poured.

According to the Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee, the secret to frothing milk is keeping the steam wand just at the surface of the milk (that pleasing noise you hear in busy cafes). Good baristas learn to froth milk by noticing what works and what doesn’t.

The main differences between drinks (and between baristas) arise when the steaming is finished and it’s time to pour the drink. A good barista will swirl the steamed milk around to fold the froth back into the liquid and create a seamless pitcher of velvet microfoam. Some might tap the pitcher on the counter to pop the worst of the big bubbles on top (as part of folding the milk). But this is unnecessary if you’re swirling the milk smoothly enough.

Crema: A good test of a flat white

Crema is the orange caramelised coffee that floats to the top of an espresso shot. It tastes sweeter than the dark coffee part and adds mouth-feel, but it’s very vulnerable and can be destroyed by sitting too long or being drowned in milk. A cappuccino sacrifices the crema under the weight of the stiff froth and a latte usually drowns the crema with liquid milk. One of the main ways of telling if you have been served a good flat white is how much of the milk has merged seamlessly with the crema to form an even dusky orange swirl. This coloration of the milk is also the starting point of good latte art.

Summary: How to make sure your flat white is not just a latte

An excellent barista can “free pour” straight from the pitcher using the speed of the pour and the tilt of the jug to choose how much froth, foam or liquid milk to pour into any given drink. A mid-level barista is more likely to do it like this:

  • Flat white: Free pour for a velvet microfoam mix of froth and liquid.
  • Cappuccino: spoon the stiff froth into the cup and then top up with a pour from the jug.
  • Latte: Pour the liquid milk from the jug with a spoon to hold back the froth and then top off with a dollop of froth.

Like any human endeavour, there is a bell curve to the skills of baristas. The most ignorant of baristas will make a flat white, latte or a cappuccino all the same. After all, they’re just a “milky coffee”. Ironically, some very high end baristas have the same attitude because they take so much care with frothing, folding and pouring their milk that every coffee is made like a perfect flat white with an even mix of liquid, microfoam and froth.

Latte and Flat White
Latte vs Flat White at Speakeasy cafe in Soho. The latte is often in a glass but that’s not the main difference.

The net effect of this variety of approaches to the milk is that the drinks will feel different in the mouth and may taste different because of the dilution of the coffee with liquid. In terms of mood and mouthfeel:

  • Flat White has an even mix of liquid milk and smooth velvet foam so it feels like drinking an espresso, only yummier.
  • Cappuccino has stiff foam and feels like drinking bubbles with a bed of coffee hidden at the bottom.
  • Latte is milky, has a little foam on the top and feels like drinking a milky coffee.

The best way to really test out the difference between a flat white and a latte is to be to go to a few small independent cafes and order both a flat white and a latte.

The goal when ordering a coffee isn’t really to express a fixed reality, it’s to try and express your tastes and preferences to the barista. Forget worrying about the technical name of your drink and just order based on a general idea what you think you’d enjoy the most: a frothy treat (cappuccino), a milky warm sensation (latte) or a short, sharp, shot that goes down easy (flat white).

78 thoughts on “Flat White vs Latte”

  1. I’m also getting sick of baristas asking me whether I want a small Flat White or a large Flat White. I might have to revise the post to note that a Flat White does kind of imply a medium size. I think it’s because in a good cafe all the drinks will be free poured with a nice even mix of velvet, froth and liquid milk. Hmmmm….

    1. I order a large flat white (16 oz) from the coffee shop (panther coffee) in miami fl, and they seem to make it flawlessly, same goes with there large caps and lattes. There a pretty well known place and win many latte art competitions, so i guess they know what there doing, but still a large flat white is very much possible if left up to skilled baristas

      1. It´s like asking for a 16oz espresso… There would be for sure an idiot that would order it, and a dumb enough barista that will make it…

        Or else, you could perhaps make a 6 or 8 shots 16oz flat white… but for me it´s the ratio of espresso:milk that makes a flat white what it is.

        1. Ofcourse there would be difference on the ratio of milk, espresso and the size of cup when the barista would asked you the size of your flat white. It’s not a damned thing as part of the barista who can make you small or large one, the thing is, is it really a flat white?

