“A flat white is a small latte.” Said the barista at the Workshop Cafe in London to an enquiring British visitor. My ears pricked up. To me, a flat white is much more, but those Workshop Coffee guys really know their stuff.
One of the great debates in the London cafe scene is the difference between a Flat White vs Latte. In some cafes, a flat white is just a small latte, but in others it’s an entirely different drink.
“A flat white is just a cappuccino with less froth isn’t it?” I overheard a slightly confused Hungarian cafe owner say to a Kiwi customer. This was the final straw and set me off on a journey to search for a good definition of my favourite drink. To me, a flat white is like the Supreme Court’s 1964 definition of pornography; I’m not quite sure how to define it but “I know it when I see it.”
For purists there is a lot to a flat white. Including but not limited:
1. Velvet micro-foam instead of stiff froth.
2. Medium size, bigger than a macchiato or cortado but smaller than a latte.
3. Double shot so the coffee does most of the talking, not the milk.
4. Free poured milk so that the foam is folded through the whole drink and there is no discernable layer separation between liquid coffee and foam. This also help preserve the crema.
And that’s just the basics of being a Flat White, let alone a good one. A good flat white is all about packing as much taste as possible into a small package.
Searching For Official Definitions of a Flat White
To settle the issue, I collected together the most authoritative definitions from around the world. We have some differing opinions including:
The flat white has less milk, less foam (hence flat white) and therefore proportionately more coffee than a latte. The desired texture is a velvety sensuality and there should also be a natural sweetness. New Zealand flatties tend to be double espresso shots while Australians typically pour a single. – Joseph Hoye from Electric Coffee Bean
A flat white is a coffee beverage prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk from the bottom of a pitcher) over a single or double shot of espresso. It is similar to the latte and the café au lait. – Wikipedia
A latte consists of a shot of espresso in a glass with steamed milk poured over, topped with a one-centimetre layer of froth. Contrary to the widely held belief that a flat white is stronger, the only difference between the two drinks is the vessel in which they’re presented. A flat white is served in a ceramic cup, usually of the same volume as a latte glass. – Sydney Morning Herald
The main difference between a latte and a flat white is the ratio of milk and espresso. The flat white has less milk than a latte and usually a bit less foam on top. Unlike many people think, the flat white does have foam on top. – Coffee Info
Steamed milk poured over two shots of espresso, topped with microfoam. – Starbucks
The cappuccino is the “Marge Simpson” of espresso-based drinks, with the milk whipped into a bubbly froth and placed on top of the espresso like a high Marge Simpson “bee-hive” do. The latte, on the other hand, has had a hair cut, but nonetheless, has enough froth left to top the drink off with a slight bit of teasing on top. The flat white, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of that volume on top, but rather has all that tease distributed throughout. – Espresso Coffee Snobs
Richard Rees, owner of the Nude Espresso, said that the secret of the flat white lay in the quality of the beans used for the double-shot espresso base and the “texturing” of the milk. He said: “When you heat the milk you get different layers in the jug. Further down you get the most silky, textured milk. You use that, not the frothy milk on top. The coffee has a stronger taste because you just use the first half of the shot… Probably about a third of the coffees we sell now are flat whites.” – Evening Standard
Why are we fighting over coffee?
One common point of confusion is when people say a Flat White is “like drink xyz.” because their definition of drink xyz may not be the same as everyone else’s. So we’re building on quicksand. The most common example is “A Flat White is a Caffe Latte.” It’s a common attempt at a simple definition of a flat white – but only from people who make Lattes in a certain way (with textured micro-foam). In most cafes, there is a significant difference between a latte and a flat white.
For people around the world who have never had a Flat White, this definition is confusing because they might only ever have had a Latte made in a certain way (milk scalded, pan heated, or wand heated with no velvet).
To me, a Flat White is simply a medium sized espresso with milk where the coffee does the talking. What’s your definition of a Flat White?
95 thoughts on “What is a flat white?”
Mmmmm……a flat white is not a small latte.
Thanks Jane, was hoping to spark a debate on the topic because I’ve had too many baristas in London just say “Oh, that’s just a small latte.” To you, what makes a flat white a flat white?
I work at Costa coffee. Our flat white is 3 shot extracted for less time than an espresso for a better flavour, textured milk (texture of thin paint) in-between latte milk and cappuccino milk.
We make a flat white with a dry weight double shot and extract a single shot ristretto, topped with a whole milk microfoam….. so delicious and smooth.
Dolce & Verde
It’s an intense double shot with velvety steamed milk poured so as not to disturb the crema.
I heard about the flat white here in Berkeley for the first time. I asked for one at Peets – the woman made what seemed to be a double espresso with a micro foam that was poured in the center. The result was a 6 oz cup of dark brown crema from the espresso with a white dot in the middle. The result was was a delicious drink that had microfoam throughout with a dark rich foam on top.
