Flat White Vs (Cafe) Latte - Is There a Difference?

The more I seem to go out for a takeaway coffee these days the more I am disappointed that I am served the wrong coffee.
Baristas consistently serving me whatever they want and not the coffee I ordered.
This has probably happened the last 3/4 times and these are pretty well known cafes.

Yes - in the end they kind of taste the same and it is a coffee… but that's not the point.
Why can't they give me the drink that I ordered?
Should I be a Karen and tell them that they gave me the wrong coffee or just suck it up?

Don't get me started when they don't even fill the cup to the top…

Poll Options expired

  • 222
    I know the difference between a flat white and latte
  • 25
    They are basically the same drink
  • 22
    Stop being a 'Karen'
  • 12


  • +42

    Flat whites have no foam. Latte has like, a bit of foam. Cappuccino is pretty much all foam and a waste of money.

    • Yup lesser calories and carbs.

    • +27

      a waste of money

      Not if you like the taste of foam

      • i didn't know that you could eat foam

        • +6

          It beats eating froth.

    • +16

      every cappuccino i've gotten has only had 1cm of foam…

      • a proper cap has around that of microfoam, a latte say half that and a flat white only enough for some art.

    • Latte is mostly milk and coffee, with some foam. Biggest thing being mostly made with milk.

    • +10

      We're paying for the insulation to keep the coffee warm, foam is great for slow drinkers 🙂

      • +1

        That's a fair point, and the money is not in the milk, it's a filler at 2 bucks a litre, it's in the coffee quality.

        But im a simple man and skull coffees so just go the simplest possible, flat white. I've given up pretending I can tell a difference between brews

    • -2

      You're more likely to get a good latte than a good flat white because not many people order a flat white, the maker may not know intuitively how hot that much milk should be.

    • They are effectively the same drink, one served in a tulip cup and the other in a glass.
      But these days most cafes serve a latte in a tulip as well.

      Its also microfoam you want, if you're getting foam, then you're getting inferior coffees.

  • +3

    Tell them how you like you coffee made when you order.

    • +3

      Telling a barista how to make a flat white or a latte?
      Nice…it's coffee making in Aus 101.
      Next time I'll order a magic.

      • +6

        Tell me bout your bovine. What do they eat?
        What’s the river they drink from?
        And tell me bout your coffee beans
        Are they Arabican, Columbian, or Mandheling Lintong?

        • -1

          Gluten free, eee, eee,eee

      • +2

        Yes - tell the barista if it is annoying the sh!t out of you every time you order coffee.
        If you want to make sure you get a flat white just say "Can you make sure it has no foam mate? Thanks".

        • +1

          Just tell them no lid, that way you can show them what they just gave you.

      • +12

        First check if your barista has tattoos. If not, he/she is not qualified and wouldn’t know the difference. In which case, try another coffee shop.

        • I also check if she/he has a luscious beard

      • +1

        Don't try and order an affogato, even when it's on their menu…

        First they just ignored my order (taken at the table) and brought everyone else's drinks. Then when I went and asked about my drink they sheepishly looked at each other and admitted none of them knew how to make it and offered a different drink.

        • +56

          Did you ask "hey, where's my drink" and they said
          "Sorry, Ah forgetto"

        • just call out loudly 'Get affogato here !'

      • +1

        Next time I'll order a magic.

        this is the only correct answer

        • this is the only correct answer

          No the correct answer is that I want a double shot, 3/4 flat white in a tulip cup.

    • “Double shot decaf skim soy latte please”

    • +1
  • Please add 'Bickies' to the poll options.

    Add these and you won't stress about your fine/large foam bubble ratio…

    • +1

      Choc-chip bickies for me please

  • +8

    I always order Flat White.
    But honestly, I won't know if they give me Latte.

    • I'm assuming this is when you order takeaway?

  • +1

    You didn't really outline what is wrong with the coffee you ordered.
    E.g. did you order latte and were given what you think was a flat white?

    • +1

      I order flat whites and seem to get lattes.

      Last coffee I ordered there was enough foam I could blow it out of the cup.

      I can generally tell as the coffee doesn't seem full when I receive it, and I kinda make a habit of checking now.
      So far I have yet to return a coffee but I was wondering if this was normal.

      • Ok, as aardvarks states further down, find better cafes.
        "Well known" does not always = good.

