How to Brew

What Is A Flat White?

Just so you know, if you click on a product on RoastyCoffee.com and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

If you’re a coffee fanatic like us and are looking for a small, spunky drink to switch up your coffee game, look no further than the flat white!

But what is a flat white exactly? If you haven’t encountered this delightful drink yet, we’ve got all you need to know right here. 

Meet The Flat White

A flat white is an espresso-based coffee drink that consists of two shots of rich, robust espresso with a layer of frothy microfoam from steamed milk. It’s a smaller volume drink, and though some like to compare it to a latte or a cappuccino, it has a decent amount of milk but only a little amount of foam, technically microfoam. 

Due to the construction of the drink, many coffee lovers enjoy the flat white because it has a higher proportion of coffee to milk, and whatever milk there is, there’s a light, pleasant consistency. 

How Is It Served?

Usually, a flat white is served in a ceramic cup with a saucer. The crema of the espresso is naturally blended into the 20mm/1 inch of microfoam, often referred to as a meniscus. The key characteristic that makes the flat white so enjoyable is the blending of the espresso with the microfoam. This creates a dark brown caramel color on the surface of the beverage. 

Where Did The Flat White Come From?

The flat white has roots that date back to both Australia and New Zealand. Coffee junkies from Australia often claim ownership for the creation of the flat white, the original drink dating back to the mid-1980s. Reviews of different coffee shops in magazines and newspapers in the early 80s actually discussed the appearance of the new drink.

In fact, there was even one coffee shop called Moors Espresso Bar in Sydney who officially added the drink to their permanent menu in 1985. The owner of the shop, Alan Preston, claimed that he found the inspiration for the drink from his home in Queensland, where cafes in the 1960s and 70s offered a “white coffee–flat.” 

However, the origin of the flat white is also claimed by the neighboring country of New Zealand. This claim comes from Auckland, New Zealand, where Derek Townsend and Darrell Ahlers of Cafe DKD stated to have created the flat white while attempting to create an alternative to the Italian latte. In addition, Bar Bodega in 1989 also claimed to create the flat white as a result of a failed attempt at making a cappuccino. 

There are many claims to the original creator of the flat white, and we may never really know who was the first to create it and how it was done. However, the trend for the “white coffee” has since skyrocketed since the 1980s, growing in popularity amongst the coffee community around the world. 

What Does The Name Mean?

Why exactly is a flat white CALLED a flat white? Back in the day, before coffee shops or lattes, most coffee drinkers in Australia and New Zealand referred to black coffee as “black coffee” and coffee with milk in it as “white coffee.” This was a shorter way to distinguish between these two vague coffee categories, and the passage of time and the increase in immigration and cultural-shifts began to open up the door for a variety of different coffee preparation methods. 

Legend has it that after the post-WWII immigration wave from Europe, mainly consisting of Italians, Greeks, and Dutch, the coffee culture began to shift. Often times in social settings, many boisterous individuals thought of black coffee as a stronger, more “masculine” beverage, implying those who weren’t able to handle the strength and robustness of black coffee weren’t actually “real coffee” drinkers.  

As a result of this silly stigma, many individuals made a compromise: a strong proportion of espresso with a small about of milk to cut the strength of the coffee, making it easier to consume. This appealed to those who didn’t want a strong cup of coffee every time but still wanted a semi-strong, robust, creamy, soothing coffee beverage. 

Differences/Drink Comparisons

There’s a lot of coffee beverage options out there, but don’t let that fool you. The flat white is able to hold it’s own in the midst of the coffee community, though it can be easily confused with other drinks by some. So, let’s take a quick moment to clear up some confusion between the flat white and these seemingly similar drinks. 

Flat White vs Cortado

Similar to a flat white, the cortado is made of espresso and milk, but is about half espresso, half steamed milk. Though the milk in a cortado is steamed, there’s no frothy or foamy texture in the milk at all. Since the cortado only consists of steamed milk, it’s silkier and smoother than a flat white. Likewise, because the flat white has microfoam, it tends to be more velvety in texture. 

Flat White vs Cappuccino

Another drink that’s similar to the flat white, the cappuccino is made of espresso and milk foam, though there’s a larger amount of milk foam in comparison to the flat white. Many coffee lovers enjoy the cappuccino because it provides a frothy, hefty amount of fluffy, rich foam to enjoy while drinking. The flat white has more milk than a cappuccino does, but much less foam. In fact, the flat white today is actually more similar to an Italian cappuccino, which consists of one shot of espresso and a thin layer of microfoam. 

