The Iconic Flat White

Ten years ago, 'Flat White' officially entered the Oxford Dictionary, a milestone that coincided with Google celebrating the term with a unique doodle. This moment sparked a wave of reflection on this beloved beverage, a staple that has long held the title of the most cherished item in our store.

The Iconic Flat White

My first encounter with a flat white was at the iconic Flat White spot on Berwick Street when I was just 15. It quickly became the heart of our family's office routine. My first vivid coffee shop memories involve me, the awkward kid in line, mesmerised by the effortlessly cool Aussie and Kiwi baristas mastering their craft. Watching them, I glimpsed something that felt like a community, in the twilight days of Soho. Those formative moments deeply influence our values today, and we hold immense respect for all the coffee culture waves that have led us here.

Over the years, I've sipped on some magnificent flat whites, and a few peculiar ones too. Picture this: a coffee shop in Switzerland once handed me an incredibly lengthy espresso shot, lukewarm but tasted like a girthy bag of peachy Campinos. Not too far from the iconic Flat White, there was Soho Bikes – now just a memory, but once home to the most sublime flat white, crafted by barista maestros Tristan & Ben. Their artistry made the place more than just a coffee shop. Currently, when I'm not indulging in Brewed Online's concoctions, my flat white allegiance lies with Flat Cap Coffee in Borough Market. They brew a Guatemalan delight from Notes that has me making pilgrimages, regardless of my actual location. Do give this enduring coffee cart a try, just a heads-up: their hours might keep you guessing.

London, like most coffee capitals, could still polish its reputation as a flat white haven and I still find myself wandering into too many spots where the coffee just doesn't hit the sweet spot. It's part of the gig – endless hours, bustling crowds, tense atmospheres, novel blends, and rookie baristas all contribute to the intricate ballet of brewing the perfect cup. We might make it appear effortless, but trust me, it's a craft that's anything but simple.

I could delve into the storied past of the flat white, and how much I'd appreciate meeting the genius who first thought, "Let's brew this masterpiece." But, it's our current scene and future outlook that resonates. Years down the line, I hope I mirror a fraction of the cool, composed vibe of those initial baristas who greatly influenced us. If you're around, swing by for a Flat White at our place or any of the spots I've highlighted. Cheers to the past decade of the flat white and to the next ten years shaping its journey.

How do I make a perfect Flat White at home? 

So, you're keen to create a professional-quality Flat White in the comfort of your own home? Success in this endeavour involves mastering several crucial steps: selecting the right equipment, choosing the best coffee, expertly pulling an espresso shot, steaming microfoam to perfection, and finally, pouring with finesse. Let's dive in:

Equipment: A proper Flat White demands a home espresso machine capable of delivering water through coffee at high pressure, ideally around 9 bars. This pressure is essential for extracting the coffee's full flavour. Sage offers a range of excellent home machines, from the Mini Bambino at approximately £245 to the Oracle, which exceeds £1700. For beginners, there's no need to break the bank; focusing on technique with a more basic machine can yield better results than simply investing in something more expensive.

Coffee Selection: While you can technically use any coffee to make an espresso, a variety of factors influence the result you'll get; the way it's been roasted, its origin, processing technique and the altitude it's grown at for example.. luckily we have already thought about this and that's why we built our coffee matching tool; use it to find espresso recommendations that suit your taste preferences.

Pulling the Perfect Espresso Shot: Precision in weighing, measuring, and timing is crucial for a great espresso shot. If you are new to this then here's a recipe to get you started. Begin with 18g of finely ground coffee, aiming to extract a 35g shot of espresso in about 25-28 seconds. You may need to adjust the grind size to fine-tune the extraction time. Although these parameters will require minor adjustments depending on the coffee, this is a solid starting point. For an in-depth guide to perfecting your espresso technique, we suggest watching a video by James Hoffmann, founder of Square Mile Coffee (amongst many other accolades) and renowned coffee YouTuber. We're fortunate to occasionally see him at our Stoke Newington shop; his expertise in all things coffee is invaluable, and we're thrilled to share his videos on our blog.

Steaming the Milk: Start by purging any residual water from the steam wand. Submerge the wand in your milk jug, then activate it. Adjusting the wand's height will help introduce the desired amount of air - more air 'stretches' the milk, creating the microfoam necessary for a Flat White. Initially, add some air to create foam, then focus on swirling the milk in the jug to eliminate large bubbles, achieving a silky, smooth texture. Mastering milk steaming and pouring is an art that demands practice, but with persistence, you'll excel. For a detailed tutorial on milk steaming, we recommend James' milk steaming guide for beginners.

By concentrating on these essential stages and honing your skills, you'll be well on your way to enjoying a café-quality Flat White at home. Of course; you know where we are if it doesn't work out.

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