Ah, the Flat White. 5 years ago, you’d struggle to find one this side of the hemisphere, but now it’s everywhere; the very definition of third wave coffee. Smooth, velvety & strong, it’s a lovely drink - but exactly what makes it different to the humble Latte?
On the face of it, there’s nothing to separate them.
Both drinks consist of either a single or double measure of strong espresso, topped with a good helping of steamed milk - so where’s the distinction?
1 . S I Z E - M A T T E R S
The first thing you’ll notice is the difference in size. A Latte normally comes in at around 240 ml - whereas a Flat White should only really be around 160 ml (this can change depending on what country you’re in, but works as a general rule of thumb).
Now, you have to remember that both drinks have the same amount of espresso in them - this makes a big difference when it comes to the strength and flavour of each drink - making the Flat White a much stronger, coffee-heavy drink because of the higher proportion of coffee to milk.
2 . I T ' S - A L L - I N - T H E - M I L K
Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. The meat of the matter. A Latte is served with steamed milk with an added layer of foamed milk (around 5mm) sitting on top. The Flat White, in contrast, is topped by a very thin, ‘flat’ (hence the name) layer of steamed milk, and nothing else.
It goes deeper than that though. The steamed milk used in a Flat White is more accurately referred to as ‘microfoam’, and whilst we could go into a ridiculous amount of detail here, it effectively means the milk has a much more velvety texture and glossy finish that is brought about in the steaming process by allowing tiny air bubbles to form in the milk.
So there you have it...
As with so much when it comes to coffee, the devil's in the detail. A couple of tweaks here and there, and you've got yourself a coffee that's pretty much become the embodiment of third wave coffee.
Making one at home...