How to Make a Flat White

If you go to your local coffee shop, your trained, experienced barista will already know how to prepare a flat white for you. However, if you’re wanting to try your hand with coffee in your own kitchen, you can follow along with these simple steps below, as well as this instructional video:

In order to make a flat white, you’ll need the following:

  • Espresso machine
  • Milk frother (if you don’t have one attached to your espresso machine)
  • Milk steaming pitcher or another cup of your choice
  • A grinder for espresso brewing (unless you already receive already ground espresso coffee)
  • Milk of your preference
  • A 6-ounce cup to brew your coffee into

Whipping It Up

Now that you’ve gathered all of your ingredients, we can get to brewing! Here’s a quick step-by-step method to have you sipping your own flat white in no time. 

Step One: Preparation

If you don’t already have pre-ground coffee, then you’ll need to grind your whole espresso beans, producing enough for about 16.5 grams of ground coffee. Pour about 4 ounces of milk to prep for steaming.

Step Two: Espresso Brewing

Now, you can grind your coffee directly into your portafilter, and begin the extraction process. You’ll brew about two shots of espresso, but you can go ahead and place your 6-ounce cup underneath the filter head so that the espresso can brew directly into your cup. 

Tip: One way to keep your cup warm so that your coffee can stay hot longer is to rinse it out with hot water before brewing. This will give your cup a nice rinse, as well as providing a warm surface to better preserve the heat from the espresso.

Step Three: Steaming Your Milk

Now, while your espresso is slowly pouring into your cup, you can begin steaming your milk. Using a steaming pitcher or another cup of your choice, you can begin steaming your four ounces of milk. Make sure that you steam your milk in up and down, circular motions, steaming it to where the pitcher is just a little bit too hot to the touch, usually about 140° F. 

Step Four: Pouring the Drink

Woohoo! Once your espresso is done brewing, you can pour your steamed milk into your cup. Make sure to pour your milk slowly to help create a nice blend between the surface level of the coffee and the microfoam in the milk. Once you’ve filled up your cup, you can sit back, relax, and sip on your delicious flat white!

In Conclusion

The flat white is a perfect choice for those who like to have milk with their coffee, but aren’t big fans of the extra froth that comes with steamed milk. So if you’re looking for a new, soothing drink to sip on in the morning to start your day, the flat white could easily become your new favorite. 

Happy caffeinating!

Flat White Recipe

Flat White Recipe

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

The flat white is a creamy espresso drink that consists of robust espresso, creamy steamed milk, and little to almost no amount of foam. Savory, creamy, and full of delicious flavor, you can now make a flat white in the comfort of your own kitchen!

Ingredients

  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 4 ounces milk
  • 6-ounce ceramic cup

Instructions

    1. Place 16.5 grams of espresso coffee into the portafilter of the espresso machine. Extract two shots of espresso into 6 oz cup.
    2. While espresso is brewing, steam 4-ounces of milk to 140°F.
    3. When espresso is finished brewing, pour milk into cup.
    4. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 7 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 120Total Fat: 7g
Share the goods

Recommended Reads

  • Coffee Facts

    15 Thirst Quenching Cold Brew Coffee Recipes

    Too hot outside to really enjoy your usual, warm cup of joe? Try one of these 15 thirst quenching cold brew coffee recipes, so you can cool down and still get that caffeine kick we all need.

  • Buying Guides

    How to Buy The Best Coffee Beans

    Let's take a look at where and how to buy the best coffee beans. Freshness is HUGE when buying whole bean coffee and here's why:

  • How to Brew

    How to Make Iced Coffee With a Keurig

    We can all appreciate a refreshing iced coffee every now and again. But whose budget can sustain a daily trip to the coffee shop? Not ours. So we decided to figure out how make iced coffee with a Keurig in the comfort of your own home. Stay tuned to find out how it's done. 

  • How to Brew

    25 Boozy & Delicious Coffee Cocktail Recipes

    Turn your morning caffeine kick into your new favorite evening cocktail with any of these 25 delicious coffee cocktail recipes!

  • How to Brew

    How to Make a Latte Without an Espresso Machine

    Settling for subpar lattes at the big chain coffee house because you think you can't make them at home without a big, fancy espresso machine? Think again! Learn how to make a latte at home, save money, and earn bragging rights among your coffee aficionado friends.

  • How to Brew

    Bone-Chilling Cold Brew Recipe

    Think you're ready for spooky-season? If you haven't discovered this Bone-Chilling Cold Brew Recipe, you might not be as ready for your party as you think. Sweet, savory, and super simple to make, this Halloween coffee drink is so delicious it's scary.

Brew like a Barista
from home

The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.

Learn more