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Cortado: How Different is it From a Latte or a Flat White?

Dave Carter

September 6, 2021

Have you ever heard of a cortado? A cortado is a perfect drink for those days when you want coffee to drink but don't want it too strong. They are also great if you enjoy a more robust flavor with less caffeine. By adding more milk to the cortado recipe, they challenge their own identity as an Italian-style cafe. So what makes this drink special? Coffee beans are roasted on how dark you want them to be. Light roasts have fruity or sour notes, while darker roasts give you bitter flavors like cocoa and caramel. 

The first thing that comes into most people’s minds when hearing the word Cortado is “bitter”. This is because the beans used are darker than usual, making a strong, bitter taste with low acidity and high caffeine content. It sounds like an ideal drink for serious coffee drinkers! This drink is one of those rare things that have been given more freedom as the recipes evolved from Spain to Italy to the United States!

What is a Cortado?: Origin

The Origin of Cortado Coffee

As classic Mochas, Macchiato, and Cappuccinos have become popular worldwide. Starbucks has been trying to offer various new drinks, including the “cortado” – a drink with espresso and steamed milk. So, what is a cortado? A cortado is a traditional Cuban coffee drink. It is a Gibraltar that originated in Seville, Spain. It has become popular throughout Europe and even some parts of the United States, such as New York, San Francisco, etc. 

This special kind of coffee is named after its originator, "cut-off" Cortes, which means cut off and refers to how this beverage has just been diluted with milk instead of water, making for something thinner than expected at first glance. They were served alongside regular-sized beverages. These drinks were more suited as family-style drinking rather than solo consumption while on break working late. 

It became popular when cafés began serving it to people who wanted a smaller version of their espresso drinks. Most coffee lovers felt that larger versions would have had no strong taste or high-level caffeine content. The three main essentials of Cortado include coffee, ratio and strength.

Coffee: Coffee beans used in cortado recipes are much less acidic than what you would find in any other coffee drink. The result is a rich yet mellow cup of coffee.

Ratio: The ratio of milk to coffee in a Cortado is usually between 1:1 and 2:1.

Strength: Typically, the strength of a Cortado ranges from thin to medium.

Cortado vs Latte - What's Your Pleasure?

Spanish Cortados vs Italian Latte Coffees. Although both drinks are made with similar types of beans and have their unique recipe, it all depends on how the customer wants their drink served. Those who are after a stronger buzz or more caffeine kick can order up a regular size latte. For those who want a milder flavor profile and less "punch", go with an Americano instead. 

Typically, Cortados are served in a glass, and Italian Lattes are served in a cup. Coffee lovers take their pick by preference, but is there a difference between Cortado vs Latte? How do you make them? Let's find out! Which one should you order, and which offers the most coffee bang for your buck?

Latte art reigns supreme in today's top cafes, and Instagram feeds. That being said, there seems to be no clear definition of what separates a latte from a cortado on paper. One can only assume that they are different based on preparation method and or size (small vs large cup). Well, if that assumption is true, then why isn't cappuccino called a small latte? There are a few ways to approach making lattes, and how you choose to prepare one may affect how it should taste. 

For example, if you didn't pull your espresso shot correctly or drowned your milk with too much liquid, then yes, that is likely going to affect the overall taste of your latte. However, when we are looking at something as simple as a cortado vs latte comparison, we can eliminate those variables since they aren't applicable. In other words, if you made both correctly, then there is only one variable left: the amount of espresso shots used per cup!

Pros Of Cortado Coffee Drinks

  • Cortados are similar in size but usually cheaper than regular sized lattes.
  • They have more caffeine content than larger lattes.
  • They can come from a variety of beans, including French roast or espresso.
  • You simply add coffee and milk! They require little work and skill to make so anyone can do it.

Cons Of Cortado Coffee Drinks

  • It takes more time to create since they are made one at a time rather than an entire pot, like drip or pour-over.
  • Those who like stronger coffee may not enjoy this beverage because of the Cortado’s mild taste profile.

