What is the difference between a Flat White and a Latte?

By Liam Thornton.

The growth of major coffee shop chains such as Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero has led to a boom in coffee sales over the last decade. It is estimated that coffee sales are forecast to increase by 29% over the next five years, an increase that will see the coffee shop industry reach £4.3billion in market worth. The typical instant granulated coffee is now somewhat frowned upon, as consumers gravitate towards modern beverages that incorporate smooth, velvety textures, such as the flat white or latte.

What differentiates a Flat White from a Latte?

The size difference in both is rather subtle. The latte usually holds 240ml, as opposed to a flat white, which is generally 160ml. Both coffees consist heavily of steamed milk and the same amount of espresso, a single or double shot, dependent on the preference of the drinker. The preparation of the milk is the key to the success of both a flat white and a latte. The use of a coffee machine’s steam wand is pivotal to ensuring that the milk is steamed and frothed correctly for both coffees.

How to Make a Flat White or Latte Using a Coffee Machine

Dependent on which coffee machine you use can determine the level of coffee produced. The De’Longhi EC685 has an ultra-quick heat up time of 30 seconds, and also includes an adjustable steam wand. The placement of the steam wand is critical to ensuring the milk is heated correctly. Placing the wand at a ninety-degree angle in the centre of the milk jug before frothing ensures that the process of ‘stretching’ the milk is done correctly.

Placing the wand at this angle allows for a folding motion to occur once the frothing of the milk begins. Keeping the wand at the surface of the milk will create a satisfying sound throughout the steaming process. If the sound is similar to a high-pitched squeal, the likelihood is that the wand is too near to the surface.

A flat white should always contain a sleeker and thinner micro-foam to top the coffee. Upon steaming the milk, a glossy texture and polished look with minimal bubbles is the desired outcome. The pouring of the milk is another crucial process. To execute a flat white, you need to firstly hold the jug slightly aloft the cup and pour at a steady pace until half full. For the remainder of the cup, bringing the jug down to the rime of the cup and pouring at a faster pace until full. This gives the drink a mix of froth and liquid, perfect for a flat white.

The process of milk pouring is slightly different for a latte. The milk is steamed the same, however, the milk is poured before the coffee. Pouring the milk from the jug with a spoon ensures that the froth is held back until the cup is near full. Adding the forth then gives the latte a nice creamy texture. One trick to distinguish the look of a latte is to add a little hot water to the espresso shot, and pour into the cup in a steady motion. This creates a separation of two different shades of brown, and gives the drink a very eloquent look upon completion.

As important as the milk steaming process is, the quality of the coffee machine used is clearly a critical element. Seasoned coffee drinkers tend to prefer the bean to cup machines, as the scientific process that occurs in the production and maintaining of coffee beans is seen as key to the quality of the coffee. The variety of different drinks available to make using bean to cup machines is also apparent and if this is a crucial aspect for you, the Jura E6 coffee machine provides drinkers with the option of both a flat white and latte, as well as favourites such as Americanos and cappuccinos.

In short, it is generally understood that traditional coffee drinkers are less inclined to opt for a latte, given that the latte is a weaker drink, with a heavy focus on milk. The sharpness of a flat white is preferred by many coffee drinkers, and the popularity of this newer drink is reflected in the widespread sales increase of flat whites since their introduction on the menus of Starbucks et al.

This coffee boom has led to an increase of artisan-style coffee machines in homes. The likes of De’Longhi, Lavazza and Jura have incorporated modern mechanisms in their machines, and at affordable prices, you could quickly become a trained barista from the comfort of your own home.

Author: Liam Thornton

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