What is Flat White, Pros & Cons – Ultimate Guide for Flat White Lovers

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What Is Flat White?

There is a lot of confusion in the coffee world on what a flat white is exactly. The one thing everyone can agree on is that it is a coffee drink made with espresso and textured milk. Apart from that disagreements abound. They don’t begin and end on just how it should be made or what it is, but also on where exactly the flat white originated. The earliest document that references a flat white is in a review of a Sydney café, Miller’s Treat, in May 1983. Alan Preston, an espresso bar owner in Sydney, claimed to have brought the beverage from his hometown Queensland where “White Coffee - flat” was popular in cafés in the 60s and 70s. However, New Zealand has also claimed to have invented this drink. They maintain that it was created by Derek Townsend and Darrell Ahlers of Cafe DKD, as an alternative to the Italian latte in Auckland, New Zealand.

Whichever the exact place of origin may be, in this region people referred to coffee without milk as black and coffee with milk as white.  When the Italian cappuccino and other coffee drinks were introduced native people needed a way to differentiate between that and what they were used to already i.e. a flat white coffee. White as in with milk and flat as in with less foam.

There are some variations in how a flat white is made. Some people use one shot of espresso while others use two. Some believe that it is just a smaller version of a latte and that there is no difference in how it is made or tastes. Some baristas prefer 1mm of microfoam while others can go up to 20mm. The one thing we can all agree on is that the rising popularity of a flat white is for a reason: it is incredibly delicious.

Texture and Taste of Flat White

The taste of flat white is a combination of strong coffee and the creaminess of frothy milk.  The texture is usually velvety due to the added milk.

How Much Caffeine Is in a Single Serving of Espresso?

The coffee used in flat white is espresso. There is around 63 mg of caffeine in 1 fluid oz or 30 mg of espresso but this can vary depending on the type of coffee beans, the volume of water, the brew time as well as the brew method.

How to Make the Flat White?

Warm up your coffee mug or cup by pouring hot water in it. Empty the cup. Prepare a double espresso using your machine. Heat the milk to a temperature of 62 C. Pour the milk in a pitcher and swirl it around to make the milk creamy. Pour the milk slowly on the coffee surface to make a layer. Try making a design with it. Enjoy your coffee. If you have a good espresso machine equipped with a frother, all you need to do is follow the instructions and the machine will do everything on its own.

  • To make a flat white the first step is to be able to pull a good espresso shot. To make espresso you need a machine that can pass pressurised hot water through a layer of tamped coffee grounds. A single espresso shot is 1 ounce of liquid made from 8 grams of ground coffee. According to the Italian coffee maker Illy, “done right, the result is a concentrate of not more than 30 ml (one oz) of pure sensorial pleasure.” Double the amount of grounds for a double shot. Most people make a flat white with a double shot.
  • Once you have pulled a double espresso shot into a cup it is time to heat the milk separately.
  • For a flat white it is important to not scald the milk. Instead you steam it to 131–143 °F. When you are starting off using a thermometer will help but expert baristas can tell by just how hot the container/pitcher is getting.
  • The steam will heat milk and create microfoam. To disperse bubbles, you are making a flat white after all, swirl the milk a little and it should become velvety and smooth.
  • Pour the milk into the espresso, your resulting drink should have a uniform brown color on the top from the crema.
  • Serve in a white ceramic cup and saucer.

