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Starbucks Drink Guide: Flat White

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I've been a Starbucks barista for over 10 years, and I love sharing my coffee knowledge with anyone who will listen.

Components of a flat white

Components of a flat white

The Starbucks Flat White

Throughout my 10 years as a Starbucks barista, 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 revisions 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

SizeShots 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.

© 2015 Amanda W