Researched & Written By S.J. Will Copyright 2015  Images Alan Preston Copyright 2015

Extracts from Interviews with Alan Preston  copyright 2015

Origin of The Flat White

By October of 2016, the individuals claiming that they invented the Flat White have been narrowed down to Alan Preston, the founder of Moors Espresso Bar and the owners of an Auckland Cafe, who have variously said they had Flat White on their menu firstly in 1989, then 1988 and now they say 1986.

No others are claiming the Flat White that we are aware of. There is no Melbourne claim per se.

We think the original Flat White was the North Queensland 'White Coffee - Flat' as it was occasionally described in the Cane Town main street Cafes. We believe that this version is long extinct and Alan Preston's Moors Espresso Bar is the first documented appearance of The Flat White. His following 6 Coffee Outlets around Sydney's Chinatown (1985 - 1992) 7 in total, becomes the true Birth Place of the modern Flat White. There is no other convincing evidence. As always we will acknowledge the facts as they present. We have done our best to allow others their say in the matter. At this time no one has been able to produce a sliver of contrary evidence of any kind other than what we consider to be hearsay and invention. The amount of conclusive evidence which supports the Moors Espresso Bar Flat White Origin stands, as the documented, first appearance of The Flat White.


How to Make a Flat White


my thoughts on Espresso in general

by Alan Preston

The first thing to do is start with Arabica Beans which have been Dark Roasted. The modern trend is to under roast the beans. This does not work simply because the Sugars in the Beans are not caramelised. No amount of logic seems to persuade modern roasters that they should roast dark, as their predecessors did. The unfortunate influence of a number of factors (mostly the rise of American Espresso) has taken The Espresso Industry in the wrong direction. Roast dark, wait 7 days minimum then grind fine, ideally with a Conical Burr Grinder. If you can see a little bit of shard in the ground beans, you are close. The best test is how the grounds resist the pump pressure. For as long as I can remember, I've run my pumps at 10 bar (Industry standard is 9 bar). I have found 10 bar best. In the early days of the semi auto machines I would be breaking the solenoids every few weeks because of this. Joe Morabito, Vittoria Coffee's Espresso Tech, found a solution with stronger solenoids. (We were amused when Nigel Tufnell turned his Marshall Amp up to 11).

You must fill the basket exactly. There is only 1 exact & perfect dose which matches your pump pressure.

If you've got a Lever Handle or you are running at 10 bar, you can grind slightly finer. A strong arm on the Lever will push 12 bar. It amuses me the number of people who think the Lever Spring does the work. The original Lever Handle Operators are legends for their skill. They would bolt their Machines to the counter and then push the bejesus out of the handle. The spring alone will get you about 6 bar.

The dose must fill the basket so that as you slot the Group Handle into the Group Head you feel resistance. After 45 years of making espresso. I know this resistance precisely. You can quickly learn it and will soon see the connection between the correct dose and how the espresso flows.Too much is better then too little. A common misunderstanding is that a very slow flowing distill is burning the coffee. That's complete rubbish, not true in the slightest. The only way you can burn the coffee is by having your pressurestat set too hot.  89 - 91 celsius is perfect. 92 & above is too hot. Another ridiculous misconception from McAmerica.

Running a cheap flat blade grinder too long will also burn the beans but why would you do that? What does happen with a slow distill is you will take forever and stress the pump but you won't burn the coffee. Another ridiculous and unchallenged false hood is that coffee should be served at 60 - 70 degrees. Some trendy cafes even name themselves 66,65 or even more stupidly, 63, nodding to this belief that milk burns and then tastes bad, thus spoiling the espresso. This is patently absurd and comes directly from McAmerica. In 1991, coincidentally, both Bunn (the largest maker of Dripolater Coffee Makers) and McDonalds were sued for injuries caused by spilt coffee. Up until then, everyone on the planet served coffee hot. The typical Bunnomatic was at 93 degrees Celsius.

