Your complete guide to flat white coffee | Nespresso Australia

Your complete guide to flat white coffee


What is a flat white?

Your complete guide to all things flat white coffee

The flat white is a relatively new item on the coffee menu as far as coffee history is concerned. It emerged 30-something years ago, but its true origin is a hotly debated topic.

Whether you believe the creamy cup of java was founded in Australia or across the pond in New Zealand, there’s no doubt that the flat white is now a firm favourite across the Southern Hemisphere and throughout the coffee drinking world.

So, what exactly is a flat white? Why is it called a flat white? And how do you make a flat white at home? Our complete guide has everything you need to know on this milky matter.

cappuccino coffee machine

What exactly is a flat white?

From the outside, a flat white may seem like the most underwhelming of all of the coffee family members. But, the truth is that this simple combination of milk and espresso has a little more to it than you might realise.

The microfoam is a key component to a well-made flat white. Microfoam has a soft, delicate texture that is made when steamed milk has been gently heated to avoid bubble creation. A traditional flat white has a velvety smooth finish without the thick foamy top that is characteristic of other coffees such as the cappuccino or latte.

A traditional flat white is often served in a smaller size cup or contains a double shot of espresso in order to achieve a deliciously intense flavour. The ideal serving size is around 170ml/6oz.

Why is it called a flat white?

There are a number of conflicting stories surrounding the origins of the flat white. But two stand out from the rest and they spark an age-old rivalry between Australia and New Zealand. Each country has its own grand tale about how the inaugural flat white came about and, to this day, nobody has been able to verify which is true.

One story tells of a café owner in Sydney, Australia who coined the term in the 1980’s following frequent requests from his customers for a ‘white coffee – flat’

An alternative origin story comes from New Zealand where a former barista is said to have invented the term while working in a café in Wellington in the late 1980’s. When a cappuccino failed to foam, he would apologise to the customer and explain that it was a ‘flat white’.

What does a flat white taste like?

The traditional flat white has a rich coffee taste and a velvety sweetness from the milk. The balance of flavours makes it a popular option for those who love a milky coffee blended with the intensity of quality espresso.

What is the difference between a flat white and a latte?

Don’t be confused into thinking that a flat white is just a smaller version of a latte. A flat white has a higher proportion of coffee to milk and has no froth. A flat white also has a velvety consistency while a latte has a thicker creamier finish.

Which coffee should you use in a flat white?

The beauty of using a Nespresso machine to make your flat white is that you can tailor every coffee to your personal preferences. You could choose a deep and intense flavour such as the Ispirazione Roma blend or you could opt for something lighter with Volluto. With Nespresso, you have the flexibility to adapt every single flat white you make to just how you like it. But, if you’re unsure, here are a few of our favourite flat whiite recipes along with some suggestions on capsule selection.

Sweet and creamy
This sweet and creamy capsule is the perfect option for anybody who prefers a lighter approach to flat white. With an intensity rating of 4/13 you can expect a delicately balanced flavour.

Ispirazione Roma
Full and Balanced
The balance of lightly roasted South and Central American Arabicas with Robusta, gives Ispirazione Roma a sweet and woody notes and a full, lasting taste on the palate.

Ispirazione Firenze Arpeggio
Intense and creamy
With an intensity of 9/13 this strong and creamy coffee works beautifully in a flat white.

Which milk should you use in a flat white?

The beauty of a flat white is that you don’t need to foam the milk in order to create the perfect finish. This opens up a world of milk options from whole cow’s milk, almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk and more. The key to a perfect flat white is the microfoam and the trick to getting this right is steaming your milk of choice to the correct temperature. Each milk type will have a different burning point so it might take a bit of practice to get right.
See our guide to milk frothing for more.

How to make a flat white at home

One of the most important points of consideration when making a flat white is the quality of coffee. Each Nespresso capsule contains specially selected ground coffee from coffee farms around the world. Nespresso chooses the best quality coffee beans from over 100,000 farmers, all committed to cultivating exceptional coffee and delivering the best blends to you.

Our coffee capsules are hermetically sealed, meaning they’re airtight and guarantee the coffee within the capsules is kept fresh.

Once you have selected your preferred capsule, the process is relatively easy – simply extract your coffee from your machine and texturise the milk – it’s that simple.

Our favourite flat white recipes

Flat White

Nespresso flat white


  • Nespresso capsule of choice
  • 90ml of milk

How to make

  • Use your Nespresso capsule to make an espresso (40ml) in a cup.
  • While making the espresso, froth the milk in a jug using the steam wand of your Nespresso machine or your Aeroccino milk frother (if it's the Aeroccino 4, press the 2nd button on the right. For the Barista Milk Frother, select the Flat White option).
  • Add the steamed milk to the espresso shot, spooning ½ cm of froth on top. Latte art optional.

Flat White Over Ice

Nespresso flat white over ice

A cooler take on a Nespresso classic


  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 Nespresso capsule of choice
  • 90ml of cold milk
  • 10ml Caramel Syrup (optional)

How to make

  • Place ice cubes in a View recipe glass
  • Add milk
  • Extract coffee
  • Pour over caramel syrup (optional)

The final word on flat white

Nespresso machines make the coffee-making experience easy. Whether you’re a flat white fanatic, an espresso enthusiast or a lover of long blacks, there’s a machine that’s perfectly suited to your needs.

Which coffee machine is right for you?

Use our coffee machine buying guide to find your perfect match.

Nespresso coffee is sourced from some of the best coffee growing regions from across the world. This includes Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Mexico and more.

Want to know more about Nespresso’s world of coffee blends?

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