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How to Make a Flat White Coffee (Simple Steps)

Flat white

If you’re growing tired of your usual cappuccino or latte and are looking for a different espresso drink to spice things up, the flat white might do the trick. The flat white is the lesser-known, less milky cousin to the latte and is a great choice for people who love the smooth texture of frothed milk but want a stronger drink with more coffee flavor than a latte. In this article, we’re going to teach you how to make a flat white. It can be a bit trickier to get right than some other espresso drinks, but we have some tips and tricks to share to help you nail it on your first try. Let’s begin!

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What Is a Flat White?

A flat white coffee is traditionally one part espresso to two parts steamed milk. In your local café, ordering a flat white will get you one shot of espresso mixed with two shots of steamed milk, but as long as the ratio is 1:2, it can count as a flat white.

Image Credit: Vee Satayamas, Flickr

Simple Flat White Recipe:

  • 7-9 g coffee per shot
  • 14-18 g milk per shot

1. Weigh the coffee and milk.

For each shot, use 7-9 g of coffee for proper dosing. How much coffee to use per shot depends on many things – like your specific espresso machine and grinder – so it might take some trial and error to get it right.

2. Pull the shot.

Pull a shot of espresso.

double espresso
Image credit: Unsplash

3. Steam the milk.

Try to keep the steam wand at the milk’s surface for the best result (more tips below).

4. Pour the milk over the coffee.

Pour gently. The goal is to wind up with a layer of milk about ¼ of an inch thick resting on top of the drink.

Milk frothers
Image: Christos Andrews, Wikimedia, CC 3.0

5. Create a beautiful piece of latte art.

Latte art isn’t just for lattes. Flex those creative muscles!

6. Serve and enjoy.

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Milk Steaming Tips

The key to getting a velvety smooth flat white is how you steam the milk. Steamed milk consists of three general components: hot liquid milk, large bubbles usually found on top, and a thin layer of microbubbles. The microbubble foam layer is the most important and is responsible for creating the smooth texture people love. Keeping the steam wand just barely under the milk’s surface is essential for creating the microfoam layer, and it takes some practice to get a consistent texture.

If you haphazardly jam a steam wand into a cup of milk and wait, you will be disappointed with the results. A better technique is to use a spoon to continuously mix the large bubbles that form at the top down under the surface of the liquid milk in a back-and-forth folding motion. The goal is to wind up with a defined layer of microbubbles that won’t get lost in the drink.

flat white coffee
Image Credit: Asim Ihsan, Flickr

How is a flat white different from a latte?

Flat whites are very similar to lattes and, to the untrained eye, they seem quite similar. Both a flat white and a latte consist of only two ingredients: espresso and steamed milk. The difference is how the milk is prepared and how much milk is used.

Lattes contain more milk than a flat white, which typically only has a thin layer of microfoam sitting on top. If you like a latte’s texture and mouthfeel but don’t want something quite as milky, try a flat white; they’re stronger and give the espresso centerstage.

READ MORE: Flat White vs Latte: What’s the Difference?

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Flat whites are very similar to lattes but have a stronger espresso flavor due to the lower amount of milk used to make them. A flat white is an excellent choice if you love the smooth, flowing feel of microfoam but don’t want your coffee to get lost in a sea of milk.

Making a flat white at home takes some practice but is well within reach of at-home baristas since you only need an espresso machine and steam wand. The magic happens in the frothing technique, which can be difficult to pick up. If you practice the tips we presented here and stick with it, you’ll be churning out deliciously rich, smooth flat whites in no time!


Featured Image: Iain Farrell, Flickr

Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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