This is hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns and it did. The lawyers then decreed to the emerging American Espresso Industry that hot drinks had to be served under 70 degrees for Public Liability Insurance purposes. Now Milk does not burn at 83, 84 or 85 even. It boils at slightly over 100 Celsius because of the fat content. Any chef knows that to get a skin on hot milk it has to go to 100. Milk will not alter or burn at 84 and the Italian Espresso originators routinely went to 85. Milk in post war Italy was a luxury and always raw. Going to 85 degrees Pasteurised raw milk. The most telling rebuttal of this stupidity is Pasteurisation itself. All milk is heated briefly to 81.6 degrees to Pasteurise it.There are various ways to Pasteurise milk, e.g. 88.3 degrees Celsius for 1 second, 72 degrees for 15 seconds, but milk held briefly at 81.6 degrees is the most common way and the most high tech method. If you say you can't go past 70 degrees or you will burn the milk, why would it matter if the milk has already been taken to 81.6 or even 88.3, before you ever got it. Easy to see how ridiculous the 65 degree propaganda is. When I started in the 70s, I thought 85 too hot and my own constant experimenting took me to 80 degrees. I heat milk to 80 degrees every time and it doesn't burn. It's a proveable fact but because of the overwhelming propaganda from McAmerica, every single Barista under 45 is convinced that milk burns at 66 degrees. It's become some sort of religious observance where lunatic, fevered worshippers at the Espresso Altar turn down the heat even more. I had a newbie tell me recently that 60 degrees was best. Funny how convenient that is. It is a lot quicker and cheaper to bring milk to 60 instead of 84. Don't let the facts get in the way though.

Same with roasting. So much easier, quicker and cheaper to not roast dark. Less shrinkage, no smoke, less mess, literally half the time. The benefits are endless.The old adage 'Time is Money.'

Corporate McAmerican Espresso does everything the quick and easy way to save money and the sycophantic local Industry swallows the propaganda whole. One small problem though - The coffee tastes like horsepiss if you don't go well into 2nd crack.The Maillard Effect. That's a fact and you will lose the argument any time you back under roasted coffee against very dark roasted coffee. The trendies get around it by pooh poohing the old fashioned dark roast as some sort of primitive stupidity from the unenlightened past. The truth is, it caramelises the sugars in the beans and eradicates bitterness, releasing the sweetest and best flavours. If someone gave me under roasted beans I would just throw them away as I have proved over and over again that you can't make sweet tasting coffee without roasting very dark.

How should it look flowing? Initially it should struggle. Drip, Drip, Drip for 8-10 seconds then tries to break into a run. Now it's flowing evenly and very dark brown in colour. The second it breaks down and the colour lightens, you must stop if you are after the best and sweetest flavours. How long this takes depends on the quality of the beans. If they have been part shade grown at  height, the water kept up to them and in very fertile rich soil, the beans will have more oil in them so you can run the distill  longer.The converse is true. It has been my constant experience that the beans which come from more impoverished environments where the crop is less cared for, are lacking in oil.

Without doubt the number 1 mistake is under roasting. At the machine,the 2 biggest mistakes are under filling the basket and grinding too coarse. Many people start with the grind about right but after a few weeks, the Grinder Blades wear down and they don't chase the grind down. If you really want perfect Espresso then it is much slower than many Cafes might prefer.

It is a given that all the surfaces which the essence touches must be clean. Every time the group head stops, an amount of essence is sucked up into the shower screen and it immediately bakes on. It then becomes very tannic in taste and as the water flows over the shower screen it picks up the tannic flavour, destroying your distill. That is why you must back wash often. The back of the group handle also picks up the tannin as the essence bakes on rapidly.

A Flat White is - 30 ml of dark roasted Arabica essence in a ceramic cup. The milk is frothed as you would for a Cappuccino. The milk is then carefully added to bring the oil onto the top. NO ART! Only the darkest brown colour on the top which settles forming a meniscus. The idea that a Flat White has no froth is a complete nonsense. It must have at least 1 inch of froth to create the meniscus. There in, is the drinker's enjoyment because all the flavour is sipped through the meniscus. The added bonus of the meniscus is the sensation of texture, much improving the experience. The tide marks, mark the drinker's progress and done right, these sip rings will endure to the last sip. That is my original version of the Flat White which I perfected and have been making for over 40 years.

Alan Preston