Coffee: The Flat White

Wallace Espresso Flat White

The other day on my Twitter feed I stumbled across a retweet from a friend.

The retweet was from Starbucks Canada proclaiming how they are now making a flat white.


Reading that I groaned out loud on the bus. To most people the flat white is a new invention. A tiny, adorable little latte. But patrons of my local, Wallace Espresso have been savoring flat whites forever. Well, maybe not forever, but owner Dan has perfected the flat white, and has been pouring it pretty much since the day he opened. Dan’s flat white, in my eyes, is the best milked espresso beverage around.

Wallace Espresso Flat White
Wallace Espresso Flat White

Previously, If I wanted a milked bevy, I would go the misto route. A misto is an Americano topped with a bit of steamed milk. The flat white is kinda like that, only way way better.


The Flat White: Double shot of espresso topped with silky steamed milk. Not frothed, not whipped, not super bubbly, and definitely not 3/4 of a cup of it.


I asked Dan if I could bother him with a few questions about my beloved flat white. He kindly agreed.

Kristen: What makes the flat white different from a cappuccino?

Dan: Our Flat White and our traditional cappuccino are similar in that they’re both served in an eight oz cup. Folks are given the choice between our custom medium roast (the Avontuur) or our dark roast. The milk for the flat white is less aerated than the capp milk which is steamed to the where there is about a 1/2 inch of silky foam. The flat white milk on the other hand is much less aerated, and has about an 1/8th of an inch of glassy foam , hence the flat in flat white. The microfoam should shine if done properly. For ours the ratio of espresso to milk is around 1/3 espresso to 2/3 Milk. And the temp is not ripping hot, it should be hot enough for the fat in the milk to sweeten up a bit. We use 3.8 % whole milk which helps with the mouthfeel of the drink.


Wallace Espresso Flat White
Wallace Espresso Flat White. Photo courtesy of Wallace Espresso

Kristen: How long have you been making it? Where did you first try it?

Dan: I’ve been making them for around 2years. First tried one after reading about Melbourne cafe culture. I made one that got the Aussie approval.

Kristen: What’s the secret to your amazing silky milk?

Dan: The secret to the silky milk is a steady hand and practice. It’s an easy drink to mess up. Steaming smaller quantities of milk can be tougher.

Kristen: What do you think about Starbucks making it [the flat white] now?

Dan: As far as Starbucks doing it, I’m skeptical about them being able to produce tight milk with their automatic steam wands. Which, paired alongside their espresso which always tastes very burnt will leave true flat white lovers unsatisfied. These days you can score serious cred points with good coffee lovers if you can consistently execute a solid flat white.

Kristen: Thanks Dan!





I tried out a Starbucks Flat White, and here is my experience:

I rolled up to the counter and asked for a flat white. The barrista asked “What size?” This threw me, as I wasn’t expecting it. When I order one from Dan, it doesn’t come in sizes. It comes in a small cup. End of story. Thrown by the Starbucks size quiz, I said “uhh…the smallest one?”. I paid my $4.60 (ouch) and was handed a tall flat white.


Starbucks Flat White
Starbucks Flat White


The tall cup is a 12oz cup. Considerably larger than the 8oz cup I am accustomed to. My first thought was “is that extra 4oz all milk?”. After the first sip, my fear was confirmed. With the volume of milk aside, lets move on to the quality of milk. The Starbucks milk was light and frothy. Not quite cappuccino frothy, but pretty much identical to a latte. In fact, the whole drink reminded me of…wait for it…a latte. The volume of milk, the density and the texture of the milk.


Wallace Espresso Flat White
8oz $3.00


Starbucks Flat White
12oz $4.60



In closing, my opinion is….

Wallace Espresso for the win.

Starbucks can keep their overpriced beverages, and I will stick local.

P.S. I also tried out some flat whites across the city. Jimmys and Mercatto also made some good ones!

What is your favorite coffee beverage? Have you ever tried the flat white?



Author: Kristen

Kristen & her husband El Granto & their Vizsla Odin live in a converted Storefront in downtown Toronto.

3 thoughts on “Coffee: The Flat White”

  1. I LOVE a flat white and also tried one from Starbucks. I hated it. It tasted like a latte, just like you said, except it also happened to taste burnt. Worst. I SO wish we had smaller coffee shops around here. I always end up going to Starbucks (though I now have my faves and know which baristas can make me something decent).

  2. Your passion for coffee culture is similar to mine ­čÖé I even go so far as to roasting my own beans because most coffee tastes burnt to me. Dan sure knows what he is talking about! No such luck as just dropping into Wallace Espresso from Thunder Bay, sigh! Although I must say Waking Giant coffee roastery might be a close second, AND they serve it on campus here! So I will judge them on their flat white tomorrow thanks to your excellent description here.

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