What is a flat white?

What is a Flat White?

So it’s time to finally answer that question we get asked everyday…


Well many people have different opinions of what a flat white is. At Annie Maison we get asked all the time about flat whites. How they are made? why they are so popular? should you add syrups? the concentration of milk to coffee? how hot should they be? what machine creates the best flat white? and do you really need an expensive machine to create a great flat white?

It’s time to get down to business and finally answer some of these questions once and for all… 

Ok, lets discuss coffee machines – The team at Annie Maison Coffeehouse use the Fracino Retro dual lever espresso machine paired with the Fracino Luxomatic grinder. It’s a great combination for speed and reliability and ideal for a busy coffeeshop environment. We always advise seeking professional advice before committing to purchasing any coffeeshop equipment as there are lots of variables to consider. 

Meanwhile, the Sage Barista Express bean to cup is the unanimous choice for all our baristas for home use. Essentially, the process of both machines is the same however, the speed of the process is difference between the 2 setups.

Commercial machines draw a lot of power and in most cases will require a 3 phase supply, fixed installation and dedicated plumbing. Compared to the sage barista express which you can simply plug into your existing home power outlets. The water tank is fitted to the back of the machine and the bean grinder is mounted above.

To answer the question does an expensive machine mean a better flat white? Well, the sage is at the higher price point for any home coffee machine but compared to commercial machines available it’s a fraction of the price and makes a superb flat white albeit slightly slower than any commercial machine.

Sage Barista Express
The daily grind

When extracting coffee for a flat white it’s crucial that the grind is setup exactly right. A grind to course will lead to a weak extraction, watery and without that coffee hit your looking for. A grind too fine will over-extract and simply drip out the basket and leave an oily look, taste and feel. Equally, both are a no no in any good coffeeshop and something you should look out for if your experimenting. A good grind will give an extraction time of around 22- 24 seconds and the appearance of the espresso leaving the basket will resemble 2 mouse tails.

We’ve taken an action shot to show you what to look for. If you achieve this extraction and have chosen a premium grade coffee bean you’ll have a wonderful golden crema.

Annie Maison Coffee Beans
How to grind espresso beans
Espresso Extraction
Single Espresso

Ok… now things get real crazy! The principle of flat white milk is very simple but when it comes to the pour and creating wonderful latte art, things get tricky and that’s where good old practice comes to play. The quality of the coffee is not dependant on the art on top but on the consistency of the milk and the quality of the espresso. Latte art simply gives you bragging rights to show you know a thing or two about coffee

So… good milk starts with a steam purge, a clean milk jug and fresh milk. Alternative milks can be used at this stage depending of personal preference but will be slightly more tricky to work with.


Step by Step:

  • Purge any old water/milk out of the steam wand before starting.
  • Making sure the steam wand is clean before you place it into the new milk.
  • Add your chosen milk to the jug.
  • Sink the steam wand towards the bottom of the milk making sure not to touch the bottom of the jug.
  • Turn on the steam and slowly lower the jug until the tip of the steam wand breaches the surface of the milk. It’s important you don’t introduce too much air into the milk at this stage. 
  • Allow the tip of the wand to “Fizz” the surface of the milk until you begin to feel the heat of the milk come through the jug.
  • As soon as you feel heat bury the wand to the bottom of the milk and allow the milk to fold over itself until the “desired temperature” is reached. 


You should now have a velvety milk that resembles a white emulsion paint. Keep the milk moving until you’re ready to pour to avoid a thick layer on the top of the milk forming. The layer is purely all the micro bubbles that you introduced at the beginning of the steam process rising to the top of the milk.


Take you double espresso in a 9oz coffee pre warmed cup and begin to pour your milk. Start with a high, slow and controlled pour so the milk cuts through the crema. Work the milk into the espresso by circulating the pour around the cup. As you reach the mid point of the cup lower the milk jug tip to meet the crema of the coffee and begin to create you favourite latte art. 

Voila! You have the perfect flat white with an even consistency of milk vs espresso with a luxurious velvety texture and a caffeine hit that kicks like a Japanese mule!


Optimal Temperature is purely personal preference but we always serve our coffees around 70°C. Some people ask for extra hot, although we prefer not to serve it like this due to scalding of the milk, we welcome everyone to enjoy Annie Maison coffee just as they wish. We like to experiment with different flavours and use a variety of different syrups in store and welcome customers to create their own flavours. 


The only real deciding factors that are important when creating a good flat white is the texture of the milk and the concentration of coffee to milk. Get the fundamentals of this correct and you will be on your way to creating a great flat white. So good in fact you’ll never be able to drink a major coffee chain flat white again… 

Thank you for visiting Annie Maison and we hope that one day you’ll visit us and enjoy our passion. COFFEE | COFFEE | COFFEE