Flat White: Exploring the Best Milk Options for a Delicious Drink


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Flat White – While the flat white has become popular enough in the U.S. to be considered mainstream — yes, you can order one at Starbucks — the Australian coffee drink hasn’t lost any of its edge in the almost ten years since it first appeared stateside. Smaller and creamier than a latte and a smidge larger than a cappuccino, the flat white lives in that delightful, liminal space between the two iconic drinks. A flat white is an undeniably pleasurable coffee experience, and if you’ve never had one, head to your local coffee shop to get your hands on one ASAP. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about the flat white. 

What Is a Flat White? 

The milk steamer shapes the identity of the flat white, which is made with espresso and steamed milk. “A delicious and straightforward option for all coffee lovers is a flat white,” says Rod Johnson, co-founder of the Black-owned coffee roasting firm BLK & Bold. “The coffee drinker can genuinely taste the espresso with a creamy mouthfeel of steamed milk, as it’s where comfort meets intensity.”

Depending on the amount of the drink you are making, a single or double shot of espresso is poured over creamy steamed milk to create a flat white. Approximately 5 to 6 ounces in total, it is a smaller coffee beverage than others and can be served in a heat-resistant glass cup or a ceramic coffee cup. 


Like many traditional cocktails, the history

The flat white made its way into coffee shops in the U.S. in the early 2010s when new-wave coffee ushered in a more global outlook on caffeinated drinks. “In my opinion, a properly made flat white is a wonderful drink,” says Paige Chamberlain, former barista at Coffee By Design in Portland, ME. “It has a higher coffee concentration than milk, which is so delicious.” Pernell Cezar, Johnson’s co-founder at BLK & Bold agrees: “The star of the show is the espresso and everyone knows it with this drink.” 

Flat White

The Distinction Between A Flat White and A Latte

That’s when I realized that most people don’t see any difference between a latte and flat white coffee.  Setting my coffee snobbery completely aside, I can totally understand this, because at first glance it is hard to see the difference between your average flat white, latte, and even cappuccino, but believe me, there are differences – in fact, differences abound.

First off, even though some have referred to the flat white as a “short latte” or a “wet cappuccino,” you should never choose a little latte or cappuccino while purchasing a flat white coffee.  It isn’t either. 

If you wind up ordering one of these, your barista probably isn’t trained to recognise the difference, and how would you know in the first place if you don’t know the distinctions between any of these drinks?  It’s the reason we’re here.

The worst thing is that some baristas may be really arrogant about it. I’ve gone to cafés that try to perform this prank on me by giving me a latte or cappuccino.  Saying something like, “Oh, yeah, sir, here is your “flat white,”

For a Flat White, Size Does Matter

Despite the negative effects of taking excessive amounts of caffeine, American coffee culture is obsessed with super-sizing. However, the success of the flat white depends on the drink’s flavour and texture, which are both influenced by size. “A 20-ounce ‘Venti’ flat white at Starbucks is still available, but it’s not really a flat white anymore,” claims Chamberlain.

“It’s a seriously Americanized version of the drink that borders on latte.” A flat white that is kept to a small, controlled size is essential for achieving the trademark layering effect of silky steamed milk, espresso, and microfoam. It also makes drinking simple. “The volume of a flat white is perfectly portioned for a slow drinking experience, which is my favourite thing about it,”

Ok, so what is a flat white, you ask?

In case you’re considering creating a flat white at home in the Starbucks way, here’s a graphic taken directly from the Starbucks website that offers us a fairly artistic perspective on the beverage.

Two things to note here about the above graphic – the word “microfoam”, and the word “ristretto”.

Flat White

Microfoam: What Is It?

The word micro-foam describes a certain type of frothed milk which is very silky but not considered to be pure froth, which has bigger bubbles and sits on top, nor is it considered to be pure liquid milk, which sits closer to the middle of the drink. 

In the below graphic, the microfoam would be the layer right on top of the right-hand flat white graphic.  Although its labelled as “milk”, closer the top of this milky mixture is where you will find your microfoam. 

Technically, your frothing wand is introducing air into your milk and that is what makes the milk bubble.  Microfoam is the part of the frothed milk mixture that is smooth like silk and which is meant to give your flat white its easy-drinking texture.

This is where I may stray from what some say is a flat white, because I like my flat white to be a seamless, velvety blend of ristretto and microfoam.  Even the Starbucks graphic shown above shows all of the constituents being very separate, where as I see them as being blended.

The following video by Whole Latte Love shows how to make a flat white the way I like it made.

Starbucks Flat White Coffee Recipe

To achieve the iconic “Starbucks” flat white appearance, texture, and flavour, continue reading as we essentially provide you with the recipe.  This is essentially a lengthy method of explaining how it’s done, but after reading it all, you’ll be almost a better barista than most other people who call themselves baristas, so we believe the learning curve is worthwhile.

The next short video will walk you through the process of creating visually appealing, creamy microfoam while also introducing you, in case you haven’t encountered microfoam before, to its texture and appearance.

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Flat White Recipe Tips 

This gent in the following video has the right idea, and be sure to note what he says about: 1. the depth of the steam wand in the milk, 2. rolling the milk on a vertical plane as opposed to horizontally, 3. the required freshness of the milk, as these are all good pointers to look out for when trying to achieve the perfect micro-foam for your flat white. 

You will be using 4 oz. of steamed milk for your typical flat white, which is less than your typical latte.


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

A latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk, while a flat white is made with espresso and microfoam. Both drinks are traditionally served in ceramic cups.

The main difference between a latte and flat white is the texture of the milk. A latte has more steamed milk than a flat white, which gives it a smoother texture. A flat white has less steamed milk, which gives it a more velvety texture. Flat whites are also typically served with a lower temperature than lattes, which can make them feel more refreshing.

So, what’s the bottom line? If you’re looking for a rich and creamy coffee drink, go for a latte. If you’re looking for a refreshing coffee drink, go for a flat white.

Is a flat white stronger than a latte?

There’s no definitive answer to this question since the strength of a coffee drink depends on various factors, such as the type and grind of the coffee beans, the brewing method, and how much milk is added. However, in general, a flat white will likely have less milk than a latte, making it slightly stronger in terms of caffeine content.

Additionally, the espresso shots in a flat white are usually double the size of those in a latte, which also contributes to its slightly higher caffeine content. So if you’re looking for a stronger coffee drink, a flat white is probably your best bet.

Is a flat white stronger than a cappuccino?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors, including the strength of the coffee beans used, the grind size, and the brewing method. A flat white typically uses a coarser grind than a cappuccino, which can result in a weaker cup of coffee.

However, if you use a stronger coffee bean or brew for a longer time, then your flat white could end up being stronger than a cappuccino. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference and how you like your coffee.

"Hello there! I'm Aditi, your SEO-friendly content writer at ReadNeo. With a flair for crafting engaging content, I'm dedicated to bringing you the latest in skincare, health, and lifestyle news. As an avid wellness enthusiast, I'm here to empower you with informative and actionable insights. Together, we'll navigate the realm of well-being and discover the secrets to a healthier, happier life. Dive into our articles and embark on a journey to your best self!


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