        2. Well in Australia where im a trained barista there is a huge difference and people get mad if you do it wrong, a flst white very little froth a couple mm, a latee has about 8-15mm and a cappuccino has about 2cm of froth and they are all available in small, medium or large

  2. I want to facebook your post about the difference between flat whites and lattes but there’s no pretty blue button that makes this very easy for me to do *sighs dramatically* There are avid coffee drinkers amongst my friends who need to know!!

  3. Baristas are sick of being asked to make a flat white without being told how you like it. It’s not a good/bad barista thing. I’ve had several varying ideas of what a flat white is. My final thought is that people just want to ask for something difficult and different. 90 percent of flat whites I’ve made we’re based on pretension. Some were 8 oz no foam, some were 16 oz lattes disguised as flat whites. Very few Australians even know what a true flat white is. Surely if you believe there are bad baristas, then you can believe in bad customers. Perhaps you are the latter.

      1. I’m a barista in Australia. Before this, I grew up in GB, used to enjoy lattes and then started ordering the Starbucks flat whites when they came around. I preferred the ratio of coffee to milk but I remember no difference in texture.
        So a flat white over here, where it originated is different to UK, so I have been taught. It IS about the texture. Zarraffa’s coffee (an African themed chain, cafe area itself is much like Starbucks) taught me to not add texture into the milk, holding a perfect crema above the milk. Most coffee shops will free pour and still maintain this but a spatula/spoon can be used to hold back ALL texture. However, independent cafes will still get it wrong and add texture and it often verges on a latte.
        I must say I did find it interesting how different a flat white is in UK where I always thought it was more coffee-rich, to where it originated from in Australia.
        I personally prefer flat whites in UK.
        But that’s bevause I like stronger lattes in a small cup with silky smooth texture. I just order a latte here in Aus.

        1. The flat white actually originated in New Zealand, just like Lorde, Russell Crowe, Crowded House and the Pavlova! If you want to taste a real flat white, NZ is where you will find it.

        2. I think that the “flat” in flat white refers to no bubbles, as in the the milk is not frothy or velvety at all. I absolutely restrict all the bubbly stuff. It is nothing more than hot milk. After the pour, the coffee is a single, homogeneous colour. The clue is in the very name of the drink. A lot of new wave baristi who have been trained in a lot of the modern trendy chains to make velvet foam every time. And yes, I am Australian and have been a barista.

          1. I am also a highly experienced barista living in Australia my whole life. Grown up with flat whites my whole life. When I was introduced to Starbucks and American flat whites it was not even close to what I knew. Just an American latte with a different name. Flat whites have always been just a layer of micro foam but not enough to break the crema. As one of my employers once told me, just enough micro foam to do latte art. I think that was just a marketing ploy to show off barista’s especially in Melbourne which has created all this confusion. Usually what you expect to get when you order a flat white is what the name suggests. A white coffee (lot’s of milk) with no foam (flat). There’s no drip coffee in Australia so white refers to espresso with milk just like a black coffee refers to espresso with out milk. Hence the flat white. Long blacks are Americanos and short blacks are espresso’s.

  4. Just got my first coffee machine, but looking for some nice flat white coffee cups alittle bit different to the normal cups

  5. A flatwhite is a small, strong, milky coffee. As far as I’m concerned, as a barista, the best way is 2 shots, silky milk and total drink no bigger than 7oz.

  6. How do you get a good cup of coffee in these places? Seriously. No milk, no cream, just a nice cup of coffee from a french press, with all the essential oils and aromas, and even a smile from behind the counter. Is that just something you can’t have in a cafe that has taken steaming milk and pouring it into an advanced art form? Since the advent of Starbucks and cafes with expresso machines, you can’t even get a good cup of expresso, and certainly not a simple cup of well made coffee. I walk in, look for coffee, and walk out. Cafes should have coffee on the menu, in my opinion.

    1. You most definitely can order a French press at any Starbucks and surely most cafés. All you have to do is put in the effort to ask the barista. And perhaps “coffee” isn’t on the menu because most places hope you realise that it’s a “coffee house” and therefore, obviously has a good regular cup of coffee waiting for you if you so choose it.

  7. My husband, daughter and I just returned from a visit to London. We stayed in Hampstead and stopped daily at Ginger and White for our flat white fix–addictive and delicious.

