Flat White vs Cappuccino – What’s the Difference?

Flat White vs Cappuccino
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So you’ve had your fair number of cappuccinos and flat whites but aren’t sure how they vary. While the most fundamental distinction is the milk, the two drinks also have different origins.

In this article, we’ll compare flat white vs cappuccino, looking at their history as well as their significant similarities and differences to help you decide which type of coffee is ideal for you.

What Is a Flat White?

In most cafes and coffee shops, a flat white is a small latte with less milk. The flat white is an espresso-based drink with 1-2 espresso and microfoam milk shots, with no dry foam on top. It’s a blend of frothed foam and steamed milk – the foam is usually silky with few bubbles.

The drink’s name comes from the unique thin layer of microfoam on top. There are two ways to serve flat whites: with little to no milk foam or with a lot of it.

The flat white is a fantastic choice for coffee drinkers who like a more robust espresso flavor. While the milk in a flat white contributes to or improves the drink’s taste, the espresso still shines in the mouth.

Microfoam is the key to the flat white process. It’s heated milk with enough aeration to generate thick, tiny bubbles. This microfoam is first poured carefully over the espresso until it hits the last inch or so of the cup.

History of the Flat White

It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly where the flat white came from, but it made its way to New Zealand and Australia in the 1980s. The Third Wave Coffee movement increased the prominence of the coffee craft during this period, and milk drinks were enhanced with the help of expert pouring skills.

Since then, Latte Art has embellished the Flat White with hearts, flowers, leaves, and swans. It became more common on drink menus in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries decades later and is now a specialty cafe standard.

When Starbucks began providing flat whites as a “bold” alternative to its latte macchiato in the United States, it was clear that the coffee had gone mainstream.

Flat White Recipe

Here’s how you make flat white:

  1. Make espresso and fill your cup with steamed milk. Proportions include about 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk. There must be a microfoam layer in the steamed milk, but not a firm foam layer like a latte or cappuccino.
  2. Although there are no hard and fast rules for steaming, there are some principles to follow. Keep the nozzle in and wait to ensure that the milk is well-aerated.
  3. Again, you’ll want to aim for a temperature of roughly 145°F. There is a 5°F leeway, but the temperature should not exceed 158°F.
  4. Start high with a light milk stream, then come down and ramp up the flow until the cup is full.

The end product should be lighter than a latte due to the micro-foamed milk and it allows the espresso notes to fully develop.

What Is a Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is a blend of heated milk, espresso, and foam. The structure of this coffee is pretty simple – all you have to do is segment all the elements into equal thirds. An excellent cappuccino should be creamy but not acidic, with a hint of sweetness from the milk.

The sheer variety of cappuccinos is mind-boggling. There’s a dry and wet cappuccino, bone dry, a highly wet cappuccino, and not to mention the standard recipe. Many people prefer one because of the variety of sizes and ingredients.

Flat White vs Cappuccino


History of the Cappuccino

The origins of cappuccino are fascinating. The drink’s name comes from the brown hue of the drink, which is similar to the color of the Capuchin friars’ clothes. When you add milk in small increments to the darker espresso, you’ll see a lighter brown color developing, resulting in a pleasant level of crema.

In the 1700s, another name for cappuccino was “Kapuziner,” invented by the people of Vienna. This cappuccino was made of whipped cream and spices. However, in the 1930s, this tasty drink made its way outside Italy. It steadily rose in popularity after its introduction into Austrian cafes.

Cappuccino Recipe

  1. Pour 1-2 shots of espresso into your coffee cup.
  2. Fill the frothing jug halfway with milk and start frothing.
  3. During the frothing process, keep an eye on the milk and keep frothing until it becomes thick and foamy. The temperature of your foam should be around 158°F.
  4. Pour the milk over the espresso shots slowly, keeping the foam back – some like to use a spoon while others feel it out.
  5. Add around one centimeter of foamy milk on top of the steamed milk. Take a seat, unwind, and enjoy!

Flat White vs Cappuccino

The flat white and the cappuccino are espresso-based coffees with 1 to 2 shots. They’re made of milk, but you can use oat, soy, almond, or other dairy-free alternatives. The similarities end here, and now we’ll dive into the differences between flat white vs cappuccino:

  • Each has different textures and volumes. A flat white is smoother than a cappuccino since the milk has a velvety consistency and a silky finish with no foam. A cappuccino is thicker, with a head of foam that almost overflows the cup’s surface, leaving you with a creamy, frothy finish.
  • Cups used to serve beverages also make a difference. Traditionally, one is served in a 6oz ceramic cup, whereas a flat white is served in a 5.5oz ceramic cup. They’re also sometimes served in glassware to showcase their milk foam layer.
  • Flat white has more milk, which has more calories. That said, you can always use low-fat milk and other milk replacements to make both of these coffees more calorie-friendly.
  • The flat white has a much stronger flavor than a cappuccino. So if you want your coffee to give you a bit of a kick or you crave the espresso taste, a flat white is the way to go.

Which One Do You Prefer?

To conclude the flat white vs cappuccino debate, the main difference between a flat white and a cappuccino is their preparation method and the amount of milk used. That said, you only need a coffee grinder, an espresso machine, plus some expertise pulling shots and steaming milk to get started with either of them.

Your personal preferences will have a massive say on whether you’ll be a flat white or cappuccino lover. Having learned the difference between a cappuccino and a flat white, we think you’ll probably order a flat white if you want a stronger espresso taste and a cappuccino if you prefer a foamier, milkier beverage.

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