A flat white is an espresso drink made with a shot of espresso and two shots of steamed milk. It takes a little bit of skill to prepare, but once you've mastered this recipe, it's easy to make flat white espresso drinks again and again.
The ingredient proportions in this recipe are for 1 serving. Just double, triple, or quadruple them for a larger yield.
- 1 shot espresso
- 2 shots foamed milk
- Pull 1 shot espresso.
- While pulling the shot, froth the milk. As the milk froths, use a spoon to fold the microbubbles from the top of the steaming pitcher to the bottom of the steaming pitcher. This will create a smoother, more velvety texture for your drink.
- Combine the two ingredients. (Latte art optional) Your flat white should have about 1/4 inch of steamed milk on top.
Flat White vs. Latte
Starbucks describes their flat white as "Bold ristretto shots of espresso [that] get the perfect amount of steamed whole milk to create a not too strong, not too creamy, just right flavor."
In most cafés, a flat white is smaller than a latte. But that still doesn’t mean that a flat white is just a small latte.
So if every flat white has espresso, then what makes a flat white different to a latte is the way the milk is prepared and poured. Most people forget how important good milk is to a good coffee. When milk is frothed with a steam wand there are three layers that form:
- Heated liquid milk at the bottom of the pitcher
- Velvet microfoam in the middle of the pitcher (these are very small bubbles)
- Stiff froth (these are larger bubbles)
The important process of “stretching” the milk by frothing, folding and swirling it is done to maximize the amount of velvet microfoam by blending the large bubbles and the liquid milk. Without swirling and tapping there would still be some microfoam, but you’d never know it in the cup because it would be lost in the liquid and/or the froth.
The secret to frothing milk is keeping the steam wand just at the surface of the milk (that pleasing noise you hear in busy cafés).
The main differences between drinks arise when the steaming is finished and it’s time to pour the drink. A good barista will swirl the steamed milk around to fold the froth back into the liquid and create a seamless pitcher of velvet microfoam. Some might tap the pitcher on the counter to pop the worst of the big bubbles on top (as part of folding the milk). But this is unnecessary if you’re swirling the milk smoothly enough.
More About Espresso
Espresso is coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans.
Espresso is generally thicker than coffee brewed by other methods, has a higher concentration of suspended and dissolved solids, and has crema on top (a foam with a creamy consistency).
As a result of the pressurized brewing process, the flavors and chemicals in a typical cup of espresso are very concentrated. Espresso is also the base for other drinks such as a caffé latte, cappuccino, caffé macchiato, caffé mocha, flat white, or caffé Americano.
Espresso has more caffeine per unit volume than most coffee beverages but, since the usual serving size is much smaller, the total caffeine content is less than a mug of standard brewed coffee. Although the actual caffeine content of any coffee drink varies by size, bean origin, roast method and other factors, the caffeine content of typical servings of espresso vs. drip brew is 120 to 170 mg vs. 150 to 200 mg.