Flat White Vs Cappuccino

What’s the difference between flat white and cappuccino coffee? Let’s find out!




Flat White Vs Cappuccino

We’ll give you a biscuit if you can guess the main ingredients in a flat white and cappuccino. I bet you can do it.

Coffee and milk? Spot on. Virtual cookie coming your way.

But where do we go from here? What makes a flat white coffee different from its cappuccino chum? Here’s your ultimate guide!

two chocolate chip cookies



What is a flat white?

The flat white. It’s the modern classic.

Rich, velvety and effortlessly cool, this coffee drink combines espresso and silky foamed milk in expert amounts.

Flat white recipes tend to vary, but most look something like this:

  • 60ml (2oz) hot espresso coffee
  • 120ml (5oz) foamed milk


flat white ratio


You pour the steamed milk over the espresso to give a coffee-to-milk ratio of 1:3. Or, 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk. It’s sort of like a smaller, stronger latte, but with less foam.

The flat white has noticeably less foam than the latte and the cappuccino. In fact, it has a microfoam rather than a latte-like foam. Microfoams feature smaller, tighter air bubbles and are less stiff than the frothy crown on your cappuccino or latte. They feel silkier in your mouth and are smaller, too – the microfoam on a flat white should only be about 0.5cm tall. Bless it…



Flat white taste

Double yum scrum! Flat whites are rich and oh-so stylish. They taste silky and smooth, with a velvety mouthfeel. They’re the drink to pick if you want to experience the espresso’s tasting notes loud and proud. With a higher coffee to water ratio than a latte and less sweet, frothy foam than a cappuccino, this café staple lets the espresso flavour SHINE!


flat white coffee in a white cup





Flat white history

Some New Zealand Zeal!

Not one for simple history, is the flat white. Both Australia and New Zealand claim it as theirs. The ownership debate sparked in 2015 when Starbucks described the flat white as Australian in a press release. Coffee Lovers in NZ were pretty miffed. According to New Zealanders, a Wellington barista named Frank McInnes invented the flat white in 1989 when he made a cappuccino with low-fat milk. The milk failed to froth in that classic cappuccino style, and Barista Frank named his failed frothy coffee a ‘flat white’. Flat in the 80s, but fabulous today!


The Australian Argument!

Hop over to Australia, and you’ll find the Auzzies on the other side of the flat white debate. Their claim originates in a Sydney-based coffee bar owned by Alan Preston. Mr Preston opened his café, called Moors Espresso Bar, in 1985 and surprised customers by adding a new coffee drink to his menu.

This coffee was apparently a take on the type of coffee drunk in Preston’s home state of Queensland. ‘White Coffee – flat’ is the name he gave it, and he introduced it at Moors after sensing locals were getting bored of frothy coffee. Was ‘White Coffee – flat’ the first flat white? We’ll let you decide…


pouring frothed milk into a cappuccino








What is a cappuccino?

With its frothy top and cocoa dusting, the cappuccino is one of the most recognisable coffee drinks. Your barista makes it by topping a double espresso with steamed milk and foam.

It’s all about balance with the cappuccino. Sit one on a seesaw and it would be perfect equilibrium! That’s because your cappuccino is made from equal parts coffee, steamed milk and distinctively frothy milk foam. Fancy some numbers? Let’s do it:

  • 60ml (2oz) hot espresso coffee
  • 60ml (2oz) foamed milk
  • 60ml (2oz) froth
  • Plus, a dusting of chocolate on the top!



cappuccino ratio

This gives us a 1:1 ratio of coffee to steamed milk. Compare this to the 1:3 ratio in a flat white, and you’ll see why cappuccinos taste quite a bit stronger than the silky FW.

If flat whites are defined by their velvety-smooth texture, FROTH is what sets cappuccinos apart. Sweet, fluffy foam is a big part of the cappuccino drink. A third of its overall selfhood, to be precise. Order a cappuccino, and you expect a beautiful white froth topping your coffee like a creamy crown. Sit a cappuccino alongside a latte or flat white, and you should have twice as much foam – if not more.

They can have an identity change, though. Enter the wet cappuccino with more steamed milk and less foam, and the dry cappuccino with its decreased milk amount and even bigger foam top. You can also get a bone dry cappuccino (no milk, just espresso and foam), which is basically coffee with a bouffant.




Cappuccino Taste

But don’t go thinking cappuccinos are style and no substance. Just take a sip and see. Well-made cappuccinos taste perfectly balanced, with a mild sweetness from the natural milk sugars and relatively strong coffee flavour. They take it up a bit in strength from the latte, but still offer a palate-pleasing low acidity.

And the texture? Creamy, rich and – you’ve got it – foamy!


cappuccino coffee in a white cup and saucer with a teaspoon




Cappuccino History

Shall we take a Flat White Vs Cappuccino history class? Why not!

Along with flavour and foam, history gives us another difference between flat white and cappuccino coffee. Unlike the relatively modern FW, frothy cappuccinos date back centuries. They started life in the ‘Kapuziner’ coffee drink, a sweet coffee drink made with sugar, cream and spices that was served in Viennese coffee houses in the 1700s.

The ‘cappuccino’ name first pops up in 1930s Italy. Italians made their drink Viennese-style, with a whipped cream rather than foamed milk top. The modern cappuccino comes later, around the mid-20th century, as espresso machines become more widespread and coffee lovers get to grips with steaming. Fast forward to today, and it’s up there as one of our most favourite coffee drinks!


steaming milk on an espresso machine



Let’s nip back to the name for a mo. Because, did you know that the cappuccino takes its name from the Capuchin Friars? That’s right! The Friars wore plain, light brown robes and people thought the cappuccino colour was very similar! So, the name stuck.

Capuchin monkeys also get their cutesy names from the Capuchin Friars. Another monkey-coffee link! Awesome!




Flat White Vs Cappuccino

We dug deep into the details. Wandered through flat whites and frolicked through froth. Now, let’s do a rundown of the difference between flat white and cappuccino coffee!

flat white vs cappuccino infographic





A cappuccino contains equal amounts of steamed milk and espresso. The flat white, meanwhile, is 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk. This means your frothy cappuccino has a stronger coffee taste. With a greater ratio of milk to espresso, the FW tastes slightly lighter and more dilute.


What’s taking your fancy this coffee break? A coffee that’s milky, light and smooth? That’s silky in texture and brimming with flavour notes from the espresso? Yup? Then a flat white is your order.

Tastebuds calling for a creamier, thicker cup that tastes ying-and-yang balanced? Then it’s a cappuccino for you!


“Nearly frothless? How do you be nearly frothless?”

Well, Hermione, much like Nearly Headless Nick, the velvety flat white is nearly foamless. Especially when compared to the frothy cappuccino. The finer-textured microfoam on a flat white should only be 0.5cm tall and feel silky in the mouth. The larger cappuccino froth, meanwhile, is bigger and denser and way more creamy.



Another difference between flat white and cappuccino coffee is the volume. Sizes vary, but here’s your general guide:

Flat White: approx. 160ml

Cappuccino: approx. 150-180ml




Bag of fresh Two Chimps coffee with tin and black cup and saucer




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