Coffee Brewing

Cafe Au Lait Vs Flat White – What is the Difference Between These Drinks?

Written by

Erica Cervenkova

Coffee Holli Top Pick

Flat White vs Cafe Au Lait


How many coffee drinks have you tried?


There are more than 70 coffee beverages. While this means there is a large pool to choose from, mastering each of the drinks can be a challenge.

This post compares Cafe Au Lait and Flat White comparing their history, ingredients, preparation, and taste.

If you are unsure of which one to order and when to drink it, this guide will make it easier for you.

Having said that, let’s get into it.

Cafe Au Lait Vs Flat White

The Cafe Au Lait is a coffee drink made with strong brewed coffee (Drip coffee, French Press coffee, or Moka pot coffee) and hot or steamed milk. A Flat White on the other hand is an espresso-based drink containing espresso and microfoam (finely textured milk).

The difference between a Cafe au Lait and Flat White is not just about the base coffee, there are more. Below is a table comparing the origin, ingredients, caffeine and calorie content, and taste.

Cafe Au LaitFlat White
OriginFranceDown Under
Ratios1/2 brewed coffee and 1/2 steamed or warm milk1/3 espresso and 2/3 velvety smooth milk
Base8 ounces of brewed coffee2 shots of espresso
Serving size13-16 Oz5-6 Oz can go up to 20 Oz
Caffeine content95 mg (8 ounces of brewed coffee)126 mg (2 shots of espresso)
TasteIntense coffee flavor.  A little bit sweet.Strong espresso flavor.  Rich mouthfeel. Sweet.

5 Key Differences Between Cafe Au Lait Vs Flat White

1. Origin


The Cafe Au Lait coffee drink originated in France in early 1600. This is before the invention of the Caffè latte (Coffee with milk) by the Italians.

The French word Cafe Au Lait also means “Coffee with milk” in English just like the Italian Caffè latte.

Unlike the Cafe Au Lait, which is more than 400 years old, the Flat White is a recent invention. Flat White’s origin is contested, but it originated in either Australia or New Zealand in the mid-1980s.

Most scholars point out that the drink originated in Australia but was perfected in New Zealand. 


Since Café au lait is coffee and milk, the drink has different names.

  • Poland – Kawa biala
  • Brazil – Café com leite
  • Germany – Milchkaffee
  • Portugal – Café com leite
  • Hungary – Tejeskávé
  • Dutch – Koffie verkeerd


Coffee Shops have a different name for the Cafe Au Lait. For instance, Starbucks’ Cafe Au Lait is called Caffe Misto.

There are also variations of Cafe Au Lait such as the New Orleans version that contains chicory.

2. Ingredients

Traditionally, Cafe Au Lait is made with brewed coffee (not espresso) and milk. This can be French Press coffee, Drip coffee, or Moka coffee.


The reason why Cafe Au Lait is traditionally made with brewed coffee is that during its invention, there were no espresso machines. Today, however, some cafes use espresso to make a Cafe Au Lait.

The milk can be steamed or warmed over a stove.

Flat White, on the other hand, is an espresso drink made with espresso shots or ristretto shots, and microfoam. The velvety smooth microfoam is the signature feature of this drink.

Since you don’t require an espresso machine and a milk frother to make a Cafe Au Lait, it’s one of the easiest coffee drinks to make as long as you know how to brew coffee.

3. Taste


Unlike Flat white, which has espresso as the base, Cafe Au Lait is prepared with either Drip coffee, French Press coffee, Moka Pot coffee, or sometimes espresso.

Since the drink contains equal parts of the base coffee and steamed or hot milk, the coffee taste is toned down and the drink gets a little bit sweet.

The specific taste will depend on the base coffee, beans, and roast.

Since a flat typically contains 2 shots of espresso, it has a strong espresso flavor. The steamed milk injects some sweetness and texture.

4. Serving

Get this:

The French Cafe Au Lait is traditionally served in a wide-mouth porcelain bowl. This design allowed the person drinking to dip their favorite pastries, which are commonly baguettes or croissants.

Since the bowl has no handles, it is held with both hands, helping to keep the hands warm in the morning. However, it is not uncommon to find Cafe Au Lait being served in cups.


The standard serving size of a Cafe Au Lait is 13 -16 Oz.

Fun Fact:

Cafe Au Lait bowls are favorite collector items among coffee connoisseurs.

While the standard Flat White serving is 5-6 Oz that is 2 shots of espresso and 4 ounces of microfoam, some coffee shops sell larger sizes of up to 20 Oz.

Flat white is served in ceramic cappuccino cups.

5. Nutritional Value


Since an espresso shot contains an average of 63 mg of caffeine, the standard Flat White serving containing 2 shots of espresso has about 126 mg of caffeine.


A standard 16 Oz Cafe Au Lait serving containing 8 ounces of coffee and 8 ounces of milk contain about 95 mg of caffeine.

What does this mean?

A Flat White serving containing 2 shots of espresso has more caffeine than a 16-ounce Cafe Au Lait.

When it comes to calories, a 6 Oz Cafe Au Lait contains 3 ounces of milk, while a 6 Oz Flat White has 4 ounces of milk and 2 shots of espresso.


In terms of calories, a Flat White has more calories since it contains more milk and also has more caffeine.


Cafe Au Lait and Flat Whites are two completely different coffee beverages. Here is a recap of how they differ.

  • The Cafe Au Lait originated in France in the 1600s.
  • A Flat White came from Down Under in the mid-1980s.
  • A Cafe Au Lait contains half coffee and hot or steamed milk.
  • A Flat White is made with 1/3 espresso and 2/3 microfoam.
  • A Flat White is traditionally a small drink of around 6 Oz.
  • A Flat white has more caffeine and calories than Cafe Au Lai.

And there we have it. A simple way to differentiate a Cafe Au Lait from a Flat White. Go ahead and try one and see if you will love it.

If you’d like to contribute to this topic or have a question, leave them in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much caffeine is in a Cafe Au Lait?

A 16 Oz bowl of Cafe Au Lait has about 95 mg of caffeine.

How much caffeine is in a Flat White?

The standard serving of Flat White containing 2 espresso shots and 4 ounces of milk has 126 mg of caffeine.

Is Café au Lait the same as Flat White? 

No, a Cafe Au Lait and a Flat White are two different coffee drinks. A Flat White uses espresso shots, while a Cafe Au Lait uses brewed coffee.

What is the difference between a Cafe Latte and Flat White?

The major difference between a Caffe Latte and Flat White is the milk. While a Caffe Latte is the milkiest and largest espresso drink, Flat White’s signature feature is the velvety smooth microfoam that has a silky texture.

Which is stronger, a Latte or Café au Lait?

A Café au Lait contains equal amounts of coffee and steamed milk, while a Flat White has more milk than the espresso. 
Thus a Café au Lait has a stronger coffee taste compared to a Latte’s espresso taste.

Erica Cervenkova
Coffee Connoisseur, SCA Member

As a coffee connoisseur and member of the Specialty Coffee Association, I am dedicated to understanding the sustainability of coffee pods and the impact it has on the environment. My expertise lies in the realm of capsule coffee machines, from the likes of Keurig and Nespresso to other well-known US brands. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and helping others make informed decisions about their coffee choices. Whether you're a coffee enthusiast or just looking for a new way to enjoy your morning cup, I'm here to help.


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