In Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the flat white seems to be a quite popular beverage recently. I wish I that had been true when I was in South Africa a few years back! When I was there, the only place you would find anything other than really, really horrible instant coffee was at a fancy restaurant.
I learned to drink a lot of tea.
Now, I think I would have more options.
The flat white is one of those coffee drinks that is seriously misunderstood.
Here in the U.S., we look at the flat white and assume it is just a latte under a different name. I actually did the same when I was over in South Africa, simply because I didn't have a lot of options to compare it to. Now that I'm back in the U.S. where rich, glorious coffee is available in pretty much any combination I want it to be, I can definitely tell the difference between a latte and this flat white.
And there's actually a couple key differences between them. The two main ones are the coffee to milk ratio and the density of the foam.
Coffee to Milk Ratio
A latte usually has a shot or two of espresso, and then a ton of milk. A flat white has more coffee, less milk. Put two shots of espresso in an 8 oz cup, and then fill the rest with your microfoam. You'll have about the right ratio.
Density of the foam
Our readers continue to remind us that THIS is the most important aspect of a correctly made flat white. You need perfect microfoam.
Here is the heart of the difference. In a latte, you get a lot of milk with a touch of foam at the top. And this foam can be of varying qualities. That won't fly with this drink. A flat white requires impeccably created microfoam with the tiniest bubbles you can create. The froth should be so silky and smooth that it is actually shiny. And when you pour that microfoam into the cup, be sure you don't miss it all and just put in the milk that might remain at the bottom of your pan/cup. The microfoam is important!
If you don't own an espresso machine, a hand-frother will work just fine.
- whole milk
- espresso or strong coffee
- Froth 1 cup of milk, either using an espresso machine or on the stove using a milk frother. You want to heat the milk to about 160 F.
- You want a froth with very fine bubbles.
- While you are frothing the milk, make your espresso.
- Combine the espresso and foam.
Any key factors in creating a flat white that we missed? Give us more tips in the comments!
Looking for more coffee drinks? We've got a coffee post with all sorts of recipes!