  8. Flat White?! Rather unfortunate (and even depressing) name for an espresso based drink that should give you a zing akin to seeing that red Ferrari parked outside the “Third Noise Cafe”. Coffee is starting to turn into the abomination that Starbucks is. Espresso should not be like liquefied licorice and that pathetic luke-warm liquid under the foam of a Cappuccio should not remind one as somebody on this forum said of “Cambells Tomato Soup” or chicory or even worse it should not leave you wondering if that’s what urine tastes like. Un caffe per piacere. Ristretto? Lungo? Macchiato?Lungo macchiato? Doppio? Doppio macchiato? Cappuccio? Cappuccio doppio? Cappuccio doppio senza schuima? Caffe corretto? Latte macchiato? Nocciolato?Granita di Caffe. Affogato? Anyone?

    1. Ristretto- less water through the shot, about half but with the same amount of grinds.
      Lungo- long shot with more water, same amount of grinds.
      Macchiato- to mark/marked, traditional macchiato consists of espresso “marked” with a dollop of foam.
      Lungo Macchiato- long shot macchiato
      Doppio- double
      Doppio Macchiato- two espresso shots w/ a dollop of foam
      Affogoto- gelato (or icecream) with espresso over the top
      Latte Macchiato- Latte with shots poured on top of the foam, instead of mixed in with the poured milk?
      “senza schuima? Caffe corretto?…Nocciolato?Granita di Caffe” Those escaped me. However, not bad for an “abominable” Starbucks barista, no? It’s all about how much the barista cares, not about the company.
      By the way, I really liked this article. I’ve had maybe two people request flat whites and couldn’t figure out how they were different than a latte (though one person swore it was a completely no foam latte). This makes more sense, and since I’ve been practicing my latte art, it’s what I’ve been doing which is really helpful to know.

      1. *schiuma – foam, senza schiuma – foamless.
        Caffè corretto – espresso with booze, eg grappa or sambucca, depending on region.
        Nocciolato – it’s a Campagna thing, Coffee with cocoa and hazelnut flavouring (the same stuff used to make nutella).
        Granita – a flavoured ice drink, and in this case made with coffee, and usually topped with cream and sweetened.

      2. Macchiato means stained. English has the cognate immaculate, as in the immaculate conception, as in not ‘stained’ with original sin. Fascinating stuff?
        And, yeah, latte’ macchiato is milk ‘stained’ with coffee.
        In bell’Italia, sometimes hear the phrase “latte’ caffe'” to mean a very milky coffee or rather milk that has coffee added rather than the other way around.
        And I am sure you’ve heard at least one of the stories behind the cappuccino. It’s named for the Capuchin friars, and depending on the story its might be because it was invented by a capuchin, or because it looks like a capuchin (they wear brown, hooded cloaks, and are tonsured).

  9. We have returned to the ‘Flat White’ Issue again up here in Scotland.

    I have read and re-read through your posts concerning the subject, and posted on one a while ago, but more time has passed and we and the industry have matured.

    I totally agree with your description of a Flat White as laid down. Ours in our coffee bar is:
    – 6oz glass cup, tulip
    – double espresso of any blend or SO
    – topped up to 6oz with correctly stretched milk like you would use for a latte.

    My bone of contention with the industry just now (especially Costa etc) is that they seem to be promoting that Cappucini and Latte are lesser drinks because the milk is of a lesser quality.

    I think we should move towards all baristi being at a good enough skill level to produce all the variations of milk based coffee according to their ratio levels rather than lack of quality?

  10. Annoyingly for me, my first ever Flat White was in a Costa Coffee — what’s more annoying is that it’s been the best one that I’ve had to date. I’ve tried a handful of times since then to get what I thought was going to be a Flat White, but instead I just get a big pile of froth over a milky coffee.

    I’ll mainly order an Espresso, Macchiato or Americano and shy away from other options as I don’t like the milk to take over the taste and texture. The thing I like about a Flat White is point 4. in your ‘What is a Flat White’ post — “free poured milk so that the foam is folded through the whole drink and there is no discernable layer separation between liquid coffee and foam”.

    People may say I’m drinking in the wrong places (Cardiff not London), and perhaps I am, but if only there was a standard so you knew what you were going to get. I’m going to be a bit more inquisitive next time I order, and check that the barista and I are on the same page before any milk gets poured, hopes get crushed and tears start to fall.

  11. Peter,
    Just a quick note to say “thank you.” I read reviews/articles like this all the time and typically end up searching for more info because the first few posts I read are lacking substance. Then on the rare occasion, I read a piece like this one and just simply appreciate how well some people write. I really liked your description of Flay White – articulate, informative and concise. Thanks again!