      • It's normal not to fill a flat white all the way to the top (0.5cm gap) because there's no foam to prevent it spilling out

        I also used to order flat whites, and it was so common to get some foam on it that I just ended up ordering a latte

        Not much of a difference tbh

      • So your issue is a thin layer of foam?

  • +22

    so what's the difference between all these:

    Cappuccino: espresso 1/2 foam 1/2 steamed milk
    LongBlack: espresso + water
    Short Black: espresso + less water/ no water
    Machiato: espresso plus little bit of steamed milk
    Flat white: espresso + steamed milk
    Latte: espresso plus 2/3 steamed milk + 1/3 foam
    Mocha: espresso+ Hot choc + steamed milk

    • +13
      • Your visualisation has machiato with foam, whereas barozgain says steamed milk (which is what i thought). Where does piccolo fit in?

        • +3

          macchiato comes with just a dollop of foam. piccolo is more like 1:1 espresso to steamed milk + foam ratio

      • +1

        Flat white with 1/2 of that milk needs a name.

        • Short flat white or just order a small with an extra shot.

        • +2

          Piccolo latte?

    • +1

      Short Black: espresso + less water/ no water

      Shouldn't Espresso + no water be Espresso? Or is "no water" some coffianadipster thing?

      • Well some water is required for an espresso obviously, "no excess water" is more precise

    • +3

      The way I order, but I don't think it has a name: Long Black + cold milk (on the side if ordering in or combined if ordering take-away) so I can:

      a) cool the temperature of the coffee to non-tongue-burning temperature, and
      b) take the bitterness away a little bit.

      • if i wanted a flat white i'd ask as you do. long black + a little cold milk. that's how I would have made it for mum.

        when i make a flat white i make a latte with zero foam in a cappuccino cup. i stop the foam with a spoon as i pour. when making a latte i freehand it so it will get a very slight amount of foam.

        two caveats:
        - i don't drink coffee
        - i make / sell perhaps 20 coffees a day in a pub bistro.

    • -6

      Flat white used to be a long black plus a dash of milk.
      Latte was short black plus steamed milk.
      Foam was only every used on cappuccinos and there was no such thing as a babycino
      - mind you it's been quite a while since I served coffee at uni!

    • is there one for when they run the espresso machine longer than usual to make a large, watered down espresso?
      so basically a short/long black with the extra water at least containing some diluted coffee

      because making an espresso a fixed size, then pouring water on top, seems like a silly way to make a larger cup of coffee
      ends up more diluted than filter coffee

      • +5

        I'll assume you are not trolling… ;-)

        That's called disgusting. You get over-extracted coffee and it tastes about as good as American diner coffee served from a pot that's been in one of those machines for hours and the staff, every now and again, pour the half empty coffee jug over the spent grounds in the filter and add more water to make it "stronger".

        The proper way of making a long black is to put the hot water in the cup first, then extract the shot of espresso directly on top of the hot water. That way you get great crema and it's also easy to see your extraction quality.

        • +3

          He's not. It's called a lungo- and you are correct peteru, it will result in what most would regard as over-extracted and bitter. A typical lungo or 'long pull' might be 60s instead of 30s, resulting in greater volume of espresso. In Europe and some specialty coffee shops this is an option.

          Also agree with hot water first and then espresso- the order is the difference between an americano and long black.

          • +1

            @andgucps: Yes, someone who knows what and how poor an americano is … and most of the time the maker has no idea what that they are making that, they think it is a long black! Lungo is the correct name for an overextraction - more bitter and some people like it apparently - not me, I'm a long black man

    • Thanks; this actually helped. Not being much of a coffee drinker my view on coffee was binary. espresso or espresso with other stuff in it (i.e. water / milk/ foam / sugar / raw egg (yuk), etc )

    • +1

      That's the yankee Starbucks formula and it sucks balls.

      Nothing should ever be 50% foam. A Cappuccino should have maybe an inch to an inch and a half of foam in a decent sized mug.

      A latte should have a cm, 2 on the outside.

      A macchiato should have foam on top, it should not have liquid milk - if it has liquid milk it is instead a piccolo latte.

      A true flat white is an almost lost art among baristas because it is NOT from the Italian tradition, it is from Greek & Turkish expats in Australia (we had and have a whole lot).

