What is a Flat White?
A flat white is an espresso-style coffee drink with a rich and creamy texture that originated in New Zealand or Australia, depending on which version of the story you choose to believe.
To make the delicious bevy, combine two shots of ristretto with twice as much microfoam. The ristretto provides depth and intensity to the flat white, while the microfoam gives the drink its signature creamy texture.
About the Flat White
|Coffee Base||ristretto (or espresso)|
|Coffee : Milk Ratio||1 : 2|
|Type of Milk||microfoam|
|Cup||glass espresso cup|
|Supplies||ristretto or espresso, milk|
|Sugar or Added Flavors||no added flavors|
|Notes||milk is heated and turned into a thick microfoam (as opposed to a light and airy froth)|
Flat White – Step-by-Step
There are only a few steps to making a flat white, but each requires time and attention. You need to brew the ristretto or espresso and prepare the microfoam. Each can be a little tricky, depending on your home setup.
You’re ahead of the game if you’re fortunate enough to have a full-service espresso machine with a quality steam wand. But if you’re using a handheld milk frother instead, then some practice will make perfect.
1. Use a six-ounce glass espresso cup if you have one, and run it under hot water to keep the fresh coffee warm.
2. Prepare two shots of ristretto or two shots of espresso
Note: Ristretto will produce a more robust flavor, as it’s a short espresso that uses the same amount of coffee but half as much water.
3. Prepare ½ cup of microfoam using a steam wand (if you don’t have a steam wand, there’s an alternative method below).
4. Heat the milk to about 150 degrees with a thick consistency instead of light and airy, like cappuccino foam.
5. A flat white uses an approximate ratio of one part coffee to two parts microfoam, so add enough microfoam to the two shots of coffee to fill the six-ounce cup.
6. Give it a stir to combine, and add just a touch more microfoam on top for a layered effect. You can also show off your artistic side with some artwork!
Combining both elements into one delicious beverage gives you a smooth cup of coffee with well-rounded flavor notes and exquisite body structure. The robustness from the ristretto and sweetness from the microfoam creates an incredibly flavorful experience that can truly delight in every single sip!
No Steam Wand? No Problem
You can still create quality microfoam with a handheld milk frother, and you can get one for as little as $10.
As the milk frother won’t heat the milk like the wand, you’ll steam the milk first and then use the frother. A tip to getting a richer microfoam with this method is to use a wider cup, so your milk is shallower. Then, get to work creating those tiny bubbles by positioning the wand or frother in the middle of the milk (not on top as you would for froth). You can also stop once or twice and press the bubbles down with a spoon. You want a thick consistency as opposed to light and airy.
Flat White vs. Cortado
A flat white and a cortado are two espresso-based drinks that are similar in many ways yet have a few distinct differences.
The key distinction between the two drinks lies in the texture of the steamed milk. A flat white is made with a thicker, velvety texture of steamed milk turned into microfoam, while a cortado uses steamed milk (no bubbles). The flat white is also slightly hotter than a cortado, as the thicker milk can provide insulation to keep the espresso hot.
The taste of the two drinks is also slightly different. The flat white has a more intense flavor, provided by ristretto instead of espresso. However, the cortado has a 1:1 ratio of espresso and milk, whereas the flat white is 1:2.
Tips for Making the Most Delicious Flat White At Home
- Use two shots of ristretto instead of espresso.
- If you’re using ground espresso, grind the beans extra fine right before you’re ready to brew.
- Run your espresso cup under hot water first to retain as much heat as possible.
- 1 or 2 percent milk provides a creamier consistency.
- If you’re not using a steamer to heat the milk, warm it to 140 to 150 degrees before the microfoam process.
- Focus on producing a thick microfoam with very few bubbles instead of a light and airy froth typically associated with a cappuccino.
- Don’t be deterred if you don’t have the proper equipment. You can buy coffee sticks to make espresso and a $10 frother for barista-worthy microfoam.
Flat Whites are sometimes compared to Lattes, but Lattes use more milk and rely on steamed milk more than microfoam
Spillin’ the Beans Espresso Making Alternatives
Frequently Asked Questions About the Flat White
A Flat White is an espresso-style beverage made with ristretto and milk turned into a thick microfoam for added richness.
While both beverages are made with espresso and milk, the Flat White has less milk than a Latte. It also has a more velvety texture and a stronger espresso flavor because of the ristretto.
The Ristretto is a short shot of espresso, using the same amount of coffee but with a finer grind and half as much water. It’s used in a Flat White to add a more robust flavor.