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What is a Flat White? Your Ultimate Guide to the Smooth and Creamy Coffee

What is a Flat White? Buckle up, coffee lovers, because you're about to embark on a journey of discovery that will change your caffeine game forever. As a coffee expert with over 15 years of experience under my belt, I'm here to guide you through the murky waters of this mysterious coffee concoction.

First things first, let’s get the basics out of the way – What is a flat white? A flat white is a coffee drink that originated in Australia and New Zealand and has since taken the world by storm. It’s made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk, with a thin layer of microfoam on top.

“Isn’t a flat white just another fancy name for a latte?” And to those people, I say: Bless your heart, you have so much to learn. A flat white is a thing of beauty, a delicate balance of espresso and steamed milk that will transport you to coffee heaven with every sip. 

Now, you might be wondering, how did this magical elixir come to be? Legend has it that the flat white was invented in the 1980s by an Australian barista who was tired of the overly frothy cappuccinos and lattes that were popular at the time. He wanted a drink that was smooth and creamy, without all the fluff. And thus, the flat white was born.

Especially in the UK and the US, the flat white has become a mainstay of coffee culture. It is a favourite among coffee lovers because it is frequently seen as a more upscale and refined beverage than your typical latte. So, if you want to dazzle your pals and demonstrate your expertise in coffee, ordering a flat white is the way to go. It also tastes pretty darn tasty.

What Makes a Flat White Unique? 

Now, let’s get to the juicy stuff – what sets the flat white apart from other coffee drinks? Well, for starters, it’s not as frothy as a cappuccino and not as milky as a latte. In fact the Milk to espresso ratio is very different. A latte has around a 4:1 milk to espresso while the flat white has between a 2 or 3:1 ratio. It’s like the Goldilocks of coffee, just right. The microfoam on top of the flat white gives it a velvety texture that you won’t find in any other coffee drink.

The caliber of the ingredients and the way of preparation are the keys to a great flat white. You require a double shot of espresso, premium milk, and an experienced barista who can make the ideal microfoam. Folks, it’s not as simple as it seems. To get it just perfect, years of practise are required.

What then constitutes a quality flat white? It should first have a velvety, smooth, creamy feel with a tiny coating of microfoam on top. The milk should be steamed to the ideal temperature to bring out its sweetness, and the espresso should be robust but not bitter. Naturally, it should also be presented in a lovely, beautiful cup. Because, after all, presentation is key.

How to Make a Flat White Like a Barista

Necessary equipment and ingredients

  1. Espresso machine (or instant espresso if you don’t have an espresso machine)
  2. High-quality coffee beans
  3. Fresh, cold milk
  4. Milk jug
  5. Thermometer
  6. Tamper

Choosing the right espresso

Image of What is a Flat white?

Choosing the best espresso is the first step in creating a fantastic flat white. You want something that is robust, silky, and subtly bitter. Ask the coffee barista at your local coffee shop for guidance if you’re unsure of what to look for. They are more than happy to educate you on the specifics of the espresso flavour profiles for particular blends.

Steaming the milk

Next up, it’s time to steam the milk. This is where the magic happens. You want to use high-quality milk that’s fresh and cold. And don’t forget to wipe down the steam wand before and after use. We can’t have any rogue milk particles ruining our perfect microfoam, can we?

Creating the perfect microfoam

Now, this is the tricky part – creating the perfect microfoam. You want to steam the milk to the right temperature (around 60-65°C), and then use a technique called “stretching” to create the microfoam. It’s all about finding the right balance between texture and density. But don’t worry, with a little practice (and a lot of spilled milk), you’ll get the hang of it.

Pouring and serving

Finally, it’s time to put it all together. Pour the steamed milk over the espresso, holding back the microfoam with a spoon. Then, use the spoon to create some latte art, because who doesn’t love a pretty coffee? And there you have it, a beautiful, velvety, and delicious flat white that will make your taste buds sing.

Tips for achieving the perfect flat white

  1. Use high-quality, fresh ingredients
  2. Practice steaming the milk to the right temperature and creating microfoam
  3. Experiment with different espresso beans to find the perfect flavor profile
  4. Pour the milk over the espresso slowly and carefully to avoid any spills
  5. Keep the equipment clean to ensure the best taste and texture in your flat white

Variations of the Flat White 

Who knew a simple coffee drink could have so many variations across different countries? In New Zealand, they like their flat whites with a single shot of espresso and a thin layer of foam, while Australians prefer a slightly thicker layer of foam. In the UK, they take things up a notch with two shots of espresso, because who needs sleep anyway? And in the US, well, they like to put their own spin on things, often making flat whites with a single shot of espresso and steamed milk, because why not?

If you’re feeling fancy, why not add a little extra oomph to your flat white? Try adding vanilla syrup for a sweet twist, or some chai spices for a spicy kick. Feeling extra healthy? Add some matcha powder for a boost of antioxidants and caffeine. Just be warned, your local coffee snob might give you a disapproving look.

  1. Vanilla flat white – add a shot of vanilla syrup to give your flat white a sweet twist.
  2. Chai flat white – mix in some chai spices to add a spicy kick to your flat white.
  3. Matcha flat white – for a healthier option, add matcha powder to your flat white for a boost of antioxidants and caffeine.

Let’s be honest, every variation of flat white has its pros and cons. The lighter New Zealand and Australian versions might be easier on the taste buds, but they might not pack the same caffeine punch as their stronger counterparts. The UK version might give you the jolt of energy you need, but at what cost to your taste buds? And the creative twists might be fun to try, but are they really necessary? Maybe just stick to the classic recipe and save yourself the trouble.

There you have it, the different variations of flat white to explore and enjoy. Just don’t take it too seriously, it’s just a cup of coffee after all.


In conclusion, the flat white has established itself as a mainstay of coffee culture and offers a distinctive and delectable approach to satisfy your caffeine craving. It is understandable why the flat white has amassed a devoted following around the world given its smooth and creamy quality. The flat white is a must-try whether you love coffee or are just seeking to try something different.

Let me offer you some last words of encouragement if you’re still debating whether to try a flat white. A rich and savoury experience is offered with each sip of the flat white, which is the ideal combination of robust coffee and silky milk. Everybody can find a flat white because of the wide variety available.

So what are you waiting for? Head to your local coffee shop and order a flat white today. Or maybe even look at our other Coffee guides. Here is one on an American favourite.

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