If you’re wondering what the difference is between a Cappuccino, Latte and a Flat White and how to make them, this blog post for you! Simply put; the difference between these three amazing beverages is how much air you get in the milk to start with. With a Cappuccino, you want to give a lot of volume to the milk, for that Latte you want a little bit of foam and for the Flat White you want to have little to no foam! Let’s get into the specifics.
You’ve just received a fancy, fantastic new espresso coffee machine with a nice steam wand for Christmas and want to use it right away! But have never done barista courses, so you hop on over to YouTube and search “How To Make a Latte”. You find the video and go through the motions, get pretty decent, you can make your espresso shot and steam your milk really well, pour your drink and maybe even made some cool design on the surface of your latte, you’ve done it, you’ve made a Latte. What’s next? How about a Cappuccino. You search “How To Make a Cappuccino” and start following the steps, you make your espresso shot and steam your milk, pour your drink and maybe even made some cool design… wait, “didn’t I just do that for the Latte”, you think. You get confused and chuck out your espresso machine with the nice steam wand and ask for a blender next year.
Let’s start with the Latte since it’s probably the most popular drink people have and the most fun to pour! For the Latte, in short – what we’re aiming for is hot milk with a bit of foam.
To achieve this when steaming your milk, you’ll want to start by purging the steam wand. Purging is when you turn the steam wand on for a short second to get rid of any previous milk, and just generally maintain the quality of your coffee machine. We highly recommend not ignoring the purge step because if you have any milk that’s clogged up the steam wand from previous coffees, firstly, there are germs there, but also, it will absolutely have an effect of the quality of the milk you’re steaming. Always make sure the steam wand is facing away from you when you purge to avoid burns!
The next step is to place your steam wand in the milk pitcher so that it’s submerged and then turn on the steam wand and begin! After turning the machine on, what you want to do is to get a bit of air in. You do this by lowering the milk pitcher so that the tip of the steam wand is towards the surface of the milk and you can hear a “tststs” noise. If the noise sounds like a pig squeal, you are most-likely letting too much air in. To avoid this, lower the steam wand so that it’s more submerged in the milk. To know when to turn your machine off isn’t an exact science, but a general idea is to stretch it until you see the milk rise over the nozzle of the steam wand.
You will also want to keep track of the temperature, this is a great indicator of when to turn off your machine. A popular method of knowing when your milk is at the right temp. is by turning off your steam wand when the jug is too hot to hold. This doesn’t work for everyone though, so if that doesn’t work for you, try using a thermometer and aim for achieving a temperature of 60* C. Keep in mind when using a thermometer that it will often be a tiny bit delayed so stop steaming your milk before it reaches 60*.
Another way to know when to turn the wand off is by taking note of the sound. When the pitch goes down and you don’t hear the stretching sound anymore, you should be done! Wipe the steam wand with a cloth and purge once more and there you go, you’ve steamed milk for your latte. Tap your milk jug on the bench to get rid of any bubbles and give it a swirl and you’re ready to pour a cool design!
Let’s make a Flat White next! A Flat White still has the tiniest bit of foam on top but not as much as a latte. Some people prefer Flat Whites to have no foam at all, in which case you don’t want to stretch the milk. Just let it squeal like a pig until its hot enough. Remember to begin and end by purging the steam wand!
From Left to Right: Latte & Flat White
Next up is the Cap! Cappuccino is the Italian word for hooded and comes from the Capuchin monks – they wear really cool hooded cloaks.
To make your Cappuccino, what you want to do is repeat the process of purging the steam wand, placing it into the jug and placing the jug at a level so you can achieve the “tsts” noise. What you want to do differently is add more air into this one, you do this by leaving the part of the process where you achieve the “tsts” noise for a little longer than what you would for your latte. Leaving it longer will allow you to see that the milk volume in your pitcher is actually expanding because of the air you’re allowing in. This is what you want! After you see that rise in level, raise your milk pitcher so the steam wand is lower in the milk until you can feel that’s it’s at the right temperature. Chuck some chocolate powder on top, repeat purging the steam wand once more and tapping any more bubbles out and there’s your Cappuccino!
From left to right: Cappuccino, Latte & Flat White
A really good way to check if you’ve achieved all three variants of drinks is by putting them side by side in clear glasses. You’ll notice that the Flat White has little to no foam at the top of the glass. The Latte will have about 1cm of foam on the top and the Cappuccino will have about double as much foam as the Latte has and a nice dome-like-shape to the surface!
Enjoy your brew!