Flat White vs. Latte vs. Café au Lait

You probably won’t be surprised to know that coffee is the most popular drink worldwide, only second to water. Coffee plays a very important role in the lives of people. Not only does it wake them up every morning, but it also keeps them going throughout the day. It’s not an exaggeration to say that coffee is one of the most vital elements of people’s lifestyles.

Comparing Cafe au Lait vs Latte vs Flat White highlights that all three beverages are made from coffee and milk. Not that big of a surprise, is it? The differences are in whether to use brewed coffee or espresso, steamed milk with or without foam, and the ratios of coffee vs milk. Pretty straightforward, right? Let’s dive in a little deeper…

There are so many types of coffee available all over the world with little or more variations. You may think that you’re a coffee aficionado but stop for a while and ask yourself, do you know everything there is to know about coffee?

You may have seen the terms flat white, Café Latte, and Café au Lait on the menus of numerous coffee specialty shops. However, like most people, you are most familiar with espresso, cappuccino, and latte, and, of course, you always end up ordering one of these.

This blog post is all about understanding how these coffees are different from one another and how you can tell each of them apart.

What Is A Flat White?

A flat white is an espresso-based dairy drink that contains steamed milk. It has a strong and dominating coffee taste. It contains only a small amount of steamed milk, followed by a thin microfoam layer. This microfoam layer has a very velvety texture and a fairly glossy finish. The glossy finish is the result of the steaming process that forms tiny bubbles of air on the surface of the milk. If you want a mug of coffee that delivers the strong taste of espresso but also feels creamy in the mouth, a flat white is what you need!

What Is A Latte?

The word latte is an Italian word that means milk coffee. Latte is one of the most popular types of coffee drinks mainly because it has a sweet and mellow flavor. It consists of a rich shot of espresso and plenty of steamed milk, along with a thin layer of foam.

In some coffee shops the baristas use the milk foam on top to make what is called Latte Art. They pour the steamed milk and foam into the shots of espresso and create patterns in the foam to make it look more interesting.

A single shot of espresso usually contains about 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk, which makes it a perfect coffee drink for anyone who is looking for something that is not-too-strong, yet satisfies the caffeine craving.

What Is A Café au Lait?

Café au Lait was originally created in France, and it literally means coffee with milk. It is made from one part brewed coffee and one part steamed milk. However, it should not be confused with white coffee.

The major difference between the two is that Café au Lait uses steamed milk, whereas white coffee is made from cold milk. Moreover, a Café au Lait does not usually have a layer of milk foam on the top, which is what helps you distinguish it from a latte.

Is A Flat White Stronger than A Latte?

Both flat white and latte are espresso-based coffee drinks but are not the same. Both flat white and lattes consist of espresso shots mixed with steamed milk. However, the quantity of milk used in the preparation of flat white is less than what’s used in making a latte. As a result, the strong taste of coffee is more dominant in a flat white as compared to a latte, making the former a stronger coffee drink among the two.

Secondly, you will observe that lattes are served in bigger volumes while a flat white is usually served in smaller volumes. Normally, the serving volume of a latte is 240ml, and that of a flat white is 160ml. The volume, however, can vary from place to place. Considering the fact that the quantity of espresso shots being used in the two is the same, a flat white is much stronger than a latte.

Does A Café Au Lait Have More Caffeine Than A Latte?

The quantity of caffeine in Café Au Lait varies with the size of the serving cup and type of brew used. The caffeine content in Café Au Lait can be anywhere from 40mg to 80mg. On the other hand, the caffeine content of a Latte varies with the number of shots of espresso that are being incorporated. If a single shot of espresso is used, the caffeine content is 77mg on average, whereas, when double espresso shots are used, the caffeine content can be as much as 154mg.

Most places serve a latte with double espresso shots. Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that the caffeine content of a latte exceeds the caffeine content of Café Au Lait by a significant margin! There you have it, comparing Cafe au Lait vs Latte on caffeine shows that the Latte is the stronger of the two.

How much Milk is in a Latte vs Flat White vs Café Au Lait?

Lattes, flat whites, and Café Au Lait are all different, not only in terms of taste but in terms of composition as well. While the composition of a latte and flat white is similar, it still does not make them the same.

A latte is the milkiest of all coffee drinks. This type of coffee usually contains 1 to 2 ounces of espresso in 8 to 15 ounces of steamed milk. Any coffee drink that contains more than 8 ounces of milk will be considered a latte. If you are in the mood to get something refreshing and smooth, an iced latte might be a good option. The composition of a latte and an iced latte is nearly the same, with 1 to 2 ounces of espresso in 8 to 14 ounces of cold milk.

Flat whites use less milk as compared to lattes. They are often referred to as small latte since they are served in smaller cups. The quantity of espresso used in both lattes and flat whites is similar. It is the quantity of steamed milk that makes all the difference.

Café Au Lait and latte are quite similar in terms of milk quantity. Both of these coffee drinks use about 1 to 1.5 cups of steamed milk. What makes them different is the coffee base, which is espresso in latte and brewed in Café Au Lait.

Can You Use Soy or Almond Milk Instead?

You will be surprised to know that almond milk is among the most popular kinds of nut milk that are used in coffee. However, almond milk can curdle in the coffee if you add it cold to hot coffee.

To stop this from happening, always make sure that the milk has been heated. Using almond milk to make coffee might add a bitter, yet nutty flavor to the coffee. Therefore, sweetened almond milk is preferred. As far as the foam is concerned, you can even make foam with almond milk, but since it is non-dairy, it tends to separate when heated.

The use of soy milk in coffee is very common too. Just like almond milk, soy milk can curdle in coffee as a reaction to hot temperature or acidity. However, pouring warm soy milk in coffee will prevent this from happening.

Soy milk has quite a neutral taste, and it makes the coffee more creamy and smooth. What makes soy milk so popular for coffees is its ability to produce foam that’s similar to what diary milk produces.

Can You Make An Iced Café Au Lait?

Yes, you can definitely make an iced Café Au Lait. There are a variety of recipes that you can use to make an iced Café Au Lait. To keep it simple, it basically involves adding ice to the coffee base and adding warm milk to it.

The milk is not usually heated to a very high temperature. The resulting temperature of the coffee drink is cool enough to be enjoyed as a cold coffee drink.

Final Thoughts

We’ve all been in this situation before; in a coffee shop, looking at the menu, wondering – what are all these coffee types, and how different can they possibly be from one another? After all, they’re all just coffee, right?

But now you know where they differ. Latte, flat whites, and Café Au Lait are all names of common types of coffee, and they differ from each other in two areas – the coffee base (brewed or espresso) and the quantity of milk used. Making the coffee base differently can literally change the flavor when you compare Cafe au Lait vs Latte vs Flat White. Now, who knew that?

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