Both a Latte and a Flat White are espresso-based drinks that have milk added to them. Specifically, the difference between a Flat White and a Latte is the amount of milk that is added to a double espresso. A latte contains more milk than a flat white.
Latte’s and Cappuccino’s have been around forever but the Flat White is a relatively new kid on the block.
As if there wasn’t enough choice already, all of a sudden another option is thrown into the mix.
If you order a flat white and a latte in a coffee shop and put them side by side the first thing you will notice is that there is a lot less total liquid in a flat white than there is in the latte.
If you are wondering which one of the two you should be drinking then the way I like to look at it is to ask yourself how strong or mild you like to take your coffee.
If you like a stronger coffee then a flat white may suit you better and if you like your coffee milder then a latte may be the better option.
All milk-based drinks such as cappuccino, flat white and latte start with a double espresso. Single espressos are not really served in the UK and any coffee drink that you choose to order will automatically have a double espresso added to it.
Some people call a flat white a small latte but that’s definitely not the case because a flat white is much stronger than a latte.
The way to tell the difference in strength is by looking at the colour of the coffee. A flat white will be a dark brown colour and a latte more of a lighter shade of brown.
A latte should really be served in a glass but most coffee shops just use different sized cups so you can’t see the colour of the coffee because both flat white’s and latte’s tend to be topped up with a thin layer of foam that hides the coffee if it is in a cup instead of a glass.
In order of strongest to mildest, these are the most popular coffee drinks available in the high street coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa:
This is the strongest and most intense coffee you can order. It starts with about 15 grams of ground coffee and then water is forced through the coffee at high pressure to deliver about 15-20 grams of liquid coffee in your cup.
Ristretto is a black coffee drink with no milk added but you can add sugar to taste.
This is for the purists only as it has a very hard-hitting flavour and is going to be finished in just a few sips.
This is probably not one to order if you want to meet a friend and sip away at coffee over a chat but it will set you up for the day and give you a nice energy boost.
The ratio of ground coffee to coffee in your cup is about 1:1 so 15 grams of coffee into the machine and 15 grams of coffee into your cup.
This article explains Ristretto in more detail:
A pure intense burst of concentrated coffee that contains around 18-20 grams of ground coffee.
Not as hardcore as a Ristretto but still very intense. A double espresso contains about 18-20 grams of ground coffee with water forced through it to produce about 40 grams of coffee in your cup.
Espresso is a black coffee drink with no milk added but it is common to add sugar.
The ratio of ground coffee to coffee in your cup is about 1:2 so about 20 grams of ground coffee in produces about 40 grams of liquid coffee in your cup.
You can learn more about Espresso in this article:
This is a bit of a strange one because it’s a bit of a gimmick really. A macchiato is very similar to espresso but it just has a dollop of foam plopped on top of a double espresso.
The amount of foam added to the espresso is so small that it can’t really affect the taste compared to if you just ordered a straight espresso.
Some coffee shops may add a very small amount of milk as well as a dollop of foam so if you like a super strong coffee then try out a macchiato next time.
This article explains all about Macchiato:
This is a relatively new entrant onto the menus of coffee shops and its one of my personal favourites.
If the pure espresso drinks above are a bit too bold but you still like a nice strong coffee then a Cortado is a really good option.
A Cortado made properly is half double espresso and half steamed milk.
You want a 50ml double espresso combined with 50ml of smooth, silky creamy milk heated to about 65 degrees Celsius for a wonderful drink that really keeps the coffee flavour strong and intact but removes the harshness that you can get from a pure espresso.
This article explains more about Cortado:
One of the all-time classic coffee drinks, a cappuccino combines espresso, steamed milk and milk foam all in equal quantities.
Take one double espresso of about 50ml and add 50ml of steamed milk and then top up with a thick layer of foam.
Learn more about a cappuccino in this article:
A flat white has more milk than a cappuccino but less milk than a latte.
With a flat white you replace the foam from the cappuccino with more milk. The perfect flat white is two parts milk to one part espresso.
Take one double espresso of 50ml and add 100ml of silky steamed milk.
Put your spoon over the spout of the jug to stop large amounts of foam going into the cup as a flat white is not supposed to have any froth but a very thin layer right at the top can add a nice finishing touch.
This article breaks down a flat white in more detail:
Probably the most popular coffee drink in the UK, you’ll find coffee shops nationwide making it slightly different wherever you go.
Where a flat white is two parts milk to one part espresso a latte has more milk than a flat white with 4 parts milk to one part espresso.
A latte made correctly should contain a double espresso 50ml and 200ml of steamed milk topped up by a thin layer of froth.
Unfortunately, a lot of coffee shops just serve up a large latte as a double espresso topped up with a pint of milk that can spoil it and just almost totally remove all coffee flavour.
If you prefer more of a milky flavour than a coffee flavour that absolutely fine but try ordering a small latte next time and see if the slightly stronger coffee flavour works on your palette.
This article explains more about latte’s:
So the bottom line is that a flat white and a latte both contain the same amount of coffee (a double espresso) but the difference between the two is that you add twice as much milk as espresso for the flat white and four times as much milk as espresso for a latte.
That’s how it is supposed to be but a lot of coffee shops will serve you up a latte no matter what you order because a lot of the time the so-called “Barista” doesn’t care.
They just fill up whatever cup they are using with a double espresso and then fill it to the top with milk.
The only way to make a proper flat white or latte is to do it yourself at home.
That way you can control all of the variables yourself and create the perfect espresso-based drink with milk to produce the best flat white or latte you have ever tasted.
If you thought you need to spend a fortune on a coffee machine to replicate what they do in Starbucks or Costa you may be pleasantly surprised at how much a cheap espresso machine is.
This article gives you some options for a low-cost espresso machine:
And this article breaks down all the different affordable ways to make coffee at home better than a coffee shop: