The McDonald’s Flat White is the latest addition to the McCafé coffee menu. Their new advert claims that we don’t know what a Flat White is, and seeks to educate. It just happens that I DO know what a Flat White is. And I can tell a good one from a bad one. Let’s take a look at their advert …
First invented in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s, the Flat White has become a UK staple on trendy coffee menus in high street coffee shops. There are, however, some very poor Flat Whites being served. The size of the Flat White is also somewhat contentious, as Starbucks and Costa insist on serving smaller volumes and charging a premium price for it. However, if you buy a Flat White at many independent coffee shops it will be served in a normal sized cup.
The Perfect Flat White
A Flat White is an espresso-based coffee prepared by pouring a milk microfoam into a single or double shot of espresso. The microfoam is prepared by steaming the milk and then banging the jug on the counter to remove large bubbles. This allows the foam to have small/finer bubbles and a thicker velvety texture. The foam is worked initially into the espresso crema layer and finally forms a 1″ to 1¼” velvety foam layer on top of the coffee. The microfoam needs to last throughout the time of drinking and provide a velvety mixture of milk with coffee for each sip.
The Taste Test
Four Flat Whites were purchased from Starbucks (£3.20), McDonald’s ( £1.99), Greggs (£2.30) and Patisserie Valerie (£2.85). We compared them in a like-for-like test.
Starbucks and Patisserie Valerie were barista-made coffees, while Greggs and McDonald’s were bean-to-cup machine made. This meant that Starbucks and Patisserie Valerie were the only true winners with something approaching the correct foam texture.
The Greggs’ Flat White was the worst in our taste test, with a very poor foam texture with large bubbles that quickly disappeared. McDonald’s was a little better (though I saw little difference between this and a normal McD’s white coffee). The Patisserie Valerie coffee came second, but the microfoam had disappeared before the last sip of coffee had been drunk. Taste-wise, the Starbucks coffee was a little insipid (for my taste) with the best flavour going to Patisserie Valerie. The McD’s and Greggs’ coffees were poor because they did not have enough espresso in them. The Greggs’ one was quite watery. So, the winner was Starbucks, 2nd Patisserie Valerie, 3rd McDonald’s and 4th Greggs.
A Flat White must be made by a trained barista to get the correct milk texture. Bean-to-cup machines cannot produce the texture of foam required (prove me wrong!) for the milk. So, if you want a Flat White go to an independent coffee shop or maybe Starbucks or Costa. At least then you may get the correct milk texture. A bean-to-cup machine does not cut it. So, in answer to the McDonald’s advert, yes I do know what a Flat White is, but I am not sure you do!