What Is a Cortado?

Many people around the world love coffee.  Even though there is a competition of a sort between coffee and tea, it appears that young people drink coffee more, even in traditionally tea-drinking countries like China and India. Indeed, this potent warm beverage became an integral part of our daily routines. But one thing is to enjoy drinking coffee. Yet another to know and understand it, which is something a few people can brag about.

Okay, we have to admit easy. There are so many coffee types and beverages that it takes a lot of time to understand everything and take a title of a coffee connoisseur. Plus, some of them appear to be very similar, so it is pretty reasonable to get confused. Take latte and flat white, for example! It is a real challenge to tell the difference between them, isn’t it?  But today, we are going to talk about another beverage that is rapidly gaining popularity – cortado coffee! Do you know what is a Cortado? Sounds Latin, doesn’t it? Reasonably it does because the Cortado drink comes from Spain! But what is it, exactly?

What Is a Cortado?

Do you remember that we mentioned latte and flat white earlier? We did it because café Cortado is yet another similar drink. But at the same time, it is very different. The similarity lies in the fact that it is also a drink that combines milk and espresso.  If you have any knowledge of Romance languages then you can probably figure out that “corto” means short. Cortado is a small coffee combined with steamed milk in a 1:1 ratio. It means that for a shot of espresso, you use a shot of milk, for example.  The verb “cortar” also means to cut which in this case refers to the process of cutting the acidity of coffee by adding frothed or steamed milk.  It is interesting to know that cortado originated in Spanish Basque country.

Cortado Variations

Now, as espresso Cortado started to be more popular around the world, people began to invent different variations.  For example, a Cortadito is a Cuban drink often confused with a cortado. The difference is that this is a sweetened espresso shot (or another strong coffee) combined with condensed milk. Cortado has a close relative called Gibraltar. This drink is popular across the West Coast of the U.S. It got the name because of the specific glass in which it is served (Libbey rocks glass ), but the drink is generally the same. There is also an SG – 120 named after a small thin Hario glass in which it is served.

What Experts Say About Cortado?

Cortado is especially interesting because various experts have different opinions about it. What many agree on, though, is that the ingredients often depend on the person’s wishes.  For example, a Specialty Coffee Association states that “While it is an attractive idea to have standardized coffee, it is essential to understand that coffee is a product of culture. “A barista from Brew 92, from Saudi Arabia says, “ Although it was initially just a back coffee with hot or cold milk, customers transformed  into an espresso shot with a dash of steamed milk.”  When we asked a roaster from Malaysian, Mountain Coffee Roasters he said, ” It’s all about preferences. For some people, it is a double espresso with a bit of milk. Others want a double espresso with warm milk, like a flat white. Some want half-half (the same amount of coffee and milk).   Paula Chaverri  Echandi, the owner of Café Sikewa in Costa Rica, and Bruno Danese, the owner of Hoccino Cafes in Japan, agree that it is all about ratio.

How Is Cortado Different From Other Drinks

Cortado vs. Machiatto

Machiatto is an espresso-based drink made with just a bit of milk. Usually, the amount of milk doesn’t exceed 25%  of the volume. As you have seen, to make Cortado we are using a 1:1 coffee milk ratio. Plus, cortado is often served in a smaller glass.

Cortado vs. Cappuccino

Once it is clear what is a Cortado coffee you start wondering how does it compare to other similar drinks? When comparing to cappuccino, it is clear that difference is again mainly in the amount of milk used. Also,  Cortado doesn’t contain foam, while Cappuccino is less bitter than Cortado.  Another big difference is that Cortado comes with fewer calories: 68 calories in 182 grams, compared to 75 calories in 180 grams of cappuccino.

Cortado vs. Flat White

Although they contain the same quantity of espresso, the amount of milk varies. The flat white comes with more milk and is more similar to the latte in this sense.  Cortado is also thinner than flat white. Also, flat white is often decorated with some latte art.

Cortado vs. Latte

Okay, and what about Cortado vs. latte? Although many people confuse these with drinks, they are very different. Indeed the amount of espresso is the same. However, the amount of milk in the latte is much higher than in Cortado.

Cortado Vs. Gibraltar

We already mentioned Gibraltar coffee. It is the same drink as Cortado. The only difference is the glass in which it is served. This glass is the reason why this coffee drink got the name Gibraltar on the U.S West Coast.

How to Make a Cortado at Home

  1. Make two shots of espresso.
  2. Steam four ounces of milk. It is the same amount you use for a latte. However, you will use only half of it for Cortado. The thing is that it is difficult to steam just to ounces of milk, so we recommend using four.
  3. Add milk to espresso.

Which Beans to Choose for Cortado

When you are making Cortado, you should aim for beans for espresso that are a bit chocolaty or nutty in flavor. Avoid using those with fruity flavors – go for robust beans. Sometimes you have to try different options before deciding which one is the most suitable.

Step By Step Guide for Making Cortado

Now you have some general information about how to make a Cortado. But here is the most common honey bee Cortado recipe for those who like to sweeten their coffee a bit:

  1. Brew two shots of espresso
  2. Steam 60 ml of milk
  3. Add 0.7 ml of vanilla syrup  and 0.7 syrup in coffee and mix
  4. Add milk, following 1:1 ratio.

Expert Tips for Making a Perfect Cortado

  • Since it is hard to steam a small amount of milk, think of another drink that you can combine with the remaining milk.
  • You can use any type, but the most common is whole milk.
  • If you like, you can top Cortado with a thin layer of foam.


One of the greatest things about coffee is that there are so many variations and combinations. You can always learn and discover something new. Hence if you want to change from drinking a standard espresso, there are a plethora of drinks for you to choose from. And now, when you know what is a Cortado, you can add it to your list as well!

So, have you ever heard of or tried cafe Cortado before? 

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