What is a Flat White? What you need to know

You’ve seen Flat White on your local coffee shops menu, you’ve likely heard friends who order it but what is it, and what’s the difference between a flat white vs a latte?

What is a Flat White?

what is a flat white

The simple answer is, this is an espresso drink with a small a layer of frothy microfoam made from steamed milk.

There’s a lot of different information out there debating the exact makeup of this drink (is it a single shot, double shot, ristretto?). Some say a double shot of espresso means it’s authentic to the original recipe. Others say it doesn’t matter how much espresso is in there as long as the amount of microfoam stays a small amount (less than a latte).

One key component is the use of microfoam. Microfoam is foam with bubbles so tiny you can barely even see them. It’s made by using a steaming wand. The milk is frothed and foamy, creating a meniscus.

The microfoam is the hardest part to master when making a flat white, and many get it confused with a cappuccino.. It must be steamed at a consistent temperature so it blends with the espresso correctly. The microfoam is what gives this drink it’s creamy taste!

So if you’re someone who loves the taste of coffee but want a splash of milk and tasty microfoam, this is a great drink for you!

Why is it called a Flat White?

Historically any coffee without milk was called black coffee. A coffee with milk added to it was called a white coffee. Since there is a very small layer of flat foam (or foam with no bubbles) in it, it was called a flat white!

How is it served?

You can typically find these drinks served in a small ceramic cup with a saucer.

flat white


Like the debate of what is exactly in a flat white, there’s a lot of debate about where it originated! We do know, it started in either Australia or New Zealand sometime around 1980.

There’s evidence of it being in a Sydney cafe Miller’s Treat in May of 1983. There’s also claims from New Zealand from Wellington as a “failed cappuccino”. (source)

It’s is now on the menu in the the United States as well as the United Kingdom and many other cafes around the world.

How it differs from other coffee drinks

You can check out this post for tons of information about 19 different types of coffee.

What is the difference between a latte and a flat white?

A latte is espresso with steamed milk and a layer of foam on top. A flat white, on the other hand, is espresso with steamed milk but much less steamed milk than a latte.

What is the difference between a cappuccino and a flat white?

One of the key differences between is a cappuccino has a thick layer of bubbly foam. The flat white is espresso and microfoam blended together, there aren’t layers like the cappucino.

So the next time you’re out and want to try something new, check out this popular drink! See if you tell the difference between these two drinks and experience the velvety taste of the microfoam.


Looking for more expert coffee guides? Head to one of these posts!

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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