      A flat white was what you got when you made Turkish style coffee on a stove with milk heated that way rather than with a steam wand. It involved minimal crema that had disappeared by the time it was served and no microfoam from the milk. Everything from that point on was attempting to recreate this with an Italian espresso machine.

      The problem - you cannot do this properly with an espresso machine - simply not possible. The closest you can get is to pull the espresso shot and leave it to sit for a bit to let the crema die down, and the same with the milk to let the microfoam settle on top. If you pour steamed milk right away, it will settle in the glass (this is a desired effect for lattes and makes it look like it's 'tumbling' in the glass as the foam floats to the top) - you need to wait for both of these. This is what a 'flat white' from an espresso machine is supposed to be, and you can still find it on occasion. But it's sooooo slooooow, and you are just not going to find it in a city cafe that often because that sort of time isn't cost efficient, and very few people these days actually give enough of a crap or know the difference at all. Country cafes are far more likely to know what they're doing.

      Some people try and recreate it by adding hot water, like a long black combined with a latte. This is again the Starbucks approach and is garbage.

      • +1

        Haha here in WA many (most?) country cafes have no idea what they are doing, flat white or not.

        • In cities you get a significant push towards mediocrity - in the country you have less pressure, so you are more likely to see fantastically good, and fantastically bad.

  • +2

    Go better cafes?

    • +1

      So the solution to get the correct coffee is go to better cafes?

      as above this still happens as pretty well know cafes.

      • +1

        Some Most cafe owners have stupid expectations and just pump out coffees, find a better one.

        Sadly ive got barista exp

      • Well known != good, after all mcCafe is Australia's favourite

      • "Be the change you want see in the world."

        …maybe you should print that diagram out, and keep it in your purse/bag next time you go to get your Flat White. And if you happen to see the same barista, and if you happen to get the same Latte, then ask the barista (politely) if that is correct. Say you normally get Flat Whites with hardly any foam/froth, except from this cafe which has happened before. And show the diagram.

        Best case scenario: The barista teaches you something, as you had it wrong all along
        Great scenario: The barista can keep that sheet, remakes your coffee, and has learned better the "art" of making coffee
        Good scenario: They re-make the coffee, and give you a free coupon/muffin/etc etc.
        Bad scenario: You get asked to leave and never come back from the Soup Coffee Nazi
        Worst case scenario: The Coffee Nazi snaps and throws hot coffee on your face, your face starts melting like the Ark of the Covenant, and now you have to quit your job and become a full-time OzBargainer.

      • +1

        In my experience, if you are a regular at a cafe, they are always open to feedback and doing it better for you next time. Especially at more speciality places.

  • +3

    This reminds me of the time as a teenager I wanted to have Starbucks Coffee and the only place they had a store in VIC at the time was Melb Airport. So on one overseas trip I made my Dad order me a 'coffee', we had no idea what we were doing so ended up with a Long Black no sugar. Was not a good first experience of barista coffee.

    • +37

      first mistake was wanting to order Starbucks.

      • +13

        Oh to be a teenager wanting to do cool things and be a part of the hype…

      • Sadly in America it is commonly the o ly place to get expresso coffee…

        • +3

          I hate Starbucks here but when I arrive in the states I automatically switch to double tall soy latte mode.and it doesn't seem to bother me.

    • +1

      In my view, the problem you experienced was not due to ordering a long black/no sugar, but in going to Starbucks.

      Free internet though; that used to be the big attraction.

      • Never again

  • +7

    Important question - anyone else order a small for the coffee/milk ratio?

    • +1

      Other way around for me, small is too strong

    • I usually go piccolo with extra shot. I don't really want a double, but a piccolo is too milky for me.

      • Why don't you just get an espresso with a dash of milk?

    • Small doubles but the cafe near the office (when that was a thing) usually puts 3 in a large and I frequently get 4…

  • +10

    Takeaway cup = basically no difference between a flat white and a latte. Although in my experience, some make lattes weaker than flat whites.
    Dining in = latte should be in a glass, flat white in a porcelain cup.

    • Yep, that's pretty much the only reason I order flat whites. I hate the latte glasses - it looks like you are drinking the adult version of a babyccino.

  • +9

    If it's in a take away cup the difference is so slight then complaining is being a Karen.

