If you’re like the rest of the world, nothing beats a delicious cup of coffee. While some folks enjoy drinking it black, others love the taste of a frothy, creamy latte. Going to a coffee shop can be intimidating with so many options on the menu.
Starbucks, one of the biggest coffee chains in the world, rolled out the flat white on their menu in 2009 for their Canadian and Australian customers. Even though many people know this drink from the popular coffee shop, it’s been around since the 1980s.
Have you heard of a flat white coffee before? Do you know what it is? It’s not the easiest task in the world to memorize all of the unique offerings a coffee shop may have on its menu. Today we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about this delicious, rich, and tasty treat!
What is A Flat white?
Unless you’re a coffee connoisseur or a barista, you likely won’t know the difference between the most popular espresso-based drinks on the menu. The average Joe doesn’t know how a cappuccino differentiates from a latte and that’s okay! Later in this article, we’ll discuss some of the most popular options and how they’re different from a flat white.
So, what on earth is a flat white? Well, the first thing you’ll have to know is the different types of espresso pulls. High-end espresso machines allow the barista to be in control of the type of shot that comes out. While not all coffee shops have these options, all specialty shops should.
- Ristretto – less water runs through the grounds, leaving a more full and dense flavor.
- Normale – an “average” amount of water runs through the grounds.
- Lungo or Long shot – more water is pulled through, giving the drink a slightly weaker shot.
A flat white uses ristretto espresso shots to give the drink a rich and tasty profile. The barista will then expertly steam whole milk, creating microfoam. The milk is slowly poured into the espresso, leaving you with a scrumptious drink waiting to be enjoyed.
How Flat White is Different?
Now that you know how a flat white is made and a general idea of what it is, how is this drink different from a latte, cappuccino, cortado, or other espresso-based beverages? There are a lot of espresso-based beverages for the average consumer to keep track of. Below you’ll find detailed differences between the most popular and divine specialty coffee drinks.
How Flat White is Different From A Latte?
People have been drinking lattes for decades all around the world and drip coffee with milk for even longer. The beautiful country of Italy introduced us to a creamy, milky breakfast drink we now know as a latte. Although it was made a bit differently back then being made with stovetop coffee, it’s very similar to the treat we enjoy today.
Generally, a latte is thought of as espresso topped with steamed milk with a layer of microfoam on the top. Microfoam is the tiny bubbles you may see in the milk. It’s finely textured to give the creamiest, frothiest feel to the beverage. This can differ slightly from one type of coffee shop to another.
When it comes to the differences between a flat white and a latte, there isn’t much to mention, as they are relatively similar. One thing that sets them apart is a latte traditionally comes in multiple sizes, especially at second wave shops like Dunkin, whereas a flat white tends to be between 10 and 12 ounces.
A latte will often use normale shots and more milk. Flat whites are made with ristretto shots, whole milk, and have microfoam throughout the beverage, instead of just on top. Over the years as second-wave shops like Starbucks have adopted the flat white, they tend to blur the line between the two drinks.
How Flat White is Different From A Macchiato?
To make matters more confusing for customers and non-coffee experts, there are drinks like macchiatos, cappuccinos, and cortados as well. A macchiato is slightly larger than a shot of espresso. It’s generally around two to three ounces. It’s equal parts espresso and milk.
People often enjoy a macchiato with a glass of sparkling water and a cookie. It’s known to be a refined drink that’s for those who prefer to sip their drinks.
How Flat White is Different From A Cortado?
Cortados are the middle ground, with about four ounces total, giving you a bit more milk than a macchiato. Again, this is often served with a biscuit and sparkling water to allow the consumer to enjoy a decadent experience.
How Flat White is Different From a Cappuccino?
Lastly, a cappuccino is six ounces, with a little less milk and more froth than your average latte. If you don’t want to consume an entire latte and love the taste and notes of espresso, a cappuccino is a great alternative. And for those with a sweet tooth, a mocha is generally a latte with chocolate.
How to Make The Perfect Flat White?
So, how does one make a flat white? It isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Here are simple instructions as long as you have all of the proper materials.
You’ll need the following tools and ingredients:
- An espresso machine
- A tamper
- High-quality milk
- A steaming pitcher
- A steaming wand
- Coffee beans
These easy-to-follow steps will lead you to enjoy a flat white in no time!
- Start by grinding your beans into the portafilter. Make sure it’s nice and even, then tamp it with about 30 pounds of pressure.
- After that’s complete, put it in the machine and pull a ristretto shot.
- While the shot is pouring, pour your milk into the pitcher. To ensure the perfect microfoam it’s best to use cold pitchers.
- Place the wand in the center of the milk as you begin to steam. Once you hear the pitch change or feel the bottom of the pitcher getting slightly warm, move the wand to the wall of the pitcher.
- Now that the shot is done and the milk is steamed, tap the pitcher on the counter a couple of times to make sure any large bubbles get popped. Hold the pitcher handle with your first three fingers, putting your pointer on one side of the lip and the thumb on the other.
- Start pouring from higher up and as the cup fills, get closer to the surface. If you’re skilled in latte art, now is your chance to make any design you desire!
Things to Consider to Get The Best Result
There are a handful of things you’ll want to keep in mind when making a drink as complex as a flat white. While espresso and steamed milk may not seem that complicated, they can be harder than you think. Hopefully, these tips and tricks help you make the beverage as divine as can be!
One of the first tips you should consider is buying high-quality beans. You don’t want to use Folgers or pre-ground beans to make any espresso beverage. Keep in mind the types of roast you like and the notes you prefer.
Espresso in coffee shops usually is a lighter roast with bright notes. A fun fact not many consumers know is you can use any roast in your espresso machine, it doesn’t have to be labeled “espresso” to be used.
Microfoam is key when making a flat white. The best action you can take to ensure you can frothy little bubbles when steaming milk is to use a cold pitcher. Simply keep them in the fridge before making your coffee.
Don’t oversteam your milk! Doing so can create what once was a slightly sweet taste into an unpleasant burnt one. You can use a milk thermometer or go off of touch. If the pitcher is too hot to touch, the milk is plenty warm enough to use.
Always be sure to clean and “empty” the steam wand before and after making a drink. This ensures that you’re using a clean wand without any built-up residue. Speaking of milk, practice with how much you pour into the pitcher. It should never be more than half full and keep in mind that milk will expand with the heat from the steam wand.
Enjoy Your Flat White
Now you’re practically an expert on all things flat white! Whether you use this newfound knowledge to impress your co-workers at the water cooler or you make your friends a flat white for themselves, you’ve learned a new skill!
You don’t have to be a trained barista to know how to apply it. Stop by a specialty coffee shop near you to try it for yourself and ask if they have any extra tips and tricks for you making it at home!