Flat White Photo Tom

How to Make a Flat White – Authentic Recipe

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 latte hybrid made from 2 shots of ristretto (or doppio 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. 

Flat White Photo Tom

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 it as a smaller, 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 double espresso
  • Silky steamed milk (3.5% fat is best)

1. Preparing the ristretto or espresso

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

I think a flat white is best with a double shot of ristretto, though. The longer extraction time would 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. Here is an article on how to make a ristretto.

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, but of course, it is best with a true espresso.

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

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

Best For Flat White
Stumptown Hair Bender
Stumptown Hair Bender
A Latin American, Indonesian, and African Arabica blend that has sweet citrus and dark chocolate notes.
  • Type: Arabica
  • Origin: Latin America, Indonesia, Africa
  • Taste: Sweet citrus, dark chocolate, raisin
Check it out
Also Great
Coffee Bros Espresso Roast
Coffee Bros Espresso Roast
Ethiopia and Colombia beasn roasted medium, presenting strawberry, sugar cane, and vanilla flavor notes.
  • Type: Arabica
  • Origin: Ethiopia, Colombia
  • Taste: Strawberry, sugar cane, vanilla
Check it out

2. 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.

3. What kind of cup do you serve flat white in?

Specialty coffee houses use 150-180 ml cups made of porcelain to serve a flat white coffee. This makes perfect sense because most flat white recipes call for a double ristretto or double espresso and 100-150 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.

Here is a summary of all of the above.

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

5 from 1 vote
Servings

1

servings
Calories

90

kcal
Total time

5

minutes

Flat white is a specialty coffee favorite of mine. The exact recipe varies from café to café, but I think this is the best way to prepare it.

Ingredients

  • 2 shots 2 ristretto (or double espresso)

  • 100-150 ml 100-150 steamed milk

Directions

  • Brew your double ristretto (or espressos) into a 180ml cup.
  • Prepare 100-150 ml of steamed milk.
  • Pour the steamed milk into the cup, using latte art to decorate your coffee with a heart, tree, tulip, or whatever you like.
  • Finish when your thin foam layer is level with the top of your cup.

Equipment

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Even though there are only two main ingredients, you must pay attention to every detail. This is a specialty coffee favorite, which requires extra care.

Tips for the perfect flat white coffee

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

  • 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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8 Comments

  1. This article was a game-changer—thank you. I’ve been struggling to recreate that coffee shop taste at home, but my flat whites always turned out too foamy. Following your method, I’ve finally nailed the silky texture of the milk.

  2. Loved trying out your flat white recipe this morning. I used my little espresso machine and it tasted almost as good as my favorite café’s version. I did struggle a bit with the milk frothing part, still can’t get that perfect velvety texture. Any tips?

  3. Quick question about the coffee beans—do you think a dark roast could work as well, or would it overpower the drink? I personally like a strong coffee flavor, but I’m curious if it would be too much with a double ristretto.

    1. I prefer a medium roast, the dark roast has a stronger taste. Especially at places that use a double espresso, not a double ristretto.

  4. Just a heads up to other readers, the extraction time for ristretto vs espresso makes a huge impact on the taste. If you’re after that authentic flat white flavor, definitely go with the ristretto as suggested. And remember to keep that milk steamer at the right temp.

  5. So, I’m a bit of a coffee snob and I have to say, your guide on making a flat white is top-notch. The detail on the origin of the drink was a nice touch, not something you see in every recipe article. Also, the emphasis on the coffee-to-milk ratio was spot on for achieving that stronger taste profile.

  6. Can anyone please elaborate on why the milk fat percentage matters? Is there much of a difference between using 3.5% and say, whole milk? I’m experimenting with dairy alternatives as well, would love to hear experiences on how they froth up in comparison to regular milk.

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