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Know your Coffee Drinks!
Part 2: White Coffee

So you’re back at the counter of your favourite coffee shop ordering a “to-go” coffee because you’re running late (yet again… this is becoming a habit!) and the person in front of you just ordered a “cortado”. “What the heck is a “cortado?” you ask yourself. Once again, you look around and find yourself surrounded by people in the queue who are oddly still caffeine deprived, a bit edgy and look like they know their coffee. So as with the Long Black you came across in Part 1, you’re not about to ask it out aloud.

Since you knew to come here to look at Part 2, you know that we’re going to spell out exactly what a cortado is, and you’ll learn a whole latte more too!

The most “common” coffee drink names that you’ll hear in restaurants and cafes and which contain added milk would be:

  • Café Macchiato
  • Flat White
  • Cortado
  • Cappuccino
  • Café Latte

Part 1 looked at drinks that had no added milk:

  • Ristretto
  • Espresso
  • Lungo
  • Café Americano
  • Long Black

We look here in Part 2 at the coffee bean drinks that do have added milk and we’ll bring you up to speed on each one, so you’ll soon be ordering like a pro!

Café Macchiato

macchiato versus CappuccinoThe macchiato is one of my favourites after a meal because it brings out the flavour of espresso but moderates the acidity with a small amount of added steamed milk. Not surprisingly, it got its name from baristas having to help servers tell the difference between pure espresso and espresso with a little bit of added milk.

Of course, the crema of an espresso can easily hide a few drops of milk, and so the addition of about 10ml of steamed milk to the 40ml espresso shot, “marks” the drink as a slightly diluted espresso drink.

The aim of the barista is not to smother the espresso in milk – that is the reserve of the cappuccino and café latte – but to take the edge of the acidity out of the drink, or to just reduce it slightly.

Flat White

Next up in terms of milk addition is the flat white. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a flat white is a cappuccino with half the foam!

It is in fact a drink made with a double shot of espresso and a thin layer of steamed milk and a thin layer of aerated milk, or microfoam, which is no more than 1cm thick. Microfoam is steamed milk that is aerated to form a dense milk with small bubbles that can be slowly poured into the espresso.

Jori Korhonen from the Paulig Institute in Finland notes that the emergence of the flat white can be traced back to … wait for it … Australia! This makes it somewhat unique given all other espresso-based coffee drinks are deemed to have come from Italy.

The milk is the component that really makes a flat white different from a cappuccino. The milk has very little aeration in a flat white, and so with very little microfoam, the milk fuses with the espresso.

Pouring too much milk into a flat white and moving past 200 ml, takes it into latte territory. This is because the texture of the milk is very similar in both drink types, but since steamed milk lacks the soft velvet sheen that microfoam has, a flat white has a glossy look and a latte has a milk layer that looks like soft velvet.

Interestingly, flat whites are typically served in a glass by many baristas and the drink is well suited for those who enjoy a strong espresso taste, but who also enjoy having milk present to round the flavour. 

flat white vs cappuccino vs latteCappuccino

The cappuccino is said to gets its name from the similarity of its colour to the capes worn by the Capuchin monks.

Cappuccinos are typically served with one espresso (not filter coffee!) and made up to a volume of 150 and 200ml with steamed milk and microfoam. While the tradition has been to add 1 part espresso to 3 parts milk and 2 parts foam, it is more likely that your barista will go 1 part espresso, and 3 parts each of steamed milk and foam.

The difference between a cappuccino and a latte or flat white is the amount of foam. This is around double the amount of a flat white or 2 to 4cm of microfoam.

Café Latte

In Italy, a café latte is typically a breakfast drink made with an espresso shot, 4 parts of steamed milk and 1 part of foam that is about 1cm in depth. Baristas will most likely stick with a single espresso shot and a foam layer of 1cm and increase or decrease the steamed milk to adjust to differing serving sizes.

It differs from a cappuccino, which is a smaller and stronger coffee drink, because it has more steamed milk and less milk foam.


Cortardo vs cappuccino comparisonEnter the Spanish into the coffee drink game with the cortado! This popular Spanish favourite has indeed become increasingly popular around the world over the past five years.

Made with roughly equal parts of espresso and steamed milk, with very minimal texturing, the cortado offers up more intense flavours than a cappuccino, latte or flat white. The action of the milk, as the name implies in Spanish, is to “cut” into the espresso and balance out the acidity and flavour of the espresso shot.

It is a drink for those who savour strong coffee flavours, but enjoy the rounding out that the milk brings. It is interesting to note that we are now receiving about the same number of requests for machines that can make “cortado”, as we do for machines that can make “cappuccino”. Our read on this is that coffee drinkers are moving to cortado as they did from “coffee with milk” to cappuccino in the past. Why?

Possibly because they can get a bold, yet palatable coffee, with less milk and volume. That cuts out calories without cutting out the smoothing element of milk.

So now you can order a coffee drink that contains milk…. with confidence! If you haven’t yet read all about the black coffee drinks, head over to Part 1 and enjoy find out what makes a long black different to an americano! Remember you can order your espresso beans on our coffee page.


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