What is and how to make a flat white coffee. A lot of people have a lot of opinions, what are the facts though?

What is a flat white coffee?

A flat white coffee is an espresso-based coffee drink with steamed milk with a layer of micro-foam. Micro-foam is steamed milk which has gently been infused with air, which produces silky, textured milk containing lots of tiny air bubbles. Air bubbled shouldn’t be visible when the coffee is perfeclty made, and is traditionally served is a 5oz or 6oz cup.

The popular drink originated in the Southern Hemisphere in the 1980s. Some people say it was first created in Australia while others say New Zealand. It’s since become one of the most popular drinks in coffee shops and cafes today, but making a great flat white coffee seems to be quite a complex process with a lot of different recipes. Baristas around the world love creating the flat white, due to it being a little more technical and tricky to create, whilst showing off their coffee art skills.

The flat white became increasingly popular as more and more people started going to the likes of coffee chain giants such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee. Though there isn’t any real problem with Starbucks or Costa Coffee, the more independent coffee shops certainly have more passion when making a flat white and other specialty coffee drinks, not to mention the beans that an independent cafe use will usually be of a higher grade.

If you keep in mind that you’re creating a smaller latte and a larger cortado, you can’t go far wrong as a starting point – but not many baristas will admit to that! However you go about creating your flat white, just make sure you get the basics right, which we’ll be able to help you with

To make your flat white coffee, follow these simple steps:

How to make a flat white coffee: 1. Create your espresso shot. Make sure to weigh your coffee dose and time taken to draw your espresso. 2. Steam your milk to a silky texture, creating microfoam bubbles. Stretching milk to the correct consistency isn’t easy, so make sure you keep practicing. 3. Get rid of any bubbles in the milk which may have been created. You can do this by gently tapping your milk jug on your counter-top. 4. Swirl your espresso in your mug and add the milk. If you have the best quality espresso shot possible and textured the milk correctly, you’ll be able to create latte art. If you follow the steps above, you’ll be able to create a flat white. The most important thing to creating any coffee is practise and knowing your dosages.

What is microfoam?

We mentioned in the above steps that you need to create a microfoam consistency in your milk when you’re steaming it, so we thought it’d be useful explaining what microfoam is and why it’s important when making a flat white. There are probably many ways a barista will tell you how to create microfoam, but the most important thing is knowing what to look out for, and what to avoid. If when steaming your milk you see ‘microfoam bubbles’ that look silky-smooth or velvety, you’ll have the right consistency. If you see a more matt-like texture and larger bubbles, you haven’t created the right milk foam, you will have places the steam wand too shallow.

What’s the best coffee for a flat white?

Choosing the coffee which works best for a flat white really depends on your own taste preferences. Do you prefer a sweet and fruity coffee, or a dark and earthy one? Regardless of your own personal preference, it’s always best to use a single origin specialty coffee, rather than a blend, unless the blend is a mix between different single origin coffee beans which compliment each other. You want to make sure you’re using the best quality coffee beans you can get your hands on, because a big part of the flat white is creating the latte art or ‘flat white’ art. The key to creating your art is to first produce the best crème you can, and this goes down to the quality of the bean being used. If you have a cafe, make sure you’re using coffee beans with a grade of 80 or above, we wrote a piece on specialty coffee if you want to learn more.

Flat white vs latte

So what’s the difference between a flat white and a latte? In actual fact, there isn’t a lot of difference between the two, except for the espresso shot. The flat white is served in a 6oz or 8oz cup, while the latte is usually served from an 8oz – 16oz cup. The flat white is always created with a double shot espresso, meaning the espresso to milk ratio is always smaller, creating a stronger and richer taste.

Flat white vs cappuccino

The flat white is a very different drink to the more traditional cappuccino; the difference surrounds the milk to foam to espresso ratio. The cappuccino has 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 foam, whereas the flat white has double shot espresso and micro-foamed milk. A cappuccino is usually described to be more ‘fluffy’ than any other drink, hence the foam.

To conclude

To conclude this article, the flat white coffee is essentially a small latte, regardless of what baristas might say – controversial, we know! It’s richer in flavour as the ratio of espresso to milk is smaller and it usually comes in 6oz or 8oz cups or mugs. Baristas around the world usually love creating the flat white, because it tests their skills a little more than a traditional latte, cappuccino or americano. In all coffees, to create the best drink you need the highest quality beans you can find and the best roasting profile for them, these will produce a much better crème as well as allow the notes to emerge.

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