Flat White vs Ristretto

Want to learn more about coffee?
Explore more on our blog!
Learn more
Two cups of Flat White coffee and coffee beans on a marble table.
Table of Contents
Two cups of Flat White coffee and coffee beans on a marble table.

Ever been perplexed by the endless coffee options at your favorite café? You’re not alone. Navigating a coffee menu can be confusing, especially when it comes to choices like Flat White and Ristretto.

In this guide, we’ll break down these two popular drinks side by side—highlighting their origins, brewing processes, flavor profiles and more—to help you find your perfect cup.

Ready for a caffeine-filled journey?

Flat White vs Ristretto

The difference between a Flat White and a Ristretto is mainly in their milk-to-espresso ratio and the texture of the drink. A Flat White features a double shot of espresso mixed with a larger volume of steamed milk, creating a creamy yet strong coffee experience.

It aims to strike a balance between milk and espresso, offering a smooth texture with microfoam on top.

In contrast, a Ristretto is an extremely concentrated shot of espresso, created by using less water in the extraction process. It provides a powerful, intense coffee experience, without any milk to dilute its robust flavor.

Your choice between a Flat White and a Ristretto ultimately depends on your preference for a milky, smoother texture versus a more concentrated, punchy coffee shot.

Key Takeaways

  • Flat White is a popular coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk, known for its strong taste from the espresso and smooth feel from the milk.
  • Ristretto is a shorter shot of espresso that uses less water, resulting in a more concentrated flavor and sweetness when used in flat white coffee drinks.
  • The brewing process for both flat white and ristretto involves carefully balancing water-to-coffee ratio, extraction time, pressure, and temperature in an espresso machine.
  • Flat white has a smooth and creamy flavor with hints of caramel and chocolate, while ristretto is bolder and more intense with notes of dark chocolate.


Flat White Definition: A flat white is a popular espresso-based drink made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk. It originated in Australia and New Zealand.

Ristretto Definition: Ristretto is an Italian term that translates to “restricted” or “short.” In the coffee world, it refers to a short shot of espresso that uses less water than a regular espresso shot, resulting in a more concentrated flavor.

Flat White Definition

A flat white is a type of coffee. It has espresso and microfoam in it. The cup used to hold a flat white can carry 5 fl. oz of liquid. This drink uses either one double shot or one ristretto shot of espresso.

To make the microfoam, you steam milk till it gets frothy. A flat white stands out because it has a strong taste from the espresso but also a smooth feel from the milk.

Ristretto Definition

Ristretto is a sweet and strong kind of espresso. It means “restrict” in Italian. The name comes from less water being used to make the ristretto. This type of coffee has less volume than other kinds like it, so it’s called a short shot of espresso.

Even though many people think ristretto has more caffeine, this isn’t true. Ristretto adds a special sweetness when used in flat white coffee drinks.

Historical Origins

The historical origins of the flat white and ristretto can provide insight into their unique characteristics and brewing methods.

Flat White Origins

The flat white was born in the 1980s. It is a popular coffee in Australia and New Zealand. Both these places say they made it first. The flat white has more coffee and less milk than other drinks like lattes.

A true flat white uses a double ristretto, which is a strong kind of espresso.

Ristretto Origins

Ristretto, a strong black coffee similar to espresso, has its origins in Italy. It gained popularity in the United States over time. Ristretto is made using an espresso machine and has a shorter extraction time of 12-15 seconds compared to regular espresso.

This results in a more concentrated flavor and aroma. Originally enjoyed by Italian coffee lovers, ristretto has now become a favored choice among coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

Brewing Process

The brewing process for both flat white and ristretto involves carefully balancing the water-to-coffee ratio, controlling extraction time, and using optimal pressure and temperature in an espresso machine.

Water and Coffee Ratio

The water and coffee ratio is an important factor in brewing a delicious cup of coffee. For a regular espresso, the standard ratio is 2 grams of water per gram of coffee. However, for a ristretto shot, the brewing ratio is different.

