Flat white

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A flat white with latte art

A flat white is a coffee beverage developed in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s.[1][2] It is prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk with small, fine bubbles and a glossy or velvety consistency) over a double shot of espresso (sometimes ristretto espresso). It is somewhat similar to the cappuccino or the latte although smaller in volume, therefore having a higher proportion of coffee to milk (closer to a cortado), and milk that is more velvety in consistency – allowing the espresso to dominate the flavour, while being supported by the milk.[3]


The beverage is typically served in a small 150–160 millilitre ceramic cup. Microfoam is used, and loosely frothed milk from the top of the steaming vessel is typically discarded or held back in the vessel while the creamy milk from the bottom of the vessel is folded into the coffee, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture.[4] A flat white may incorporate latte art.

According to a survey of industry commentators, a flat white has several defining characteristics:[5][6]

  1. a thin layer of velvety micro-foam (hence the "flat" in flat white), as opposed to the relatively thicker layer of stiffer foam in a cappucino.


Australian food historian, Michael Symons, claims that the name "flat white", meaning an espresso with milk, originated in Sydney, Australia, in the mid-1980s, in contrast to the terms "short black" and "long black". The style was developed and standardised in Wellington, New Zealand, in the late 1980s.[7] The style was exported to the United Kingdom by expatriates from both New Zealand and Australia in 2005 and by 2010 was being sold in Starbucks franchises in the United Kingdom.[8]

With the post–World War II influx of Italian immigrants to Australia and the introduction of espresso coffee machines in the 1950s, a flat white was requested in Italian cafés where the cappuccino was generally prepared and served. The milk poured was as much for tea as for coffee. The style developed and standardized in the late 1980s is an appropriation of that common term.

Outside of Australia and New Zealand, a cafe offering a flat white was once a sign that it considered itself part of the third wave of coffee movement of independent artisanal coffee making. However, with the flat white becoming increasingly well known, many cafes who are not part of the specialty coffee movement are also offering flat whites - for example in the UK, large coffee shop chains such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Cafe Nero and Pret a Manger have added flat whites to their menus.

Similar beverages[edit]

A cappuccino is similar, but in many countries has a head of dry foam rather than microfoam.[citation needed] A flat white is similar to an original Italian cappuccino, which is a single espresso with microfoam served in a 150–160 ml cup.[9]

The Spanish cafe con leche is similar, but uses scalded milk. In a flat white, the milk is steamed without frothing to 60–70 °C (typically 150–170 °F).[citation needed] Steaming the milk to this temperature retains the fats and proteins in the milk which retain a sweet flavour, lost when milk is steamed to scalding temperatures.[10] A Cafe con Leche also lacks the head of microfoam.

The flat white and the latte are also similar with some people incorrectly suggesting that: "The only difference between the two drinks is the vessel in which they're presented. A flat white is served in a ceramic cup, usually of the same volume (200 millilitres) as a latte glass. However, some cafes will top a latte with extra froth, while others may pour a flat white slightly shorter."[11] In both Australia and New Zealand, there is a generally accepted difference between lattes and flat whites in the ratio of milk to coffee and the consistency of the milk due to the way the milk is heated. The milk in a flat white shouldn’t be frothed.

According to a Tourism New Zealand website:

A true flat white ought to have the same quantity of extracted coffee as any other beverage on the coffee menu (generally 30 ml) but because it is served in a smaller vessel (175 ml) it has stronger flavour than say a latte which is normally served in a 225 ml vessel and is subsequently milkier. The consistency of the milk is another point of difference between a flat white and a latte – a latte has a creamy, velvety layer of milk on the surface which can vary in depth depending on where you buy your coffee. A flat white has a thinner band of the textured milk, ideally with a shinier surface.

—Tourism New Zealand[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Symons, Michael (2007). One continuous picnic: a gastronomic history of Australia. Melbourne University Publishing. p. 366. 
  2. ^ Symons, Michael. "Spilling the beans". Fairfax. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Thomson, Peter. "What is a flat white". Coffee Hunter. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Dixon, Greg (22 July 2008). "The birth of the cool". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "What is a flat white? – Coffee Hunter". Retrieved 2013-02-10. 
  6. ^ "Cappuccino, Latte or Flat White?". Guide 2 Coffee. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Symons, Michael. "Spilling the beans". Fairfax. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Wallop, Harry (5 December 2009). "Starbucks to sell 'flat white' for those who are fed up with milky coffee". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "L'Espresso Italiano e il Cappuccino Italiano Certificati". Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  10. ^ "Milk Frothing Guide – Hello Milk!". CoffeeGeek.com. Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  11. ^ Carmody, Kathleen (20 April 2004). "Coffee culture". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  12. ^ "New Zealand's dedicated coffee culture". Tourism New Zealand. Retrieved 29 January 2013.