Why Flat White Is The New Go-To Coffee Choice For Millennials

Written By : Steve

The Flat White is a coffee drink that has risen to prominence especially among Millennials, often found nestled on café menus alongside classic lattes and punchy espressos. It is appreciated for its velvety balance of rich espresso and creamy milk, brought together in a harmonious blend that offers coffee lovers a smooth texture and robust flavor. The debate over its origins between Australia and New Zealand adds a layer of intrigue to this already beloved beverage, creating a rich tapestry of coffee culture.

As you explore the world of coffee, understanding the nuances that distinguish the Flat White from other coffee drinks can enhance your appreciation for barista craft. It’s all about the ratio of coffee to milk and the texture of the foam that crowns the drink.

Careful brewing techniques and the choice of ingredients are key to creating the signature microfoam that gives the Flat White its name. In your own kitchen, the personalization of the Flat White becomes possible with a bit of practice, allowing for a custom coffee experience tailored to your palate.

Key Takeaways

  • A Flat White offers a unique balance of espresso and steamed milk with a fine microfoam.
  • The origins of the Flat White contribute to its mystique and popularity within coffee culture.
  • Personalizing your Flat White involves specific brewing techniques and careful selection of ingredients.

Origins and Popularity

The debate over the origin of the flat white is a tale of trans-Tasman rivalry, with both Australia and New Zealand staking a claim. As you explore the roots and subsequent dispersion of this beloved beverage, you’ll understand how it became an integral part of global coffee culture.

The Australian and New Zealand Roots

Australia alleges the flat white was first poured on their shores, with claims of it appearing on café menus in the mid-1980s. The story goes that Aussie barista Alan Preston introduced the term “flat white” to Sydney’s coffee scene, solidifying its status as a national staple.

Meanwhile, across the Tasman Sea, Bar Bodega in Wellington, New Zealand, also proclaims itself as the drink’s creator, contending that the flat white reflects the Kiwi penchant for rich yet balanced coffee.

Global Reach and Coffee Culture

The flat white’s ascent to global popularity is a testament to its appeal beyond the Antipodean borders. Recognized for its velvety microfoam atop a rich espresso base, the flat white has been woven into the fabric of international coffee culture. It has seen significant adaptation and inclusion, with cafés from London to Los Angeles now featuring the flat white on their menus, marking its journey from a local specialty to a global phenomenon.

Brewing Techniques

Perfecting your Flat White starts with two key components: expertly brewed espresso and smoothly steamed milk. By mastering these elements, you can create a harmonious balance of rich coffee flavor and velvety texture that defines this popular beverage.

The Espresso Foundation

To begin, you need a strong espresso foundation. Use an espresso machine with a portafilter specifically for ristretto shots, ensuring a richer and more concentrated espresso. Aim for a coffee to water ratio that’s tighter than a standard espresso.

Typically, a ristretto shot uses half the water of a full espresso. Remember, the quality of your espresso beans and the fineness of the grind are crucial to the end result—choose a high-quality, medium-roast coffee and grind it finely right before brewing to capture the beans’ freshest flavors.

Steamed Milk and Microfoam Creation

Next is steamed milk and microfoam creation. Your steam wand is indispensable here. Start with cold, fresh milk; whole milk is preferred for its rich texture. When you froth the milk, angle the steam wand to create a swirling vortex.

This technique not only heats the milk but also introduces air, creating that silky microfoam essential for a Flat White. The goal is to achieve a smooth and glossy consistency without large bubbles—the finer the bubbles, the better the microfoam will integrate with the espresso.

Latte Art Considerations

Although not essential, latte art adds aesthetic pleasure to your Flat White. The secret to beautiful latte art lies in the pour. Once you have your espresso and microfoam ready, pour the milk from a low height, starting in the center and then moving in a swift motion to create your design, be it a heart or a rosetta.

The high proportion of micro-foam to liquid milk in a Flat White makes for a canvas conducive to latte art, but this requires practice and a steady hand. It’s not just decorative; latte art is a sign of well-frothed milk and can enhance the overall experience of the drink.

