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Flat White vs Americano – What’s The Difference?

Flat White vs Americano – What’s The Difference?

It seems everywhere we go nowadays there’s coffee. You have your gas station coffee, convenience store coffee, ultra-chic grande green coffee places, small coffee shops, and big chain coffee. Then you have the menu that often reads like a college dissertation. There are so many options.

Well, today we’re going to narrow it down for you a bit. We’ll be looking at Flat White vs Americano – what’s the difference?   The main difference is that the Americano has no milk, it’s just hot water added to the espresso. While the Flat White has steamed milk and a bit of a frothy foam on top.

While they both contain espresso, and are  delicious in their own way, that’s where commonalities end. Let’s take a look at the unique history and tasty characteristics of each of these coffee house favorites.

The Americano

The Americano

This tasty coffee got its name during WWII. It seems the traditional 2 shots of espresso was both too small and too strong for American soldiers stationed in Europe.

So the local folks obliged and fixed both problems by adding some hot water to the strong espresso. They named it after the American soldiers.

This is a great coffee if you enjoy espresso, but need it a bit milder. Adding the water after the espresso (not the other way around), takes off the “crema”. This is a foamy, bitter residue that sits atop the espresso. The average Americano has only 18 calories.

Flat White


This espresso drink has not been around as long as the Americano. As the story goes, it was in 1980’s New Zealand that the Flat White was created, by accident. A barista named Fraser McInnes was attempting to make a customer a cappuccino.

Flat White

Try as he might, Fraser could not get the cappuccino to froth up. What should have been a fluffy froth lying on top of the espresso and steamed milk was a flat foam.

It turned out that the customer loved it and it soon became part of the local coffee shop’s menu.

The flat white is much milder and creamier than the Americano due to the milk. It has no added water, just the espresso shots, steamed milk, and the flat foam on top. It also has more calories. Depending on how and where it’s made, it can have anywhere from 80 to 170 calories.

A true Flat White should be no more than 6 ounces to maintain its espresso to milk ratio. But since it’s become popular in American-based coffee chains, you can get whatever size you like. The bigger the size, the more calories it will have.

Which Is Better, The Americano Or The Flat White?

Which Is Better, The Americano Or The Flat White?

As far as flavor is concerned, it’s really a matter of personal taste. If you prefer a bold taste and don’t care for milk and foam, then the Americano is a better choice.

For those that enjoy a creamier, smoother espresso, then give the Flat White a try. If you’re worried about calories, sugar (from the milk), and have issues with dairy, then Americano may be the better choice.

Can I Order An Americano With Milk?

You absolutely can order an Americano with milk if that’s what you want. Sure, the server may give you a blank stare and the barista may look down their nose at you, but it’s a perfectly reasonable request.

Some folks think that just makes it a latte, so just order a latte. But it’s not the same. A latte does not use water to dilute like the Americano, it uses all milk.

So, if you want your Americano a little less bitter, but you don’t want all the milk that a latte brings, just ask for your Americano with a splash or two of milk.


Which Is Better, The Americano Or The Flat White?

It’s your coffee, so you can add whatever you like. Many people do add sugar to their espresso coffee because it’s just too strong for them. Also, some people have a sweet tooth and add sugar to everything.

It is suggested that you add any sugar you want along with the espresso, before anything else is added. This way, the sugar will dissolve better.

Some other ingredients you may enjoy experimenting with are:

  • cinnamon (steamed in with milk, called “blond shots” by baristas)
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • white mocha powder
  • caramel drizzle
  • replace cow’s milk with almond milk

What Are Some Other Coffee Drinks Made With Espresso?

Americano and Flat White are not the only delicious coffee drinks made with espresso. There are many variations, the difference often being in the milk to espresso ratio.

A few include:

1. Latte

It is made with espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of foam.

2. Macchiato

Similar to a latte, but with less espresso.

3. Cappuccino

Equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.

4. Cortado


A creamy and robust Spanish coffee with equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

5. Breve

Creamy and flavorful with equal parts espresso and half and half.

6. Espresso Con Panna

Espresso Con Panna

Italian for espresso with cream, this drink is made up of a double shot of espresso and a heaping dollop of whipped cream.

You can, of course, always make iced versions of all of these drinks as well. It’s a great way to keep cool during the summer months, while still getting in your caffeine.