Starbucks Latte VS Flat White (Which is Better?)

Latte and flat whites are among the most popular coffee drinks worldwide. They’re probably 2 of the best-selling espresso variants on any coffee shop’s menu.

At first glance, it might not seem easy to tell the difference between a latte and a flat white. Both of the drinks contain the same ingredients: espresso and steamed milk.

But when placed side-by-side, you can instantly see that these two popular coffee beverages are not the same at all. 

Starbucks lattes come in different sizes, and the amount of espresso depends on the size of the drink. Among all the espresso-based drinks, lattes are prepared with the most milk. A flat white has a more concentrated coffee flavor. In terms of caffeine level, it’s also considered more robust than a latte because it’s commonly made with two shots of espresso.

Come along with me as we compare and contrast both drinks in detail, from how they are prepared and made to the pricing and which is more robust and healthier. So let’s start!

Difference between a Starbucks latte and a flat white

A latte is a drink prepared with espresso shots and milk. It can be enjoyed piping hot or chilled with ice. On the other hand, a flat white is an espresso-based coffee drink with steamed milk and microfoam. This microfoam is created by gently infusing air in steamed milk.

The result is smooth textured milk with tiny air bubbles. When made perfectly, the air bubbles are barely visible.

A flat white generally comes in small size (5oz-6oz), much smaller than typical lattes and cappuccinos.

At Starbucks, lattes are available in different serving sizes, and the amount of espresso in each drink depends on the drink size. Lattes are the most milk-based of all the espresso-based drinks.

Almost all lattes at Starbucks are made with 2% milk, but you can ask for it to be made with whole, half & half, skim, soy, oat, or almond milk.

A skinny latte replaces 2% milk with skim milk and uses sugar-free syrups to add sweetness to the drink.

How is a Starbucks latte prepared?

A barista pouring steamed milk in a cup.

The simple ingredients of a delicious hot latte at Starbucks are espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.

Generally, Starbucks baristas use 2% low-fat milk to prepare the drink unless the customer asks for something else.

After steaming the milk, it’s carefully infused with air to create the creamy, rich texture that all latte drinkers look for in their drink.

The milk also gets a bit sweeter during the aerating process. Foam is simply a byproduct of this process, and many folks either love or dislike its unique texture.

A latte at Starbucks is made by pouring espresso shots straight into the serving cup. The barista then pours in the steamed milk and finally tops it off with a layer of foam. The espresso blends with the steamed milk, and the foam adorns the top.

The method of making an iced latte is not significantly different. Cold milk replaces steamed milk, and ice replaces foam.

As with a hot latte, espresso shots are poured directly into the serving cup, cold milk is added, and the drink is finished with a scoop of ice.

However, because the milk is not steamed, an iced latte will not be as creamy or sweet as a hot one.

As a guide, these are the various latte variants available on the Starbucks menu:

  • Caffe Latte
  • Skinny Flavored Latte
  • Vanilla Latte
  • Cinnamon Dolce Latte
  • Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte
  • Starbucks Reserve® Latte.
  • Starbucks Reserve® Hazelnut Bianco Latte.
  • Starbucks® Blonde Vanilla Latte.
  • Blonde Vanilla Latte
  • Caffe Mocha
  • Starbucks Reserve Dark Chocolate Mocha

Or if you’d prefer, you can also check out their seasonal latte flavors:

  • Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Pistachio Latte
  • Peppermint Mocha
  • Gingerbread Latte
  • Eggnog Latte
  • Caramel Brûlée Latte

To learn how to prepare a Starbucks latte at home, you can watch the video below.

How many espresso shots are there in a Starbucks latte?

SizeNumber of Espresso Shots
Short – hot only (8oz)1
Tall (12oz)1
Grande (16oz)2
Venti – hot (20oz)2
Venti – iced (24oz)3
Espresso shots in a Starbucks latte.

How do you make a flat white?

A tall glass of latte.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 4 ounces milk
  • 6-ounce ceramic cup

How to:

  1. Put 16.5 grams of espresso coffee into the portafilter of your espresso machine. Extract 2 shots of espresso into a 6 oz mug. Make sure you weigh your coffee amount, the yield, and the time it takes to brew it.
  2. Begin heating 4-ounces of milk to 140°F while your espresso is brewing. Adding air to your milk is an art that takes practice to master.
  3. When the espresso is done brewing and the milk has been steamed, eliminate any bubbles in each, then mix them together by pouring them into your desired cup.
  4. Enjoy your homemade flat white!

Which is healthier: Starbucks latte or a flat white?

It all depends on how you define healthy. In any case, both the Starbucks latte and flat white are milky coffees.

If you want to compare the drinks in terms of calories, a flat white with a shot of espresso and two parts steamed milk has roughly 120 calories and 7 grams of fat in a single serving.

Choosing skim milk reduces the calorie count to 70 and contains nearly no fat, but some fat can help you feel full longer.

A Starbucks latte with a serving size of 16 oz, on the other hand, has 190 calories and 7 grams of fat. In the end, it’s all boils down to the kind of milk and the amount you add.

What makes flat white more pricey than other coffee blends?

If you are a coffee drinker who regularly buys coffee in coffee shops, you may have noticed that a flat white often costs more than a cappuccino or a latte.

A tall latte at Starbucks, for example, costs $2.95, while a flat white is priced at $3.75.

Many coffee experts believe that this pricing strategy does not imply that customers are being cheated. While the cost of the ingredients in making a flat white is the same as other coffee variants, they do take more barista expertise to be made perfectly, and that’s why the slightly higher price is a fair deal.

Final Thoughts

A top view of a clear mug with a flat white and a teaspoon.

While the specific size of the cup and the milk-to-coffee ratio varies by drink, the general consensus is that a flat white is smaller than a latte and usually has more espresso.

If you enjoy the subtle nuances of specialty coffee but prefer something dairy-based, a flat white is a better option than a latte.

Because of its lower milk content, a flat white allows you to appreciate the sensory profile of the beans thoroughly.

Is a flat white stronger than a latte? The answer is a resounding yes!

A flat white perfectly mixes the flavor and intensity of espresso with the creamy mouthfeel of a dairy-based beverage.

A flat white is still a healthier alternative than a latte because it contains more espresso and less milk than a latte.

But does that make it better than a latte? It doesn’t because each of us has our unique coffee preferences, which each should respect.

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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