I was delighted and would have paid a decent price for it. A couple a days later went back and asked for one – a different person made it. I ordered a flat white and the barista said here is your wet cappuccino. Tried Starbuck next – for 4.25 they gave me a small latte.
When it’s made correctly you’ll recognize the difference.
Prufrock will happily take your order for a Latte, Cappucino, Flat White, Machiatto or Cortado. But they actually treat them all as the same thing, just in different sizes!
So, to them a Flat White really is just a small Latte!
Fair call, but I think Prufrock is making their milk so well that no one is going to complain that their latte had too much foam, or that their cappuccino didn’t have enough foam.
Apparently, Caravan in Exmouth Market is training baristas (in cafes that use their beans) that:
*For takeaway, a cappucino, flat white or latte can come in any size the customer wants, so size isn’t the difference between them.
*The difference is how you prepare the milk:
– Cappucino has stiff froth.
– Latte is velvet throughout the milk.
– Flat white has less foam than a latte and more liquid milk (i.e. “It’s flatter.”)
Flat white has single shot and has less microfoam than a cappuccino. Although in the real world, a flat white and cappuccino are the same except for the cup they are presented in.
A cappuccino has no “microfoam” and a flat white is either a double or triple ristretto dependant on the size of the cup. A cappuccino and a flat white are constructed completely differently.
Spot on. I get excited every time I make Flat White. It is a luxury beverage which sould always look as good as it tastes.
Flat white has a double shot, latte is single.
Enjoyed your post. My thought was that a the milk of a flat white was less dense (lower fat/cream) than the milk of a cappuccino or cafe au lait. Here is how I make my own cup of something. I call it cafe au lait, but I’m sure someone somewhere will call it something else. Enjoy!
This is what is called a cappuccino in Italy.
This is a cappuccino, all around the world…or at least that’s how it sholud be.
How entitled can you be ?
You must live in London or New Yawk. Talk about entitled! I have a Rocket r58 (milan) and a Mazzer mini. I just drink my coffees without getting all hotey-totey about it. :)))
Well not here in Melbourne. A flat white is not a cappuccino. It’s halfway between that and a latte. Latte: way too milky; cappuccino more on the bitter side with lots of foam. A flat white is sweeter but not too milky or foamy. Just perfect.
A flat white is not a small latte! That is like saying that an apple is a small pear.
we have just open a small cafe in central London, and this topic about the Flat white is something,, is that, is this, is not that etc… well our manager is Kiwi and the flat white does comes from New Zeland.. some ppl say that it does not have any froth on top hence ”Flat White” others yeah it does have. here in london some baristas said that it was invented by Costa Coffee and so on.. the way we do is, full cream milk, two shots of espresso in a 10 onz cup.. with a small leaf on top… one barista came ,as he told me he was,, he told me to do a flat white with out milk… i said the you must want a large espresso?,, he became so angry and strarted to argue how he has been around coffee shops bla bla bla.. i found this website usefull since the flat white was invented in New Zeland / Australia, i think we should pay attention in how they make it not in how we the non kiwis think it is..
I never thought much about it as a Kiwi, but I always thought of it as half-way between a latte (bleurgh, too much milk) and a cappuccino (save something that strong until you really need it!), and on further reflection, less foam. Though the difference in shots explains why I’ve always hated flat whites in the UK!
In my understanding (and the years I worked as a barista with a persnickety Canberra crowd), a flat white is simply a shot of espresso with steamed milk and as little foam as possible. It can be any size you want but typically is a normal coffee cup size. And it most certainly doesn’t include foam art!
My first experience if a flat white was how I’d like all flat whites to be: the coffee was strong but tempered by the smooth microfoam that ran all the way through and which gave the coffee a slight sweetness. I ordered a soy flat white. I really don’t like soy milk but I loved this! If this is not anyone else’s definition of a FW then the drink certainly deserves a classification of its own.
I’ve been debating this very point for years now, whether from the point of veiw of training, as a barista or roaster. I’ve also been lucky to work beside people from all over the world, including New Zealand, Australia , the Netherlands, Canada, America and Tazmania. It seems to me that even in the Netherlands they had a similar coffee but did not call it a Flat White.
Both of these beverages were served in a 6oz cup (the same as a cappuccino) but usually consisted of a double espresso (single if you wished) and a ratio of more milk to microfoam. There was usually only a thin layer of microfoam on top, just enough for some latte art. This meant that the beverage did not rise above the rim of the cup (where I am told the ‘flat’ part comes from).
Effectively if you think about construction of espresso based beverages if you use a single espresso in a Flat White it does make it extremely similar to a miniature latte. I say this because in the current coffee climate we utilise only the best coffee beans in our roasts, and therfore we also use ‘dense, velvety, free poured’ milk in our cappuccino and lattes. You can’t attribute the milk texturing as the difference in drinks because it would be upholding obsolete and sub-par coffee standards. Milk has a tendency to settle out into the beverages constituent layers in under a minute in the cup and this gives us our differences in drinks. A good example of that is the milk foam science talk in last years Nordic barista cup.
