What’s the Difference Between a Flat White and a Cappuccino?

What’s the Difference Between a Flat White and a Cappuccino

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There seems to be a divide in my circle of friends: we’re either cappuccino drinkers, or we’re flat white drinkers. I’m firmly in the flat white box, but I’m in the minority in the group. How about you? Which is your preference? And what’s the difference between a flat white and a cappuccino anyway?

Why don’t we find out?

Are Flat White and Cappuccino the Same Drink?

No, flat white and cappuccino coffees are not the same drink.

They are similar, but not the same. The cappuccino usually has more foam on the top, with the flat white being – as the name suggests – flat. The latter usually has more steamed milk, too. In fact, the flat white is more comparable to a latte than a cappuccino.

These days, you can customise both of these drinks so much, they barely resemble the original – and that’s definitely the case with the flat white. It doesn’t appear to have very strict guidelines to start with, and different countries make the drink slightly differently. Even the drink’s origins are up in the air somewhat.

A Quick Guide to Flat White

This coffee beverage is a relatively new drink, with origins that are hotly debated. Some say it started in Australia while others reckon it came from New Zealand. Origins aside, it is not a firm favourite around the world. The flat white is actually my favourite, every day coffee order.

If you were to order a flat white from Costa Coffee, this is what you’d get:

“A short but intense espresso, expertly combined with sweet textured milk for a rich and velvety coffee.”

Costa Coffee
Costa Coffee Flat White

That’s one shot of short espresso, served in a 300ml* cup or mug, with steamed milk poured over the top. Usually, just a very, very small amount of milk foam is added to the top.

A short espresso used in a flat white (usually) is different to the regular or long espresso that is used in a cappuccino (again, usually). The short version, known properly as ristretto, is denser and more bitter to taste because it is made with half the amount of water. That’s why it’s known as short.

Long espresso, on the other hand, uses double the amount of water.

Flat White and Cappuccino

This coffee drink packs more of a punch than a latte, with roughly a quarter of the whole flat white drink consisting of espresso. It is also commonly confused with another coffee drink: the latte. Although similar, just as with flat white vs cappuccino they are not the same.

(*Costa Coffee sizes.)

A Quick Guide to Cappuccino

An Italian breakfast classic, the cappuccino is enjoyed by millions all around the world.

Costa Coffee describes theirs as:

“Perfectly extracted espresso capped with luxurious frothy milk, finished with a chocolatey dusting.”

Costa Coffee
Costa Coffee Cappuccino

A cappuccino is a shot of long espresso, to which steamed milk is added, topped off with milk foam.

Cocoa or chocolate powder is sometimes sprinkled on the top, but this is a personal preference thing. I take my cappuccinos with chocolate sprinkled on the top, but my mother and my sister take theirs without it.

Sticking with the Costa Coffee example, the company offers the drink in small (287ml), medium (362ml), and large (422ml).

Cappuccino Coffee

It is becoming fashionable to use the cocoa or chocolate powder along with a stencil (or freehand art) to create a design on the top of the beverage. It’s like latte art but for cappuccinos. Latte art requires a kind of wet milk foam, but the cappuccino is topped off with more of a dry, airy, frothy foam. The powder then sits on top of it.

What’s the Difference Between a Flat White and a Cappuccino?

To start with, flat white usually comes in one standard size. A cappuccino, on the other hand, can often be bought as a small, medium, or large.

A [standard] flat white is usually served in the same size cup or mug as a small cappuccino: 287/300ml. It is also the stronger of the two drinks because it is made with the more dense short espresso (ristretto).

With a cappuccino, the bulk of the drink is frothy milk. In a flat white, however, the milk is not frothy. It is flat, giving the drink a much more velvet-like texture. Some people refer to flat whites as the ‘opposite’ of a cappuccino. The former is wet, thick, and rich; the latter is airy, light, and frothy.

If you want strong, rich, and velvety: get the flat white.

If you want light, frothy, or any other size than regular: get the cappuccino.

Coffee of the Month - February

By Buzzy Kitchen

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