Flat White Vs. Cappuccino(Key Differences and Recipe)

cup of flat white and cappuccino
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All of us crave to enjoy a delicious, creamy cup of coffee from time to time.

But, as you go deeper into its origin, ingredients, and brewing processes, you will find hundreds of different and amazing coffee drinks with multiple flavors, variations, etc.

It might leave you confused about which coffee to order at the coffee shop.

Everyone knows what a cappuccino is. But as the flat whites are getting popular over Instagram daily, do you know how different these two drinks are?

Don’t worry; in this article, we will tell you some clear distinctions between a flat white and a cappuccino. Then you can make the most of your trip to your local coffee shop and enjoy a delicious, creamy cup of coffee. Let’s begin!

What is a Flat white? 

Simply put, a flat white is a coffee drink with a thin layer of steamed milk. Less frothy milk is used in this beverage than in a latte or cappuccino. Ceramic mugs are mainly believed to be the only suitable vessels to serve a flat white.

Moreover, some insist it must be made with a ristretto or more espresso to produce the most pungent coffee flavor.

History of Flat white

In the 1980s, either New Zealanders or Australians invented flat white. Some claim the drink was created simply to replace lattes and cappuccinos, owing to a problem with Australian cow’s milk, which did not make more froth.

As a result, some people refer to a flat white as a wet cappuccino. This coffee drink was introduced to Starbucks’ U.S. stores in 2015 after being sold in United Kingdom stores in 2010.

Flat white coffee cup

How is it made? 

The flat white base consists of 1-2 espresso shots, topped with micro foamed, steamed milk. It is important to note that the milk used in flat white does not contain any froth.

Typically, 4.4 ounces of milk is good enough to create the texture of this coffee drink.

To make a perfect flat white:

  • Pour one or two ristretto espresso shots into the glass. (the water used in these shits is usually less than usual to create a richer coffee flavor).
  • Now, froth cold, fresh milk until it reaches a silky and creamy consistency, forming a microfoam.
  • After that, pour the milk into the espresso to blend with the drink.
  • It is time to serve the coffee in a small, tulip-shaped ceramic mug!

What is a Cappuccino? 

On the other hand, a cappuccino is an amazing coffee drink made with 1/3 espresso shot and 2/3 of the milk quantity, divided into warmed (1/3) and foamed milk (1/3).

An espresso machine is used to make the drink, which includes a double espresso shot.

This frothy coffee is mainly served in large ceramic mugs and is a lighter drink with a strong coffee flavor. It uses less warm milk quantity, unlike flat whites, which are more milk-based coffee drinks.

History of Cappuccino

In honor of the capuchin monks who wore brown robes, a drink called Kapuziner (meaning brown) was first served in Viennese coffee shops in the 1700s. Traditionally, Kapuziner were coffee drinks topped with whipped cream and spices.

But, with the invention of the espresso machines in the early 1900s, Italian coffee culture emerged, and they began to replace cream with frothy milk in their coffees.

However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that cappuccinos became popular in North America.

Cappuccino coffee cup

How is it made? 

A perfect cappuccino comprises three main ingredients – hot milk (66-150 degrees Fahrenheit), espresso shot, and frothed milk. You must take an equal amount of each ingredient to make a traditional cappuccino drink at home.

All you need to do is:

  • Using a frother, froth the milk in a separate container until it becomes light and fluffy.
  • Now pour the espresso into a large rounded mug, followed by the steamed milk.
  • Finally, add the milk foam on top, and the cappuccino is ready to serve!

What coffee beans are used in a Flat white and a Cappuccino?

The most significant difference between a cappuccino and a flat white is the quantity and texture of milk.

It is also important to note that both these beverages require high-quality coffee beans to make a perfect coffee.

For example, for a traditional Italian cappuccino, it is recommended to use medium roasted coffee beans to create that nutty and chocolaty aroma.

However, the primary reason behind this is since a cappuccino has more milk content, using high-roasted coffee beans will give the drink a good flavor and intensity.

Alternatively, in a modern flat white drink, most baristas use lightly-roasted and longer extracted coffee beans to get a more profound sweet and acidic coffee taste.

Also, the milk content in a flat white is less, creating a clear distinction between the latter and a cappuccino.

Pressed Coffee beans

What are the key differences between a Flat white and a Cappuccino?

Let us learn the key differences between a flat white vs. cappuccino to help you decide the best coffee drink next time you visit your local coffee shop.


As mentioned earlier, both cappuccino and flat white comprise three basic components- milk and espresso, but in different quantities and textures.

A flat white is made with 1-2 strong espresso shots (1/3), with less milk content (2/3), with a flat, thin layer of micro-foamed milk on top.

On the other hand, a cappuccino consists of equal amounts of an espresso shot (1/3), steamed milk (1/3), and frothy milk (1/3) to create a thick foamy layer on top that is used for latte art in many cafes and coffee shops.

Coffee drippings in cup


Though both coffee beverages have the same ingredients, the flavor of each is noticeably different from the other.

