Flat White vs cappuccino

Flat White vs Cappuccino |What’s the Difference?

Before we begin the coffee snob fight over the flat white coffee vs cappuccino, you have to realize that they are both espresso coffee and steamed-milk-based drinks. Their differences majorly come from how they are prepared and presented and by the amount of milk and froth added to the drink.                


To understand why it’s called a flat white, you have to first understand that decades ago coffee consumers and baristas around the world referred to coffees with milk as ‘white coffee’ and coffees without milk as black coffee. How it came to be called flat white from that is just as much a valid question as to why was the world created. But I can only answer one of those in this article.

The flat white coffee is made with a shot of espresso and steamed milk, kinda like a latte but not quite, because the steamed milk in a latte is allowed to smoothen and even out the strong flavor of the espresso, giving it a subtle and mild creamy taste. In flat white, the steamed milk does not even out the taste and flavor of the espresso because a smaller quantity of steamed milk is added. Therefore the taste and flavor of the espresso stand out in the flat white coffee, and the steamed foamy milk is used to top the cup just like in latte but then unlike latte, the foamy milk or the microfoam is ‘flattened out’ and the term ‘flat white’ was born.


The question of who created this concept or used the name first is still relatively a mystery. There is a divide; half of them believe its origin dates back to Australia in the 1980s but another half believe Auckland in New Zealand is its origin. Whichever the case may be, coffee consumers around the world are infinitely grateful for flat white coffee. 


Cappuccino is an espresso coffee-based drink. It is originally from Italy and named after the color of the robes worn by the Capuchin friars. The invention of the drink can be traced to the 18th century and it has won the hearts of coffee consumers around the world. While the flat white has two layers consisting of espresso and steamed milk and a thin topped layer of foamy milk flattened out. The cappuccino has three layers, the espresso, the steamed milk, and the frothy foam layer, and another layer of frothy foam added on top of the third and dusted with sweetened cocoa or cinnamon or sprinkled with chocolate. Essentially, cappuccinos have very thick foams.


There are different types of cappuccino;

  • The traditional Cappuccino
  • The dry Cappuccino
  • The Bone Dry, and
  • The Iced Cappuccino.

The dry Cappuccino has a lesser amount of steamed milk; the bone dry has no steamed milk at all, while the cold cappuccino makes use of chilled milk. For the purpose of this article, we would be focusing on the traditional cappuccino.  


Add a double shot espresso into a coffee cup, and then insert a pitcher into a bowl of about 4.4 ounces of milk and steam to 58°C or 62°C. Flat white is a smooth and velvety drink, so to make the milk smooth and velvety and remove any bubbles, some baristas would thump the pitcher on a counter and swirl the milk around the pitcher. Some others would allow the pitcher to sit in the milk for a little while before steaming to allow oxygen into the milk. Then the steamed milk is poured into the espresso. The perfect milk for a flat white is textured i.e. micro foamed, and the microfoam milk of the flat white should not contain any froth. The way the milk is steamed is not particularly set in stone but these are general guidelines you can follow. Latte art can be drawn on flat white. 

There are two traditional ways a cup of cappuccino can be made; one with a cap of extra frothy foam on top and another served in a smaller cup that has latte art drawn on it with microfoam. 

The standard recipe of a cappuccino is ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk, and ⅓ frothy milk foam. Equal thirds of espresso, milk, and froth. Firstly, prepare your espresso and measure it into a cup, then steam your milk and add it to the espresso. Lastly, ⅓ of steamed milk is whipped until foamy and frothy and then added as the last layer on the cup. A barista can decide to make his cappuccino different by using syrup or adding chocolate. You can definitely play around with your flavor, toppings, and presentation but always use one-third of espresso, steamed milk, and froth. 


As we now know, cappuccino has been around for a longer time compared to a flat white. It originated in Italy and it quickly spread across Europe to all coffee lovers. But now, this beloved drink is everywhere where coffee drinkers can access them; South and North America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. It is highly sorted after and consumed either as a refreshing and recreational drink or as a daily shot of coffee in the mornings. It has a lot more global recognition than flat white coffee. 

The flat white is most popular with coffee lovers and where it was originally from- Australia and New Zealand. It’s also quite popular in the U.S and parts of Europe but it doesn’t have the global recognition and popularity that cappuccino has. However, recent studies have shown that there’s a steady rise in the demand for flat white. 


A cup of flat white has more espresso in it than a traditional cappuccino. This makes the espresso in the flat white stand out and gives a flavor of its own combined with the flavor of the dairy product used. It has a coffee, malty, and creamy flavor.

Like we learned earlier, syrups, chocolates, and extracted flavors can be added to cappuccino drinks. This makes the flavor dependent on the barista’s preferences but a typical glass of cappuccino has a creamy flavor with malty coffee undertones.  

The coffee flavor is stronger in flat white while the dairy flavor stands out more in cappuccino drinks. 


The way the milk used in flat white is steamed and smoothened out makes the flat white a smooth, velvety and creamy coffee drink and as we know, the espresso used in flat white stands out. This gives the flat white a deliciously creamy coffee taste. It may also be sweet and creamy depending on the type of diary used, others may have a bittersweet undertone to it. 

A cup of cappuccino, on the other hand, is delicious and yummy. The extra layer of froth and milk evens out the otherwise bitter taste of the espresso. The cappuccino may not taste as smooth or velvety as the flat white but the different ways of presentation like chocolate, syrups, or an extra layer of froth make it even more delicious and creamier. 


Generally, the caffeine content in flat white varies from one barista to the next, depending on the amount of espresso shot added, how big the cup of flat white coffee is, the type of coffee used, and the measurement of the barista. A flat white tea can have caffeine content ranging from 100mg – 175mg.

A standard cup of cappuccino has one shot of espresso and like I said above, the caffeine content will vary from barista to barista for same reasons with flat white but a typical cup of cappuccino with one espresso shot contains about 80mg of caffeine per serving. This depends on the type of coffee used and the measurement of the barista. 


Like every other coffee and milk-based drink that offer good health benefits thanks to its high antioxidant content, the flat white and cappuccino help with;

  • Making you smarter and generally improving energy level; there’s an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that caffeine blocks and this causes a stimulant reaction which increases energy level and brain function. 
  • Fat burn; caffeine is scientifically known to increase metabolic rate which helps with burning fat.
  • Improves physical performance; caffeine releases fatty acids from fat tissues and increases adrenaline levels. This aids physical performance.
  • They contain essential nutrients; these include vitamins, riboflavin, manganese, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, and potassium.
  • Lowers the risk of having type 2 diabetes; some studies have shown that people that consume coffee have a lower risk of having type 2 diabetes disease. 
  • May protect from Alzheimer’s disease; Alzheimer’s is a worldwide leading cause of dementia and coffee drinkers have a 65% chance of avoiding this disease according to research studies
  • May reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease; Parkinson’s is the next leading neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. However, studies have shown that coffee consumers have a 30 to 60% chance of not having this disease. The same studies also show that people who drink Decaf coffees do not fall under the range of lowered risk coffee drinkers. This benefit comes with caffeine. 
  • It also reduces the chances of falling into depression and it is known to uplift moods.

About the author


My name is Osama, and I'm a self proclaimed coffee connoisseur :)

This website is all about my love for coffee and tea and the experiences I had enjoying it in different forms.

I hope you’ll enjoy my content at least as much as I enjoy writing them for you.

Keep sharing happiness and smile whenever you can :)

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