Cortado Coffee, A Brew You Absolutely Must Try Now!

Updated on: June 9, 2023
Author: Nick
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Cortado Coffee

Cortado Coffee is a delicious bold coffee drink made of 1:1 ratio of espresso and steamed milk. You may not have heard of it as it's popular in Spain and Latin America. That should not deter you from trying some!

A Cortado coffee is like Enrique Iglesias; Spanish, strong, and (sometimes) sweet.

I bet you really want to know more about the Cortado coffee now?

Well, put your feet up and get comfortable while we tell you all about this exotic coffee drink and how to prepare the perfect Cortado at home.

Cortado Coffee Origins

Cortado coffee originates from Spain’s Basque region. From there it spread to Portugal and eventually Latin America.

Apart from that, not much is known about its history.

In Spanish cortar means “to cut” because the milk cuts through the espresso.

What is in Cortado Coffee?

A Cortado coffee is an espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk added to reduce mitigate the strong espresso flavors. The steamed milk blends with the espresso and does not sit on top in layers like other espresso-based milky coffees.

The ratio of milk to coffee is generally agreed to be 1:1. This is one of the differences between a Cortado and other similar coffees (more below). The steamed milk is added after to the espresso, and it is not particularly foamy.

What does a Cortado taste like?

Back to Enrique for the taste. It is strong (obviously with the espresso) and smooth, with a hint of sweetness (optional). The steamed milk balances the bitterness of the espresso. Like covering Brandi Granville in sugar...

Drinking Cortado Coffee

Cortado coffee meant to be sipped and usually enjoyed in the afternoon. 

How to Pour a Cortado?

When pouring in the steamed milk, tilt the glass towards you slightly. Lift the milk jug high (not above your head high like an idiot jumping into a paddling pool from the highest diving board high though).

Pour the milk in slowly so it cuts through the espresso turning it from dark brown to a sumptuous caramel color.

How to Serve a Cortado?

In a small metal or glass cup. You can decorate it with foam art if you’re feeling fancy but it’s all about the taste with a Cortado.

We recommend using these glasses from this collection by DeLonghi. Not only they look nice, but also they are double walled which is great to keep your cortado hot!

DeLonghi America Fancy Collection Double Walled Thermo Glasses (Set of 6)

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Gibraltar vs Cortado Coffee

A Gibraltar is another name for a Cortado. According to Time Out USA, the Gibraltar was created by Blue Bottle Coffee Company based in San Francisco in 2005.

It is served in a four and a half ounce Libbey Gibraltar glass tumbler and contains two shots of espresso and two shots of steamed milk.

Variations of Cortado Coffee

In Cuba, there is a similar version, known as a Cortadito.

It’s traditionally served in a glass with a metal ring base and metal wire handle. Cortadito means “little cut” and is made with a dark roast espresso whipped with a spoonful of sugar and thick foam.

In Australia it is known as a Piccolo café latte or Piccolo which is a single espresso with steamed milk and, slightly different to the Cortado, with foam on top.

You will get a lot of different versions of a Cortado depending on where you get it from. The ratio of milk is what makes the Cortado a Cortado, however, some establishments will use too much milk and it will be more like a latte or cappuccino.

There are a couple of different variations on a Cortado. The Cortado Condensada is made with condensed milk and the leche y leche is made with condensed milk and cream.

In any café with real coffee connoisseurs you can specify how you want the milk for your Cortado. Either very hot, warm, or cold.

Difference between a Cortado and other Similar Coffees

Cortado Coffee versus Flat White

Flat white coffee originated in (depending on who you ask) either Australia or New Zealand (just like the controversy with the Pavlova, it’s fiercely debated between the two).

It is an espresso-based drink with generally a 1:2 espresso to micro-foamed milk ratio (as opposed to the Cortado consisting of a 1:1 espresso to milk ratio.

Another difference between a cortado and white flat lies on the consistency of the milk. A cortado features a smoother texture as opposed to the more velvety texture from a flat white.

Cortado Coffee versus Cappuccino

A Cortado is similar to a cappuccino, but it is less foamy.

Cortado Coffee versus Macchiato

Macchiato is Italian and is an espresso-based coffee with a a dollop of milk foam on top. The difference then between a Macchiato and a Cortado is that a Macchiato uses mostly foam instead of actual steamed milk.

How do you Make Cortado Coffee at Home?

It’s easy to make a Cortado at home!

We recommend using espresso beans for this type of coffee, and grinding them just before you make the Cortado. The fresher the beans, the better the flavor.

Espresso Coffee2 oz
Milk2 oz
  • Grind your coffee, making enough for 2 x shots of espresso per Cortado.

  • Brew your coffee ideally using an espresso machine. But an Aeropress is fine as well if you're not too much of a coffee snob.

  • Use cold milk to steam with either your coffee machine or a separate milk frother which can be purchased cheaply.

  • Pour your espresso into a glass.

  • Pour your milk into the espresso. Make sure to measure milk for 1:1 ratio to your coffee.

  • Marvel at your handiwork before inhaling that rich aromatic coffee scent and taking a sip of your bold but sweet Cortado.

If you can’t be bothered making one (if you’re not a morning person and need a caffeine fix quick), you can always head to Starbucks or Costa Coffee which serve versions of a Cortado. While you're there make sure to check out the best Starbucks iced coffee drinks!.

Frequently Asked Questions - Cortado Coffee

Can you make a Cortado with other kinds of milk?

Yes, you can. Other milks won’t froth as much but a Cortado doesn’t have a lot of foam anyway.

You can try it with oat milk, coconut milk, or anything else if you’re lactose intolerant or if you just want to experiment.

Can a Cortado be iced?

Yes. Leave it to chill in the fridge or freezer (of course, don’t forget about it if you put it in the freezer otherwise that’s a coffee ice lolly).

A chilled Cortado is perfect for a caffeine hit on a hot sunny day. Watch as the little beads of condensation slide down the glass.

What is a Matcha Cortado?

Not technically a Cortado, a matcha Cortado, as the name suggests is made with a shot of matcha and a little bit of milk.

Matcha is a healthy drink, packed with antioxidants for a healthier option but it does still have caffeine but less than coffee.

Check out our recommendation for the best matcha green tea to use for a matcha Cortado.

Bottom Line - Cortado Coffee

Cortado Coffee - End

This smooth and balanced coffee drink is easy to make and tastes delicious. What are you waiting for, go spend some time with the Enrique of coffee.

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!
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