What is the Difference Between a Flat White, Latte and Cappuccino?

What is the Difference Between a Flat White, Latte and Cappuccino?

Posted by Mark Bentham, The Coffee Man on 1st Sep 2018

An often asked question relating to these milk and espresso drinks, interpretation can varies wildly depending on your location, your Barista and the Cafe. All these beautiful coffee creations are all made with an espresso machine and are based on an espresso shot (or two) with differently prepared warm milk.

Coffee by espresso is a preparation method in which highly-pressurized hot water is forced over coffee grounds to produce a very concentrated coffee drink with a deep, robust flavor. It’s all about precision and consistency and finding the perfect balance between grind, temperature, and pressure. The machines that make our cappuccinos and lattes have a history that stretches back more than a century, and while some stories differ relating to Who Made It First (the French v The Italians!), we have one story below as to the first Espresso maker…

Angelo Morindino, Turin Italy, received a patent for and is credited with creating the first Espresso machine in 1884 introducing a “new steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage.” His machine was never duplicated or made commercially, but did provide inspiration for over a century of modifications and improvements.

Almost 20 years later in Milan, two coffee cowboys, Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni, improved on Angelos concept and introduced the porta-filter, multiple brewheads, and many other innovations still associated with espresso machines today. They refined the design by adding a pressure valve (no splashes of hot coffee all over the barrister!), the steam wand and named the now celebrated espresso. They took their concept to the 1906 Milan Fair, after which it spread like wildfire throughout Italy.

There is another 100 or so years worth of historical tweaks, turmoil and drama relating to the much loved Espresso machine, but instead of delve into this right now, we are here to set the record straight on the differences between the beautiful nectar produced from this history changing equipment…

The Flat White

Origin :

New Zealanders claim the Flat White was the result of a ‘failed cappuccino’ at Bar Bodega in 1989, while the Aussies argue the real Flat White was first available at Moors Café in Sydney. Where would the Australian & New Zealand region be without some argument about Who Did It First???

By 2013, Australian themed cafes in New York featured the Flat White on their menu, starting at our beloved Hugh Jackmans café. In 2015, Starbucks added the Flat White on their UK coffee menus.

Definition :

A double shot coffee topped with milk that’s been steamed into a micro foam (steamed milk with small, fine bubbles with a glossy or velvety consistency), usually smaller and less milky than a latte, served in a cappuccino cup but without the froth and chocolate. By having a higher proportion of coffee to milk, and milk that is velvety in consistency, the espresso is permitted to dominate the flavour while being supported by the milk.

The key to the getting it right is the crema being coaxed into the meniscus (the velvety, shiny thin foam top) resulting in a uniform dark brown colour across the top of the beverage.

Allowing the beverage to stand before drinking enhances the experience as the meniscus thickens and adds texture to each sip, resulting in distinct sip rings/tide marks in the cup as the beverage is consumed

The Latte

Origin :

Milk coffees were popular in varying forms as breakfast drinks in many European countries from the 17th century. The term Café Latte was first recorded in 1867 by William Dean Howells in his essays “Italian Journeys”. The French term “Café Au Lait” was used in many countries from the 1900’s, while the French referred to the morning beverage as “Café Crème”.

While the abbreviated version of Café Latte, the Latte, will get you your milky caffeine hit in most countries, if you are in Italy it will simply get you a glass of milk – Latte means milk in Italian! Further, in Italy they is generally prepare this breakfast beverage using a stovetop pot and top it with milk. Internationally it is created similarly to the flat white using foamed, steamed milk with an espresso shot.

Definition :

Outside of Italy, a Latte is defined as a single shot coffee topped with steamed milk and topped with foam, usually served in a glass. A latte has a creamy, velvety layer of milk on the surface which can vary in depth but is normally around the 12 mm mark making it more foamy than the flat white.

The coffee is poured into the glass first and topped with the milk and foam, as opposed to a latte macchiato where the espresso shot is gently added to the milk base.

Surprisingly (or not??!!), the Church has defined what a latte is with Pope John Paul stating in 2003 that a Latte is one third espresso, 2 thirds milk and a small head of foam.

The Cappuccino

Origin :

The term cappuccino means ‘small hood’ in Italian. This beautiful creation was originally named after the Italian Capuchin Friars because of the colour of their habits being the same as the rich colour formed from adding creamy milk to a dark espresso base. The Viennese bestowed the name "Kapuziner" on a version that included whipped cream and spices.

The modern cappuccino with its fluffy top and chocolate sprinkles has evolved over many years and was not known outside of Italy until 1930.

Definition :

A double shot of coffee topped up with steamed milk and added micro-foam. This thicker foam is held back by a spoon until a few centimetres from the top of the cup. Foam is then scooped on top with a spoon to form a white dome, ground or powdered chocolate is then sprinkled onto the dome of foamed milk.

Although the Cappuccino was originally a pre noon / breakfast drink in many parts of the world it is now enjoyed at all times of the day.

It is traditionally smaller and stronger than a latte consisting of just under 1/3 foam.

Kimberley Coffee Company has developed a stunning coffee blend "Miaplacidus" designed specifically for these types of coffees. Perfecting the blend and the roasting technique to bring the best texture and flavour to steamed milk based coffee, you can create an outstanding version at home.

Miaplacidus has been awarded the Silver Medal at the Royal Sydney Fine Food Show for this coffee in the milk coffee awards. It is available through our online shop and as part of a coffee subscription which ensures you always have the freshest and best performing coffee beans at home.