All the debate of the years and continuing still has led us to believe that a Flat White is a New Zealand/Australian drink, but one that is synonymous with good quality coffee and therefore was presented as a double espresso in a 6oz (approx) vessel (glass or cup), and topped off with well made dense and textured microfoam with a little latte art (if it was in the Barista’s ability).
“You can’t attribute the milk texturing as the difference in drinks because it would be upholding obsolete and sub-par coffee standards. ”
YES. YES YES YES YES YES.
As explained by the important coffee people, George Sabados, the so-called Flat White is nothing but Italian and European style Caffe Latte, to avoid confusion of the American style Caffe Latte. It’s been confused by so many baristas in Ausy and Kiwi too.
Great thought and good to have a diversity of opinion. But as someone who has had plenty of Cafe Lattes from around Italy, I can assure you they are nothing like a Flat White. Can you recommend a particular cafe in Italy that serves a Caffe Latte that would make you think they are similar to a Flat White?
Caffe Latte in Italy is what you get for breakfast at home. In a cafe (Italian bar) you get Latte Macchiato (light espresso with milk and a little bit of foam) that I suppose is what abroad is called Cafe Latte or Latte. The flat white is like an Italian Cappuccino. The cappuccino you get in Sturbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero has nothing to do with a proper cappuccino served in Italy. The good thing about this phenomenon of the flat white is that eventually people would start to appreciate globally the taste of a real cappuccino. Never mind if they think it’s an aussie inventions.
Finally someone making sense in this whole flat-white debate business.
I only today heard of this drink, and have worked as a barrista for some years (admittedly this was some years back)- so I was surprised to see people being enthused by it and professing its fundamental difference to other traditional coffee drinks.
After much reading, I guess you confirmed what I was strongly suspecting from the start: this is actually just a cappucino. Or at least, it is how a cappucino should be.
The fact that horrible, anglo-saxon chains have turned the word cappucino into an overheated horror with a solid foam-whale floating on top, which could easily carry a spoon if people didn’t adorn it with preposterous cocoa powder, cinnamon or equivalent, well this is just the sad expression of how major western multinationals can shape our conception of language.
But for me a cappucino will always be, like served in italy, a velvety wonder, served not too hot so that you can litterally slurp most of the cup in the first seconds after it is poured.
If people want to call that a flat white, please be my guest, but I disagree with you on one thing: the Italians should still get the credit 😉
Having lived and trained in Australia, I have been drinking Flat Whites there for well over a decade.
I can only comment on what the Aussies consider one to be, they are served with a single shot (unless asked otherwise), with velvety textured steamed milk with a very thin layer of microfoam to finish.
This is how I serve my Flat White and my customers love it.
Although I believe the Kiwi version is a standard double shot !!
I’m not much of a coffee drinker but for what it’s worth, the first time I came across the flat white was in Australia in 1999. It appeared to be a very common standard coffee that everyone drank. It was definitely not a term bandied around cofee shops in London at that time.
I’m from Melbourne, living in Dublin. I was recently in Brunetti’s, Melbourne with an friend from Milan where he experienced his first Flat White. He really enjoyed it so i then asked the elderly Italian/Australian man serving us – what IS a Flat White actually ?? He replied in Italian and i thought it was very interesting – he said it developed in Australia as the style of coffee with milk that most replicated what Italian’s were drinking at home- presumably with stove top espresso makers. Having gown up in teh 80’s with many Italian friends and experiencing their ‘home made coffee’ with a little heated milk this makes a lot of of sense to me. I personally think that, even before the microfoam, the balance between the milk and the coffee is the most important characteristic, though everyone will have a slightly different take on that. For me its a sweet balance where the milk isn’t over-steamed or watery and is just enough to dissipate the coffee without losing its character and intensity. I agree that a Flat White NOTHING like a classic morning Cafe Latte in Italy. Many cafes in Dublin will now serve you a ‘Flat White’ but unfortunately i’ve found they don’t have this balance at all. Its usually just your normal crappy, watery, milky cappuccino with less froth or its 2 incredibly bitter shots with lots of milk to compensate. NO!!! What’s the point? The classic Flat White-sized cup works because the ratio is right between the shot to the milk. Less is more , in this case. A Flat White in a big cup – forget it…
John Lynch wrote: “Its usually just your normal crappy, watery, milky cappuccino with less froth or it’s 2 incredibly bitter shots with lots of milk to compensate. NO!!! What’s the point? The classic Flat White-sized cup works because the ratio is right between the shot to the milk. Less is more, in this case. A Flat White in a big cup – forget it…”
And there you have North America’s Starbucks’ version of the “flat white”. Just had this “new” thing this morning. Don’t bother, people!!