It uses 15 grams of coffee and produces 30 grams of espresso. This means that a ristretto shot has a stronger flavor compared to a regular espresso because less water is used during brewing.

Understanding the right coffee-to-water ratio is crucial in achieving the desired taste and strength for your coffee.

Extraction Time

The extraction time is an important factor in brewing both flat white and ristretto. For a ristretto, the extraction time is typically around 15 to 20 seconds, which results in a shorter shot.

A regular espresso, including those used in flat whites, brews for 25 to 30 seconds. The difference in extraction times contributes to the distinct flavors and aromas of these coffee drinks.

So when you’re deciding between a flat white and a ristretto, keep in mind that the extraction time plays a crucial role in determining the taste and intensity of your coffee experience.

Pressure and Temperature

Both the flat white and ristretto require the same water pressure and temperature during their brewing process. This means that both coffee drinks are subjected to high pressure and hot water when extracting flavor from the ground coffee beans.

The pressure and temperature play a crucial role in determining the overall taste, strength, and aroma of these beverages. By carefully controlling these variables, baristas can create a perfect balance between acidity, bitterness, sweetness, and richness in both the flat white and ristretto.

Flavor and Aroma Differences

The flat white has a smooth and creamy flavor with hints of caramel and chocolate, while the ristretto is bolder and more intense, with a concentrated coffee flavor and notes of dark chocolate.

Flat White

The flat white is a coffee drink that combines bold espresso and microfoam steamed milk. It is known for its sweetness and smoothness, making it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts.

Unlike other milk-based drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, the flat white uses a double shot of ristretto, resulting in more coffee overall. The ristretto shots used in flat whites are made with less water, which creates a more intense flavor.

This concentrated espresso, when mixed with the velvety texture of the steamed milk, creates a delightful balance of flavors. Whether enjoyed at your favorite coffee shop or made at home, the flat white is sure to satisfy your craving for a strong yet creamy coffee beverage.


A ristretto is a strong and concentrated shot of coffee that has a rich aroma and intense flavor. It is smaller than an espresso, but packs a punch with its bold taste. Unlike a flat white, the ristretto uses less water during the brewing process, resulting in a shorter extraction time.

This gives the ristretto its distinct sweetness and smoother texture compared to other coffee variations. The flavor compounds extracted in a ristretto are different from those found in an espresso, making it unique and appealing to coffee enthusiasts who appreciate its concentrated goodness.

Caffeine Content

The caffeine content of a Flat White can vary depending on the size and number of shots used, typically ranging from 63mg to 150mg per serving. Ristretto shots, on the other hand, have a higher concentration of caffeine due to the shorter extraction time, with an average caffeine content of 75mg to 90mg per shot.

Flat White Caffeine Content

A flat white is a coffee drink that typically contains two shots of espresso. This means that it has more caffeine compared to other coffee beverages. A tall cup of Starbucks flat white, which is about 354 ml or 12 fl oz in size, contains around 130 mg of caffeine.

The total amount of caffeine in a flat white can vary depending on the size and the specific recipe used, but on average, it can have about 136mg of caffeine. It’s important to note that the caffeine content may also be affected by factors such as the type and quality of beans used, as well as the brewing process.

So if you’re looking for a strong coffee with a good kick of caffeine, a flat white could be a great choice for you.

Ristretto Caffeine Content

Ristretto shots have a higher concentration of essential oils, which can make them seem stronger than regular espresso. The caffeine content in flat white and ristretto is related to the use of ristretto espresso.

A tall flat white at Starbucks typically contains two shots of ristretto, resulting in around 130 mg of caffeine. Ristretto shots are more intense and have a slightly different taste compared to standard espresso shots.

While ristretto is not necessarily stronger than espresso, it can result in a more intense shot due to its concentrated nature.

Uses in Popular Drinks

Flat White in Popular Drinks: The flat white is commonly used as a base for specialty coffee drinks, such as flavored lattes or mochas, due to its smooth and creamy texture.

