Starbucks Drink Guide: Flat White

Updated on April 21, 2017


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.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Susie S. 

        10 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 

        12 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


        13 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


        14 months ago

        thats help me alone thank you so much

      • profile image

        Charlie Cantrell 

        18 months 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 

        19 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

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

      • profile image

        Donnell Shariat 

        19 months 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


        21 months 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


        3 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 

        3 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 

        3 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


        3 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


        3 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 

        3 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 

        3 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


        3 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


        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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