Flat White Vs Cappuccino Explained: How These Coffees Differ

If you're a coffee lover, it's likely that you're spoiled for choice with the plethora of coffee options to choose from. Out of all the coffee drinks, two of the most popular options are flat white and cappuccino drinks. However, while these two coffee drinks might seem similar, there are plenty of distinct differences between the two.  

In this guide, we'll discuss the differences between a flat white and cappuccino, answer frequently asked questions, and more. 

One of the first things to look at when it comes to a cappuccino vs. flat white coffee drink is how they’re made.  

The flat white was invented in either New Zealand or Australian coffee shops in the 1980s. In terms of ingredients, it contains:  

  • Espresso  
  • Steamed milk  

It’s traditionally served in a five to six-ounce cup and consists of two shots of espresso along with a tiny bit of foam. When it comes to a flat white vs. cappuccino milk content, the flat white contains more milk than a cappuccino but less milk than a latte. It is, however, a less frothy drink.  

The cappuccino, on the other hand, was invented in the 1700s. Interestingly, it was originally served with whipped cream and spices before being replaced with frothy milk. The cappuccino contains the following ingredients:  

  • Espresso 
  • Milk froth  

While the ratio of a cappuccino can differ significantly around the world, it's typically served in a cup with a handle and contains a third espresso (double shot), a third milk, and a third milk froth.  


Taste & Texture Of A Flat White  

One of the biggest differences between a cappuccino and a flat white is its taste and texture.  

With a flat white, espresso counts for about 25% of the drink, so it does have a relatively strong coffee flavor – more so than a typical latte. As it does have microfoam on the top, it has a smooth texture to it without the velvety finish of a cappuccino.  

Another main difference between a flat white and a cappuccino is its ingredient ratio. A flat white has about 1.5 ounces of espresso, 4-5 ounces of steamed milk, and 0.5 ounces of microfoam. Those who tend to prefer a flat white enjoy it as it has the flavor and intensity of an espresso coupled with the richness of a dairy-based drink.  

two flat white coffees

Taste & Texture Of A Cappuccino  

With a cappuccino, 33% of the drink contains espresso, so it’s stronger than a flat white. In terms of texture, cappuccinos have a thick and dense milk foam that has both a velvety and creamy finish.  

For the ingredient ratio, a cappuccino has about 2 ounces of espresso, 2 ounces of steamed milk, and 2 ounces of microfoam. It is noticeably stronger than a flat white and has a balanced and creamy texture to it. If you like foamy coffees that have a good caffeine kick, it’s likely that you’re a fan of the cappuccino.  

cappuccino with pastries

Flat White Vs. Cappuccino (Similarities & Differences)  

The table below will provide you with an excellent overview of the similarities and differences between a flat white and cappuccino.  

Factors  

Flat White  

Cappuccino  

Caffeine Content  

About 1.5 ounces is espresso 

About 2 ounces is espresso  

Milk Content  

About ⅔ steamed milk and with microfoam.  

A cappuccino has ⅓ steamed milk and ⅓ frothed milk or microfoam.  

Calorie Content  

More calories than a cappuccino as it has more milk volume (depending on the milk used)  

A cappuccino may have slightly fewer calories as half the milk volume in a cappuccino is foam.  

Texture  

A lighter and silkier texture  

A rich, thick and creamy texture  

With or Without Foam

Comes with a tiny bit of foam  

Thick and dense microfoam  

Size 

5-6 ounces  

5-6 ounces (usually slightly bigger than a flat white)  

Extra Additions  

It doesn’t really come with any extra additions.  

Dusted with chocolate powder.  

Variations  

There aren't really any variations when it comes to making a flat white. Perhaps the only variation is using different types of milk such as soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, low-fat milk, etc.  

There are flavored cappuccinos made with flavored syrups such as chocolate, caramel, vanilla, etc.

There are also iced cappuccinos, wet cappuccinos (made with more hot milk and less foamed milk), and dry cappuccinos (made with less milk)  


Milk Options For These Coffees  

While you can use regular milk or low-fat milk with these coffees, there are also plenty of other milk options to choose from. 

Soy milk  

A popular alternative milk choice, in comparison to other types of milk on this list, soy milk has a relatively strong flavor. It’s great when paired with a robust espresso, but can overpower an espresso that has a fruity and floral taste. Soy milk also has a tendency to split in coffee, so care must be taken when using it.  

Oat milk

A popular choice for coffee-based drinks, oat milk has a creamy and thick texture that makes it have a less overpowering flavor than some of the other nut milks. In addition, it has a natural sweetness that is close to dairy and blends well with espresso. Since it also has a higher fat content than other milk types, it's great for both steaming and frothing.  

Almond milk 

Almond milk is low in calories and contains a good amount of protein and fiber. If you're using regular almond milk, it's likely that you'll run into issues with thickening or frothing. If you want to use almond milk in your cappuccino or flat white, opt for a barista version instead.  


How To Make Starbucks Flat White Coffee 

Looking to make Starbucks flat white coffee at home? Below, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how Starbucks makes and serves their flat whites and how to recreate them at home.  

Starbucks makes their flat white coffee by:

  1. 1
    Pouring ristretto shots (espresso that uses less water during the brewing process) into a cup.  
  2. 2
    Then, milk is poured above the cup (about six inches or so). This allows the drink to be built evenly. Starbucks also ensures that the milk has a smooth and velvety texture to it.  
  3. 3
    To top it off, the drink is finished with a distinct white dot of foam. Not only is it a nice touch, but it’s also a good way to see if the milk is properly textured.  

To make your own Starbucks flat white coffee, you’ll need:  

  • 2 shots of ristretto espresso  
  • 1 cup of steamed milk (you can choose whatever milk you’d like. If you’re not a fan of regular milk, oat milk is a great option).  
  • Sugar (optional)

Here’s how to do it:  

  1. 1
    Prepare two shots of ristretto. To do so, you’ll use the same amount of ground coffee as a classic espresso shot but half the volume of hot water. Then, pour it over a glass.  
  2. 2
    Steam the milk and froth it for at least a minute to ensure that it gets nice and foamy. If you want to get extra fancy, you can use a milk frother.  
  3. 3
    Pour the frothy foamed milk over the espresso and finish off with that classic white dot of foam. If you’d like, you can also do some latte art.  

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Which of these coffees is the weakest?  

A flat white is weaker than a cappuccino. While a flat white has 1.5 ounces of espresso, a cappuccino contains 2 ounces of espresso.  

Which of these coffees do Italian’s drink? 

Italians drink cappuccino. It's a classic Italian espresso drink and is typically enjoyed before or after breakfast.  

Which is healthier? Flat white or cappuccino?  

A cappuccino is healthier than a flat white as it contains less milk – most of it is foam. It is, however, only marginally healthier, and this is also dependent on the type of milk that is used.  

Is the cappuccino or flat white generally more expensive to buy? 

Flat whites are typically more expensive as they require more skill to make. A good flat white needs to be made with milk that is steamed into a ‘microfoam.' That's the only way that you'll get the silky smooth texture when you're sipping your coffee.  


Conclusion

If you’re a new coffee drinker, you should definitely give both of these drinks a shot. After you've tasted both a flat white and cappuccino, you'll have a better understanding of the different tastes and textures between the two and how they cater to different individuals.