What is a Cortado? – Review and Comparison

Another normal bright sunny day it was for me when I walked in to a coffee shop and overheard someone saying ‘cortado’ – in that moment, just like any other coffee addict out there, I started to wonder what is a cortado?

Those of you for whom the black coffee might be a tad bit strong to kick start your mornings, and those who suffer from the problem of acidity after consuming more coffee than usual, need not worry!

A cortado is a beverage that consists of espresso mixed with almost an equal amount of hot milk, in order to reduce the acidity.

You can drink Cortado instead. It is rapidly becoming a new favorite in the world of coffee, becoming popular in many cafes around the world.

What is a Cortado?

It is a drink we consume frequently, yet this name strikes to us as something novel in the world of caffeine. It is popular in Spain and Portugal, as well as throughout Latin America and Cuba.

A cortado is a beverage that is made of espresso and with this espresso there is almost equal amount of warm milk mixed, this mixture essentially reduces acidity found in coffee.

The milk is ‘steamed’ and not foamy. In many Italian coffee drinks, the milk used is texturized and frothy but it’s not the case with this drink.

A micro-foam is usually created by the steamed milk but it is not separated from the espresso shot, unlike some milk-based coffees.

The purpose of milk is to reduce the acidity from the espresso as well as to sweeten the espresso which otherwise can have a very bitter taste. In some Spanish cafes, you can also choose how you want to take your milk – ranging from very hot, hot or cold.

Origin of the Name Cortado

The origin of the name Cortado comes from a Spanish word Cortar, meaning ‘to cut’. The steamed milk used in cortado is meant to cut the espresso in order to reduce its intensity and ultimately the components of acidity in the drink.

It originated in the Basque country of Spain, across Galicia to the northern port of Portugal.

Hence, Spanish origin plays a significant role in making up this drink. The cortado contains little to no foam, it is not like your typical every day frothy and foamy cup of cappuccino.

It is important to note that Spanish coffee doesn’t come with texturized milk unlike Italian coffees, that contain some foam in them. This way you get to appreciate the smooth texture of the milk going in the espresso.

Using the Best Cortado Recipe

Cortado is simple and easy to make and does not take a lot of your precious time.

There are two shots of espresso (or one double) in a typical cortado. The 1:1 ratio is the key here.

It depends on the quantity you want to brew. If you want to brew 4-oz cortado then espresso shot brewed would be 2-oz mixed with 2-oz of milk, along with a fine layer of foam.

You would need the following ingredients to brew a perfect cup of cortado:

  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 2 oz steamed milk

How to Make a Cortado

Using the aforementioned recipe, it is pretty simple to make a perfect cup of cortado. All you have to do is to follow these steps:

  • Brew a double shot of espresso.
  • Steam the milk.
  • Add equal parts of milk in the coffee, so there is a thin layer of foam on top.

Now your delicious cortado is ready to be consumed. But be sure to consume it slowly and enjoy the rich taste in every sip!

The whole process is for you to experience the pure taste, rich aroma and texture of this delicious coffee rather than consuming all of it right away. Cortado is no doubt coffee at its finest.

Comparing Cortado with Other Coffee Beverages

We will now be comparing the cortado with other coffee drinks. Even the regular coffee drinkers mistake it with latte, macchiato and the flat white.

There are subtle differences between these coffees and it’s important to know those differences if you are meticulous about your cup of Joe.

Variation in Cup Size & Recipe

One helpful thing for many coffee aficionados would be if the same sort of measurements is used by all cafes around the world. That would be an ideal scenario for all coffee enthusiasts, but unfortunately such is not the case.

In fact, milk-based coffees tend to vary drastically from one café to another – each offering a unique recipe of their own in order to stand out from the other and the entire competition.

The big and renowned coffee franchises seem to add more milk in general to their drinks. They also serve larger cups of coffee compared to other specialty shops that are comparatively smaller.

This can take people by surprise when they visit a particular specialty shop and found the coffee cup to be of much smaller size than the popular franchise and international chain where its much larger.

Also, if you prefer drinking coffee in large amounts to satisfy that caffeine craving that arises every day, then you can order some other drink and not cortado as its generally served in smaller cups.

Cortado VS Café Macchiato

It is important to know the difference between Cortado and other coffees. Cafe macchiato is an Italian coffee. Conventionally, it uses an espresso and small amount of foam or steamed milk (less than 1:1).

It differs from a cortado in having more foam in the coffee. In USA, the proportion is 1:1 for macchiato and the difference from the cortado remains the same.

The cortado must always be served in a 150-200 ml glass and it is imperative for the milk to be steamed, without it the coffee made is not cortado. Steamed milk is the essence of cortado.

It’s the ratio between cortado and café macchiato that sets the two apart.

Cortado is much similar to the less frothy cappuccino as compared to an espresso macchiato. It varies from café au lait which is an American alternative, it consists of regular coffee base and warm milk, whereas cortado is made of espresso and steamed milk.

Cortado VS Piccolo Café Latte

Piccolo café latte is a drink that is quite famous in Australia. The short term for this drink is Piccolo. It is in a machiatto glass and contains a single shot of espresso. The steamed milk in Piccolo cafe latte is filled in the same way as in the café latte.

The resulting ratio in this drink is 1:2 of coffee and steamed milk. However, unlike cortado, this drink has about 5mm of froth on the top, setting it apart from the cortado.

