What is a flat white coffee

Here’s What Flat White Coffee is [The Definitive Guide]

Piccolo latte, Mochaccino, Affogato, flat white. These are the new buzzing coffee drinks conquering the cafeterias around the world. But wait a minute, what is a flat white coffee?

Flat white is a coffee drink that contains a single or a double espresso shot, steamed milk and microfoam that are all mixed together.

A flat white features a strong coffee taste and a creamy, fluffy texture.

Typically, each white flat comes with a distinctive “florette” or another latte art pattern on top.

And in the following paragraphs you’ll learn where it came from, what’s the history behind it and what sets it apart from other types of coffee!

Where Did the Flat White Coffee Come From?

Flat white originates in the Oceania region i.e. Australia and New Zealand.

However, there’s a lot of confusion and debates regarding the exact country that was the birthplace of the flat white.

But despite the heated debates regarding which country was the first and actual birthplace of flat white, New Zealand seems tp gets the notch.

The name of the man who came up with flat white coffee is Derek Townsend and he could make more than 1500 cups of coffee per hour!

He sort of invented the flat white while he was working at the DKF café in New Zealand, back in 1984.

However, according to the Australians, Fraser McInnes from Wellington coined the term “flat white” in 1989 as he used it to describe a cappuccino with a thin and inconsistent froth.

It Took Flat White 20+ Years to Become Mainstream!

Indeed – Costa Coffee introduced the flat white to the UK market in 2010 and that’s how it started gaining more popularity.

This new trend in coffee drinks helped Costa Coffee increase their sales by 9.5% in the first 3 months after they added a flat white to their menu.

Today, the flat white falls into the category of the best-selling drinks in Costa Coffee shops across the globe.

Flat white started appearing in Starbucks menus outside of New Zealand and Australia on January 16th of 2015.

Basically, Starbucks introduced the flat white as a bold version of their popular latte drink.

This is how the flat white entered the mainstream coffee market and became a staple in coffee shops and cafeterias throughout the world.

What is a flat white coffee, florette artwork
Wow – talk about a top-notch flat white florette artwork!

What is a Flat White Coffee, in a Nutshell?

It is a cup that includes a single or double shot of espresso and some steamed milk that you then top off with microfoam for a spectacularly velvety structure.

As you pour milk over the espresso you’ll get a really tasty mixture, but you need to froth the milk with very tiny bubbles to achieve that authentic microfoam i.e. perfection!

Microfoam is the secret and essential ingredient of the flat white coffee that makes it so special.

This refined type of regular steamed milk is quite special as it requires certain skills to achieve.

If you don’t steam it evenly and at the right temperature, the milk will simply break into bubbles and as a result your flat white won’t be as good.

Microfoam gives the flat white that gentle touch and a silky smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

And don’t worry – we’ll discuss the process of making microfoam and how to make your own flat white in a bit, so stick around!

What is flat white coffee, two cups of caffe latte
This is what caffe latte looks like – it’s served in taller glass cups and has more overall volume than a flat white.

What is the Difference Between Flat White Coffee and Latte?

The major difference between these two coffee drinks is that flat white relies on less milk and less foam, while Caffe latte has more of both.

Another difference: Flat white’s foam is velvety, while latte’s foam is milky.

The microfoam found in a flat white is flatter and has less volume than the foam used in a latte, although microfoam is still smooth and creamy.

Latte boasts bigger foam bubbles whilst the ones in your flat white are barely noticeable, although still there.

Another difference: Flat white originated in New Zealand and Australia, while caffe latte originated in Italy (Europe).

However, a flat white is stronger and more concentrated than a latte as it contains more coffee than milk, even more so if you make it with 2 espresso shots.

The flat white coffee differs from lattes when it comes to the ideal serving sizes as well.

Another difference: Flat white is served in ceramic cups, while latte is usually served in tall glass cups.

As a general rule of thumb and when in doubt, always remember that anything larger than 6 oz is a latte since it uses much more milk and foam than a flat white.

And on a side note, another name that’s sometimes used for the flat white is ‘small latte‘.

What is a flat white coffee, a cup of cappuccino
Here’s a cup of traditional cappuccino – notice the bubbles at the top? You won’t see those in a flat white, as it blends the coffee, milk and microfoam together.

What is the Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino?

Flat white uses microfoam making for a silky texture, while cappuccino relies on frothed milk that makes for an airy foam on top.

Additionally, in cappuccino the milk froth is not blended into the drink, in contrast to flat white that mixes everything together.

