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    Reading time: 5 Min

    What is a flat white, latte, macchiato and cappuccino?

    If you’ve ever considered stepping out of your coffee comfort zone, it can be confusing deciding which coffee drink to try next. There are so many options. And what is a cappuccino, exactly? What is a flat white? How does a latte differ from a macchiato? And, actually, what does macchiato mean?

    Here’s your cheat sheet so you’ll know exactly what you’re ordering the next time you visit your local barista. If you’re keen, we’ve got even more info on different types of coffee. And once you have a better understanding, you might just want to try making them at home.

    What is a latte?

    First up, the latte. This drink is a shot of espresso mixed with steamed milk and topped with foam. Ever heard of a caffè latte? Don’t let the slightly different name confuse you. A caffé latte is simply the more correct way to refer to a latte, but they are the same drink.

    The caffé latte originally came from Italy but quickly increased in popularity all over the world. It’s said that Italy’s traditional cappuccino is where the idea for the more ‘Americanised’ latte came from. Despite their similarities, lattes and cappuccinos are entirely different espresso drinks…

    What is a cappuccino?

    Like a latte, a cappuccino is made with a shot of espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of foam on top. The difference between the two is that cappuccinos have a higher foam content than lattes. The good news is that the method for making both is the same until you have to froth the milk.

    For a true coffee shop experience, you’ll need an espresso machine for your first ingredient: the espresso shot. For the milk component, you can either use a machine that does it all for you, or steam manually:  


    • For a latte: Steam the milk by occasionally bringing the steamer wand to the milk’s surface to create more foam. You can then pour the steamed milk into your cup over the espresso for a delicious, frothy latte.

    • For a cappuccino: Steam the milk by bringing the wand to the milk’s surface more often, while making a circular motion to help create more foam. Give the jug a good tap on your worktop to get rid of any bubbles before pouring the steamed milk over the espresso. You should now have a perfectly foamy, rich cappuccino.  

    Next up on our list of espresso and milk drinks: what is a latte macchiato and how does it vary from the standard macchiato?

    What you need

    What is a macchiato?

    If you’ve seen a macchiato before, you’re probably wondering how it gets its iconic layered look. But first thing’s first: what is a macchiato? A macchiato is essentially a hybrid between a latte and a pure shot of espresso. It doesn’t have as much milk content as a latte or a cappuccino, but it is more subdued than a shot of espresso. This drink also originates from Italy and rose to popularity as a midday pick-me-up, since it isn’t quite as strong as an espresso but it is stronger than the usual morning cappuccino.

    What does macchiato mean? And what is a latte macchiato?

    Macchiato translates as ‘marked’ or ‘stained’ – which makes sense, since the concept behind an espresso macchiato is to ‘stain’ the espresso with a dash of milk. A latte macchiato is just the opposite of an espresso macchiato – in this scenario, it’s the espresso that ‘stains’ the steamed milk.

    With a latte, the milk is poured over the espresso. But to create the layered look of a latte macchiato, the key is to pour the espresso very slowly over the steamed milk. In fact, some baristas use a spoon to help slow the pouring. Inspired? You can easily learn how to make a macchiato yourself.

    What is a flat white?

    You can think of this last espresso and milk beverage as a mini latte. A flat white is simply an espresso with micro foamed milk and no foam topper. Say what? Micro foam is a more refined type of steamed milk that contains smaller bubbles.

    To make micro foam, hold the steamer wand high up in the jug to inject hot air into the milk. Next, dip the wand deeper into the jug to create a whirlpool effect. This method allows the milk to run through the espresso, as opposed to a latte’s foam that is thicker and less of a liquid consistency.

    Discover your espresso and milk duo

    Now that you know the different espresso and milk beverages you’ll never have to ask ‘what is a caffè latte?’ again. You can create your favorite drinks right at home or even become your own barista by investing in an espresso machine.

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