A whole latte confusion

Ever wondered what the is the difference between a flat white and a latte? Let’s find out!

Firstly, let’s break down the two drinks for a side by side comparison.

Flat White

Served in: 150-180 mL ceramic cup

Shots of espresso: 1

Depth of foam: approx 5 mm

Caffe Latte

Served in: 220 mL glass

Shots of espresso: 1

Depth of foam: approx 15 to 20 mm

A flawed view

At first glance, when looking at the ratio of espresso to milk by volume, it would seem logical to say that the latte is the weaker of the two drinks (i.e has greater dilution due to the larger glass size and therefore the least concentrated).

However, looking at coffee to milk ratio by volume in isolation is flawed as it fails to consider the impact of the amount of foam taking up space in each coffee has. The space taken up by the milk foam is dead space – more foam means less space for liquid milk and vice versa.

So what impact does foam have?

Consider each shot of espresso for both the flat white (160 mL cup) and latte (220 mL glass) are both 30 mL. This would leave 130 mL and 190 mL respectively for each drink to be filled with textured milk.

If we were to scrape off every last bit of foam from both drinks, the milk volumes left would be much less than 130 mL and 190 mL of textured milk we initially poured in. It is clear to see that how much foam a drink contains influences the drink’s final concentration.

To determine what impact milk foam volume has on drink concentration, I devised an experiment where 4 flat whites and 4 caffe lattes were made and measured so that the coffee concentration could be calculated.

For those of you who will indulge me and want to geek out, continue to the experiment and results, otherwise skip to the end for the results!

The Experiment

Each coffee was to have 20 grams of espresso (or as close to as possible) as the base. Each drink would then be made 4 times each with the masses of the milk poured into each drink recorded.

Flat whites were to be made in 160 mL ceramics by Cup&Company, and caffe lattes to be made in Duralex Picardie 220 mL glasses.

For calculation purposes, the Milk Strength Calculator was used to calculate the coffee concentrations and a strength (TDS) of 9.0% was assumed.

The milk used was a full cream from Devondale with the following specifications:

Protein – 3.4%, Fat – 3.4%, Lactose – 4.8%

A limitation of the experiment conducted, whilst not wholly scientific, is that 8 drinks made by one person is not a large sample size, but I have confidence in my ability to produce these drinks within the specifications in relation to foam depth/texture and temperature. The data of all drinks made is included in the next section.

Results

Flat white 1: 20.1 grams espresso, 137.4 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.15%

Flat white 2: 20.0 grams espresso, 121.5 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.27%

Flat white 3: 20.0 grams espresso, 118.6 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.30%

Flat white 4: 20.3 grams espresso, 131.8 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.20%

Averaged flat white: 20.1 grams espresso, 127.3 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.23%

Caffe latte 1: 20.3 grams espresso, 137.2 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.16%

Caffe latte 2: 20.1 grams espresso, 132.9 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.18%

Caffe latte 3: 20.0 grams espresso, 140.5 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.12%

Caffe latte 4: 20.3 grams espresso, 135.3 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.17%

Averaged caffe latte: 20.2 grams espresso, 136.5 grams steamed milk, coffee concentration 1.16%

Conclusion

Here is the break down of the averaged caffe lattes and averaged flat whites made during the experiment.

Averaged flat white

Flat whites were made in 160 mL Cup&Company ceramics

Averaged caffe latte

Caffe lattes were made in 220 mL Duralex Picardie glasses

Here is what we know:

  • The averaged flat white edges out the averaged caffe latte on strength by 0.07%.
  • The averaged flat white is 9.3 grams heavier than the averaged caffe latte.
  • Less than 10 grams separate the two averaged drinks, equivalent to a very small sip of liquid coffee.

Here are the main differences between the two drinks:

  • The flat white is made is a cup whilst a caffe latte is made in a slightly bigger glass
  • The flat white has about 5 mm of foam whilst the caffe latte in a glass presents at around 15 mm

Here are the similarities:

  • The flat white and latte use the same amount of espresso
  • Both the flat white and latte have very similar amouts of liquid milk (not including foam)
  • We all can agree both coffees are delicious :)

Flat whites and caffe lattes are more or less the same; espresso diluted with delicious creamy milk. The former is served in a cup and the latter served in a glass.

In a takeaway cup with a lid, the two drinks become almost indistinguishable.

So whether you’re a flat white lover or an avid caffe latte drinker, go and have another cup!

Which drink do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

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