Flat White in Popular Drinks

A flat white is a popular drink that can be found in many coffee shops. It is made with a ristretto, which is a type of espresso shot that uses less water for a more concentrated flavor.

The flat white contains double shots of espresso, making it stronger than other drinks like cappuccinos or lattes. Many coffee shops use ristretto shots for their flat whites because they add an extra boldness to the flavor.

Starbucks, for example, uses three shots of ristretto in their flat whites, giving them even more caffeine than other drinks of the same size. Overall, the flat white is known for its strong and rich taste, making it a favorite among coffee lovers who prefer bolder flavors.

Ristretto in Popular Drinks

Ristretto is a type of espresso shot that is often used as a base for popular coffee drinks like lattes, flat whites, and cappuccinos. Its concentrated and intense flavor adds richness to these beverages.

Baristas use ristretto as the foundation because it provides a sweeter and more powerful taste compared to other espresso shots. This makes the final drink even more delicious and satisfying for coffee lovers.

So next time you order your favorite caffeinated beverage, there’s a good chance it might be made with a ristretto shot!

Choosing Between Flat White and Ristretto

Consider your personal preferences and the appropriate occasion to determine whether you prefer a smooth and milky flat white or a strong and concentrated ristretto.

Considering personal preferences

When choosing between a flat white and a ristretto, personal preferences are key. Some people may enjoy the bold and concentrated flavors of the ristretto, while others may prefer the creamy and smooth taste of the flat white.

It ultimately depends on your individual palate and what you find most enjoyable in a coffee drink. So go ahead and explore both options to see which one suits your taste buds best!

Determine the appropriate occasion

Flat white and ristretto can be enjoyed at different occasions based on your preference. If you’re looking for a quick morning boost or an afternoon coffee break, both options work well.

The flat white is favored by those who enjoy a strong coffee taste, while the ristretto allows for more customization with added syrups. Ultimately, the choice between flat white and ristretto comes down to personal taste and desired flavors.

So whether you want a bold coffee experience or something sweeter, make your decision based on what suits the occasion best for you.


Flat White and Ristretto are both espresso-based coffee drinks that offer unique flavors and intensities. The Flat White is known for its bold coffee flavor and higher ratio of coffee to milk, while the Ristretto is a more concentrated version of the espresso shot.

Choosing between them depends on personal preferences and the occasion. So next time you’re at a coffee shop, consider trying a Flat White or Ristretto to experience their distinct characteristics for yourself!


What is the difference between a flat white and ristretto?

The main difference is in how they are made. A traditional flat white uses two espresso shots and whole milk, while a ristretto uses less water for stronger coffee flavor.

How can I make a good Flat White at home?

Making a good flat white at home requires double espresso with a small amount of foam layer, mixed well with one-third milk to create latte art on top.

Is there any cappuccino vs Flat white or Latte vs Flat White argument?

Yes, the coffee scene has debates over these different coffee types! They differ mainly in the ratio of milk to coffee used.

Can anyone tell me what makes a flat white different from other espresso drinks?

A flat white stands out because it’s prepared with a double shot of espresso mixed with equal amounts of steamed milk and microfoam.

How does Starbucks serve their version of the Flat White?

Starbucks added an interesting touch to their menu by making their flat whites more like bold versions of lattes using ristretto espresso shots for that stronger taste!

Wasn’t Ristretto originally part of making traditional Flat Whites?

Rumor as it may be among some baristas; normally we pull regular espressos not shorter ristrettos for our standard lattes or even our original recipe for the famous first ever invented “flat whites”!

About the Author:
Sophia Lewis, a travel blogger with a focus on global coffee cultures, explores coffee traditions from Colombia to Turkey. Her expertise lies in understanding the cultivation, brewing, and enjoyment of coffee in different cultures. Through articles, travel vlogs, and tastings, Sophia brings a global perspective to coffee, emphasizing ethical and sustainable practices, and invites readers to join her community of global coffee enthusiasts.