Exactly What Is A Flat White?

Exactly What Is A Flat White?

Some say that a flat white is really a small latte. Others have said it is a cappuccino with less froth. So why is there such confusion?


Confusion reigns for one simple reason. There is not total agreement on what a latte or a cappuccino even are. So there is no benchmark. If one person thinks a flat white is a small latte that may be because they drink their latte in a certain way.

The Components Of A Flat White

What most baristas we asked are agreed on is that you first need a double shot. This drink is all about the coffee not the milk. Although that said Australians tend to drink their flat whites as single shots. The size should be medium and the foam should not be stiff. The milk should also be folded through the whole drink so there is not the layer differentiation that is required when making a cappuccino. Let’s look at these components in more detail.

The Espresso Shot

Essentially this doesn’t provide the differentiation between the drinks as you can have a double shot espresso in a latte or a cappuccino. In most coffee shops however a good flat white has a double shot.

Cup Size

This also isn’t a differentiator. A flat white does tend to be smaller than a latte but a flat white is not just a small latte.

Milk-The Differentiator

This is where we can understand the difference. What we think makes a flat white a flat white is the way the milk is prepared and poured.

When you steam milk you may just see froth forming but you are actually getting three layers. At the bottom of your pitcher you will have liquid hot milk. In the middle of the pitcher you will have micofoam-in effect very small bubbles, then on top you will have a stiffer froth-in effect the large bubbles.

What then happens in a flat white is to maximise the amount of velvet microfoam by blending the large bubbles and liquid milk by swirling and tapping.


Crema is the orange colour topping that you get on the top of your espresso. A good flat white should see the milk merging with the crema so that you start to see a dusky orange swirl. A good barista should free pour from the jug to achieve this.

Difference In Taste

This can be a personal thing but in essence when drinking a flat white you should really be tasting the espresso and you should have an even mix of liquid milk and smooth velvet foam. A cappuccino should have a stiffer foam on top and the latte is a much more of a milky coffee taste.

Our view is that maybe we shouldn’t get too hung up on names. The taste is the main thing, so maybe it’s about ordering your coffee exactly the way you like it-with froth, without froth, distinct layers that you can taste as you drink or a sharp espresso taste, over to you!

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