Flat White vs. Other Coffee Drinks

When exploring the rich world of espresso-based beverages, you’ll find that the Flat White holds a unique position with its distinctive coffee to milk ratio and texture. Understanding how a Flat White differs from drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, Americanos, and cortados is essential to appreciating its nuances.

Distinguishing From Lattes and Cappuccinos

Latte: You may notice that a latte has more milk than a Flat White, leading to a milder coffee flavor. Typically, a latte comprises one third espresso, two thirds heated milk, and is topped with a small amount of foam.

Cappuccino: In contrast, a cappuccino offers a stronger coffee presence with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and frothy milk foam, creating distinct layers. The foam on a cappuccino is thicker and airier than that of a Flat White.

While Flat Whites are similar to these drinks, they boast a higher concentration of coffee and a velvety microfoam that blends seamlessly with the beverage, rather than sitting atop.

Comparison to Americano and Cortado

Americano: Different from milk-based coffee drinks, an Americano consists of espresso shots diluted with hot water, giving you a coffee-forward drink with a light body and no milk.

Cortado: Meanwhile, a cortado provides a balance closer to a Flat White but with less milk, resulting in a strong but smooth espresso flavor. The difference lies in the milk’s texture; cortados have little to no foam, creating a dense and coffee-focused experience.

For Flat Whites, the emphasis is on the harmony between the velvety microfoam and the rich espresso, which often contains a strong caffeine presence due to the use of double shots, making it a favorite for those seeking a robust yet smooth coffee experience.

Ingredients and Equipment

Crafting the perfect Flat White starts with the right selection of quality ingredients and reliable equipment. Here’s what you’ll need to gather to make this espresso-based classic.

Coffee Beans and Roast Types

Selecting high-quality coffee beans is crucial for a flavorful Flat White. Typically, a medium or dark roast is used to achieve the rich and bold taste characteristic of this beverage. The roast level impacts the bitterness and strength, with dark roast offering a more intense flavor profile suitable for cutting through the milk.

  • Optimal Bean Choice:
    • Medium Roast
    • Dark Roast

Milk Variants and Alternatives

The choice of milk significantly affects the texture and taste of your Flat White. Whole milk is standard due to its creamy consistency and ability to froth well, creating the silky texture desired. However, milk alternatives like oat milk and 2% milk can also be used, paying mind to how each option steams and integrates with the espresso.

  • Milk Options:
    • Whole Milk (Recommended)
    • 2% Milk
    • Oat Milk (Popular Alternative)

Essential Barista Equipment

To make a Flat White, you will need an espresso machine with a steam wand or a similar setup to extract rich espresso shots and steam the milk. If you are exploring manual methods, options such as a Nespresso, French Press, or Aeropress can be used for the coffee extraction, while a separate milk frother is needed to achieve the milk’s microfoam.

  • Required Equipment:
    • Espresso Machine with Steam Wand (Ideal)
    • Manual Coffee Maker (Nespresso, French Press, Aeropress)
    • Milk Frother

Remember, a consistent grind is key for extracting espresso, so a quality grinder is as important as the coffee maker itself.

Recipes and Personalization

Crafting the perfect Flat White involves understanding the precise recipe and then adjusting it to cater to personal preferences. Below, you’ll find the traditional approach to making a Flat White, along with tips for tweaking it to suit your individual taste.

Standard Flat White Recipe

To make a Standard Flat White, you need to start with a strong base: the ristretto espresso. The typical ratio is one part espresso to two parts milk, giving the drink its signature intensity and rich flavor profile.


  • 2 ristretto espresso shots (using a dark roast for a more intense flavor)
  • 150 ml (about 5 oz) steamed whole milk (velvety texture is crucial)


  1. Pull two ristretto shots from your espresso machine.
  2. Steam the milk until it reaches a creamy consistency with a smooth, velvety texture.
  3. Pour the steamed milk over the espresso in a pre-warmed cup, aiming for a size of about 6 ounces in total.

