Coffee is a drink that has been enjoyed for centuries, with many variations and flavors to suit different tastes and preferences. One of the most popular coffee drinks in recent years is the flat white, a smooth and creamy blend of espresso and steamed milk.
But where did this drink come from, and what makes it so special? In this blogpost, we will explore the history, the characteristics, and the techniques of making the perfect flat white.
The History of the Flat White: A Controversial Claim
The origin of the flat white is a matter of debate among coffee enthusiasts and experts. Two countries, Australia and New Zealand, claim to have invented this drink in the 1980s. However, the stories behind their claims are quite different.
According to one version, a barista in Sydney, Australia, added the term “flat white” to his menu in 1985, after he noticed that some customers preferred a less frothy version of a cappuccino. He described the flat white as an espresso with steamed milk and a thin layer of foam on top, instead of the more frothy, foamy top of the latte or cappuccino.
According to another version, a barista in Auckland, New Zealand, accidentally created the flat white in 1989, when he ran out of full-fat milk and had to use skimmed milk instead. He found that the skimmed milk produced a finer foam than the regular milk, and he called his drink a “flat white” as a joke.
Regardless of who invented it first, the flat white became a popular drink in both Australia and New Zealand, and later spread to other parts of the world. One factor that may have contributed to its global success is the rise of latte art in the early 2000s, which made coffee more visually appealing and creative. The flat white, with its smooth surface and minimal foam, was an ideal canvas for baristas to showcase their skills.
The Characteristics of the Flat White: A Balance of Flavors
The flat white is not just a simple combination of espresso and milk. It has some distinctive features that set it apart from other coffee drinks, such as the cappuccino or the latte.
One of these features is the ratio of coffee to milk. The flat white typically has a 1:2 ratio, meaning that for every one part of espresso, there are two parts of milk. This ratio allows the flavor of the coffee to shine through, without being diluted by too much milk or overwhelmed by too much foam.
Another feature is the texture of the milk. The flat white uses steamed milk that has been aerated to create tiny bubbles called microfoam. The microfoam gives the milk a silky and velvety consistency, which enhances the mouthfeel and taste of the drink. The microfoam also forms a thin layer of foam on top of the drink, usually no more than 0.5cm thick. This layer helps to retain the heat and aroma of the coffee, while also allowing for some latte art designs.
The Techniques of Making the Perfect Flat White: A Matter of Skill
Making a flat white may seem easy, but it actually requires some skill and precision. The quality of the ingredients, the temperature and pressure of the steam, and the timing and angle of pouring are all important factors that affect the outcome.
The first step is to choose good quality coffee beans and grind them finely. The beans should be fresh and roasted to suit your preference. You can use any type of espresso machine or device to brew your coffee, as long as it produces a strong and flavorful shot.
The second step is to steam your milk. You should use fresh and cold milk, preferably whole or semi-skimmed. You should also use a stainless steel pitcher with a thermometer and a steam wand. The trick is to introduce just enough air into the milk to create microfoam, without making it too bubbly or too hot. The ideal temperature for steaming milk is around 60°C.
The third step is to pour your milk over your espresso. You should do this slowly and steadily, holding your pitcher at an angle and close to your cup. You should aim for a smooth and even distribution of milk throughout your drink, creating a uniform color and texture. You can also swirl your pitcher slightly to create some patterns on top of your foam.
And there you have it: your own homemade flat white!
The Conclusion: A Tribute to the Flat White
The flat white is more than just a coffee drink. It is a cultural phenomenon that has captivated millions of people around the world. It is also a source of pride and passion for many coffee lovers and professionals. It may have a mysterious origin and a complex method, but its appeal is undeniable.
So, the next time you order or make a flat white, take a moment to appreciate its history, its characteristics, and its techniques. And then, enjoy its smooth and creamy taste. Cheers to the flat white and its timeless charm!