  12. Excellent description. I have family visiting from overseas and I had never heard of a flat white. As it turns out I have been making them at home and calling it a latte. I guess I didn’t know how lattes we’re supposed to be made. :O

  13. I agree that a flat white should only be served in 7oz and when offered which size I know I’m in the wrong place

    I’d question how a single shot fw can hit the mark.

  14. Ok so after 20 years of drinking and making, it does not change:
    6-8oz double shot ristretto, slightly cooler micro foam textured milk, free pour so the milk and double espresso combine to a silky consistency. Preference even cover between crema and milk, (flat and white). No pretention, but done properly in the hand of an experienced barista, taste of heaven.

  15. I read the article and still have absolutely no idea what the difference is between a flat white and latte.

    From the article, a latte has milk and froth, but a flat white has froth and milk.


    1. microfoam. It’s the creamy mouthfeel that the microfoam gives, and if combined with ristretto as opposed to espresso, tends to be ‘sweeter’ and more delicate overall. It’s like the polar opposite of the burnt, over roasted, double long, bitter ‘espresso’ you might get that reduces coffee to a caffeine delivery system instead of the delicious, complex, beverage it can be.

  16. As a barista, there are a few more differences between a flat white and a latte that you’ve missed out.
    Flat whites should be served at a lower temperature than lattes, around 54°C. Whole milk is normally used as standard as it froths significantly better, and gives it more of a velvety feel to it, though you can of course request other milks.
    The main difference between a flat white and a latte is the proportion of espresso to milk, the place I work at serves it in a 6oz cup, which really gives it a stronger feel.

    The most irritating thing is when customers attempt to order a “large flat white” as it simply doesn’t exist, yet they refuse to listen and claim that they “order it at Costa all the time”

    1. What? A barista that thinks a “large flat white” doesn’t exist? That’s crazy talk. Flat whites can absolutely be scaled up. A large flat should simply increase the amount of coffee to sustain that nice kick of a flat white. With the same microfoam character as a regular flat, you just need a basket that can fit more than 21 grams. Really pack it in, and make me a large flat white, no sugar thanks.

  17. Thank you for the article.
    I’m not much of a coffee drinker, when I went to New Zealand and had a flat white in Raglan I was hooked had 2 or 3 a day like 2 dollars each. Came back to US and looked for a flat white. Asking for it hopeing that they would know what I was talking about. Then they say oh, you mean a 4.50 latte, I had a latte, and it’s just not the Same.

    1. Here in the US, the best flat white I’ve had is at Perq’s in Sarasota (not a chain), they really know what they’re doing, a real pleasure.

  18. Flat White is my drink. I like it and I know in most cases I’m going to get a strong coffee but with milk which is why I always go for it.
    Last week I sent an email to Costa complaining about the quality of my last 5 Flat Whites. My disappointment has led me to wanting to now create them at home and not rely on my local Costa (there’s no fantastic independents where I live) but the one question I’m struggling to get an answer to is the cup size…6 oz or 8 oz? Origin Coffee on Vimeo says no bigger than 8 and that’s what I use at home but whilst looking for a new mug I found this http://www.coffeehit.co.uk/cafe-supplies/coffee-cups/blue-flat-white-cup-saucer-160ml-6oz which suggests I should be using a 6 oz cup for Flat Whites?

    Would 6 oz with a double shot create a perfect flat white or should I stick with 8 oz?

  19. The take away I’m getting here is that a flat white is an improved and better thought through version of a latte.

    1. Depends on your preference. Old school, homemade, latte is a very milky drink made on a stove top – think of the opening scenes of La Terra Trema.
      Latte as served in cafes seems to be this homemade stuff commercialised and “cheffed-up” into a more respectable beverage. In some respects it feels compromised and almost unitalian.

      The flat white seems to be commercial from the ground up, rooted firmly in the espresso machine and steamed milk. All very Milano and raffinato.