Cortado VS Flat White

As discussed above, the name cortado comes from Spanish word cortar meaning cut – cutting the intensity of espresso in cortado. The milk is steamed and not texturized like Italians like it. And there are no telltale signs of froth sitting atop the cup like there are in a cappuccino or latte.

A flat white, on the other hand, comes from Australia and has not yet garnered much popularity in the United States of America. Since the Australians learned much of their coffee making techniques from Italians, flat white contains textured milk as opposed to steamed milk.

The textured milk is also much hotter; hence the flat white is hotter compared to cortado. Even though the amount of espresso is almost alike in both flat white and cortado, we can saythat the flat white is basically small latte.

Flat whites are hotter and thicker in texture compared to cortado and have the “latte art” drawn on them as well.

Cortado VS Latte

Latte is Italian coffee. It is made up of espresso shots and substantial amount of steamed milk. The steamed milk used for latte is frothed. This creates a small layer of foam that sits on the cup.

The size of this coffee ranges anywhere from 6 to 20 ounces. You can even add one to three shots of espresso, depending on the amount of caffeine you want to consume.

Spanish people prefer little to no foam as compared to the Italians. Cortado has either no foam or just a micro foam. The little to no foam gives the milk a creamy texture and is a good balance between espresso and steamed milk.

Cortado VS Espresso

Espresso is strong and condensed coffee. It is brewed when you pass hot water through coffee beans that are finely ground.

Extraction time is short to brew the perfect espresso shot. The finely ground coffee beans and water are kept in contact for even less than thirty seconds. It is easy to extract flavor from espresso as the water temperature is high, coffee beans are finely ground and there is heavy pressure exerted throughout the process of brewing.

As a result of this extraction method, a concentrated and fresh drink with strong aroma of coffee is produced called espresso. Hence, we can say that espresso is simply a way of making coffee. This coffee making method is of Italian origin.

It can be made using a wide variety of coffee beans and roasts. Coffee brewed by other methods tends to be lighter in density than espresso. It has higher concentration of solid components in it. On the top of espresso, there is crema – which is a foam having creamy consistency.

As a result of the brewing process of the espresso, the unique flavor and aroma is preserved in the espresso as the concentration of solids present in it is higher.

There are 3 dispersed phases in the making of espresso. First is suspension off oil droplets. Second is suspended solids, third is the layer of froth.

The suspension of oil droplets in the mouth is perceived as creamy. This characteristic of espresso is known as the body of beverage. These oil droplets are of particular significance as they preserve the aroma in the espresso which is lost in the air in many other coffee forms.

This helps preserving the flavor in the espresso. It is used as a base for many coffees such as latte, macchiato, flat white, cappuccino, caffe Americano and cortado.

Galao VS Cortado

Another drink, renowned in the Portugal is called Galao. The ratio in this drink is 1:3 of coffee and steamed milk, making it quite different than the cortado.

Beat the Heat with Iced Cortado

In most parts of the world, summer season is already here. Imagine yourself reaching to work on a hot summer day, or being on the roads all day due to chores and now you are tired as hell.

You want to caffeinate yourself, however, due to the blistering heat, you are in a mood for cold brew – well, you don’t need to think of anything else as the iced cortado will do the job for you!

Hot steamed milk is poured over an espresso cup filled with iced cubes. The liquid trickles down the ice cubes, without making it too watery and immediately cooling it.

The iced cortado will take care of your cold or iced coffee needs during the summers!

Availability of Cortado

A lot of regular coffee drinkers and caffeine aficionados are quickly able to tell the differences between espresso and macchiato or latte and cappuccino.

However, many might not be able to tell if its cortado as it is not frequently placed on the menus of restaurants in the North American region.

A cortado is not as frequently consumed as cappuccino or latte or espresso. But this doesn’t at all mean that it is not delicious or an enriching cup of Joe.

In Spanish and Portuguese, it is served in a small glass with little to no froth. Recently, the distribution of cortado has increased in the restaurants unlike before when only those who were aware of it knew about it.

Taste of Espresso Cortado

If you are looking to please your taste buds with more milk than a macchiato generally contains and more punch than that of flat white, then cortado is the choice for you.

It is intense yet has a sweet taste to it and the taste is nicely placed between the macchiato and flat white. It is generally served in a smaller 130 ml glass.

A Good Choice for Breakfast

If you are the kind of person who prefers having light breakfast, or even little to no breakfast does it for you, then cortado is your perfect choice.

You can have it with a toast or a croissant. This won’t give you any ‘heavy’ feeling and keep your day nice and smooth.


What makes a cortado?

A cortado is a popular smaller-sized hot coffee beverage that contains espresso and warm milk.

How many shots are in a cortado?

A typical cortado contains two espresso shots (or one double). The 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk is the key.

What does a cortado taste like?

If you’re looking for a coffee with more milk than a Macchiato and more punch than a Flat White, Cortado is the one. This drink is positioned between a Macchiato and a Flat White.

Wrapping Up Our Cortado Beverage Guide

Those days when you feel like exploring new restaurants or cafes on slow and laid-back mornings, you can sip on your cortado and take in the views.

Due to the balanced amount of espresso and steamed milk present in it, it is a nice balanced drink that will make you appreciate nature and enjoy the views around you.

If you have never tried this coffee beverage before and you are someday wondering ‘what is a cortado?’ – it would be a good idea to give it a shot!

It is undoubtedly a good way to start your day if you want to get rid of the acidity due to the consumption of black coffee and want to rather consume something sweet, light and smooth.