7 July 2013

Coffee Series Part 2: What is the difference between a Caffe Latte, a Cappuccino and a Flat White?

Welcome to the second of my three-part "Coffee Series" blog posts.  In Part 1, I wrote about three black coffee recipes; namely espresso, Americano and long black espresso.  This time around, I'm going to share with you three popular coffee beverages that come with milk added, i.e. caffe latte, cappuccino and flat white, and tell you how they differ from each other in terms of taste and texture.  I'll try to be as succinct and un-technical as I can, but if you find some of the things I write here confusing or hard to understand, please feel free to leave your feedback at the end of the post and I'll get right back to you.  Now, down to business.

Both caffe latte (or just "latte") and cappuccino are best explained vis-a-vis each other.  Essentially, they're both coffee beverages with milk added onto espresso (click here to learn more about espresso); they differ only in the amount of milk added and foam applied.  A regular latte is usually served in a tall 8oz (or 240ml) glass and typically prepared in the following ratios:-
- 1/8 (or 1oz) espresso
- 6/8 (or 6oz) steamed milk
- 1/8 (or 1oz) of foam topping for decoration

Caffe latte

A regular cappuccino on the other hand is usually served in a smaller 6oz (or 180ml) cup and prepared in these ratios:-
- 1/6 (or 1oz) espresso
- 3/6 to 4/6 (or 3 - 4oz) steamed milk
- 2/6 to 1/6 or (2 - 1oz) foam topping, usually sprinkled over with chocolate powder


Whilst the amount of espresso in both recipes are identical, lattes do contain markedly more milk than cappuccinos.  This means that the espresso in a glass of latte is more diluted and hence, as a coffee beverage, isn't as strong as a cup of cappuccino.  Lattes are also less frothy.

So, latte or cappuccino?  Well, if you prefer your coffee pleasantly light and aren't exactly crazy about sucking on foam (which is a bit like sucking air), order a latte.  However if you prefer a stronger "fix", or - like me - get a twisted thrill from drinking your coffee through the thick foam (and enjoy forming shapes with it), then make yours a cappuccino.

Originating from Australia (some say New Zealand), a flat white is a smooth, velvety coffee beverage consisting of steamed milk and espresso.  However,  unlike a caffe latte or cappuccino, it is prepared by pouring what we call "micro-foam" over the espresso.   This is done by slowly pouring the rich, creamy milk at the bottom of the frothing pitcher into a cup containing espresso, all the time holding back the loosely-frothed milk at the top with the back of a spoon.  Get it?  This gives the beverage its smooth consistency and texture.

A flat white is always served in a cup - never a glass or tumbler.  You can easily tell that it's a flat white by the thin layer of micro-foam on top (hence the beverage's name) as opposed to the generous amount of foam applied on a cappuccino.  A flat white is also less voluminous, having a lower milk-to-espresso ratio of 4:1 (for a cappuccino, it's 5:1 including the foam topping).

Flat white; notice the micro-foam on top?
(Photo courtesy of my customer, Mr Stanley Loo)

You will have gathered by now that all three beverages basically differ from each other only in their espresso-to-milk-to-foam ratios.  Done properly, all of them taste great, so which you choose really depends on your tastes and how strong you want your coffee to be.  Remember, the amount of espresso in all three recipes is the same.  A cappuccino carries a stronger coffee taste than a latte due to its lower milk content.  A latte, on the other hand, tastes more creamy as more milk is added to the beverage.

Of the three, flat white is the strongest due to the lower volume of milk that's added to the beverage as well as its lesser overall espresso-plus-milk volume (only 5oz for a regular serving).  The milk-pouring technique used in the preparation of a flat white also lends the beverage a markedly richer and more pronounced taste of coffee - most satisfying indeed.  My personal favourite?  Flat white; hands down.

I do hope you find this post useful - or at least, informative.  If you have any feedback or a question that you'd like to ask, please feel free to leave a line at the "Post a Comment" field at the end of the post; I'll revert as soon as I can.

Which of these three coffee recipes do you like most?  Did you find this information informative?

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  1. Replies
    1. Then maybe I should write about mocha in Part 3, Sylvia. Thanks for the inspiration.