Espresso VS Flat White (Compare and Contrast)

Espresso is a method of brewing coffee by running pressurized, high-temperature water through finely-ground coffee beans.

Flat white on the other hand is an espresso-based drink served with a rich amount of steamed milk and a thin layer of foam at the top.

Espresso originated in Italy as a way to produce high-quality coffee in less time. 

Right now it’s popular and consumed worldwide. Espresso has become the base of many types of coffee drinks around the world.

Without espresso, there could never be other well-loved varieties such as flat white, cappuccino, latte, americano, and many more espresso-based coffee drinks that help us get through our day.

Flat whites are famous among people looking for a dairy-based beverage with a strong taste of espresso with the creamy mouthfeel of steamed milk.

It’s comparatively a shorter and more concentrated shot than other espresso-based milk beverages.

Flat white can also be considered stronger than its fellow drinks in terms of caffeine as usually 2 shots of espresso are used in its preparation.

I urge you to keep reading this article to know more about how espresso and flat whites differ.

Is flat white an espresso?

Creative latte art on top of a flat white.

While flat white is an espresso-based drink, it can’t be called an espresso entirely.

Espresso is a method of brewing coffee while flat white is a variant of espresso.

The original espresso can’t be made without an espresso machine as high pressure is the key for an espresso brew.

The machine extracts a small, concentrated yield called a “shot”.

A single shot of espresso is 30 ml while a double shot contains 60.

A flat white usually use a double shot of espresso which makes it a strong drink.

The steamed milk gives a little bit of sweetness and the foam at the top provides a velvety mouthfeel.

To know more about flat white, you can read my in-depth article on it.

The difference in the taste of flat white and espresso

Generally, espresso has a very strong taste – more on the bitter side and a bit tart as lemon. On the other hand, a flat white is a robust coffee with a hint of sweetness due to the milk added to it.

It usually has a double espresso base which gives it a strong and bitter flavor. The steaming full cream milk under a layer of foam adds a rich texture and a creamy mouthfeel to it that complements the bitterness of the coffee beans.

Espresso is a very concentrated and strong drink made from ground coffee beans.

Though there’s a specific flavor that all espressos have, their taste varies depending on the kind of beans used to make the espresso.

When made correctly, it gives a naturally sweet finish.

The taste gets deeply bitter, sour, or watery if isn’t made properly.

If you want a more comprehensive read on espresso, check out my post right here.

Benefits and Downsides of Each Drink

Shot glasses containing a flat white and an espresso put side by side.

Benefits of an espresso

  • Strengthens long-term memory
  • Improves concentration
  • High in antioxidants
  • Boosts physical activity
  • Low in calories
  • Lowers risk of stroke
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Improves digestion

Benefits of a flat white

  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves concentration
  • Improves memory
  • Instant energy booster
  • Source of antioxidants
  • Lowers risk of having Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Reduces risk of cancer

Downsides of an espresso

  • Can cause anxiety
  • Hormone fluctuation
  • May cause a spike in cholesterol levels
  • Can cause sleeping difficulties
  • Not good for pregnant women
  • May cause stomach issues
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

Downsides of a flat white

  • High blood pressure
  • High sugar levels
  • Increased cholesterol level
  • Jitteriness
  • Kidney problems
  • Lower iron levels
  • Skin issues

Refer to the following table for a brief nutrient comparison between an espresso and a flat white.

Nutrient ContentFlat white (per 16 oz serving)Espresso (per 100 grams)
Calories2209
Sugar17 grams0 grams
Fats11 grams0.2 grams
Caffeine154 mg212 mg
Protein12 grams0.1 grams
Calcium40% of a day’s worth of RDI2 mg
Nutrient comparison of flat white and espresso.

How to make an espresso

Espresso dripping from an espresso machine.

Espresso machines come with adjustable settings and they’re best for preparing a barista-standard espresso. Some of them though offer a simpler setup on their pre-set settings which only requires you to press the ‘go’ button.

Ingredients and Equipment you will need:

  • Espresso machine
  • Finely ground coffee beans
  • Filtered water
  • A tamp
  • A portafilter
  • An espresso cup

Steps to follow

  1. You’ll need to preheat your espresso machine by passing through a ‘blank’ shot – it refers to filling and running the machine without putting any coffee in it.
  2. Fill your portafilter with finely ground coffee beans. The actual quantity may vary depending on your portafilter size but it’s generally around 20g of coffee.
  3. Give your beans a pressured, firm tamp to compress them.
  4. You can twist the portafilter into the machine once it is ready to go. Press the right button for your desired espresso.
  5. Before pressing the go button, make sure to place an espresso cup beneath the portafilter so you don’t end up losing your espresso!

If you want to take your coffee to the next level, I recommend you invest in an espresso machine that has a milk steamer attachment. You can it to froth up some milk.

How to make a flat white

Ingredients

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 100 ml milk

Steps to follow

  1. Pull a double shot of espresso into a glass or cup.
  2. Steam the milk maintaining the temperature at 55–62 °C. You can use a thermometer to keep a watch on the milk temperature. Or you can learn how the right temperature feels in your hand while holding the pitcher and this comes with practice. 
  3. To make the milk smooth, velvety and to diffuse any bubble formations, swirl the milk lightly around the pitcher and thump the pitcher on the counter. 
  4. Use the milk foam to showcase your creativity and make a latte art pattern on the surface of the flat white. 

If you love having flat whites but keep a watch on your calorie count, use skimmed milk instead of full cream.

You can watch the following video to learn more about how to make a perfect flat white.

How to make flat white coffee?

To sum it all up

Espresso is a method of brewing coffee by running pressurized, high-temperature water through finely-ground coffee beans.

Flat white on the other hand is an espresso-based drink served with a rich amount of steamed milk and a thin layer of foam at the top.

Both of the drinks enjoy great popularity worldwide.

While espresso serves as a base for making many of the famous coffee-based drinks, a flat white is a great option for people who want a robust coffee without any other flavors taking the main lead.

A flat white is comparatively shorter and more concentrated than other espresso-based milk beverages. It can also be considered stronger in terms of caffeine content as usually 2 shots of espresso are used in its preparation.

Generally, espresso has a very strong taste – more on the bitter side and a bit tart as a lemon.

A flat white is a robust coffee with a hint of sweetness to it due to the added milk.

I’ve presented their pros and cons and now it’s your decision which one to choose and to do that you have to try them both armed with the information you now have.

I know you find coffee as irresistible as I do but as I always remind you here, it’s important to consume it in moderation as too much of it can have adverse effects on your health.

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Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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