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What is a flat white coffee?

Even though it has existed for at least forty years, the flat white was popularized in Quebec only in the last five years. This coffee from Australia or New Zealand (the debate is still open), is still misunderstood and the subject of many questions on how to make it properly and what distinguishes it from the cappuccino, the latte and the cortado. To end the debate once and for all, here’s the real recipe for the flat white:

  • In a ceramic cup, extract a short double espresso to fill the cup to the first third (1/3).
  • In a milk pitcher, heat regular or plant based milk to approximately 130°F / 54°C.
  • Pour the milk with the help of a spoon on the espresso, while being careful to keep the milk foam in the pitcher while you only pour the hot milk. This way, the espresso crema will stay intact.

The history of flat white

The origins of the flat white are somewhat hazy. Who invented this coffee? Australians? New Zealanders? We probably won’t ever know. Even 40 years later, there’s no consensus on who made it first. As for the name flat white, historians know that the origin of it will probably stay unknown. Until a historic breakthrough, the origins of the flat white will probably remain a mystery. Even though the true birthplace of the flat white will stay an enigma, we know there’s only one true way of making it, that differentiates it from other milk based espresso drinks.

Flat white vs latte vs cortado: the contents and the container make all the difference

First things first: compared to the latte, the flat white contains a double shot of espresso and less milk. Then, compared to the cappuccino, the flat white has less foam and more milk. In terms of proportions, we can say a flat white needs 1/3 espresso to 2/3 milk heated to 130°F / 54°C. These proportions are the same than a cortado, with the difference that the flat white will be served in a 5,8oz / 172mL cup, with heated milk and no foam, while the cortado will be poured in a transparent glass, with microfoamed milk. The way to pour the milk is an important difference in how to make a flat white: a spoon blocks the thickest part of the milk while the more liquid parts are poured, to keep the crema intact and push it to the top of the drink.

The container also has an impact on how we define this coffee. The cortado is generally served in a transparent glass (Such as a Gibraltar), while the flat white will be served in a traditional ceramic cup. This will of course depend on where you order this fabulous coffee, as you’ll find differences from coffee shop to coffee shop and from country to country. This is where there are no strict rules!

In closing

The flat white has a stronger taste than a latte, because it contains a double espresso shot and less milk. It’s also smoother than a cappuccino, but more liquid than a cortado. This middle ground is what makes this beverage so popular in Australia, New Zealand, and now here!

Now tell us, have you tried the flat white anywhere in the world? Tell us how it was in the comments!

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