Starbucks Drink Guide: Flat White

Updated on April 21, 2017
Source

Introduction

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
Size
Shots of Espresso (Flat White)
Shots of Espresso (Latte)
Short (8 oz)
2
1
Tall (12 oz)
2
1
Grande (16 oz)
3
2
Venti (20 oz)
4
2

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.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Sofia 

      2 months ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Susie S. 

      16 months ago

      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.

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      17 months ago from Pittsburgh

      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.

    • profile image

      Corey 

      18 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      modi 

      20 months ago

      thats help me alone thank you so much

    • profile image

      Charlie Cantrell 

      2 years ago

      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 profile image

      Angel Guzman 

      2 years ago from Joliet, Illinois

      Sounds yum! I'm a have to try it sometime!!

    • profile image

      Donnell Shariat 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Diane 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      curious 

      4 years 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.

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      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.

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      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.

    • profile image

      Whitney 

      4 years 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)?

    • profile image

      curious 

      4 years 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.

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      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 profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years 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!

    • profile image

      dzid_ 

      4 years 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...

    • mandination profile imageAUTHOR

      Amanda W 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      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.

    • profile image

      Sarah 

      4 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.

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