      1. Actually a flat white in New Zealand has humble beginings. Its interesting hearing all the comments some of which hit the mark others which are a product of an evolving industry and a corporate industry scrambling to emmulate the ingenuity of small independent roastary and cafe networks.
        In the 70’s a Flat White in Aotearoa was just a nice punchy Americano with some milk. It evolved with latte art and was probably close to what it is now by the end of the nineties in certain select places in New Zealand. So what you are now getting worldwide now was happening 20 years ago in New Zealand and Austraila and much of it is being copied from a much lower standard or poorer starting point. Great beans with good roast profiles and running shots and stretching milk to perfection all have to be nailed otherwise no matter what the ratio’s of milk /espresso often the resulting coffee is sad.
        That said there are amazing coffee’s to be had and the real skill is finding it and latching on to it. In East london there’s so much good coffee as opposed to west london and usually its Kiwi’s and Aussies behind the wheel. Typically I do not order from a place that does not chase the grind or surf the grind as is known down under. Much of the flavour of extraction is controlled by the grind which changes throughout the day. I dont care if they know all their ratios and maths and even weigh the shots……If they dont have a good feel for the profile of the shots and cant get the milk right its all over. The stretching of milk is different for different coffees both in process and in managing it. One of my Barristas used to rap to the music that he was THE MICROFOAM CONTROLLER……and really it was true after I’d line up some dope shots. Great thing about coffee is that there is always something more to learn. The bad thing is once you’ve had good coffee consistently its hard to drink a cup of rough joe.

  20. Great article. I’m still kinda confused though haha. Last time I ordered a flat white I asked the barista what it was. He said that it’s kind of like a cappuccino but more creamy. I guess his right, right ;)? Anyway. It was a great flat white.

  21. Very good, informative article. You explain the good and bad techniques of making coffee. However, I’m not sure you answer the question of ‘what is the difference between a latte and flat white’.
    For me, one point that has been touched on but not explicitly said is that an important part is the ratio of espresso to milk. For me a flat white has a much lower ratio of milk to espresso. Personally I like a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 for a flat white and 5:1 upwards for a latte. For this reason, I think it is technically possible to have a one shot flat white (serve in a 3oz cup) or to have a flat white in a 16oz cup (5 or 6 shots of espresso would be a bit much for me though) so long as the ratio is kept.
    Obviously all the other aspects mentioned above such as temperature and texture of the milk go with out saying.

  22. Go to any reputable coffee shop and no one is spooning foam on anything, Everything is poured freehand, so a flat white, cortado, cappuccino, and latte all end up being very similar. Only the size is the determining factor.

    1. Thank you! I’m not alone! It’s sounds to me like people are just now discovering the wonders of a correctly made espresso drink, mistakingly thinking it’s a new phenomenon and assuming that bad coffee making habits are the old way of doing things. This isn’t new people. This is how good espresso drinks are made. It’s just a different form factor.

  23. I worked making coffee in Australia and New Zealand and the way i was told to make a flat white was, the smaller like everyone has agreed but the milk isn’t stretched as far as you would with a latte.

  24. I recently tried ordering a flat white at a hotel cafe in Bakersfield, Ca and the barista gave me an amused little look before smugly telling me it’s just what Australians call a latte. I was too irritated to explain to her the difference especially since I had the feeling even if I explained it to her she’d still just make me a latte anyways.

    1. Same here in CT, its so frustratingly annoying! I ended up being served a giant over milky latte, because they said “that’s just a wet latte that the Australians put a fancy name on and decided to charge more money for, so her you go.” UGH!

  25. I first experienced the flat white when I was living in New Zealand a few years back. Frankly I spent all my time trying (and failing) to find an honest cappuccino. Every barista in New Zealand seems obsessed with the quality of the milk, to the extent that the coffee comes off as an afterthought. Every flat white ends up tasting essentially the same as the coffee is never allowed to be separate from the milk. It was a step up from the near-universal instant coffee everyone keeps in a jar next to their sugar and tea, but i doubt the coffee will ever be ground breaking as long as the culture is milk-obsessed.

  26. It’s all just too confusing. I disagree with this article totally. It seems to imply that a flat white has smooth creamy milk and a cappuccino has ‘stiff’ foam!?! Both drinks have, if well made, smooth and silky milk. A cappuccino is just lighter textured as it’s more aerated. Provided the milk is stretched before it gets above 100f and then spun it will be shiny. For me any Milky espresso beverage should have care and attention given it. This will result in a smooth drink. Inevitably if a cappuccino sits around the foam will stiffen. But so will that of a flat white or a latte-there’s just less of it so its not as obvious. Should be a moot point however as to be enjoyed at their best they should both be consumed reasonably quickly.
    I don’t think there’s a law anywhere that states a latte has more froth than a flat white and I dont think that would ever consistently be the case-ergo a carefully made flat white and a carefully made latte are the same albeit tradition seems to be one is 6oz and the other 8oz. Flat whites are spoken about as though there’s some mystical secret. Nope;) as for milk temp absolutely shouldn’t be too hot but I’d say 54c as suggested would be the low side of acceptable and 68-70c the absolute max to retain sweetness. Check out prufrocks menu-coffee w milk 4,6 or 8oz perfectly shiny, silky and smooth. Tells you what multiple wbc’s think of the whole debate;)

