What is a Flat White?

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In the diverse world of coffee, the flat white stands out as a smooth, balanced, and velvety espresso-based drink that has captivated coffee lovers across the globe.

With roots in Australia and New Zealand, the flat white has become a signature beverage in specialty coffee culture, offering a unique take on the traditional espresso and milk combination.

In this Coffee Expert guide, we’ll delve into the origins, characteristics, and variations of the flat white, helping you better understand and appreciate this popular coffee creation.

The Origins of the Flat White

Australian and New Zealand Beginnings

The flat white has its origins in Australia and New Zealand, where it first gained popularity in the 1980s. While the exact origin of the flat white is a subject of debate, there’s no doubt that this beverage has become a hallmark of the vibrant coffee culture in both countries.

Global Expansion

Over the past few decades, the flat white has made its way around the world, becoming a staple in specialty coffee shops and capturing the hearts of coffee enthusiasts from London to New York.

The Components of a Flat White


The foundation of a flat white is a double shot of espresso, which provides the bold coffee flavour and aroma that forms the backbone of the beverage.

Steamed Milk

Steamed milk is the primary component of a flat white, delivering a smooth, velvety texture and a subtle natural sweetness.

The milk should be steamed to a microfoam consistency, with a focus on incorporating the froth into the milk to create a uniform, silky texture.

Milk-to-Espresso Ratio

The flat white is characterized by a higher espresso-to-milk ratio compared to other espresso-based drinks like the latte and cappuccino.

This results in a more pronounced coffee flavour and a slightly thicker, creamier texture.

How to Make a Flat White

1. Pull Your Espresso Shots

Begin by pulling a double shot of espresso using freshly ground coffee beans. Aim for a rich and balanced extraction, as the espresso will provide the core coffee flavour in your flat white.

2. Steam the Milk

Steam the milk to create a silky, microfoam consistency. Be cautious not to overheat or over-froth the milk, as this can negatively impact the taste and texture of your flat white.

3. Pour the Milk over the Espresso

Slowly pour the steamed milk into the espresso, ensuring that the milk and espresso mix evenly. The milk should form a smooth, creamy layer that perfectly complements the bold espresso.

Enjoying and Pairing Your Flat White

Sipping and Savouring

When enjoying a flat white, take small sips to appreciate the harmony between the espresso and milk.

Notice how the milk enhances the espresso’s natural flavours, while also adding a touch of sweetness and creaminess.

Pairing Suggestions

A flat white pairs well with a variety of sweet or savoury treats, such as muffins, scones, or a classic Aussie favourite, the lamington.

Feel free to experiment with different pairings to find your perfect flat white accompaniment.

Variations of the Flat White

Size and Strength

The flat white can be customized to suit personal preferences for size and strength. Some coffee shops offer “small” or “large” flat whites, adjusting the milk-to-espresso ratio accordingly.

Others may add an extra shot of espresso for a bolder coffee experience.

Alternative Milks

Flat whites can also be made with alternative milk options, such as almond, soy, oat, or coconut milk.

These alternatives cater to those with dietary restrictions or preferences and may also impart unique flavour nuances to the flat white.

Flavoured Flat Whites

While the traditional flat white is enjoyed without added flavours, some coffee lovers choose to incorporate a variety of syrups, such as caramel, vanilla, or hazelnut, to add an extra layer of sweetness and complexity to the drink.

The Flat White in Modern Coffee Culture

Specialty Coffee Scene

As specialty coffee culture continues to flourish, the flat white has secured its place as a favourite among coffee enthusiasts for its balanced, velvety, and approachable nature.

The flat white’s popularity has inspired a range of innovative adaptations and flavour combinations, further enriching the world of espresso-based beverages.

Flat White vs. Other Espresso-Based Drinks

The flat white is closely related to other espresso-based drinks, such as the latte and cappuccino.

The primary difference between these beverages lies in their espresso-to-milk ratios and milk textures.

The latte has a lower espresso-to-milk ratio with a thinner layer of microfoam, while the cappuccino features equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth.

Our Conclusion on the Flat White

The flat white is a distinctive and enticing coffee creation that showcases the harmonious marriage of espresso and steamed milk.

By understanding the origins, components, and variations of the flat white, you can better appreciate this delightful beverage and confidently order or create it at home.

Whether you’re a seasoned espresso aficionado or a newcomer to the coffee scene, the flat white offers a balanced and velvety experience that is sure to tantalize your taste buds and awaken your senses.