There are two main types of drinks in the coffee world: espresso and brewed coffee. Within those categories are many more specific drinks, such as cappuccinos and flat whites.

While they may seem similar, these drinks have some very distinct differences, so what is the main difference?

The main difference between a flat white and a cappuccino is the milk. A flat white uses espresso coffee with microfoam milk, while a cappuccino is espresso coffee with steamed milk and foamed milk on top.

Keep reading to learn more about the difference between a flat white and a cappuccino. By the end, you’ll know which coffee order is right for you!

Flat white vs. cappuccino, how do they differ?

Before getting in-depth about the difference between a flat white and a cappuccino, you can have a look at the overview below:

Comparison: Flat white: Cappuccino:
Which coffee? Two espresso shots One espresso shot
Milk used? Yes, 4 oz (0.12 l) Yes, 2 oz (0.06 l)
Flavor notes Smooth with a slight bitterness and no acidity Creamy texture with a rich chocolate flavor
Caffeine content 138mg of caffeine 68mg of caffeine
Number of calories 68 calories 38 calories
Topping? Milk foam topping Milk foam topping and a dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder

Now that you know the main differences between these drinks, it’s time to discuss them to see which you like better!

What is a flat white?

A flat white coffee drink consists of espresso and steamed milk, with the milk being microfoam (steamed milk with small bubbles).

The drink’s texture is creamy and smooth, making it one of the most popular coffees in Australia and New Zealand.

The name “flat white” comes from the drink’s appearance, as opposed to a cappuccino with more foam on top.

A flat white should have a smooth consistency all the way through and should be served in a ceramic cup to really enjoy the flavors.

You can find more information here about this delicious coffee if you’re interested in learning more about it.

What is a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is an Italian coffee drink that is made with espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. It is usually served in a porcelain cup and has a thick layer of foam on top.

The word cappuccino comes from the Capuchin friars, who were known for their brown robes with large hoods.

Homemade cappuccino.

If you want to learn more about the origin of the cappuccino, some of its variations, and more, you can read this in-depth article!

What is the flavor difference between a flat white and a cappuccino?

The two main differences between a flat white and a cappuccino are the ratio of coffee to milk and the addition of foam to a cappuccino.

A flat white is made with espresso coffee and double the amount of milk, while a cappuccino is made with one part coffee to two parts milk, plus added foam.

Espresso shot in a small glass.

A cappuccino has more foam because it’s frothed using a milk frother or steaming wand, which creates small bubbles in the milk that make it light and fluffy.

The flavor difference between the two drinks is mainly due to the addition of foam.

The foam absorbs flavors more easily than liquid, so it tends to amplify the flavors of whatever ingredients are used in making it.

In this instance, espresso coffee, which in turn makes the cappuccino more robust in flavor.

Cappuccinos also usually have cocoa powder or ground cinnamon added to them, making them even more flavorful and slightly sweeter.

What is the difference in milk preparation?

A flat white uses microfoam, which is steamed milk with tiny, delicate bubbles. This gives the flat white its signature smooth texture.

On the other hand, cappuccinos are made with frothed milk, which has larger bubbles:

Dusting a cappuccino with cinnamon.

Additionally, a flat white will generally have less foam than a cappuccino.

The milk might be the most important factor to consider when deciding which might suit you better.

But this is not where it stops for their differences. You can read along to learn about even more differences that make these drinks so unique:

Is a flat white stronger than a cappuccino?

A flat white is not necessarily stronger than a cappuccino. It depends on the ratio of espresso to milk and the types and quality of coffee beans used.

Generally speaking, a cappuccino will be slightly stronger since it contains more caffeine due to its higher espresso-to-milk ratio.

However, a skilled barista can make a flat white just as strong (or even stronger) than a cappuccino by using a higher percentage of espresso and less milk.

Single and doppio espresso next to each other.
Single espresso shot on the left. Doppio on the right

The ratio of coffee to milk in each drink also differs – in a typical flat white, there’s one shot of espresso to every 2/3 ounces of steamed milk, whereas, in a typical cappuccino, there’s one shot of espresso to every 2 ounces of steamed milk.

Different cappuccino versions will be even more robust than a regular cappuccino. The bone dry cappuccino is one of those.

A bone dry cappuccino is made without steamed milk and uses only milk foam as a topping, which makes it a more espresso-forward drink:

Homemade bone dry cappuccino.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the wet cappuccino, which uses a higher percentage of steamed milk and only a little milk foam.

In this comparison article, you can read more about these cappuccino versions if you love making a cappuccino at home or just want to learn more about them.

How many calories are in a flat white vs. cappuccino?

A flat white has more calories due to its higher milk content. Cappuccinos are traditionally made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.

On the other hand, flat whites are made with a higher proportion of milk to espresso. This means that a flat white contains more calories than a cappuccino.

A standard cappuccino has about 38 calories, whereas a standard flat white has around 68 calories when both drinks are made with whole milk.

Milk in a jar.

The number of calories can change depending on the kind of milk that is used. Low-fat milk will be lower in calories compared to full-fat milk. The same goes for most dairy-free alternatives.

So if you’re watching your calorie intake, it’s best to go for a cappuccino instead of a flat white.

Is there a difference in caffeine?

Generally speaking, a flat white will have more caffeine than a cappuccino because it includes one additional shot of espresso.

However, the actual caffeine content can vary depending on several factors, such as the type and strength of the coffee bean used, the brewing method, etc.

For example, blonde espresso has a higher caffeine content than an espresso made with a darker roast.

Blonde espresso.
Blonde espresso

So if you’re looking for a caffeinated pick-me-up, you might want to ask your barista for a flat white instead of a cappuccino.

Which is better, a flat white or cappuccino?

A flat white is made with two shots of espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a drink that is both creamy and strong.

On the other hand, a cappuccino is made with one shot of espresso, steamed milk, and topped with foam. This gives the cappuccino a lighter body and a more distinct milk flavor.

So which should you choose? I recommend the following:

  • If you’re looking for something rich and smooth, go for a flat white.
  • But a cappuccino might suit you better if you want a slightly stronger drink with a creamier mouthfeel.
Flat white vs. cappuccino comparison side by side.
Flat white on the left. Cappuccino on the right

Once you’ve tasted these drinks yourself, you’ll know which you like better. However, most of the time, I like both equally as much.

Sometimes you just want that slightly stronger drink with a fluffy texture, while you might like a smoother coffee on other days.

It’s fun (and delicious) to try them out both to see which you like better. And if you don’t like strong coffee drinks, you can always add a sweetener to them!

Related coffee comparison articles

Are you wondering how the flat white and cappuccino compare to other coffees?

Great! Check out the articles below for more in-depth coffee comparisons:

And to compare more coffees, visit the coffee comparison hub!

Conclusion

So there you have it – the lowdown on flat whites and cappuccinos. I hope this article has helped clear up any confusion about these two coffee drinks.

If you’re still unsure which one is right for you, why not head to your local cafe and try them both out or make them at home? You might be surprised at how different they taste!

Are you interested in trying out a few delicious coffee recipes? Have a look below for some of my favorites to try:

Coffee recipes to try

Picture of Jeffrey, Author at Your Dream Coffee
Author

On my coffee blog you will find everything you need in order to start brewing coffee at home. Ranging from the basics; to the newest coffee recipes everybody talks about! You can learn more about me here.

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