Recommended Coffee Machines

  1. 1
    Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine - This machine is better suited to the experienced. It is semi-automatic, which means you can have full control over the flavor of the espresso. After grinding and tamping the beans, you can also self time the espresso shot. The Breville Barista Express features a built in grinder with control of the size of the grind, a milk frother, hot water dispenser, and a tamper and portafilter included making it ideal for flat whites. If you are new to making espresso, the amount of controls might make it a tad difficult. But if you are willing to learn and experiment the Barista Express is well worth it.
  2. 2
    De'Longhi ECP3220R 15 Bar Espresso Machine - The De’Longhi machine offers a similar level of control and customization on a budget, which only brings you one step closer to mastering the flat white. With a professional grade 15-bar pressure, a manual frother to ensure an ideally textured result, and a three-in-one filter holder, you can brew like a pro and enjoy barista quality drinks, or stick to the quick serve Espresso Pod depending on the day. This machine has an efficient and ergonomic design, allowing for space saving. With an adjustable tray and a removable water tank, the De-Longhi Bar Espresso Machine is a versatile option.
  3. 3
    De’Longhi ESAM04110S Magnifica Fully Automatic Espresso Machine - As an automatic espresso machine, this model will make the process of brewing a flat white quick and effortless. It allows you to just put the coffee beans in the machine and wait. Within its compact design, the machine features a milk frother, an automatic bean grinder with adjustable settings. What is most impressive about this option is the ThermoBlock technology that provides superb heat distribution for a consistent result each time you brew.  This style of machine is best for busy bodies who value quality coffee as part of their daily routine.
  4. 4
    Bialetti Moka Stovetop Espresso Maker - For those who prefer traditional and energy saving options, the stovetop espresso method is a favorite for those who prefer to be wholly involved in the coffee making process. At a much lower price range than a machine, the Bialetti stovetop maker produces 6 cups of espresso in under 5 minutes, and allows for the most simple cleanup job of all the options. To make a flat white with this espresso maker, the milk will have to be heated and frothed separately.

Pros and Cons of Flat White

Let us look at some of the pros and cons of flat white.

Pros

  • Since the milk is steamed to 131–143 °F it retains the fats and proteins that give it a sweet flavor.
  • It has the best of both worlds: with a strong espresso flavor supported by textured milk.
  • Your cup won’t consist of 60% stiff froth but will have a velvety, shiny microfoam.
  • The drink is medium sized so it won’t be gone in a jiffy nor is it large enough to go cold before you finish it.
  • The textured milk is folded through the whole drink which helps preserve the crema and incorporates the foam within the liquid.
  • A flat white doesn’t have much microfoam so it can be made with dairy-alternative, plant based milks.

Cons

  • There is a lot of confusion about what a flat white is and every cafe and barista will have a different conception of it. So you might order a flat white and get something other than what you expected.
  • If you are conscious about calories then a flat white is higher up on the spectrum of calories especially if made with full fat milk. It is approximately 120 calories with 7 grams of fat. Switching to skim milk will reduce the calories to 70 calories and almost no fat.
  • Even in Australia or New Zealand, the birthplace of the flat white, you will not get a consistent version of the drink and may even enter heated discussions about how a flat white should be made. At your own risk!

Flat White vs Latte

  • Lattes are popular globally now but they originated in Italy whereas both Australia and New Zealand have joint custody over the origin of a flat white.
  • There are many discussions over the difference between a flat white and a latte with some saying that there is no difference except the type of the container it is served in.
  • However, more commonly, a flat white has the same amount of espresso as a latte but with the difference in the quantity of milk. A latte is milkier as it is served in a 225ml vessel whereas the flat white is typically served in a 175ml vessel.
  • Both should have around 30ml of espresso in them.
  • The consistency of the milk is another point of difference between a flat white and a latte.  While a latte has a creamy and velvety layer of milk on the surface, a flat white has a thinner band of the textured milk with a shinier surface. The quantity of the microfoam differs from cafe to cafe but a latte traditionally always has more microfoam.
  • Over time the difference between the two drinks has reduced and in some places they might even be indistinguishable from each other.

Benefits of Having Flat White

  • If you are someone who can’t drink black coffee because of its acidity, the milk will cut the acidity of the coffee without sacrificing that espresso taste.
  • On the flip side, if you’re not the biggest fan of milky drinks then this would work well for you. The quantity of milk will not overpower the drink, but instead allow a harmonious blend of the ingredients.
  • If the beverage is allowed to stand a little before drinking, you can enjoy the microfoam texture in each sip instead of it just sitting on top of the cup.
  • Another benefit of a flat white is that because the milk is heated to around 131–143 °F it retains its natural sweetness so you don’t have to add processed sugar. If you enjoy multiple cups of coffee a day it would be beneficial to your health to cut back on the amount of refined sugar intake.
  • Coffee itself has so many benefits and a flat white retains all of them. From protecting the liver to preventing diabetes type 2 to boosting the mood, coffee is astonishingly good for the human body. But don’t go overboard. Most nutritionists recommend keeping it from 3 to 5 cups daily and all before 6pm.

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