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Recently Starbucks Canada has started serving Flat Whites and after cursorily reading about how to make one on Wikipedia, I thought I'd try my hand at it at home.

We have a Breville Cafe Roma Espresso machine and I thought that perhaps if I steam the milk for really really long, and start with only half the cup full it would create the microfoam a Flat White needs. I also tried to replicate a ristretto technique by essentially stopping the shot at 2/3rds of what I would normally pull - so stopping at the 20 seconds mark instead of at the 30 seconds mark.

Not bad, but not exactly like Starbucks, although it came out brutally hot because the milk was very hot and I poured both the milk and microfoam into the espresso. Thinking I need to put only the microfoam next time. Anyone have any tips on how to make a perfect flat white at home?

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Good is completely subjective, so I cannot comment on that part.

You already mentioned two basic components: ristretto and the microfoam. These should do the flat white. However, I may have a useful hint for useful microfoam. Check whether you can spill the microfoam directly on top of ristretto. If you can't and you require a spoon or something similar, then it is not wet enough.

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I can only tell you what I like, but I think there are two important components that affect the quality of a flat white (compared to a cappuccino).

  1. The coffee to milk ratio is higher than for a cappuccino. I would use a double shot of espresso in the same cup you make a single shot cappuccino. Not ristrettos or anything like that, just a nice balanced espresso.

  2. The steamed milk should be less stiff and more velvety/silky than for a cappuccino. So basically you want to aerate the milk less. Don't overheat the milk or the foam will get stiff, besides you are burning the milk and it will just make your flat white (or any other milk based coffee drink) taste bad and burnt. You can achieve this by just slightly lowering the milk pitcher until you hear the hissing sound. This is when you pull in air into the milk. Don't overdo it, just give it a few hisses and then submerge the nozzle back into the milk so it is rolling and mixing all the foam with the milk to make it silky and smooth. Turn of the steam when it is getting hot, check with the area of your palm underneath the thumb as it is usually more sensitive. If it's getting to hot there, stop the steam. Another sign is the sound of the steaming, when it is getting deeper it's probably done. The surface of the milk should appear smooth and glossy. Too many big bubbles probably means you lowered the pitcher too much and aerated too long. If there's still too much foam or you can see like a kind of solid blob of foam in the middle as you swirl it gently, just pour it out of the pitcher.

Now you should be able to pour a nice Flat White with only little foam on top.

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