Cappuccino VS Flat White (Which is Better?)

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To distinguish between flat white and cappuccino, you should be familiar with their espresso-to-milk ratios, preparation techniques, and minute details determining these drinks.

A cappuccino is a well-known espresso-based beverage, But how does it stack up against a flat white? Simply put, a flat white is the polar opposite of a dry cappuccino.

This article discusses their similarities and provides a recipe for each beverage to highlight their differences.

What Is A Flat White?

filling mug with coffee
What is a Flat White? “flat white” refers to the drink’s appearance instead of a cappuccino with more foam.

A flat white coffee is made with espresso, steamed milk, and microfoam (with tiny bubbles). The drink’s creamy and smooth texture makes it one of the most popular in Australia and New Zealand.

A flat white, unlike a cappuccino, has a much shorter history. The drink first appeared in coffee shops in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s, and its origins are disputed. Specifically, a few coffee shop owners in Australia and New Zealand claim to be the original creator.

Regardless of who invented it, flat white quickly spread to the United Kingdom and then to the United States and Canada. Starbucks offers a flat white on their menu, and they attribute the invention to Australia.

While there is no universally accepted definition of a flat white, Sprudge conducted an intriguing survey to find out what Australians and New Zealanders consider authentic flat white, and they discovered:

  • 70% of people believe it is a 5.5oz to 6oz drink.
  • 59% think the espresso should be a standard double shot.
  • 65% believe there should be “only a little” or “barely any” foam.
  • 51% think it should be consumed in a cappuccino-sized ceramic mug.

What Is A Cappuccino?

cappuccino
Cappuccino is a well-known espresso-based beverage

A cappuccino is an Italian coffee beverage with espresso, steamed, and foamed milk. It’s traditionally served in a porcelain cup with a thick layer of foam on top.

The term cappuccino derives from the Capuchin friars, who wore brown robes with large hoods.

Flat White Vs. Cappuccino

Flat white and cappuccino both contain espresso and milk and can have one or two espresso shots. When presented in this manner, these beverages may appear nearly identical.

However, how milk is prepared for each drink varies, affecting the final texture and creaminess.

Both drinks are excellent choices, but they are very different. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide which option is best for you.

Cappuccino:Flat white:
Caffeine content68mg of caffeine 138mg of caffeine
Calories38 calories68 calories
Which coffee?One espresso shotTwo espresso shots
Comparison

Do You Want A Strong-Or A Lighter Drink?

Flat whites have more milk to dilute the espresso, so they have a milder flavor. Cappuccinos, on the other hand, contain less steamed milk, making them taste stronger.

When we say stronger, we mean “considered by most of the world to be the perfect balance of coffee and milk.”

  • If you want something smoother and lighter: a flat white.
  • If you want a more robust (more balanced) beverage: a cappuccino.

Do You Enjoy Thick And Fluffy Micro foam?

lat whites and cappuccinos
Do you enjoy thick and fluffy microfoam?

Flat whites have a slight hint of micro-foam on the surface, but they’re meant to be milky. In contrast, cappuccinos are all about the foam. The foam on an excellent specialty coffee cappuccino will be thick, fluffy, dense, and creamy.

What Is The Distinction In Milk Preparation?

Micro foam, steamed milk with tiny, delicate bubbles, is used in a flat white. This is what gives the flat white its distinctive smooth texture. Cappuccinos, on the other hand, are made with frothed milk, which has more giant bubbles:

Furthermore, a flat white will have less foam than a cappuccino. The milk may be the most crucial factor when deciding which is best for you.

What About Making Your Flat Whites And Cappuccinos?

making coffee
Specialty-grade beans are fresh and delicious

Both drinks are easy to prepare at home. Only a coffee grinder, an espresso machine, and some practice pulling shots and steaming milk are required.

Making a thick foam for cappuccinos is simple, but it takes a lot of practice (and dozens of drinks) to achieve the super-smooth and creamy consistency in a lovely café.

This makes flat whites easier because you don’t have to worry about achieving the perfect microform. But the most critical factor in making good espresso at home isn’t the milk; it’s the coffee beans.

Bad coffee will always result in bitter, disgusting drinks. Specialty-grade beans are fresh and delicious—even your “bad” coffee will taste good.

Is A Flat White More Potent Than A Cappuccino?

flat white coffee
Flat whites have a slight hint of microfoam on the surface

A flat white isn’t always more substantial than a cappuccino. The espresso-to-milk ratio and the type and quality of coffee beans used determine it. A cappuccino is generally more robust because it contains more caffeine due to its higher espresso-to-milk ratio.

On the other hand, a skilled barista can make a flat white that is as strong (or even stronger) as a cappuccino while using a more significant proportion of espresso and less milk.

Different cappuccino varieties will be more robust than a standard cappuccino. One of these is the bone-dry cappuccino.

A bone-dry cappuccino is made without steamed milk and only uses milk foam as a topping, making it a more espresso-forward beverage.

Taste And Texture Of Cappuccino

Because cappuccinos are one-third foam, less liquid milk balances the espresso’s intensity. A cappuccino has a 1:1 coffee-to-steamed-milk ratio, whereas a flat white has a 1:3 ratio. As a result, the cappuccino is noticeably stronger. And the texture is also very different!

Taste And Texture Of Flat White

Because the espresso accounts for approximately 25% of the drink (1.5oz), the coffee flavor is more robust than in a typical American latte.

The milk, on the other hand, distinguishes it from a cappuccino. It’s pretty “milky” with very little micro foam. The steamed milk is sleek and sweet but lacks the foam’s velvety creaminess.

The flavor of Cappuccino and Flat White

flat white and cappuccino
Cappuccino and Flat White

A flat white uses espresso and doubles the milk, whereas a cappuccino uses one part coffee to two parts milk plus foam.

A cappuccino has more foam because it is frothed with a milk frothier or steaming wand, which causes tiny bubbles in the milk to form, making it light and fluffy.

The difference in flavor between the two drinks is primarily due to the addition of foam. Because foam absorbs flavors more quickly than liquid, it tends to enhance the flavors of whatever ingredients are used to make it.

In this case, espresso coffee gives the cappuccino a more robust flavor. Cappuccinos are often flavored with cocoa powder or ground cinnamon, making them even more flavorful and slightly sweeter.

Here’s a video that teaches easy steps to make a flat white:

How to make a Flat White | Basic Coffee Skills

Calories in Flat White and Cappuccino

Because of the higher milk content, a flat white has more calories. Traditional cappuccinos are made with equal parts espresso, steamed, and foamed milk.

As a result, a cappuccino has more calories than a flat white. A standard cappuccino has about 38 calories, and a classic flat white has about 68 calories when made with whole milk.

Which Should You Choose?

These drinks will have a distinct espresso flavor and respond well to additional sweeteners or flavors, making them adaptable to personal preferences. So the issue comes down to texture.

If you want something thick and rich, or if you’re in a busy coffee shop, order a cappuccino. Order a flat white if you want something lighter and silkier or if you want to get a sense of a barista’s brewing abilities.

Final Thoughts

  • Anyone can appreciate a rich, milky coffee now and then.
  • However, if you’ve ever been drawn to these velvety-looking delicacies, you’ve probably noticed that there are far more beverage variations than you expected.
  • So, which one do you like better? Is it a classic wet cappuccino or a novel flat white?
  • You should go for a flat white if you want a more robust espresso flavor.
  • However, if you prefer the classics, an early morning cappuccino might be the way to go.

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Marty Spargo

Caffeine aficionado and coffee student (if there's such a thing!). I've come to love coffee in recent years and share what I learn along the way on this website.

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