Customization for Personal Taste

To personalize your Flat White, consider the sensorial profile you enjoy in a specialty coffee. You might adjust the ratio of espresso to milk or experiment with milk alternatives for dietary needs or flavor preferences.

  • Espresso: For a bolder taste, increase the espresso to a double espresso or choose a single-origin coffee for a unique taste.
  • Milk: Alter the milk volume to adjust the strength, or substitute with oat, almond, or soy for a different texture.
  • Designs: Practice your latte art by creating designs on top of the Flat White, adding a personal touch to the visual presentation.

Remember that the key to an exceptional Flat White is the harmony between the rich espresso and the smooth, velvety milk. Personalize cautiously, respecting the drink’s intrinsic balance.

Enjoying and Serving

A proper enjoyment of a Flat White begins with its serving and extends to the environment in which you savor it. Your Flat White, a dairy-based drink appreciated by coffee lovers the world over, becomes a complete experience when presented and paired thoughtfully.

The Perfect Serve

Your Flat White should arrive in a pre-warmed mug that retains the coffee’s heat and showcases the coffee’s rich aroma. Baristas typically aim for a mug that holds about 160–165ml (5.5–5.6oz) of liquid, the ideal size for the perfect ratio of espresso to milk.

The hallmark of a well-served Flat White is the velvety microfoam layering the top, which requires the barista’s skill in milk texturing—steaming milk to a silky consistency without creating large bubbles. When you tilt the mug, the microfoam should fluidly coat the sides, indicating the perfect integration of coffee and milk.

Pairing with Foods and Atmospheres

Selecting the right foods to accompany your Flat White can elevate your tasting experience. Consider items that balance or complement its creamy texture and rich flavors:

  • Pastries: Croissants, danishes, or scones offset the richness with their buttery layers.
  • Chocolates: A piece of dark chocolate can contrast pleasantly with the sweetness of the milk.
  • Savory: Quiche or a ham and cheese toastie pair well without overpowering the blend’s subtlety.

The atmosphere of your chosen coffee shop also contributes significantly to your enjoyment. Seek out spaces where the hum of conversation is present but not overwhelming, where the gentle clink of mugs and soft music create a relaxed backdrop for your pause in the day. Whether you opt for a bustling urban café or a tranquil, dimly lit nook, the setting should feel conducive to leisurely sipping your meticulously crafted Flat White.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find concise answers to common questions about flat whites, from their distinct characteristics compared to lattes and cappuccinos to their history and variation in calories.

What distinguishes a flat white from a latte in terms of preparation and taste?

A flat white is typically served in a smaller cup with a higher coffee to milk ratio, leading to a stronger espresso flavor than a latte. While both drinks use steamed milk, a flat white’s microfoam layer is thinner, creating a velvety texture.

How does a flat white differ from a cappuccino regarding milk texture and coffee ratio?

A flat white is smoother with less froth compared to a cappuccino, which has a distinct layer of dry foam on top. Cappuccinos have equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, whereas flat whites focus on a velvety microfoam blended with a higher coffee concentration.

Can you share a standard recipe for making a flat white at home?

To make a flat white at home, start with a double shot of espresso. Then, steam milk to create a smooth microfoam. Pour the milk over the espresso from a low height for a seamless blend, finishing with a little foam on top.

What variations of the flat white does Starbucks offer to its customers?

Starbucks’ adaptations of the flat white can include various sizes, milk options like soy or almond, and possible flavor additions such as vanilla or caramel. Customers can customize their drink to their taste preferences.

How does a flat white’s calorie count compare to other coffee beverages?

The calorie count in a flat white can be lower than other milk-based coffee drinks if it’s made with skimmed or low-fat milk. Compared to a regular latte or cappuccino, which may have more milk and sugar, a standard flat white offers a lighter option.

What is the history and origin of the flat white coffee?

The flat white is believed to have originated in Australia or New Zealand in the 1980s. It was created as a response to the preference for a coffee drink with pronounced espresso taste, complemented by steamed milk.