I just encountered my first flat white in Istanbul at a lovely South African coffee shop behind the Spice Market, created by a barista from New Zealand. I’d never heard of “flat white” before and I loved it so much I returned for more the next day. I don’t know if it was the quality of the espresso or the barista’s talent, but it was a delicious blend of milk and espresso with beautiful art and the finest foam I’ve ever encountered.
Having just had two bad experiences of over foaming in a “flat” white. I have ended up on this website. I was searching for what is a definition of a “flat white ” presumably with the word latte at the end of it. I am from New Zealand (Aotearoa). I absolutely love my coffee migrating from Mobil service stations version (mild roasted bean) which they say is Richard Harris brand to BP version. A stronger fairtrade but I understand also Richard Harris (someone please confirm).
I am always having to ask NZ staff for a ‘no-froth’ flat white. Some people say “flat” white refers to mimimal foaming at the top of the coffee. Others say you can order a Super Flat white – (this normally gives a 1.3 cm layer of micro foam).
Reading the comments before me; it appears this concept is originated in south pacific (Aussie or NZ). I can only speak for NZ geographically I travel widely inside the country. I prefer a stronger brew hence a preference for BP service stations.
The consistency of the quality of their coffees which you can purchase in either small medium or large. I prefer the large takeaway container for my coffee. with full creamed milk steamed. I find the skim harder though I should swtich to it. Optional is medium cups or small cups. Most service stations serve one shot, however two shots are considered “proper” for the large size.
Another way to increase the intensity of the flavour and the shot is to only fill the large container to half – thereby increasing the suffusion of the coffee.
I am currently fully milked out. I am so saddened that you have been able to resolve this issue 🙂 and entertainably enlightened and looking forward to further info.
I have noticed in most coffee shops the apparent glazed looks of all coffee purchasers who are intensive drinkers. as they ardently wait in line for their ‘fixes’ almost like lovers waiting to meet again.
To this end I wrote both lyrics and music about the coffee being the lover, and how we can meet our lover in the coffee shop, and have secret love affairs and move on. Only to return again to that secret love affair with our coffee. 🙂
I usually drink “cortados” or order a double espresso machiato and then add milk to it. I first tried a Flat White when I landed in Auckland about a year ago. I thought I had died and went straight to heaven.
Let me tell you: I hate Lattes, there’s no coffee in there, just hot milk with a tiny bit of coffee. Consequently, to call a Flat White a small version of a Latte is absolutely mental.
I too have searched and cannot find a straight answer on this. I think a double shot of strong arabica espresso is a key ingredient, followed by superbly foam whole milk (not skimmed, or semi-skimmed).
I didn’t think much of Flat Whites in Oz… they tasted more like Lattes. Perhaps the Barista’s you’ve spoken with have Australian influences.
I think the Kiwis should seriously consider making Flat Whites a national icon. In fact their whole coffee drinking culture should be more widely advertised.
I’m an Aussie in the UK and currently searching in vain for local cafes that can serve a decent flat white. Despite my Aussie pride, I do agree that the flat whites in NZ are consistently better than those in Au – possibly because of the milk quality and/or the double shot of coffee – whatever it is, they should market it to the world as it’s a great thing they have going and a secret worth sharing!
My Uncle Harry moved from London to Melbourne in the mid 50’s. My son lives in Sydney now. He emailed me the following. I walked into my favourite coffee shop (Forsyths) in Willoughby and was busy selecting a blend and got talking to the Barrista about coffee machines. Found out he came from Melbourne and I said I think my Great uncle Harry was the first person to import an espresso machine to Australia. He replied “Harry Levine!?, yes apparently he couldn’t stand coffee in Australia so got one from Italy. And because the Australian’s couldn’t take strong black coffee and didn’t like foreign names he coined the phrase ‘Flat white’. I asked him how he knew all that and was told that every Barrista worth his salt in Australia knows about Harry Levine!!!
Small no bigger then am 8oz cup.
Dbl shot of espresso.
Latte style micro foam milk.
Not to hot!
Aka small dble shot latte.
If you want a bigger drink get a 12oz latte.
Coffee is a simple thing and is best done simply.
Good point, this strategy would work well if every cafe in the world made Lattes with a perfect and even blend of froth, microfoam and liquid milk in the pitcher (and in your cup). – Unfortunately, they don’t.
Coffee is about consistency.
I am an ex barista and now a barista trainer and the first thing I try to teach is simplicity and consistency. All of the coffees we know come from one drink – espresso. So this is the first thing you need to teach is how to make consistent espresso. Then traditionally every drink has slightly more milk added, espresso, macchiato, piccolo, etc.
For me the latte and cappuccino are the same apart from the milk texture and traditionally in Italy a cappuccino is drunk only in the morning.
Then you get into different cultures. Different countries have different taste and their own takes on coffee USA Gibraltar, Spain Cortado, NZ/Australia Flat White.