  27. Everyone seems to be pretty deep into flat white/latte discussion these days. I have to review Czech coffee scene and ask baristas what knowledge our customers and batistas have in the time when coffee culture is improving live in front of your eyes everyday.

  28. I keep getting served a latté in a tall glass which is really annoying, it looks like I’m drinking a milk shake, quickly cools to the temperature of a milk shake, and is very badly balanced in the hand. I’m now a converted flat white man.

  29. What is left unsaid is why the Flat White exists in the first place. Unlike the classic espresso drinks – latte, cappuccino, macchiato- the Flat White is a recent invention.

    I’ve nothing against it, but for the most part, it’s a convenient replacement for the other milky drinks, easier for a barista to make and allows for that of-so-important “latte art” to be displayed. For the most part, the big chains -*$, Costa, Nero – can make a good coffee, but they like to make it their way, not your way. So you will often get a cappuccino that’s actually a latte (Pret and *$) or a cappuccino that’s a Flat White so they can make a pretty picture on top (not really possible with proper cappuccino foam).

    No one was crying out for the Flat White. It’s really just a way to simplify the “espresso and milk” drink and allow for nice latte art to be shown off.

  30. Next up should be the Long Black vs Americano debate.

    Most independent cafes in London still get this wrong.

    The order in which a long black is made (water first, espresso second) is important—reversing the steps will destroy the crema from the espresso shot and make an Americano.

  31. You write that a cappuccino has stiff, bubbly milk froth on top. I believe that is the American version, which has the same kind of froth as a Latte Macchiato. An original cappuccino should not have heated milk and separate stiff milk froth, but only a semi-fluid fluffy milk foam mixed with the espresso. If you do it this way it has a great, consistent texture, and a very brown surface (hence the name). The German Wikipedia backs this theory, while the English does not.

    I like coffee, but I’m neither a barista nor an expert. Researching coffee on the web I have learned the following things:

    1) most coffee “afficinados” on the web are just smug narcissists full of … used coffee ground. Particularly those who just started a career as a barista. Not meant personally and not directed at this blog; this article is written positively pragmatic and casual. I like that!

    2) It doesn’t matter what anyone says anyway, because the official definitions differ from country to country (in Germany a traditional caffè latte (“Milchkaffee”) has drip coffee because we have no idea of good coffee whatsoever); and in the end even every coffee shop does whatever it wants.

    I usually order a cappuccino, and I’m always wondering what I will get. Often times it has a tiny alibi portion of foam on it, while the cafè latte looks like what I wanted; once I got a coffee with whip cream on it – not kidding! By the way I’ve never seen a “Flat White” and I wouldn’t even know what it’s called in my country. Wikipedia says it’s an Australian hybrid. Okay then …

    By the way, you say that the crema is caramelized coffee. Usually crema is defined as the extracted oils of the coffee. When I look up espresso in calorie databases, they all say that it contains a little amount of fat, but basically no carbohydrates at all. Therefore, coffee beans would be similar to cocoa beans which also contain fat, but basically no carbohydrates. Furtheremore, caramel is only created at temperatures of 135°C and up, which seems awfully high for coffee. I believe coffee is prepared at around 80°C or something like that? So I think the crema is created by pressing the oil out of the coffee grind at high pressure (vegetable oils are created similarly afaik). You seem to know a lot about this stuff, so I’m wondering whether there’s in fact more to crema than just tasty oils!

  32. So… I’m going to ignore your usage of the word “bubbles” in all of this. There shouldn’t be bubbles anywhere in your foam. Sounds to me your flat white is a traditional cappuccino, approx 8 ounces total, preferably with two shots of espresso, poured before the foam sets up but not at its wettest.

  33. I tried the flat white coffee for the first time… but before I order it, I asked the barista what’s on it and she said a whole milk no any sweetener.. kinda like a coffee latte taste… hmmm… it was good but I end up rushing home straight to the washroom coz my stomach didn’t approve it! Must be the milk!

