If you’re a coffee lover, chances are you’ve tried flat whites. But what exactly is a flat white, and how does it differ from other coffee drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, cortados, and macchiatos?
We will break down these five different types of espresso-based drinks so that you can decide which one suits your taste buds best!
What Is A Flat White?
A flat white is a drink that originated in Australia and New Zealand in the 80s. It consists of two shots of espresso mixed with steamed milk.
It has a creamy texture and a robust flavor. In a flat white the espresso is poured into the cup first, with the steamed milk added on top. This creates a well-blended drink with no defined layers or crema.
The steamed milk creates a velvety texture and an intense flavor profile that’s similar to a cappuccino, but smoother. Flat whites are typically made with whole milk but can also be made with almond or oat milk as well.
1. Flat White vs. Latte
The main difference between a flat white and a latte is in the texture and consistency of the milk foam used to make them.
- Unlike a flat white, a latte has more foam than milk in them. That gives it a signature airy texture and sweet taste.
- The espresso shots are poured over steamed milk and then topped with foam that has been aerated to create its signature design on top of the drink.
- Lattes also have higher levels of sweetness due to their higher content of milk than flat whites do.
2. Flat White vs. Cappuccino
Cappuccinos are very similar to lattes in that they both include foam, but cappuccinos have much more foam than flat white drinks do.
- The cappuccino also includes an additional topping of cocoa powder or cinnamon at times for extra touch of sweetness and decoration.
- Different ratio. Cappuccinos usually contain equal parts espresso shots, steamed milk, and foam whereas flat whites usually contain 1 part steamed milk to 2 espresso shots and one part foam respectively.
3. Flat White vs. Cortado
Cortados are quite similar to flat whites. They have equal parts espresso, except for one major difference—the ratio of espresso shots to steamed milk is lower in cortados than it is in flat whites.
- This results in less creaminess but also less sweetness when compared to other coffees like lattes or cappuccinos since there is less steamed milk used overall.
- Cortados also don't have any frothy foam on top like some other coffees do; instead, they just have the thin creamy layer of microfoam mixed within the drink itself due to its lower amount of air bubbles when compared to other coffees like lattes or cappuccinos.
- Cortados are often served in smaller cups due to their intense flavor profile compared to other coffee drinks.
4. Flat White vs. Macchiato
Macchiatos are essentially just espresso shots “marked” with a small amount of foamed/steamed milk (or cream). These drinks tend to be stronger due to their lack of any sort of added dairy product - unless you count cream as dairy.
- Macchiatos use much less steamed milk, and usually don't even have enough foamy/steamy goodness mixed within them for them to be considered "microfoam."
- They are definitely for those who enjoy strong coffee without any extra bells or whistles (cinnamon sprinkles notwithstanding).
All 5 coffee drinks – flat white, latte, cappuccino, cortado, and macchiato - offer distinct characteristics that give each its own unique identity when it comes to taste and texture profiles.
Making A Flat White
If you want to make a flat white, the basics are simple: espresso and steamed milk, but there’s an art to making it just right. What makes flat white unique is the proportion of espresso and steamed milk for that rich, velvety texture.
- Start by making two shots of espresso using freshly ground beans and pour it into a mug or cup.
- Next, add the steamed milk in two stages. First, fill the cup with a thick layer of creamy microfoam right up to below the rim of the cup.
- Then, top it off with another thin layer of silky smooth foam which will give your flat white that signature finish.
Tips & Tricks
- Use fresh beans for the best-tasting espresso.
- Make sure to use high-quality milk if you are steaming it yourself.
- Experiment with different ratios of espresso to milk until you find what works best for your taste.
- If you want a coffee with less sweetness, try a flat white.
- If you’re looking for something with more froth and foam, opt for a latte or cappuccino.
- For a drink that packs an intense flavor but is still creamy, make a cortado.
- And if you’re in the mood for something strong, go with a macchiato.
Knowing how each drink differs from the others will help you select and make the right beverage for any occasion, whether you’re visiting your local barista or making beverages at home.
Check out our 5 picks of best espresso machines under 300 USD and find your favorite coffee gadget today.
We hope this quick crash guide and tips were helpful – now go forth (with caffeine) into your next coffee adventure! Get brewing!