Flat White Coffee Recipe

How to make flat white coffee at home – A fun and tasty challenge!

Making flat white coffee at home is like having your own personal barista right in your kitchen! There’s nothing quite like the rich, creamy taste of a homemade flat white – and with just two main ingredients, it’s easy to whip up one of these delicious drinks any time you want. 

This recipe will teach you how to make delicious flat white coffee from scratch, including the ingredients, equipment, and instructions.

What is a flat white, and where does it come from?

A Flat White is a cappuccino/latte hybrid made from 2 shots of ristretto (or a shot of espresso) and steamed milk, decorated with latte art. The term “flat white” can be interpreted as the milk foam on top being flat at the cup’s rim, unlike the more airy froth of a cappuccino that can bulge out of a cup. 

How is it different from similar milk-based espresso drinks?

  • Compared to a cappuccino, the volume of a flat white is about the same, but the thing that makes it different is the foamed milk. Flat white uses velvety steamed milk like a latté, while a cappuccino uses milk froth with airy foam and larger bubbles.
  • Compared to a caffé latte, the coffee-to-milk ratio is much tighter, but the consistency of the steamed milk is the same.

Therefore, I sometimes describe this coffee beverage as a small, stronger-tasting latte.

The name first appeared in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s. The beverage is now on the menu in specialty coffee shops and at chains like Starbucks, where you can, of course, supersize it.

How to make a Flat White

Two main ingredients make up the drink:

  • Double ristretto or a simple espresso shot. (You can also use 2 shots of espresso, but I think the double shot throws off the taste if you don’t add extra milk as well.)
  • Silky steamed milk (3.5% fat is best).

Preparing the ristrettos or espresso

The first part of every flat white recipe calls for brewing an espresso or 2 ristrettos in an espresso machine (like these Breville ones).

A flat white is best with a double shot of ristretto, which has the same volume as an espresso, but tastes very different. The longer extraction time will make an espresso slightly more bitter than the sweeter, more acidic, more concentrated taste of a ristretto.

A ristretto can only be made with an espresso maker.

Using an espresso is OK as well, which makes the recipe a bit simpler. Here are all the ways you can make espresso at home. There are various methods you can use other than the espresso maker.

What kind of coffee beans are best for a flat white?

I generally recommend using light roast coffee beans for flat white made of a double ristretto. If you use espresso instead, medium or dark-roast coffee beans work well. This way, the flavor of the coffee bean shines through without being too acidic.

Milk steaming technique used for a flat white

While your espresso brews, you have just enough time to prepare 120-150 ml of steamed milk.

Flat white uses steamed milk with a velvety texture, not milk froth, that you could create with alternative milk frothers.

This is very important and will make or break your flat white!

The consistency of the milk foam should be liquid-creamy, and the layer of foam should be no thicker than 0.5 – 1 cm.

You can get the best results with a steam lance on an espresso machine. Alternate milk frothing techniques don’t work well, as they all produce milk foam with large bubbles that you would use in a cappuccino.

Here are the steps to steaming (not frothing!) milk for this drink:

  1. Pour milk into the pitcher.
  2. Hold the milk pitcher by the handle and dip the steam nozzle just below the surface of the milk. 
  3. Turn on the steam, and place your hand on the pitcher’s side to feel its temperature.
  4. The so-called “milk stretching” phase begins, characterized by the even hissing sound as you pull air into the milk. It takes about 5 seconds to reach the desired volume of foam.
  5. Slowly guide the steam wand just a little deeper into the jug, just far enough for the milk to start spinning. This incorporates the foam you made during the stretching phase into the rest of the milk, breaking up large air bubbles and creating microfoam.
  6. Turn the steam off as soon as the pitcher is too hot to touch, at around 60-65° C.
  7. Polish the milk (swirl the milk jug) and tap the pitcher on a flat surface a few times so that any large air bubbles burst on the surface and only microfoam remains.

You’ll know you succeeded if the milk looks shiny, velvety, and smooth, without any large bubbles.

What kind of cup do you serve flat white in?

Specialty coffee houses use 150-180 ml flat cups made of porcelain to serve a flat white coffee. This makes perfect sense because most flat white recipes call for a 30 ml espresso and 120-150 ml steamed milk. Some cafés serve it in a cortado-type glass as well.

Flat White Mug

You can order larger versions of the flat white in coffee chains like Starbucks and Costa Coffee, but those aren’t really flat whites anymore.

Bringing it all together

Here are the steps to making a flat white:

  1. Brew espresso into a 180ml cup.
  2. Prepare 120-150 ml of steamed milk.
  3. Pour the steamed milk into the cup, using latte art to decorate your coffee with a heart, tree, tulip, or whatever you like.
  4. Finish when your thin foam layer is level with the top of your cup.

Tips for the perfect flat white coffee

I want to mention a few more things before ending this recipe.

  • Even though there are only two main ingredients, you must pay attention to every detail.
  • Espresso is best with freshly ground coffee beans made in an espresso machine. 
  • If you don’t have an espresso machine, Moka pot espresso works well with flat white.
  • For an authentic flat white, use full-fat milk and steam it until it is perfect in texture. This takes some practice if you are just learning how to steam milk.
  • If you like the taste but aren’t crazy about the full-fat dairy milk, feel free to substitute it with dairy alternatives such as barista soy milk.

Now it’s your turn to head into the kitchen and give this flat white recipe a shot. It is easy once you get the hang of it, and will have you drinking a delicious cup of joe in no time.

Please let me know how it went in a comment below!

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