  34. Wonderful post…I was looking up how to make a Flat White at home….I was just introduced to the Flat White while vacationing in AU and NZ in January 2015. So beautiful. Now that I am back in the states and wishing to make this at home because my husband is now so disappointed in his morning “coffee” and I am longing for my folded foam in those lovely cups! What to do? Going to a coffee shop is not an option where we live. Suggestion on home machines?

    1. I ordered my Ascaso Dream on line and love it. I got it on ebay from a seller who barely used it for a very good price.

  35. Thembo Elly
    This answer reads to be the best on my side of understanding. Am a barista in Uganda but always flat would mean not strong so this flat white has more milk to regulate espresso toughness.

  36. I’ve had extensive experience as a barista in both the UK and Canada and I’ve always found the flat white to be a social misnomer.

    On the one had, there are a great many baristas outside of Australasia that don’t know how to make it properly but, considering in any one city you will find variation in the preparation and presentation of most espresso drinks, the fact there are differences in the flat white style between countries is easy to understand.

    I’d say the main problem is two-fold. Firstly, customers never know what they want – at least in so much as how their use of a term corresponds to the cultural or technical definition of a drink. The flat white is often ordered large, or with almond milk. It’s said to be too strong when it’s a double in an 8oz but somehow perfect when made in a 6oz. It’s insisted upon that it must be a ristretto shot. There are any number of bastardisations of the same drink which contribute to it being indecipherable and utterly annoying to engage with as a barista.

    My own feeling, and my second and final issue, is that thinking of a latte as just a “milky coffee” is a relatively lame and reductionist view point. That beautiful velvety micro-foam that is the staple of the flat white is also the makings of a wonderful latte. Just combining decent milk and espresso for a latte and calling it acceptable isn’t really okay. That micro-foam should be the predominant experience for the latter drinker too. Couple that with the desire at nicer places to provide art in the crema and – if you’re any good – you’re essentially talking about the same composition as a flat white, albeit one that varies in size.

    So yeah. Customers are wrong a lot, baristas should be better, and bloggers can be a little too self-assured.

  37. You people need to get a life! This business of trying to turn coffee making into an advanced science or art form – absolute garbage

  38. Been a barista for seven years. The flat white craze is a funny development. Apart from sounding more like a shark than a cup of coffee it is, however you wanna look at it, very similar to a small latte or a competition cappuccino. If you’re serious about coffee you make a distinction between milk based drinks using espresso and drinks,usually consumed black, produced using various brew methods. That’s it really, its just semantics and marketing. You should worry about what’s in the hopper.

  39. That’s exactly what i was looking for!
    Always question about the difference between F/W and latte.
    Thank for the information.
    I reaally need a flat white at the moment, but it’s kind of new here too.
    So I haven’t had F/W since Feb.

  40. I am neither a barista nor a coffee connoisseur. However I do like my coffee. I haven’t had a decent cup of flat white since I left Australia. This evening, I had a giant cup of milk topped with a thick layer of cream disguised as a flat white. This was at a Starbucks in Singapore. I am so frustrated that its prompted me to write this. Thanks for the information

  41. I love coffee and I have tried all shops around my area but there is one barista ironically working for a Mc Donalds café in my area who is amazing. She makes the best Cappuccino and Mochaccino I have ever tried. If you just watch her doing the thing you know she is passionate about it and she knows what she is doing. It is just a matter of time and some local coffee shop you hire her I am sure.

  42. I ordered a flat white on a whim the first time I ordered coffee on my trip to London. That ended up being the only coffee drink I had the entire time I was there because it was so good. Now I am back in the states and no one knows what the hell a flat white is. I just need to find a barista that has enough time to read this on my phone after I order a flat white.

  43. Thank you so much for a beautifully written and easy to understand explanation! Just got back from Ireland and London where espresso was often times the only coffee available and I ordered a flat white instead of a latte, just to see what it was. And I liked it better! It seemed smoother–but I couldn’t figure out why. And now I know.

    Thank you so much!

  44. Spooning milk? Oh, for the love of god. – Just stretch, & texture the milk for a different amount of time depending on whether you want a Cappu, Lat or Fla.

    Free pour everything.

    I find it far more important to plunge the milk under the crema swiftly yet gently so as not to disturb the crema as you blend the milk throughout, before finishing with your desired touch, palm, heart, tulip, etc.

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