Then you are always going to get people who think that they know best. Some people believe a FW is in between a Cap and a Latte, some people think it has slightly less micro foam then a latte. I am a New Zealander who has lived in London and have meet many Kiwis who swear a FW should be done in a bowl?!
I guess in the end, maybe there is no correct way, but the way that you as an individual like it?
That’s why we have baristas operating traditional machines to customise it to the individual.
It’s human nature to believe we are right about everything so maybe there is no correct way but the way we like it? So for me a Flat White is:
– No bigger then an 8oz
– Double shot
– Latte milk
I was a Sydney flat white drinker who moved to Seattle, which had a lot of espresso stands back in the 90s. To get something close to a flat white I’d order a “Double short latte, whole milk, no foam”.
It was stronger than a flat white but pretty good and replicable.
Seattle lattes are specified a little differently to lattes in the rest of the US, let alone the rest of the world, so you have to try it and see what works for you. The Duaneiac has it right.
Genius. I got a few blank looks until I figured out they don’t do flat whites in Seattle. I’ll try your trick tomorrow.
Yup. This is the flat white I know and love.
I like it even more with a flower on top.
When I spent 15 days in Dubai I went to Costa coffee about every other day and got a “flat white” about 90% of my visits. I love them and have actively been trying to bring them to the coffee shops in the states telling every barista I encounter. I love this blog post!
I have 20 years professional experience, I have also trained many baristas. An espresso is an espresso. In my opinion, it’s always a single. It’s short and creamy, can be served with some milk (macchiato) hot or cold, slightly shorter (ristretto) and slightly longer (lungo). You can have two if you like, and call it a double.
There is no milk with stiff foam. That’s american starbucks crap.
There is hot steamy milk which is foamed but then mixed with the hot milk and creating what some people call “microfoam”.
So.. a cappuccino is an espresso plus this microfoam.
A latte is a large glass of microfoam with one espresso.
In my opinion, a flat white is a small latte but it’s presented differently and with arty touch.
But you can still be arty with a cappuccino or a latte. Then you can have a dryer foam and use it for a cappuccino and a lighter for the latte or for the flat white. You also have to know how to pour, and the movement will pour it drier or smoother.
In Italy, the flat white is a “latte macchiato” (spotted milk) and the cappuccino is served in a slightly smaller cup.
The rest of the world likes to have longer drinks that looks funky, but at the end of the day is coffee and hot milk.
Thank you for the only sanity I’ve read on this page.
I’m italian and we drink our strong coffe in the morning using a bialetti moka, and pour warm milk inside. The ratio is about 50/50. But then everybody has a different taste and some like it more or less milky. But we always like it more coffe based. I’m sorry to say that the more milky based drinks we give the children – Latte e caffe. I think this what people in the US call a Latte. I don’t think anyone would drink that in italy. But tastes are different right.
What i’m trying to say is that the whole flat white discussion is a bit useless because in the end what you want is a strong coffe mixed with warm milk. And you mix it to your taste. And if you’re in a caffe bar, the milk will be steamed which gives the coffe a different texture. But you simply ask the barista how much milk you want in your coffe. Simple as that.
Let’s not talk about the flower on top, that is a whole different discussion. I think the anglo saxon countries are too obsessed with those flowers on top. What is most important is the wonderful good taste of the drink and the feelings it conveys….
thanks a bunch for helping me finally get a legitimate definition on what a flat white is. here in Portland Oregon ordering one will only lead to your barista (confidently) pretending he or she has a slight idea of what one is…..and then ultimately making a latte.
This is really enlightening! I’m a huge fan of coffee and currently living in Australia but didn’t know that the flat white is originally from here. But yes, here, flat white and latte are totally different things. Try Merlo Coffee if you come down under. 🙂
Well I’ve read all this with great interest. When we are in NZ, my wife loves her FLAT WHITE at around 11 a.m. every morning. Some are better than others but most are good. Me, I prefer a boisenberry ice cream. Each to his or her own, thank goodness.
Flat whites in Australia have less milk than a latte and a very dense microfoam if done well. Personally I find Lattes way too milky. The secret is in the balance of coffee (one shot) to milk in a small cup (150ml).This gives you a good strong coffee flavour without being bitter like an espresso shot. You never add sugar because if its done well it will be sweet enough from the crema and silky smooth dense textured milk. Belissimo !
interesting topic….for me latte means milk…in coffee world it means more milk and a shot of espresso…the milk do the talking in latte while in flat white…it contains of 2 shots of espresso milk the creama of the espresso most on the top not foam…the creama serves as foam not the micro foam..thats why flat…espresso do the talking in the flat white….
This should be re-phrased… a MODERN flat white! Back before yuppy-dom, and fashionable coffee, a flat white was just warmed milk, and no frothed milk at all, not micro, not macro… And I’m going back nearly half a century here.
I remember a time where a flat white that had froth on it would be slung back in your face. I always assumed that ‘flat’ meant ‘not frothed’, like any logical person would.
