The Difference Between Starbucks' Flat White And Caffè Latte

When is a cup of coffee not just a cup of coffee? When you get coffee snobs involved. The way coffee beans are harvested, where they're grown, what kind of bean grinder to use, what roast of coffee is best for cold brew...these are just a few of the questions coffee aficionados ponder at great length. So many questions about food and beverages come down to a matter of preference, though, coupled with understanding how a dish or drink is prepared. So what's the difference between a flat white and a caffe latte? The answer depends on where you happen to order one.

Merriam Webster defines caffe latte as "espresso mixed with hot or steamed milk." The first recorded use of the term was in 1829, giving the drink a relatively long history, compared with the flat white, which was created in the 1980s, either in Australia or New Zealand, depending on which version of the story you believe. Merriam Webster doesn't even have an entry for the flat white, but Collins Dictionary defines it as "a drink prepared by pouring steamed milk over espresso coffee." Given the nearly identical definitions, is there really a difference between a caffe latte and an espresso? Of course!

How does Starbucks do it?

What's the difference between Starbucks' Caffè Latte and Flat White? A grande Caffè Latte is made with two shots of espresso, 2% milk steamed hot, and milk foam. A grande Flat White is made with three shots of espresso ristretto and whole milk steamed hot.

Espresso ristretto is one of the key differences between the Flat White and the Caffè Latte at Starbucks. According to the company's website, a ristretto shot is a shorter, richer, less bitter pull of espresso than the Signature Espresso from Starbucks. So the Flat White is made with three smaller shots of richer espresso, richer milk (though less of it), and just the thinnest layer of microfoam. The Caffè Latte has two slightly larger shots of more bitter espresso, lighter milk (but more of it), and a lovely layer of foam. Starbucks has its formula, but as your coffee adventure continues, you'll encounter different delightful preparations as well.