What is a Flat White Coffee & How to Make it?


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This favorite Australian drink has been taking the International coffee scene by storm and is now practically a coffee shop standard.

For some people who might not be well-versed in the language of coffee, the flat white can look like any other over-creamed beverage reminiscent of cappuccino or macchiato.

But you’d be surprised at how much this beverage can stand out against the more established international coffee types. After all, if it’s slowly becoming the new face of creamy coffees, then it must be doing something right.

Focus what is flat white coffee and how to make it

Whether you’re ordering a flat white at your local Starbucks or trying your hand at making your own, we can all agree that there is still a lot to unpack when it comes to this rising drink.

So here are all the things that you need to know about flat white:

What is Flat White?

Focus what is flat white coffee and how to make it

Flat white coffee is an Australian and New Zealander favorite. For you to be more familiar with this wonderful beverage, we’re taking this in comparison approach.

Like other coffee types in its category, the flat white coffee is also an espresso-based drink with the addition of steamed milk.

However, unlike cappuccinos, lattes, or macchiato, the flat white is a no-fuss drink that is extremely coffee-forward. That makes this drink perfect for those who enjoy a milky texture and mouthfeel but still wishes to have a more pronounced flavor of coffee.

The flat white coffee is also served in much smaller quantities compared to other coffee types of the same category. A traditional flat white is served in servings of 180ml. It is not meant to fit in large coffee cups on the go, but rather, is enjoyed sitting down to be savored.

In Australia and New Zealand, this coffee is also a form of art. Much like latte arts, the flat white also makes use of minimal foam in order to enhance the difference between the milk and the coffee. This brings us to the most distinguished feature of flat white: the foam, or rather, the lack of it.

It’s already a signature for milky coffee to have a generous foam on top of it due to the aeration of the milk. But when it comes to this drink, the foam from steaming the milk is disregarded in order to ensure that the espresso crema will stay intact.

Foam or No Foam? The Rationale Behind Flat White Coffee

Focus what is flat white coffee and how to make it

The flat white coffee is the only coffee type in its category that doesn’t make use of the foam when milk is steamed and aerated.

As we mentioned before, the foam is disregarded to make sure that the espresso crema will stay intact on your drink. But what difference does it really make when it comes to the taste of your coffee?

The crema refers to the thin layer of foam that naturally occurs on top of the espresso. It is essentially the natural oils from the coffee grounds that reacted to carbon dioxide. This is formed when air bubbles from the brewing process combined with the soluble oils of the coffee.

The espresso crema holds a lot of flavor and aroma. It’s also responsible for the fuller taste and body of the coffee, as well as the pleasant aftertaste.

Since the flat white is more coffee-forward, the espresso crema is important in keeping the flavors of the flat white stronger. But simply adding the steamed milk without the foam, you’re able to have the same mouthfeel as other cream-based coffee but still keep the prominent flavor of the espresso.

The History of Flat White Coffee

Much like other Australia VS New Zealand debates, the place where flat white coffee originated is also contested.

There’s very little to know about the true origin of the flat white coffee but what we know is that this coffee originated in either Australia or New Zealand sometime around the 1980s. Despite being only recognized in the mainstream coffee scene recently, the flat white is well-established in the two countries.

While there’s no specific backstory to this coffee, it’s deduced that the flat white was naturally born out of Australia and New Zealand when there was a huge wave of transition between instant coffee to espresso-based coffee.

This coffee evolution resulted in coffee cafes switching to espresso-based coffee for better flavor but still be recognizable to their customers. Since the existing creamy type of coffees like cappuccino and latte aren’t exactly strong enough like the instant coffee mixed with a form of creamer, the flat white was born.

To make the flat white even more distinguishable, it went the complete opposite to the cappuccino which back then, had mountainous peaks of foam. It was then called flat white due to its milky appearance and a “flat top” because of its lack of foam.

How to Make Flat White Coffee

Focus what is flat white coffee and how to make it

Like other types of coffee, the flat white also starts with a shot of espresso.

If you have an espresso machine, you can easily make your espresso shot by freshly grinding coffee beans or using the reliable espresso pods and let the machine do the work. But if you don’t have a coffee machine, you can either use a French Press, Moka Pot, or an Aero Press.

