How to Make a Flat White

If you’re a fan of robust flavor and smooth, velvety texture, a flat white is likely one of your go-to coffees. This true-to-Australia beverage is the perfect pairing of espresso and microfoam, and with the right gear and a little practice, is extremely easy to make at home.

For those looking to assimilate a flat white into your morning routine, without spending the additional money at a coffee shop, we’ve included an easy-to-follow brewing guide below. By following a handful of simple steps, you can prepare your own cafe-quality flat white in your kitchen!

What you’ll need

Ingredients:

Since there are two primary ingredients for this barista recipe, this is extremely simple to make at home. In order to brew two shots of espresso, you’ll need approximately 14g of coffee to produce the required 60ml for the recipe.

In order to create the layer of textured milk atop the coffee, you’ll need 150ml-200ml of your preferred milk, whether whole milk, skim,  almond, etc…

Gear:

While the ingredients list is fairly small, there are a few essential pieces of equipment needed to make this recipe work.

Method

While there are many recipes for how to make a flat white out there, we’d like to provide some helpful tips for the brewing process at home. Once you have your ingredients and equipment ready, all you need is a small bit of skill to be your own barista at home.

Step 1: Pull a double shot of espresso

You’ll want to brew about 35ml of hot coffee or the equivalent of 2 shots using your machine of choice. Be sure the ground coffee is evenly tamped for optimal extraction. With the proper amount of pressure, your machine should be able to pull shots with rich and delicious crema on the surface of your cup. Once you have your coffee ready, pour it into the base of your cup.

Step 2: Steam the milk

While some cafes will steam the milk prior to preparing the coffee, many barista recipes include steaming as the second step – it’s really personal preference. Heat the milk to 55-62°C to create the proper consistency. Some brewers place the thermometer into the pitcher to gauge the temperature while texturing the milk, but with a bit of experience, you should be able to just use your hand on the outside of the pitcher.

You’re looking for around 1-2cm of foam at the top of your pitcher/milk jug. While steaming, try to get the milk swirling in your milk pitcher to create an even consistency. Remember that you’re looking for small bubbles and a smooth microfoam, not a stiff, dry froth when steaming.

Step 3: Check the consistency

After steaming, it’s important to ensure the thickness is perfect before adding it to the coffee in your cup. To make the milk velvety and smooth, and to disperse any larger bubbles from the microfoam, tap your pitcher on the counter and swirl it lightly around. 

Once the milk has reached the proper consistency, it’s time to combine it with the coffee!

Step 4: Combine and enjoy!

With your brewed espresso already in your cup, simply pour your steamed milk in to create a delicate film of foam on the surface. Like any barista, you can experiment with latte art with your finished product, too! 

Now your flat white is ready to be sipped, shared, and enjoyed!

History of the Flat White

The earliest roots of the flat white are fairly contentious. Both Australia and New Zealand have claimed the flat white their invention over the course of history. 

In Australia, historians can trace the drink to Queensland where “White coffee-flat” was offered in cafes during the ’60s and ’70s. The beverage found its popularity at Moors Espresso Bar owner in Sydney, with Alan Preston adding it to their permanent menu in 1985. Other references include Canberra’s Parliament House cafeteria advertising a “flat white only” sign during a seasonal problem with milk cows that prevented froth from forming correctly. 

In New Zealand, the drink originated in Aukland by Derek Townsend and Darrell Ahlers of Cafe DKD as an alternative to an Italian latte. A second claim originates from wellington as a “failed cappuccino” at Bar Bodega in 1989. Author Craig Miller in his book Coffee Houses of Wellington 1939 to 1979 claims to have prepared the flat white in Aukland during the mid-1980s.

Comparisons

While a flat white is one of many different specialty beverages available at most cafes, what separates this drink from others on the menu may not be as clear. To provide some helpful context on what separates this specialty beverage from others it’s confused with, we’ve included a few comparisons below.

Flat White vs Cortado

While the flat white can be traced to Australia or elsewhere, the cortado finds its roots in Spain. While both beverages have the same amount of espresso, the milk consistency is different between them. In a cortado, it’s not textured, and has a light, smooth finish while a flat white is thicker with a velvety mouthfeel. Likewise, the cortado consists of an equal part of steamed milk cutting the espresso, while the flat white has a lower espresso to milk ratio. 

These two cafe drinks differ in serving size as well. While flat whites are served in 162 ml servings, a cortado is more flexible with serving size and can be prepared in 147-207 ml glasses.

Flat White vs Latte

While many novice coffee drinkers mistake a flat white for a latte, there is a subtle difference between the two. While they both include espresso and milk, a flat white contains a layer of microfoam, while a latte contains steamed milk and a 5mm layer of foam at the top. 

Lattes typically have twice the amount of milk as a flat white does, and the presence of less coffee changes the flavour. Many people find the espresso flavour is still present with a latte, but that the taste is smooth and creamy. On the other hand, the flat white has a more prominent espresso flavour, and the sweetness of the foam adds a velvet feel instead of a creamy latte finish.

Flat White vs Cappuccino

While flat whites have a small amount of micro-foam present, it is known as a milky espresso drink overall. Cappuccinos in comparison are all about the foam. All cappuccinos have a dry, frothy foam instead of creamy textured milk. This results in a thick, fluffy, and dense specialty beverage. A flat white, on the other hand, has no milk froth. 

While a flat white consists of a double shot of espresso and textured milk, a modern cappuccino usually consists of a third coffee, milk, and foam. Since there’s one-third of froth, there’s less liquid milk to cut the intensity of the espresso.