I've been a Starbucks barista for over 10 years, and I love sharing my coffee knowledge with anyone who will listen.
Through the ten 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.
|Size||Shots of Espresso (Flat White)||Shots of Espresso (Latte)|
Short (8 oz)
Tall (12 oz)
Grande (16 oz)
Venti (20 oz)
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 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
JDawnB on August 29, 2019:
I am having the same issue as Susie. Some Starbucks say that a short flat white has only 1 shot. The last Starbucks I went to I persisted it should have 2 and the lady even asked her manager who said no it’s only 1 shot in the short but 2 in the tall. Does Starbucks specify anywhere that a short should include 2 shots? Would be good to have a screenshot or something to show them every time it comes up so I don’t keep getting charged extra. What did you use as a reference when you created your table with the number of shots for each size? Would be great to know!
Sofia on April 19, 2019:
I just bought the Starbucks verismo espresso pod machine. How many pods of blond espresso should I use and milk pods to make the equivalent of a grande blonde flat white? How many ounces espresso, how many ounces milk - thank you!
Susie S. on March 02, 2018:
Will all Starbucks know that for a short flat white there will be 2 ristretto shots ?
I just got a short blond flat white and the lady said it's only 1 shot and everyone in the store said it is only 1 shot for a short flat white.
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on January 25, 2018:
That's so strange! I know things CAN vary from store to store, especially at licensed locations (like the kiosks you find in a Target or grocery store,) but that's a pretty big discrepancy. You can always ask to speak to a manager or find out who the district manager is so you can e-mail them.
Corey on December 27, 2017:
My local Starbucks says a venti flatwhite only comes with 3 shots and charges me extra for the 4th. All other Starbucks I visit are 4, even ones that I frequent overseas. How to handle this rouge Starbucks?
modi on November 17, 2017:
thats help me alone thank you so much
Charlie Cantrell on July 15, 2017:
How do you make a iced white chocolate mocha, I love the fact that you can let everyone know this information this is awesome
Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on June 08, 2017:
Sounds yum! I'm a have to try it sometime!!
Donnell Shariat on June 08, 2017:
I'm really grateful for your posts in general, but specifically enjoyed the details on the Flat White. Why? Because, in watching my health, I'm up for trying the same old things in a new way. In this case, the enhanced flavor in these shots and the micro-creaminess of the milk allows me to focus on the natural sweetness and robust flavor of the drink, without adding sweetness of some other kind to it. A real treasure to add to my menu.
Diane on April 26, 2017:
I just read all of your guides... wonderful, thank you. One thing that I always wonder is: what additions and changes typically have an added cost to the drink? I never get extra shots or syrup because I don't know when it will cost extra.
curious on May 18, 2015:
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.
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on May 18, 2015:
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.
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on May 18, 2015:
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.
Whitney on May 18, 2015:
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)?
curious on May 13, 2015:
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.
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on May 05, 2015:
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.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 24, 2015:
Another great hub from you on the flat white drinks. I miss going to Starbucks! Maybe this summer! Voted up for useful!
dzid_ on February 09, 2015:
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...
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on January 17, 2015:
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.
Sarah on January 17, 2015:
Can you flavor this like lattes or are they generally left plain? I was thinking the toffee nut would be really good in one.