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Coffee Types

What Is a Flat White Coffee?

Have you heard of flat white coffee? It’s one of the new beverages in the coffee industry. Some Aussies say it originated from Australia, while Kiwis say it came from New Zealand.

Antipodeans from the land down under may differ on the origin of flat white coffee , but no one can deny its popularity today. You’ll find it all over the US, UK, and Canada on the menus of coffee shops like Second Cup in Canada, Costa coffee in the UK, and Starbucks in the US. It is even available as flat white instant coffee sachets from companies such as Nescafe.

Whether you listen to the opinion of a Kiwi or an Aussie, there’s one thing that people are in consensus about, and it’s that flat white coffee has been around since the 1980s.


flat white coffee.


Where did flat white coffee get its name?

Some people claim the term flat white was coined in 1989 by Fraser McInnes of the Bodega cafe in Wellington, New Zealand.  Others say it was invented by Derek Townsend at Auckland’s DKD café in 1984.

There are also those who say it was named from the way Australians and New Zealanders order a coffee drink made from espresso with milk by calling it a “flat white”.


Whichever the case, the term flat white is now used all over the world to refer to an espresso drink with a lot of milk added to it. It is one of the popular drinks attracting attention on Facebook posts, Instagram, and Twitter.

You’ll also find various videos on how to make flat white coffee on Youtube and Pinterest. Articles about it have also been published in newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and coffee blogs such as Sprudge.

Why is flat white coffee popular? Well, coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes are getting a bit old. Coffee purists who prefer beverages such as straight-up espresso shots are now gravitating towards new versions of coffee.

Now baristas are playing around with steamed milk and/ micro foam in espressos to create unique brews like flat white coffee with an exceptional body and taste. It is quite a best seller in third-wave coffee shops.


What makes a flat white coffee?

Flat white coffee is a milk-based drink made using a double shot of espresso and micro foam or steamed milk. The idea is to create a sweet cup of coffee with strong flavors. The beverage is called a flat white because milk takes the center stage without overwhelming the flavor of espresso in the brew.

What is a flat white? You may confuse it with a cafe au lait and wonder what the distinction is between it and other milk-based coffee drinks. Well, a flat white is a modified cafe latte made from shots of espresso and steamed milk. A light layer of velvety micro foam is poured on top to create latte art.  In most cases, the layer of micro – foam does not exceed 20 mm.

Micro foam is a textured type of milk that is used to make lattes and espresso-based coffee drinks. It is prepared using a steam wand which infuses it with air to give it a velvety consistency. Micro foam is used to create latte art and improve the texture of coffees such as cappuccinos and flat whites.

Traditionally, flat whites are served in a small ceramic cup usually between 5 oz and 6 oz. However, you’ll find some cafes serving customers non-traditional Flat White coffees in large cups of upto 10 oz in size. Unfortunately, that dilutes the taste of espresso and reduces the rich feel of the Flat White.

The flavor in flat white coffee comes from the espresso, while steamed milk is used to sweeten it. Flat whites are a favorite beverage of  coffee lovers who want more than a latte. Something with an extra caffeine kick to it.


Flat white coffee and other milk-based drinks

Flat whites are usually confused a lot with other espresso milk-based drinks such as Lattes and cappuccinos. What sets them apart from each other are the technique used to brew them, the ratio of espresso to milk used, and the way they are served.

There are also different kinds of Flat White coffee recipes depending on the coffee house or barista making them. For example, Starbucks Flat white version is prepared using two ristretto shots with a thin layer of steamed milk.

Ristrettos are prepared faster than regular espresso shots. While the former takes 18-24 seconds to make, it takes 12-18 seconds to make the latter.

Therefore, the flat white coffee you get at a coffee shop will depend on the barista’s brewing method. The type of roast used to brew a flat white will also determine its flavor.  Although cafes differ concerning the roast levels they use to make flat whites, the best flavors come from using medium roast Robusta coffee beans to make the espresso.

An espresso machine is used for the whole coffee making process, which is pulling espresso shots and steaming the milk. Therefore, the kind of espresso machines used to brew flat white coffee  also matters.

The best espresso machine to use when making flat whites is an automatic espresso machine that you can use for the whole process. It can grind the coffee beans, steam the milk, and make the espresso.

You may look at a coffee shop menu when buying a flat white only to find several milk – based drinks. Two examples are lattes and cappuccinos. How do you differentiate these beverages to make the right choice?

Let’s start by finding out what sets apart a flat white from a latte.

What is the difference between a flat white and a latte?

A flat white is sometimes referred to as a latte by some coffee drinkers. It could be because both coffee drinks are made using espresso and milk. However, they are different in a number of ways.

A flat white contains less milk than a latte, and has a stronger coffee flavour due to the espresso. The espresso to milk ratio in a latte is one shot of espresso to four shots of milk and the foam depth is 0.5 to 1 cm. Therefore, a flat white is smaller than a latte.

If your preference is a milk-based coffee drink with an intense coffee flavor, a flat white coffee is the thing to order. However, if you want a predominantly dairy-based beverage with a hint of coffee, get a latte.

What is the difference between a flat white and a Cappuccino?

The Cappuccino originated in Italy after the discovery of the espresso machine. Some people say the inspiration behind its name is the color of Capuchin robes that were worn by Italian Capuchin friars. It is usually served Viennese style in 6 oz glass cups with some whipped cream, cocoa, cinnamon, chocolate shavings, or other flavorings on top.

A cappuccino recipe differs from that of a flat white coffee because of the amount of milk foam poured on top. It is quite thick and frothy, while the flat white has no froth. The cappuccino is made using steamed milk to create its foamy top, while micro foam is used to prepare the layer on flat white coffee.

A cappuccino is a combination of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and micro-foam. Sometimes the coffee ratio is 1 shot of espresso, to 3 shots of milk, 2 of foam.  The higher quantity of milk and microfoam cuts down any acidity in the coffee.

Foam usually dominates a cappuccino, but may vary in terms of depth depending on the barista. The addition of milk and foam gives it a rich, creamy texture while still preserving its caffeine kick due to the espresso.

Cappuccinos are probably the most popular milk-based espresso drinks everywhere. However, flat whites are slowly catching up.

How to make flat white coffee at home

What you need:

Espresso maker/ coffee machine with a wand

Milk jug

8 oz ceramic coffee mug

18 g ground espresso/1 espresso pod

100 ml full fat whole milk/ plant-based milk of your choice

How to prepare a flat white coffee

  1. Prepare a double strong shot of espresso using 18 g of ground espresso. You may also use 1 espresso pod.
  2. Pour a shot of espresso into the base of your coffee cup.
  3.  Steam 100 ml of milk to 55 – 62 degrees centigrade using a steam wand to add air. Avoid adding any large air bubbles to your steam milk. A smooth milk foam is necessary to create a pleasant texture to the milk.
  4. Once you finish steaming the milk, remove any large bubbles in it by tapping your jug on the table.
  5. Tilt the milk jug and slowly pour the steamed milk into your cup of espresso, taking care to create an even colored crema as you mix the espresso and milk.
  6. Complete the beverage with a thin layer of microfoam and create a latte art such as tulip latte art or heart shape art if you prefer.
  7. Enjoy your flat white coffee!


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