My Italian family always did it that way… and so did the majority of commercial places where coffee was available. In Sydney, at any rate. Apart from that, all the current ‘pfaffing’ over coffee has put me off the stuff completely. I now drink tea.
When I was trained as barista we were taught to treat it as a latte with one exception…. When pouring you have the jug higher, still pouring from spout. This way you have no foam/froth. Hence “flat”
I’m a barista from Singapore, and here we have a different view. I guess that helps us further disassociate the big 3 of coffee drinks.
Lattes – espresso, steamed milk topped with 1cm or less of microfoam. Usually the espresso is poured over the milk and foam. About 3 to 4 parts to a part espresso
Cappuccinos – espresso, thicker “stiffer” foam. The foam is poured over the espresso and usually has less liquid milk if any. Twice as much coffee as a latte, equal parts of steamed milk and foam on top.
Flat whites (aka ristretto bianco ala starbucks) – ristretto, microfoamed milk.
The milk is pour THROUGH the ristretto, resulting in the crema being on top of the finished drink. We use 3 ristretto shots per 6-7 ounces of milk.
As you can see, all three very different drinks here. And I agree with an earlier reply. The FW does have an inherent sweetness to it.
My 2 cents. Cheers
I am a well-travelled (43 countries so far) coffee drinker (30+yrs) who only uses freshly ground at home and a do-it-yourself espresso maker (no pods please). When I was introduced to the Flat White (with capitals) this year in New Zealand, my wife and I fell in love with coffee all over again. Creamy, smooth, sweet without sugar, and rich taste and no milk-moustache! I have been trying to replicate it at home in Canada ever since. I am convinced in the end the ingredients are more important than the technique – whole milk (has the required sweetness) and a rich, smooth espresso bean. Bitter beans or 2% milk will not give you the results you long for. The pursuit of perfection is well worth the effort in this case.
A Flat White is HEAVEN! But more specifically, it is certainly not a latte. It’s much, much better than a latte. The entire drink is frothy, silky, and smooth. It’s got a hint of sweetness, but it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the coffee.
I live in Sydney (but also spend a lot of time in Melbourne), and I’ve been drinking flat whites in both cities for about 20 years. The cafes I visit are all precious about coffee, but that’s fine — I am too. None of them would make a flat white with one shot of espresso. Always two. Every time. It’s been like this for many years. I could believe there are baristas out there who use just one shot, but I’d respectfully suggest they’re not working at the good places.
The milk should be ever-so-slightly creamy, and consistently so all the way through the drink. Getting the texture right depends on how you use the steam wand in the milk. There shouldn’t be a lot of milk either. That, for me, is the principal difference between a flat white and a latte. A latte has more milk, so the coffee flavour is less conspicuous.
A flat white may or may not feature art. It’s really not important.
Up next: What’s a piccolo latte?
i’ve been very into flat whites recently, and there’s a cafe that decided to make a “latte with no foam” instead of my flat white. Should I be annoyed, or is there not a huge difference? I don’t find that it was too “liquidy” as some lattes can be.
Drink ordering is really just about translating the idea of what you want into language that the barista can understand and then make what you want. So if you like it, then it’s the right drink for you, whatever it’s called.
Adding milk to coffee is a perfect way to end up with sewage. Flat white? macchiato? latte? All bollocks. Real coffee is made with water and coffe. these ridiculous milky inventions are poncy gay pretentious nonsense and taste like something out of the devil’s dick. Real coffee drinkers know this. Stick yer flat white up yer pretentious feminine arse.
Congratulations for the stupidest comment on here
Strong words, Mr. Purist.
A perfect definition, well said!
Haha you’re a ridiculous idiot who has apparently built a tasting wheel for Satan’s special liquids but can’t bare to appreciate that Coffee is dynamic and can be transformed by equally dynamic pairings and presentations. And anyone who calls it what you have called it is just blissfully and arrogantly ignorant.
Great article, I linked to it in my own article on the subject of flat whites in Europe here:
For me flat white is a stronger version latte using micro but less foam on top.