Cortado Recipe

Making Cortado at home is simple. Some people enjoy drinking their Cortados with whole milk, while others prefer 2% milk instead. With half-and-half their espresso shots, while some coffee lovers might want a strong flavor, and just one shot of coffee is fine for them. The most important part of making any coffee drink is about balancing all the ingredients and ratios so that you get the best possible taste in your cup! You just have to pay attention to what you are adding into the mix and make sure that it compliments your coffee drink of choice.

Ingredients:

  • Cup 1/4 Espresso Shot (2oz)
  • ¼ Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp Sugar Optional
  • Chocolate Shavings

Instructions:

  1. Fill the espresso shot glass with whole milk for a foamier texture.
  2. Slowly pour the steamed or micro foamed milk over the espresso until it is about half full.
  3. Stir slightly so that some of the froth bubbles start to dissipate.
  4. Let sit for 30 seconds before adding sugar.
  5. Top off with a dusting of cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.
  6. Enjoy!

Cortado Vs Flat white: What's The Difference?

Difference Between Cortado vs Flat White

There are many coffee drinks out there, and two that can often be mistaken for each other are the Cortado Vs flat white. They don't come from the same part of the world, have different milk contents and even look different! But is it that hard to tell the difference between the two? First things first - Cortados originated in Spain while flat whites came from Australia. As you might know already, Australians love their coffee and make a mean cup, which explains why they thought up this drink first. So how different are these two drinks in reference to taste, texture, appearance and variations?

Taste

Cortado: A cortado is a shot of espresso "cut" with approximately 2-3 millimeters of steamed milk, resulting in a harmony between the two ingredients. There should be no discernible difference between the first and second halves of a well-prepared cortado.

Flat white: The flat white has been described as a "less milky, less foamy cappuccino." It is served in a 150 – 180 ml cup and made with one-third espresso, one-third micro-foam milk, and one-third steamed milk to form a layer of foam.

Texture

Cortado: The cortado should have a uniform mixture of milk and espresso, with no discernible foam or milk. The milk should be steamed to a microfoam texture.

Flat white: The flat white is prepared using the microfoam technique, which produces a velvety smooth texture with small-medium bubbles throughout the beverage. Visually, the drink should hold a thick cream top.

Appearance

Cortado: It is served in a glass, generally with the espresso on the bottom of the glass. Cortado’s ratio of milk to liquid is about even. When coffee and milk are poured simultaneously into a glass, the latter floats above the former. This lack of density means that it takes longer for any given volume of liquid to dissipate, and the drink is full of "floating" milk islands.

Flat white: It is served in a ceramic cup with thick microfoam on top. The foam should hold together and be spoonable. Since the whole point was to get rid of the cappuccino's crown of latte art, there shouldn't be any foam pattern to speak of – only a full, thick layer.

Size

Cortado: The cortado is usually a very modest portion – around 120 ml, or 1/2 an American cup. It's a single shot of espresso that has been cut with milk.

Flat white: A flat white is served in a mug that holds approximately 180 ml, 1/3 of a cup more than the American standard. It's essentially the same amount as what you would get in an espresso bar in Australia or New Zealand.

Variations

Cortado: The cortado is a fairly straightforward drink, but there are some variations on the theme. In one combination, the milk may be replaced by dashes of both sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk as a kind of faux horchata. It's also possible to mix different kinds of milk, such as whole milk and cream.

Flat white: The flat white has several variations too. It can be "wet" or "dry," depending on how much milk is used and what kind of foam and microfoam is included. A dry flat white would consist of more steamed milk than a wet one, and it would be made with smaller bubbles that dissipate quickly. The most popular alternate version is the "latte" – a flat white that substitutes espresso for brewed coffee.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a new coffee drink that is more on the sweeter side, then Cortado might be your answer. The result of this special drink is a frothy, sweetened iced coffee that can satisfy any craving in hot weather or cool autumn mornings alike! Its taste profile is sure to please any coffee drinker's palate. Enjoy it today during breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up!

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