A cappuccino has a rich, creamy, and more robust coffee flavor. You can taste the coffee shot since the milk content has been divided into steamed and frothed categories.

However, the flat white also features a pungent coffee flavor mixed with a rich milk taste.


The amount of milk used in both drinks is the main reason behind their distinctive texture.

A cappuccino has a more rich and creamy texture due to the thick layer of milk layered on top. While a flat white is a subtle milky coffee with a more meringue-like, silky texture, similar to a latte macchiato but with less foam on top.

Milk content

Milk content is the only significant difference between these two coffee drinks, setting them apart from each other.

A flat white coffee is made with more milk quantity (about 2/3 in 1/3 of espresso), while a cappuccino is made with equal amounts of hot and frothed milk (1/3 each, in 1/3 espresso shot).

In addition, you can also use your desired milk in your coffee, like whole milk, low-fat milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc. However, if you want your drink to be more creamy, coconut milk is the best option to choose.

Milk and caffeine ratio

Caffeine content

The caffeine content in both drinks is similar since each beverage is typically made with equal amounts of espresso shots (one-third espresso) unless you want to add more if you are an intense flavor lover.

However, the type of coffee beans used can affect the caffeine content. For example, in cappuccinos, the beans are roasted slightly more than those used in flat whites.

Froth or Foam 

Micro-foam is what you’ll get with a flat white. To produce the foam that makes this drink so distinct, a steaming wand is used to steam the milk at a consistent temperature, evenly spreading it to froth it with tiny air bubbles.

However, mixing the foam constantly into the milk throughout this process is essential rather than letting it sit at the top to create that perfect silky flat white texture with a beautiful dark swirl topping.

On the other hand, a cappuccino belongs to team froth, which is a less dense, airy foam. The milk is heated until 66 degrees Fahrenheit and then compressed and poured into the espresso.

When the cup is 1/3 full, the milk froth is poured on top to create a delicious coffee drink with a dry milky taste and a rich espresso flavor from the bottom.

Milk frothing Process

Serving Size

There is a wide variety of espresso coffee drinks available. Some drinks can be gulped quickly, while some are enjoyed slowly over a few hours.

An average flat white contains about 5-6 ounces. There isn’t much variation in the size, and every barista should make it the same way.

In contrast, cappuccinos traditionally weigh 5-6 oz, but many coffee shops offer larger sizes, up to 12 ounces.

However, flat whites and cappuccinos are instant-gulping beverages, and you’ll get a fast caffeine boost from both coffee drinks.


Cappuccinos and flat whites aren’t the healthiest drinks but are also not the lowest in calories. Cappuccinos have 100-120 calories, while flat whites have 160-200 calories.

In reality, there are no calories in two espresso shots because the milk adds calories to it. The froth on top of a cappuccino is sometimes dusted with chocolate powder which increases its calorie content.

But a flat white has more steamed milk and less airy foam, making it higher in calories when compared with a cappuccino.

However, these coffee variations are much healthier than frappes or other sugary drinks. But, if you want a healthier option, you should go for a cappuccino because it has less steamed milk than a flat white.


As a coffee lover, you would know how to customize your espresso drinks with many options. Unfortunately, that is not the case with cappuccinos and flat whites. They come under the least versatile coffees but still have a few variations. For example:

Flat white variations:

Iced flat white: A cold coffee made with chilled, fresh milk, poured over icy espresso.

Starbucks flat white: Coffee made with a double ristretto instead of an espresso shot.

Caramel flat white: Coffee has a more profound sweetness due to the added caramel syrup on top. 

Cappuccino variations:

Dry cappuccino: More milk froth and less steamed milk to give a dry, less liquidy taste.

Wet cappuccino: More steamed milk content than frothy milk to give a more watery coffee flavor.

Iced cappuccino: Cold coffee poured over iced milk. 

The bottom line: What should I order?

You may not be able to master determining which coffee drink is right for you immediately. It is down to personal preference and tastes whether one coffee is better than another.

The steamed milk in a flat white makes it a creamier drink, and it also contains two shots of espresso, which increases its caffeine content. 

While the cappuccino only consists of one shot of espresso, steamed milk, and foam on top, giving them a more distinct and robust flavor.

Thus, flat white is the best choice if you are looking for a rich, smooth coffee. If, however, you prefer a softer mouthfeel with a more pungent coffee taste, the cappuccino is for you.

That’s all there is to it. You’ll hopefully not have a momentary panic on your next coffee run now that you know what a cappuccino is and a flat white is.


Is flat white the strongest coffee?

The taste of coffee in a flat white will be stronger than that of milk because it is a more concentrated drink. Due to the use of two shots, it can also be stronger regarding caffeine than a latte.

Is a flat white like a latte or cappuccino?

Most cafes and coffee bars serve flat whites as a smaller latte version. A double shot of espresso is used just like in a caffe latte. However, the amount and texture of milk used in flat white make it different from a cappuccino.

Which is healthier flat white or cappuccino?

A cappuccino is healthier than a flat white because it consists of less amount of steamed milk, whereas flat whites have higher calorie content due to more warm milk content.

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