Regardless of all the differences, cappuccino and flat white are both espresso-based and they both contain milk.

Moreover, cappuccinos are more diluted as they contain equal amounts of espresso, steamed milk and milk froth.

There are also differences taste-wise since sipping on a cappuccino might feel bubbly at first but that’s until you get hit by the more bitter taste of the coffee underneath.

Flat white is a whole different story as you get a smoother, more drinkable and milkier version of espresso.

Other than that, sometimes when you order your cappuccino, you might get a cute sprinkle (cocoa or chocolate) on top of the foam.

However, flat whites seem to inspire baristas more as you’re almost guaranteed to get a tulip, heart, leaf or another latte art coffee design on top.

Who is the Flat White For?

The flat white is for everyone who simply likes coffee – you, your family members, that lady on the bus or the well-groomed barista.

Or in other words, this coffee drink is a total crowd-pleaser.

However, if you prefer dairy-based beverages such as latte, the flat white with less milk might not be your absolute favorite.

Although it does contain milk, it still puts an accent on the profile of the beans.

What is a flat white coffee, coffee shop
They don’t even have “flat white” listed on their menu here. That’s because most people mistake it for a cappuccino or a latte.

Flat White Variations

The different ratios of coffee and milk in your cup can make you feel like you’ve never had the same flat white coffee twice before.

How’s that possible though?

By adding one or two shots of espresso or a ristretto to your flat white.

This will make a huge difference in terms of the strength of your cup.

Ristretto is shorter and more concentrated than espresso, which will make your flat white stronger and properly full-bodied but also – less bitter.

Note that the type, roast and freshness of the coffee beans that you’re using can also affect the strength of your flat white.

Typically, you need no more than 200 ml of milk per cup.

And you have to steam the milk at roughly 60 degrees before you pour over the espresso and you will get a perfect, thin layer of microfoam.

Yet, some baristas prefer a lower amount of milk per cup (160 ml), which, again makes a difference on how the end result tastes.

How to Make a Flat White at Home?

If you have an espresso machine, follow these steps:

  1. Pull 1 shot of espresso in a ceramic cup (fill up about 1/3s of the cup)
  2. Heat milk in a milk pitcher at a temperature of 54 to 60 degrees
  3. Froth milk but make sure to stir the bubbles with a spoon from the top of the pitcher to the bottom
    Note: This will help you to create that velvety, slightly bubbly texture of the flat white.
  4. Pour the steamed milk over the espresso

If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a Moka pot:

  1. Add water to the lower chamber of your pot to pre-heat it
  2. Grind your coffee beans and fill the basket with them
  3. Screw the pot and reduce the heat
  4. Remove it right before the coffee starts gurgling
  5. Heat the milk in a microwave or on the stovetop to 130 F degrees
  6. Whisk it in a bowl with a manual beater (or a frothing wand) for a couple of minutes to achieve a smooth texture
  7. Alternatively, you can froth it in a blender or use a manual frother
  8. Pour a layer of microfoam on top of the espresso

If you want a coffee-shop-like flat white, try this:

  1. Take the pitcher in which you steamed the milk beforehand and hold it in your dominant hand
  2. Tilt the cup of espresso with your non-dominant hand whilst being careful not to spill the content
  3. Gently pour some milk into the center of the cup
  4. Bring the pitcher closer to the cup and wiggle it as you pour the milk more rapidly to create the desired pattern
  5. Tilt the cup back once it is full and hastily lift the pitcher upward so it doesn’t mess up the shape you just created.


The volume of a cappuccino but with a latte texture – you see, a flat white is so much more than just a different coffee cup size.

Now that you know the answer to what is a flat white coffee, you can order one whenever you don’t feel like having your ordinary, run-of-the-mill cappuccino or espresso.

What do you think about this espresso-based drink by the way?

Are you a fan of the flat white or do you prefer more diluted coffee drinks?

Leave a comment in the section below with your answer!

4 thoughts on “Here’s What Flat White Coffee is [The Definitive Guide]”

    1. Hi there Ross!

      Glad you found this article helpful!

      We’re always trying to provide valuable information.

      Cheers and God bless,

      — Simon

  1. Great blog! I have heard somewhere about flat white coffee but have detailed information about that. Thank you for sharing this information. It Sounds really amazing I think I should try this for once.

    1. Hey there John – welcome!

      Glad you found our article helpful – that’s always our goal i.e. to provide concise and valuable information to our readers.

      Cheers and God bless,

      — Simon

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