The instructions to make your espresso shot is the same as you would regularly use your chosen method of brewing. As for the ratio, you would normally need at least 20 grams of ground coffee to make a single shot.

We highly recommend making at least two espresso shots per person so you can easily customize the strength of your flat white coffee.

Here’s how to make your own cup of flat white:

Flat White Coffee

Focus what is flat white coffee and how to make it

Ingredients

  • Double espresso shot
  • Milk
  • Milk steamer/frother

Instructions

  1. Make your espresso shots by your preferred choice of method. For those who are using a coffee machine (either with coffee grounds or pods), change the setting approximately to create at least two shots of espresso or simply repeat the process.
  2. On a steel pitcher, heat and froth your milk until the pitcher is hot to touch. You don’t want to boil it. If you want to follow an exact temperature for your milk, a minimum temp of 55 degrees Celsius or near is appropriate.
  3. Once your double espresso shot is ready, pour it on a ceramic cup. The espresso should at least reach a third of your cup’s total volume.
  4. Grab your heated milk and if there’s foam formed on the top, use a spoon to gently scoop it up and discard it. Don’t mix the froth and milk together since it will highly affect your coffee.
  5. Then carefully, within disturbing the crema, add your heated milk to the espresso. Pour the milk down the side of the cup or you could also use the back of the spoon. Try your hand at some flat white coffee art then serve immediately.

Tips on Making the Perfect Flat White Coffee

The flat white relies on the heated milk to have that velvety texture. To achieve this every time you make your cup, keep the temperature of the milk between 55 to 62 degrees Celsius.

Any less than that won’t make the milk aerated enough. If it reaches the boiling temperature, it will ruin the texture and the bubbles that the milk has created during the heating process.

Before you pour the milk, thump the pitcher once or twice on the counter but do so gently. This helps pop the bubble within the milk and will give you a “flatter” appearance.

You could also slowly swirl the milk around the pitcher. However, don’t take a spoon and stir the milk!

Follow the proper proportions for a flat white if you want the drink to be more than the traditional serving size. The proportion is 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk.

The addition of coffee art might not affect the taste of your coffee, but it will certainly take your coffee experience at another level. The flat white coffee is a perfect coffee type to practice your coffee art skills. Just pour the milk slowly and guide the pitcher to create whichever pattern you wish to have.

What is the Difference Between Flat White and Latte?

Focus what is flat white coffee and how to make it

Given the fact that the smooth, velvety and strong flat white is everywhere nowadays, it’s unavoidable to compare it to the humble Latte.

While every coffee shop serves both flat white and latte slightly differently, there’s nothing to separate the two from each other.

It’s a common misconception that a latte contains more froth and milk than a flat white. Historically, a Latte is served with steamed milk, slightly topped with more foam. On the other hand, The Flat White is served with a very thin, ‘flat’ layer of steamed milk, sitting on the top.

Also, to complicate things, most coffee shops serve Lattes with one or two shots of espresso, while a flat white has two.

However, nowadays, this foam factor and espresso thing has almost been discarded and has become optional. Both drinks are now delivered the same way. A flat white and latte can contain either a single or double measure of strong espresso, topped with a nice amount of steamed milk.

Is Flat White Stronger Than Cappuccino?

The flat white coffee is always likened to a cup of cappuccino but without the foam. But there are also other things that these two differ.

As for the body and texture of the coffee, the flat white is lighter and less dense compared to a cappuccino. A flat white only contains “micro-foam” aka small bubbles, while the cappuccino has stiffer milk foams.

When it comes to the taste, the flat white is a much more concentrated drink compared to the cappuccino. While the ratio of espresso for both drinks is the same (1/3 of the cup), the lack of foam on the flat white and the intact crema makes this drink tastes coffee-forward despite the amount of milk.

In Conclusion

Knowing and understanding the coffee process behind flat white will make your next coffee order a little bit smoother. With the rise of milky coffee drinks, there’s certainly a lot of assumptions to debunk when it comes to flat white, cappuccino, lattes, and macchiatos.

But surely, if you’re a fan of these coffee types, then the flat white coffee won’t let you down.

Like this Article? You Might Want to Read: What is an Americano Coffee Drink?