    Served in their proper vessel a Latte typically has more volume of milk than a cappuccino or flat white. Lattes are in a larger glass around 250mL vs a smaller around 150mL cup for a flat white or cappuccino.

    If you order an 8ounce cup like most take away, double shot flat white, then the only difference is the minor difference in foam.

    Keep in mind that the different ways or serving coffee may be different to people around the world. Most of the world has no idea wtf a flat white is and if you tried to explain it your probably get a cafe latte/cafe au lait/cafe de leche/cafe cortado.

    The key element of a Flat White is that the milk should be nicely textured.

    • +2

      The only correct answer here, listen to this guy

  • If you are at a cafe with a ‘barista’ you are paying for service. If you order a flat white and get something else, politely send it back and get what you ordered. I agree it is a problem if they serve you a flat white with a centimetre of fluff as you have now gulped from it, but so what?
    You don’t need to be a Karen to POLITELY ask for what you are paying for. If it’s a catch up with friends I generally wouldn’t bother unless you go there regularly.

  • +1

    From my time as a barista… here is what I thought was the difference. Latte is served in a glass and is slightly smaller in capacity. A flat white is served in a regular cup and should be slightly weaker then Latte.

    This is why in takeaway the distinction makes no sense as they are served in the same size cup.

    Also note that the meaning of flat white has changed and now in other countries it is taken as a stronger coffee. So you generally get a double shot outside of Australia, while a Latte would only have one.

  • The 7-eleven $1 coffee machine seems to get it right. Interestingly it dispenses the milk and coffee in a different order for latte and flat white. In these tough times why pay for a human barista anyway.

    • Actually 7-eleven coffee is one of the best where I live as most of the baristas burn the beans adding the hot water to create a long black which creates dreadful coffee.
      If you can find a human barista who is good it is worth the extra money for the great flavour.

  • After experiencing a few places that interpret a latte as 1/2 black + 1/2 foam, I always order a flat white to accommodate low-IQ baristas.

    While we're on the topic of coffee peeves, here's my list:

    • Being served a flat white at 90C. What the hell am I supposed to do with that for the next 20 minutes while it cools? And thanks big glob of coagulated burnt milk I have to deal with.
    • Long queues. Why do coffee shop owners count success in queue length, rather than hard cash?
    • Baristas having casual chit-chats when there are 10+ people waiting for their coffee.
    • Burnt grinds left in the scoop between coffees. Yuck.

    But overall I think we're pretty lucky that you can find decent coffee in most places in Australia.

    • worst i've seen is not having cleaned the steamed wand after multiple uses - you can see and taste the accumulation of burnt milk.

  • In a corona-chaos world where we are supposed to be kind to each other, they could start being kind by serving what was ordered - if they don't why are you still using that shop.
    Set your boundaries, let them know respectfully that they haven't provided what you paid for, and ask to provide it. All else fails vote with your feet and find somewhere that serves great coffee and what you order!

  • +3

    This is why I rarely buy a coffee, as I can make better at home. Unless I'm meeting friends.

  • +2

    Order water and see what happens.

    • +4

      knowing my luck i would get sparkling.

  • I complain about coffee too. Too sweet, too cold, too milky, no taste. How do so many "baristas" kkuf it up.

  • Lungo is the best coffee

  • There was a time when they were distinct drinks, however these days the trend is towards Milk Coffee and Black coffee. They keep the names Latte and Flat White to keep things familiar. What happened to you is odd though, most places ere on the side of less foam and more milk.

  • Out of interest with your 'they don't fill up the cup' comment, is that in reference to a takeaway cup or a reusable cup?

    • +1

      Takeaway, i haven't used reusable since pre covid

  • Mebored is on the money…
    The flat white and latte are basically the same coffee, just served in a different vessel, so in a take away situation, there's 3/8ths of Farkle difference.

  • So what do you think the difference between a latte and a flat white is?

  • +2

    Hold up. There's more than ONE type of coffee???!

  • Sorry, where is the bargain in this?

  • From my knowledge, they're only slightly different (amount of foam, and maybe slightly higher milk:coffee ratio with a latte), if not identical with the difference being in the cup/glass it's being served it. It varies depending on who you ask or where you're buying it from. It'll obviously depend on the barista themselves, and whether or not they personally view them as being particularly different.

    As for whether or not you should complain, that really boils down to how much you care.

Login or Join to leave a comment