Starbucks Drink Guide: Flat White



Through the six years I have worked as a barista for Starbucks, I have seen a lot of changes made to the menu. These changes are all made with the goal of providing a high quality, authentic cafe experience with an emphasis on consistency, efficiency and options for the customers.

The constant updates and revision make for a wonderful experience, but it may leave customers and new baristas feeling lost as they try to navigate our extensive menu. I have devoted a lot of time to trying to take some of the mystery out of Starbucks through a series of guides.

The Flat White is a cafe classic that Starbucks has recently adopted as a welcome addition to its menus. In this guide, I will explain this new core offering.

What is a Flat White?

A Flat White - according to Starbucks - is an espresso based beverage that aims to highlight the espresso. It features whole milk steamed to microfoam consistency, and ristretto shots. Flat Whites have more shots of espresso than Starbucks' standard lattes, which equals less milk.

Unlike the latte, which comes standard as a 16 oz Grande, the Flat White's standard is the 12 oz Tall. Additionally, lattes are usually made with 2% milk.

The Starbucks Flat White, with the signature dot.
The Starbucks Flat White, with the signature dot. | Source
Shots of Espresso (Flat White)
Shots of Espresso (Latte)
Short (8 oz)
Tall (12 oz)
Grande (16 oz)
Venti (20 oz)

The Microfoam

Microfoam is achieved by aerating milk less than what is standard for a latte or cappuccino. Aerating the milk less creates a silky texture throughout. A latte and a cappuccino both have separation between the steamed milk and milk foam. The foam has a very distinct texture in these beverages. In the Flat White, the microfoam is smooth throughout the drink.

And, fun fact, microfoam is the technique that is used to create latte art!


Ristretto Shots

Ristretto shots of espresso are created by using less water during the brewing process. This enhances and strengthens the flavor of the espresso. Starbucks Espresso Roast has smoky notes to it, but the process of making the shots ristretto reduces that smokiness and provides a smoother finish. The shots used in a Flat White are sweeter and give the drink a stronger coffee flavor.

Putting it All Together

The Flat White is made by first pouring ristretto shots into the cup. Then, the milk is free poured from a distance of about six inches above the cup. This allows the barista to build the drink evenly, and to top it off with a distinct white dot of foam.

The Flat White has a rich coffee flavor. It doesn't taste nearly as milky as a latte, and it is much smoother than a cappuccino.

Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm always happy to answer questions.

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Comments 10 comments

Sarah 2 years ago

Can you flavor this like lattes or are they generally left plain? I was thinking the toffee nut would be really good in one.

mandination profile image

mandination 2 years ago from Pittsburgh Author

The standard Flat White recipe is without any flavor added, but there's no reason you couldn't add in a syrup if you prefer something a little sweeter. I agree that Toffee Nut would work well in this drink. It pairs well with the flavor of our Espresso Roast, so I think it would be a great addition to try.

dzid_ 23 months ago

4 shots espresso - that would be great, however on Starbuck website nutrition facts says it has less caffeine than latte.

I would expect flat white will have more coffee shots as you said...

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Another great hub from you on the flat white drinks. I miss going to Starbucks! Maybe this summer! Voted up for useful!

mandination profile image

mandination 20 months ago from Pittsburgh Author

I'm not sure why the website would say the Flat White has less caffeine than a Latte, because the Flat White definitely has more shots and is marketed as having a stronger coffee flavor. Perhaps the fact that Ristretto shots are used instead of regular shots affects the caffeine content of the Flat White.

curious 20 months ago

How much foam should it have according to Starbucks' recipe? I haven't seen a clear description anywhere. I imagine it should be a very thin layer of foam, just enough for latte art, and less than a caffe latte.

Whitney 20 months ago

Thank you for the information! How much milk is used for an iced flat white? Is it assembled like the iced latte (coffee--milk--ice)?

mandination profile image

mandination 20 months ago from Pittsburgh Author

Although it's specified how much foam should be on a Latte and a Cappuccino by Starbucks standards, the recipe for the Flat White is described a bit differently. I think that it isn't very much foam, because the milk is aerated for a short amount of time, but the recipe just specifies a specific way to pour the milk.

mandination profile image

mandination 20 months ago from Pittsburgh Author

Yes, the iced Flat White would be assembled like an iced Latte. The difference is that you would be getting ristretto shots and more shots per size, like in the hot recipe. Also, whole milk would be the default instead of two percent. All in all, it would be almost the same amount of milk as an iced Latte - the difference would be the 1 or 2 oz that the extra shot or shots of espresso would take up.

curious 20 months ago

Ah, thank you for the response regarding the amount of foam; I suspected as much. A lot of baristas seem to think it has more foam than a latte. Either way, that's easy to specify. The bigger issue I run into is a lack of training/knowledge/competence for some baristas and stores for preparing quality microfoam.

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