Flat White: Overview, Steps to Make It, and How It’s Not a Latte

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A popular Australian coffee drink, the flat white is a delicious balance of espresso and milk. See steps to make it, how to order it at Starbucks, and how a flat white is different than a latte.

Flat white drink in a gray ceramic cup with saucer.

What is a Flat White?

  • A flat white is a coffee drink made with espresso and milk.
  • Small sized drink at 5-6 ounces that’s served in a 6 ounce cup.
  • It’s a smaller version of a latte (8 ounces) with less milk, which allows more of the espresso flavor to come through. 
  • The word “flat” in the drink refers to the smooth, flatted out foam and “white” is from “white coffee” which is coffee with milk.
  • Starbucks put flat whites on their menu in 2015.
  • Flat whites are generally associated with Australian coffee shops.
  • A wave of Italian immigrants came to Australia after World War II, bringing their coffee traditions along with them.

Interested in more espresso drinks? Check out macchiatos.

Difference Between Flat White and Latte

Espresso
Flat whites have 2 shots and lattes have 1-2 shots of espresso.

Milk
Flat whites and lattes both have the same type of textured milk. The milk is velvety and smooth (not fluffy or pillowy) and has microfoam (tiny bubbles). 

The difference is that a latte has more milk. Lattes contain at least 7 ounces of steamed milk. Flat whites are made with 4 ounces of steamed milk which results in a stronger coffee taste than a latte.

Drink size
A Flat white is served in a 6 ounce cup and a latte is served in a cup that is at least 8 ounces.

Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino

Espresso
Flat whites have 2 shots and cappuccinos have 1-2 shots of espresso.

Milk
Flat whites are made with smooth, velvety steamed milk but cappuccinos are topped off with steamed milk and fluffy, airy foam.

Drink size
Flat whites and cappuccinos are the same size at 6 ounces.

Flat White at Starbucks

Starbucks makes their flat white with 2 shots of ristretto espresso and steamed whole milk, decorating the drink with a dot of steamed milk on top. Ristretto is a concentrated espresso in that it uses the same amount of coffee but extracted with less water.

A flat white is a 5-6 oz. drink but at Starbucks, you can order it in any size and they will add extra shots for a bigger sized cup.

To get the closest ratio of espresso to milk in an order of flat white, get the smallest size, a Short, which is 8 oz. although it’s still bigger than a traditional flat white (5-6 oz.).

Pouring steamed milk into a cup with espresso.

What You’ll Need to Make a Flat White

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How to Make a Flat White at Home

Here’s a quick overview of the steps to make this drink. For full ingredients and instructions, scroll down to the recipe.

  1. Pull 2 espresso shots into a 6 ounce cup.
    Grind coffee and use an espresso machine to extract 2 shots of espresso.
  2. Steam milk.
    Froth 4 ounces of milk with very little aeration.
  3. Pour steamed milk into espresso.

BARISTA’S TIP: A helpful trick is to steam your milk until the pitcher is too hot to touch. Once the pitcher is too hot, turn off your steam wand.

Notes & Tips 

  • A coffee roasted for espresso is sometimes a little darker than a coffee for drip.
  • You can ask your local coffee shop for suggestions on which coffee can be used to make a flat white. 
  • If you order a flat white at a coffee shop, ask how they prepare the drink. Flat whites can vary based on the coffee shop. 
  • Flat Whites are generally served with whole milk, but you can use a plant-based milk. Try almond or oat milk for a dairy alternative. 
  • If you’re making a flat white at home, preheat your cup. Your drink will stay warmer longer.

Questions You May Have 

How much caffeine is in a flat white? 

A flat white has the same amount of caffeine as a latte or a cappuccino. Because these drinks have the same amount of espresso, they have the same amount of caffeine. A double shot of espresso has between 60-80 mg of caffeine. 

How strong is a flat white? 

Lattes, cappuccinos, and flat whites all have the same amount of espresso but because a flat white has less milk than a latte and less foam than a cappuccino, it will taste stronger. 

Do flat whites have latte art? 

A flat white can have latte art. The milk is steamed to create microfoam, which can be poured to create latte art. Starbucks puts a dot of latte art on top of their flat whites.  

How hot is a flat white? 

The temperature of a Flat White is usually between 120º and 140ºF.

How can I make a flat white using my Nespresso?

Make a cup of espresso using a capsule then froth 4 ounces of milk. Pour steamed milk into the espresso.

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How to Make a Flat White

Author: Jee Choe
A popular Australian coffee drink, the flat white is a delicious balance of espresso and milk.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 4 mins
Total Time 4 mins
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving

INGREDIENTS
 

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 4 ounces milk

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Pull 2 espresso shots into a 6 ounce cup.
    Grind coffee and use an espresso machine to extract 2 shots of espresso. You’ll need about 14-18 grams of coffee to pull a double shot of espresso.
  • Steam milk.
    Froth 4 ounces of milk with very little aeration. When you first start steaming, make sure the tip of the steam is slightly exposed to get air into the milk. The air will create microfoam and sound like paper tearing. Once you hear the paper tearing sound for 2-3 seconds, submerge the tip of the steam wand into the milk to heat the rest of the milk. Tilt the steam wand so that the milk can spin around like a whirlpool which will help get rid of any bigger bubbles.
  • Pour steamed milk into espresso.

NOTES

Flat whites are usually made with whole milk.

NUTRITION

Calories: 75kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 57mg | Potassium: 219mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 184IU | Calcium: 128mg
Keyword Espresso drink
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