Starbucks Flat White vs Latte

When you walk into a Starbucks, the array of coffee choices can be quite vast, with two popular options being the Flat White and the Latte. While they may appear similar at a glance, with both drinks having espresso and milk, the key differences lie in how these two ingredients are combined. The Flat White is an espresso-based beverage that originated in Australia and is known for its velvety texture, created by using a higher ratio of coffee to milk and featuring a microfoam layer.

The Latte, a classic favorite among coffee enthusiasts, consists of a standard shot of espresso and is topped with steamed milk and a light layer of foam. This drink makes the espresso taste more mellow compared to the boldness in a Flat White. The Latte has a creamier and more diluted espresso flavor, making it an ideal choice for a less intense coffee experience.

Table of Contents

Origins and Definitions

When you sip on a flat white or a latte, you’re enjoying more than just coffee; you’re experiencing a blend of culture and tradition.

Origins of Flat White and Latte

Flat White: Tracing its roots to the 1980s, the flat white is a coffee drink claimed by Australia and New Zealand. The creation was driven by adding steamed milk to enhance the espresso experience.

Latte: Originating in Italy, the term “latte” simply means “milk” in Italian. The latte, as you know it, evolved as Americans adapted the Italian caffè latte—a staple breakfast drink of coffee and milk—into a creamier and frothier concoction suitable for any time of day.

Defining a Flat White

A flat white is a coffee beverage that consists of:

  • Double shot of espresso
  • Steamed milk with a fine, velvety microfoam (ideally around 65°C)
    The result is a stronger coffee flavor with a smooth and creamy texture.

Defining a Latte

A latte, meanwhile, is characterized by:

  • One or more shots of espresso
  • A larger amount of steamed milk
  • A thin layer of froth (generally thicker than that of a flat white)
    Lattes are creamier and have a more subtle coffee flavor due to the higher milk-to-espresso ratio.

Beverage Composition

Starbucks coffee restaurant

In crafting your perfect cup, the composition of a flat white and a latte hinges on their distinct proportions of espresso, milk, and foam, each component contributing to their unique flavor profile and texture.

Espresso Base

A stronger espresso base is used for a flat white, often in the form of a ristretto shot. A ristretto is a concentrated espresso shot that uses less water than a regular shot, giving you a more robust and intense coffee flavor. In contrast, a latte typically contains one or more standard espresso shots that provide a rich coffee taste but are not as strong as the ristretto.

  • Flat White: Typically double ristretto
  • Latte: Usually one or two espresso shots

Milk and Texture

Steamed milk is pivotal to both drinks for creating a smooth, rich texture. However, the way it’s prepared and incorporated differs. Your flat white is characterized by milk that’s steamed to a velvety texture, making it more integrated with the espresso. A latte, on the other hand, has more steamed milk, which creates a lighter and slightly less cohesive blend compared to the dense texture of a flat white.

  • Flat White: Less steamed milk, denser texture
  • Latte: More steamed milk, lighter in texture

Microfoam and Foam

As for the topping, flat whites are finished with a thin layer of microfoam – this is finely steamed milk with tiny, uniform bubbles that merge seamlessly with the drink. Lattes showcase a thicker layer of foam, which sits atop the beverage and can be tailored for those who love more airy froth in their drink.

  • Flat White: Thin layer of microfoam
  • Latte: Thicker layer of foam

Flavor Profiles and Variations

When you order at Starbucks, the distinction between a Flat White and a Latte lies in texture and flavor characteristics. Let’s explore how these popular beverages differ and the various twists you can add.

Comparing the Flavor

A Flat White is known for its rich, bold espresso flavor. It is made with a ristretto shot and carries a more intense coffee flavor than a latte. The milk in a Flat White is steamed to a velvety consistency, contributing to a concentrated espresso experience without overwhelming creaminess.

Lattes, on the other hand, balance the espresso with more steamed milk, resulting in a softer coffee flavor. The larger volume of milk creates a creamier texture and a milder coffee taste, often making it a go-to choice if you prefer your coffee less bold.

Espresso Type Flat White Latte
Ristretto Shot Rich and bold flavor Softer espresso presence
Regular Espresso Less intense than Flat White Mild coffee flavor

Variants and Add-Ins

Customizing your drink at Starbucks is all part of the fun, and both Flat Whites and Lattes offer a canvas for creativity.

