There are two espresso-based drinks that have become commonplace in coffee shops around the world. They are the Flat White and Cappuccino. When looking at the Flat White vs. Cappuccino, it’s easy to be confused and not really know the difference.
The Flat White upset the whole balance of the coffee scene when it was introduced back in the 80s. Just when we were getting to know and understand the Cappuccino, along comes the Flat White. The two are the same to the unknowing drinker.
Coffee connoisseurs will quickly tell you that coffee is not “just coffee.” And no two espresso-based drinks are exactly the same. The various methods of preparation and brewing are what sets each cup apart. There is an art to making the perfect cup of coffee.
Let’s explore the differences in a Flat White vs. Cappuccino!
Did you know that there are more than 33 different variations of preparing and brewing coffee?
What is a Flat White?
The Flat White is relatively new to our coffee world here in the U.S. This drink originated in either Australia or New Zealand, but both countries claim credit for its inception. Regardless of the origin, Americans are immensely enjoying the fact they get a double-whammy for their taste buds in flavor and texture.
The unique flavor found in Flat Whites has dimensional qualities to it. The profound boldness in flavor has a velvety sweet finish that rolls right off the palette.
Ristretto is the base for a Flat White. Ristretto is a more-condensed, stronger form of espresso. In brewing Ristretto, less water is used to extract the coffee compared to espresso. This produces a more intense coffee.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to try your hand at brewing ristretto, be sure to always grind the coffee right before you brew it. This will make the freshest coffee possible.
The most baristas use is 20mL of water to extract a ristretto shot. Around one hundred thirty pounds per square inch of water pressure (9 BAR) is applied into the coffee grounds to produce the super-condensed Ristretto.
Preparation of Ristretto: Steaming & Pouring
Milk is heated with a steam wand to produce foam. Baristas do not use the top layer of foam in a Flat White.
- Top layer – large bubbles that produce a stiffer foam (this is not used in a Flat White, but rather in a Cappuccino.)
- Middle layer – small bubbles that create a microfoam
- Bottom layer – milk that is still in liquid form
Flat Whites do not have fluffy peaks of foam like the Cappuccino does, but rather hot milk and a flat velvety foam on top. Hence, the name “Flat White.”
The barista will fold, swirl, and pour the milk layers out onto the Ristretto. It’s a beautiful process to watch!
What is a Cappuccino?
A Cappuccino typically has a ratio of 1:1:1 or 1:2:2 of espresso-foam-milk. The kick of espresso gives it a sharp taste with a jolt of caffeine. Originating in Italy, Italians mainly drink Cappuccinos in the morning. However, Americans are enjoying them as dessert coffees or an anytime treat!
The traditional Cappuccino is typically 5-6 oz. in size, but the volume differs from barista to barista.
Baristas use 30mL of water (as compared to 20mL of water used for Flat Whites) to pull a standard espresso shot.
Preparation of a Cappuccino: Steaming & Pouring
Using a steam wand, milk is heated and gently foamed. There are two primary components of the resulting milk mixture: hot milk and microfoam. Microfoam is a fine foam with a texture that appears similar to wet paint. This special type of foam is critical to making latte art. Cinnamon or cocoa can be dusted on top of the foam to enhance the flavor.
Pro tip: Are you a coffee shop owner looking to wow your customers? Look no further than the Ripple Maker. It lets you automatically create amazing latte art for your customers.
Layers of heated milk used in Cappuccino:
- Top layer – small bubbles that make up microfoam
- Bottom layer – hot milk that is still in liquid form
What are the differences between the two?
When we look at a Flat White vs. Cappuccino, the similarities are there, but looking closer at the composing layers of coffee and foam, we see the differences.
|Ratio||⅓ ristretto, ⅔ foam/liquid milk||⅓ espresso, ⅓ milk, ⅓ foam|
|Brewing||A smaller shot with 20mL of water||A larger shot with 30mL of water|
|Milk/foam||Middle layer of foam and liquid milk used||Top layer of foam and liquid milk used|
|Taste||Robust beginning with a sweet finish||Sharp yet smooth|
A Robust Revelation
There you have it in a nutshell! Everything you need to know to order a Flat White or Cappuccino confidently. The bite that a Cappuccino gives you is ideal for a good morning start whereas a Flat White lends itself well as a more sensual pick-me-up for late afternoon or early evening.
The contrasting differences in Flat White vs. Cappuccino are now part of your coffee knowledge!