What is a Flat White Coffee?

Coffee shop coffee can be quite complicated at times, and we only have ourselves to blame for that. Coffee shops have fused together an eclectic mix of different coffees from all over the globe onto one long menu.

We love cappuccinos from Italy, cortados from Spain, and bucket-sized lattes that originated in Italy but very much came to England courtesy of Supersize America. One particularly delicious drink is not from Europe or North America; instead, it hales from Austrailia. The flat white.

A Flat White is a smaller, stronger latte usually served in a 6oz cup. It is typically made with a double shot of espresso, steamed milk and a thin layer of microfoam on the top, often with latte art in it. 

Flat whites have hugely increased in popularity over the last decade, and you will now find them on the menu of most coffee shops. The origin of the flat white is somewhat unclear. New Zealanders will tell you the flat white is their invention, while Australians will do the same.

Still, I can only assume it was invented out of the desire to have a real coffee lead milk drink that was long. Meaning the coffee can very much be tasted through the milk but is not quite as intense as a typical Italian-style espresso.

Let’s dig a little deeper on how a flat white is made and what makes it unique.

Does a Flat White Contain Water?

A flat white contains water insomuch as espresso is made from coffee and water, and it contains a double espresso. However, if someone makes you a flat white with hot water, it is not a flat white. The only espresso-based beverage with hot water is an Americano (or a long black, a shorter, stronger black americano).

What is the Microfoam on a Flat White?

A crucial part of a flat white is the microfoam on top. This layer of foam is the highest quality of frothed milk due to the size of the bubbles. They are so small and abundant that it gives the drink a velvety texture.

Nearly any type of milk can be used in making froth with a handheld milk frother, but baristas typically use whole milk to create those tiny air bubbles. If they are especially talented, they can create those amazing latte art designs.

Difference Between a Flat White and a Latte

At first look, a flat white and latte may seem like the same coffee drink, but there is a difference in the amount of milk used. Lattes consist of much more milk and a thicker layer of foam.

A flat white has a thin flat layer of foam, hence the name “flat” white. It uses a small amount of steamed milk that gives it a more coffee flavor over a milky flavor.

Table showing the differences between a flat white coffee and a latte.
Flat White vs. Latte

Why is a Flat White Coffee More Expensive?

Some shops will use a single shot of espresso for a small latte or cappuccino and a double shot for a flat white. In this case, they will tell you a flat white contains more coffee, so that is why it’s more expensive. However, in my experience, the cost of ingredients is not usually the reason for a flat white being more expensive.

Usually, a flat white is more expensive because it is perceived as a more premium drink than a cappuccino or latte. Theoretically, they require a more experienced barista, so this justifies a higher price.

In reality, a skilled barista will make all coffees better than an inexperienced one. Making a good quality cappuccino takes the same amount of skill as making a good quality flat white. So really a flat white is more expensive because people think it is fancier!

What is the Difference Between a Flat White and a Blonde Flat White?

This is a Starbucks question. Starbucks now has two options of standard espresso beans they use. The first is the same blend they have always used, roasted to the profile they have always burned it to.

The second is the same, except it is roasted to a different profile. The profile is a slightly lighter roast, which brings out the coffee’s more nuanced flavors than the darker roast, which brings out more roasted flavors.

Because this is a lighter roast, they call it a blonde. If you ask for a “blonde flat white,” you will get a flat white made with the lighter roast coffee, rather than the standard coffee used. It is not wildly different, but you may prefer it, so give it a try. If you like a standard flat white, it’s unlikely you won’t like this. There is no extra charge for having the blonde espresso blend, so you have nothing to lose by trying it.

Can you Flavor a Flat White?

Yes, you can flavor a flat white. Like any other coffee, you can add syrup that will add sweetness and flavor. In opinion, it defeats the point of a flat white though. A flat white is a “coffee lovers” drink. It’s coffee forward, with just enough milk to make it sweet and creamy.

Adding a syrup will take away the coffee flavors and instead have an intensely sweet-flavored caffeinated hot drink. You could have had a latte or a cappuccino with syrup in it. They are all going to taste very similar (sweet and flavored).

If you are daring enough, you can also request your flat white be made with different types of milk.

However, to each their own, and if you want syrup in your flat white, go for it! I will add though, if you’ve never had a coffee without syrup, find an excellent specialty coffee shop, and try a coffee without it. It may just blow your mind, and possibly save you in dentist fees when that extra sugar is eliminated.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a true coffee lover, then you need to experience the richness and creaminess that a flat white has to offer. It’s truly one of my favorite coffees to order at the cafes, and even though it doesn’t have as much milk as a traditional latte, it tastes much smoother and stronger due to the double espresso shot and less foam.

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