Several people are expressing the view that the debate about the difference between latte, cappuccino and FW is vacuous, since they claim that it’s all just different names for what is “just” a mix of espresso coffee and hot milk. These people are really over-simplifying: as several others have pointed out (correctly in my opinion) there can be a huge difference in flavour and texture of these drinks. A well-trained barista should understand the different effects that will be created by the preparation of the espresso shot, the type of milk used, the steaming process, the stirring, banging the milk jug on the counter, the speed and flow of pouring, using a spatula to control thye balance of wet milk and stiffer foam. I believe a flat white to be a smaller cup than a cappuccino, double shot, then with a really smooth blended steamed milk (so that the milk goes in as a smooth consistent micro-foam, not just hot wet milk and not thick bubbly foam). The espresso should be the dominant partner with the milk just giving a sweetness and rounded body to the drink. Unlike a cap, there should be no element of “layering” the drink in the cup — the pour will have blended the milk through the espresso if the FW is good. A latte is different from a FW because the latte will feature the milk micro-foam as the dominant component with the rich espresso shot just a background hint. (Presumably that’s why it’s named “latte” — because it’s all about the milk!). I disagree with many of the posters here who claim that the FW is just a fancy commercialised name for what in Italy is just an espresso with milk: I’ve drunk quite a lot of everyday coffees on Italian streets and those do not taste or feel at all like a proper flat white. Not that they’re bad — oh no — I really like the common street coffees in Italy and France (cafe au lait), but they are distinctly different from the flat white as served in the quality coffee houses in the UK. BTW, people love to bash the commercial chains (Starbucks, Costa, Nero) but I have found that while Starbucks are atrocious and Costa has been allowing its coffee quality to slide hopelessly over the last 15 years in the UK, Caffe Nero (or my local ones anyway) are really producing very good quality espresso-based drinks. They do a FW, if you ask for it, and I’ve found it to be a very good drink, carefully distinguished from their latte and their cappuccino. And if you talk to the Nero baristas, they do generally understand the principles of good coffee-making and they’ll really do their best to make what you want.
So…a flat white is a diet latte?
To me a flat white is naturally sweet as the sugar has been released from the milk so I don’t feel the need to add a sachet.
In a cappuccino etc I need 3 sometimes 3 sachets.
Nero gets this
I didn’t realise there was so much debate about what constitutes a flat white – thanks for listing the common definitions.
The guy in front of me at Carluccio’s this morning ordered a flat cappuccino, any ideas?
Perhaps I will ask tomorrow when he is not around.
I have no idea what you’re all going on about but everywhere I went in Australia flat white just meant a white coffee. It didn’t take hours to make and sometimes they didn’t need to write my name on the cup. I do t think anyone cared how many ounces the cup could hold.
This type of coffee wasn’t even around when I started bar tending 10 years ago. It is a hipster coffee drunk purely for its name. The very fact that no one can come to agree on how it should be made proves that people aren’t getting the same drink in all different walks of life so no one can say that they love or enjoy flat whites. A style of drink should have a name when Bill in one coffee shop is making it the same as Bob down the road. If you know how you like your coffee ask the barista for a coffee which gives them a hint of what you want I.e a latte and then Taylor it to your needs, extra shot, more foam, less foam, but please can we eradicate this hipster clown coffee from our lives.
I had my first flat white in Dublin a few weeks ago. Watched her make it right after my wife’s double Latte. Same thing, but smaller.
As a barista working in Australia I’ve always been taught there is no to very little foam on a flat white, which is where it differentiates. In fact some customers demand it when they order; “I’ll have a large flat white – now that doesn’t have any foam on it okay?” Also putting latte art on flat whites is basically a crime.
A flat white:
– is small (it must emphasise coffee over milk)
– has rich and velvety texture
It is (or should be!) definitely distinct to a latte or cappuccino. In a chain cafe they get this distinction totally wrong. In a gourmet coffee place, they wouldn’t serve the type of horrendous latte a big chain would serve anyway, and the distinction would be more about coffee/milk ratio and texture.
Flat whites a couple of shots of decent espresso cut short of water with decent crema added to non frothed milk, superb
I have long been commenting on and highlighting the plight of the flat white. For years this was definitely a specialist coffee drink like no other. But as always, commercialism has stepped in and damaged the FW. – not least Barstucks.
The biggest failures by far is milk and temp not correct.
Oh well, I will continue my quest for the perfect FW.
I recommend the Kees Van Der Westen Mirage.
Tony (indipendent Barista)
Flat white, uh? It’s just a freaking fancy pingado!
I see Flat White as being like a proper Italian Cappuccino as served in Italy. It must be small. It must be dense. It must use full fat milk. It must be in a smallish china cup (bigger than Espresso cup, smaller than Cappuccino cup). Because it has less milk, it tastes stronger, but it could be one or two shots.
It is nothing like an American Cappuccino (which is big, has a lot of light foam, and is often made with semi-skimmed milk). It is nothing like a Latte (which is a shot in a lot of milk in a big cup). It is a bit like a larger Macchiato (which is espresso with a dash of milk) or Cortado. Personally I like Flat Whites, Macchiatos, Cortados, and Cappuccinos as served in Italy – all small, dense drinks. The ‘whiff of coffee in bucket of milk’ drinks are not for me, but obviously a lot of people like them.
why all these english cafes offering 12 different types of coffee when they cant even make a decent espressso? if you dont like coffee order tea
Flat whites are not a recent fad, Christian. They have been part of the normal repertoire in decent cafes for decades. Where did you start working?