  • Seasonal twists: Keep an eye out for seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice that can add a festive touch to your drink.
  • Starbucks Reserve® Latte: If you’re after a premium experience, this variant uses rare Arabica beans for a unique taste.
  • Starbucks® Blonde Vanilla Latte: This is a smoother and subtly sweet option, thanks to the use of vanilla syrup and lighter roasted Blonde Espresso.
  • Caffe Mocha: For a chocolatey twist, the Caffe Mocha blends rich cocoa with the coffee, offering a different dimension of flavor to both Flat Whites and Lattes.

Try vanilla, caramel, or any other syrup to create your own custom coffee experience.

Here’s a list for quick reference:

  • Flat White Variants: Ristretto shots, less milk, more espresso flavor.
  • Latte Add-Ins: Extra flavored syrups like vanilla or caramel, more milk, milder taste.

Nutritional and Practical Considerations

When deciding between a Starbucks flat white and a latte, you should consider their nutritional profiles along with how they’re prepared and served.

Health and Dietary Factors

Component Flat White (12 oz) Latte (12 oz)
Serving Size 12 oz 12 oz
Calories 170 190
Total Fat 9g 7g
Caffeine Content ~130 mg ~150 mg
Milk Options
Whole Milk Standard Standard
2% Milk Fewer calories Fewer calories
Almond Milk Fewest calories; dairy-free Fewest calories; dairy-free

Both the flat white and latte offer milk options — whole milk is the standard, while 2% milk is a choice if you’re watching your calorie intake. Almond milk is your friend if you’re looking for the lowest calorie count or have dietary restrictions like lactose intolerance. It’s worth noting that a standard flat white has slightly fewer calories than a latte despite having more total fat, mainly because the latte typically contains more milk.

Preparation and Serving Styles

A flat white is distinguished by a higher coffee-to-milk ratio and is often served in a smaller, 6 oz ceramic cup, making it stronger in coffee flavor. In contrast, the traditional latte has more steamed milk, is served in a larger 12 oz size or greater, and has a lighter, milkier taste.

Beverage Coffee Content Milk Content Serving Vessel
Flat White High Less 6 oz Ceramic Cup
Latte Less More 12 oz or larger cup

Specialty drinks like the Starbucks Reserve Hazelnut Bianco Latte have particular preparation styles and unique nutritional content that can vary from the standard offerings. They are often crafted with premium ingredients and may have a higher calorie count. If you’re seeking something beyond standard preparations, these caffeinated specialty coffees offer an indulgent experience. Remember that the flat white and latte can be tailored with different kinds of milk and syrups to adapt to your taste and dietary preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find straightforward answers to some common queries regarding the distinctions between Starbucks’ Flat White and Latte in terms of preparation, taste, caffeine content, customization options, calorie count, pricing, and differences between iced versions.

What’s the difference between a Starbucks Flat White and a Latte in terms of preparation and taste?

A Starbucks Flat White is crafted with a double shot of espresso and microfoam milk, resulting in a velvety texture and an intense espresso flavor. On the other hand, a Latte has a single shot of espresso, more steamed milk, and a light layer of foam, giving it a creamier and less intense taste.

Can you compare the caffeine content in a Starbucks Flat White to that of their Latte?

Your Starbucks Flat White contains a greater caffeine kick due to the double shot of espresso, compared to the single shot in a traditional Latte. This means you’ll get more caffeine per serving in a Flat White.

What are the customization options available for a Starbucks Flat White compared to a Latte?

You can customize both drinks by choosing alternative milk options, adding flavored syrups, or adjusting the number of espresso shots. However, altering the core preparation of the Flat White, like changing the microfoam, may affect its signature texture.

How does the calorie count of a Starbucks Flat White compare to a Latte?

The calorie count of a Flat White is generally lower because it has less milk than a Latte. The actual calorie difference will vary based on the sizes you’re comparing and any additional flavors or toppings you choose.

Why might a Flat White be priced higher than a Latte at Starbucks?

The Flat White may be priced slightly higher due to the additional espresso shot and the skilled labor required to create the microfoam that gives it its distinctive texture.

In what ways does a Starbucks Iced Flat White differ from an Iced Latte?

An Iced Flat White has a similar espresso-to-milk ratio as its hot counterpart, maintaining a strong coffee flavor with cold microfoam. An Iced Latte has a lighter coffee taste with more milk and is typically served with standard ice cubes, not microfoam.

Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.