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What is a Flat White? (And How to Make One)

A flat white is an up and coming coffee drink that has taken the world by storm. Often referred to as the ‘baby latte’, the flat white is a shorter, stronger version of the cafe au lait. 

But, what exactly is a flat white and how can you make one from the comfort of your own home? Well, let’s find out!  

What is a Flat White?

A flat white is made using a double shot of espresso (typically made from medium roasted beans) and steamed milk. The steamed milk must have micro foam to give it a rich, silky texture, and a flat white consists of 1 part espresso to 2 parts milk. A flat white is typically served in a 6 oz cup. 

Flat whites have become popularised due to their strength compared to a latte. You still get the same smooth, creamy steamed milk, but because there is a lower volume of it used in a flat white, the coffee taste is more pronounced. 

This makes the flat white perfect for the coffee lover that wants a short, sharp caffeine hit, but still wants to enjoy a bit of luxurious smooth milk at the same time. 

Flat whites are particularly popular in Australia, where they are referred to as ‘Flatties’. 

Why is it Called Flat White?

The origins of different coffee drinks are often hotly debated amongst coffee historians. Everyone wants to claim they invented the most popular espresso based drink in town! 

As far as the flat white goes, specific reference to it was first popularised in the public domain in the early 1960s in the British film “Danger by my Side”, according to the Flat White Wikipedia page. However, most sources conclude that the flat white was originally adopted by the Australians throughout the 1960s. 

This great article by coffee historian Michael Symons from January 2012, titled “Spilling the Beans” details the etymology of the name ‘flat white’. Apparently, Aussies combined the long black and hot milk ingredients to come up with what we now know as a flat white. 

My Opinion:

Flat whites have been popularised by Starbucks in North America, as have many global coffee drinks! But, as a big city commuter myself, I personally love a flat white! 

The combination of a punchy espresso shot and a nice helping of extra smooth, steamed milk with plenty of micro foam bubbles makes for a delicious start to a busy day in the office! 

How to Make a Flat White (Step by Step)

There are a few steps to follow if you want to make the perfect, barista style flat white from the comfort of your own home. 


Finely ground, Medium roasted espresso coffee beans

½  Cup/4 oz of milk


Espresso Machine

Milk steaming wand/Milk frother

(Alternatives): Aeropress/French Press/Milk Frother/Moka Pot/Percolator


Here is a simple step by step method to help you make a fantastic flat white cappuccino for yourself! 

Step 1: Choose Your Coffee Beans

The first step in making a great latte from the comfort of your own home is to pick the perfect coffee beans

Traditionally, flat whites are made using medium roasted coffee beans. This gives the drink a more mellow flavor compared to using a dark roast bean, which would give the flat white a sharper, more bitter taste. 

Therefore, picking a medium roasted coffee bean emphasizes the nutty flavor of the coffee even more in this drink, given the lower volume of milk used compared to say a cappuccino or latte. 

If you want to take your coffee beans selection to the next level, then trying a different blend of coffee bean varieties will add even more bite and caffeine to your flat white. 

Step 2: Brew Your Espresso

Next, you’ll need to brew your double espresso. 

To do this, grind your coffee beans finely if you have a grinder at home. Alternatively, look out for ground coffee that is labelled as an espresso grind, as this will be fine enough to use in your espresso machine. Finely ground coffee is essential for espresso, as it allows for the maximum surface area and extraction. 

Simply add your ground coffee to your portafilter, distribute evenly, tamp and away you go! 

If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, you could also use a moka pot, percolator or aeropress to brew strong espresso. For a french press or moka pot, you’ll want to use a coarser grind. This ensures your coffee isn’t over extracted when using a submersion method compared to a pressurized water method of coffee brewing. 

If you don’t have a fancy espresso machine at home, check out these 7 alternative ways to make espresso-like coffee!

Step 3: Prepare Your Steamed Milk

Once your espresso is brewed, it’s time to steam your milk. 

If you are using an espresso machine with a built-in milk steaming wand, simply turn the setting on to activate this and your steaming water will automatically heat up through your coffee machine itself. 

Simply pour your ½ cup of milk into a metal steaming pitcher, place the wand into the pitcher and slowly place the steaming wand into the pitcher and let it sit just below the surface for a few seconds, to incorporate some air. For a flat white, you only need to incorporate a small amount of air, as the milk is supposed to be ‘flat’, with minimal froth on top.  

Gently bring your pitcher upwards so your steam wand is fully submerged, and a small whirlpool or vortex is formed.

When it is too hot to touch, just keep the wand in the milk for a few more seconds, and then it will be nicely textured.

The milk in a flat white needs to be steamed for a little longer than you would for a latte, mainly because you want an even smoother texture with more micro foam incorporated into the milk. The majority of the steaming should be done below the surface of the milk however. 

This will give you a nice, smooth textured milk, but also limit the amount of thick foam you create. Remember, a flat white is only served in a small 6oz glass, so you don’t need too much volume in the milk. 

Top Tip: The milk used for a flat white is up to you. Typically, whole milk is used as it gives the most velvety and smooth texture when filled with micro air bubbles. However, if you want to reduce the calories, go for a skimmed or semi skimmed milk. If you are lactose intolerant, then using a milk alternative also works well. Just make sure it is a ‘barista’ style milk alternative, so there is enough creaminess to replicate the fat content of whole milk. 

Step 4: Serve and Enjoy! 

To finish off your fantastic flat white, simply pour your steamed milk over your double espresso, and top it off with some of your foam! 

Flat White Compared to Other Coffee Drinks

Whilst flat whites are incredibly popular espresso based coffee drinks, there are also a number of other coffees that use steamed milk to create a delicious coffee delight!  


A cortado is stronger and more intense than a flat white, due to the lower volume of milk used. Where a flat white uses a 1:2 ratio of espresso to steamed milk, and just a dash of foam on top, a cortado uses a 1:1 equal ratio of espresso to lightly steamed milk.  


The flat white is often thought of as the ‘baby latte’ due to the lower volume of steamed milk and foam used to make it. 

The main difference between a latte and a flat white is the volume and texture of milk used. A flat white tends to be served in a 6 oz cup, whereas a latte tends to be served in a 8, 10 or 12 oz cup. 

The milk in a flat white also tends to be steamed for slightly longer than that used in a latte. 

This gives a flat white the creamier, thicker mouthfeel than a latte, but makes it more intense and gives it a stronger ‘coffee’ flavour. A flat white sits between a cortado and a latte in terms of strength and volume of milk used.  


Overall, the flat white is a bit of a new kid on the block in the coffee world! It has become incredibly popular all over the world in a very short space of time, due to its combination of rich, creamy milk and high concentration of espresso. 

This small but mighty drink offers a great kick to start the day and it is no wonder that flat whites are taking the coffee world by storm! 


What Exactly is a Flat White?

A flat white is a coffee based drink that is made from a double shot of espresso and topped up with a ½  cup of steamed milk and a thin layer of foam to finish. Flat whites are often referred to as the ‘baby latte’. 

What’s the Difference Between a Flat White and a Latte?

The main difference between a flat white and a latte is the texture and volume of milk used. A flat white uses less milk than a latte, and the milk is also steamed for slightly longer. This makes it thicker, creamier and more ‘textured’ than the milk used in a latte. 

Flat White Compared to Americano

A flat white is a creamier drink than an americano. Traditional americanos are made from a double shot of espresso and an equal proportion of hot water, sometimes with a dash of milk. This gives the americano a stronger ‘coffee’ flavor than a flat white, due to the lack of milk used. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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