The way we make ours is a doubla shot in an 8oz ceramic cup with the milk steamed to about 55-60 celicius( just below pain threshold) with microfoam with a nice glossy sheen and its filled a little below the rim to a ratio of about 6:4
What a load of bullshit, i have spent 40 years in hospitality and only the last 20 years has the wikipedia wanna be crowd changed what a flat white was, some dickhead posts how he thinks it should be on wikipedia and everyone copies it to the point all website say the same thing, heads up fuckwits a flat white is not a latte or all milk, because if you are old enough to remember, coffee machines were called cappuccino machines, and used for shots and for cappuccinos, all other coffees long blacks and flat whites or black coffee and white coffee for the non wankers were poured from those glass pots, made on standard coffee machines, that is a fact, even an instant coffee is the same thing, we do not boil fucking milk to make someone a flat white at home, the type of coffee used be it instant, machine and pot or cappuccino machine does not change the name of the drink type, it never did, and of course all the fuckwits who think they can change a recipe and say ohh thats how we make it now, are as stupid as dickheads who change food recipes and call it the same thing it is not, a fucking boiled egg is not in a ceasar salad, bacon is not in a fucking eggs Benedict, nor is a fucking latte with some horseshit about the foam a flat white, we never drank flat lattes in the 80s because of all the fucking milk, and if you were an adult in the 80s you would remember it was the years of the no fat craze before the no carbs craze, we drank flat whites a standard coffee regardless of type 3/4 full before any milk was added. Ex Sheraton, ex Parkroyal, ISO certified food auditor. This and every website that has this is bullshit, but go off and have your bacon on eggs benedict instead of ham, you boiled eggs instead of coddled or poached on your ceasar and drink your non decorated lattes and call them whatever you like but they are not and will never be a flat white, you want to invent a new item go for it, but do not alter an existing recipe and call it the same thing.
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to order a perfect flat white?
About 1/2 the time or more, I get a weighted down latte basically, with a foam bucket on the top…as soon as i grab the cup, I immediately know if it’s going to be any good or not, they are delicious when I pick up the cup and it’s nice and light. Now I’m pretty sure the pouring of the milk has something to do with it but I can’t very well stand there and tell the barista how to
Pour the milk. I’ve asked the cashier before and they don’t seem to understand, they just suggest I use 2% or skim milk…
To me a flat white is a shot of coffee with a free pour of milk with a very small amount ( next to none) froth on top
A capiccino has a shot of coffee with stiff but smooth froth on top and chocolate powder.
A latte is the milk free poured into to a glass with some froth on top followed by the coffee shot.
It’s a glorified white coffee, all else is pretentious shit.
Reading this I don’t think I’ve actually had a proper flat-white. Pretty much all I’ve had are miniature lattes.
First time I asked for one was in an airport… truly dire.
But each time I’ve asked for one I’ve been disappointed.
This is loaded with misinformation. On the American side, at least… worked as a barista for four years. I’ve worked a couple of years at “speak easies” before I took on Starbucks for the benefits.
In all of the three shops I’ve worked at, the flat white is always the same: It’s one extra shot, ristretto (more espresso, less water when pulling) and whole milk. The “microfoam” bubbles happen when it’s poured high.
My gawd the responses here are hilarious. It’s clear that almost everyone who has ever ordered or has been served a “flat white” has come to believe that whatever they received was the definitive item. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that unlike most espresso based drinks, it doesn’t have 100+ years of history to define the “correct” style (mind you, most shops can still screw up a cappuccino).
I’m not in a position to claim to know what the holy grail is when it comes to the flat white. I will say that almost any flat white I’ve ordered in North America is the furthest thing from the beverage of the same name that I experienced in Australia (or even Japan for that matter).
For me the flat white is glossy microfoam infused whole milk poured slowly over a double shot ristretto in a small (5 oz) cup. If you can make a larger version my hat is off to you—the amount of microfoam that can be supported in suspension is seriously limited. What you get at the end is a coffee forward silky smooth drink, light and creamy from top to bottom. And, I would add, one that is damn difficult to make well.
I’ve pretty well given up on ordering flat whites in my part of the world (Vancouver, Canada). Just too much disappointment. Luckily I can DIY it with my espresso machine at home (and yes I screw it up on occasion and end up with a short latte—meh).
I’m not sure if there is a clear definition for the drink or if there ever will be one. I just know what I like.
For me an ideal holy grail flat white is: 2 shots of espresso with an equal amount of milk (extra hot milk and hold back the foam with a spatula when pouring the milk quickly into a preheated cup) and for me add 1 sugar to balance the bitterness of coffee.
Flat white 🙂 Yum 🙂
For me, a flat white is as strong or weak as you prefer but without any froth and with dense velvet micro-form all the way down.
It’s almost impossible to do with a steam frother wand as to get enough foam the milk gets to hot and kills all the microfoam. I order them in cafés but have only ever had a few that were OK. There’s no point giving a different name to something that’s the same as something else but a different size.
I make mine at home using a cafetière, heating the milk in a microwave to 62°C
I know it’s off-topic but hot chocolate made with microfoam is fantastic.