What is a Cortado Coffee? (A Delicious Recipe!)

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Johny Morrisson


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♡ Written by Humans for Humans

Cortado coffee is a popular espresso-based coffee drink that originated in Spain and is now enjoyed in many countries around the world.

The word “Cortado” means “to cut” in Spanish which essentially means to cut the bitterness and robust flavors of Espresso with the addition of a small amount of milk. It’s made by combining a single or double shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk, usually in a 1:1 ratio.

This perfectly balanced beverage pairs well with breakfast or can be a refreshing afternoon snack. However, what sets a cortado apart from other espresso milk-based drinks, such as lattes, cappuccinos, or macchiatos, is its ratio.

If you’re a coffee lover looking to try something new or different, cortado coffee is definitely worth a try.

Cortado coffee

how Cortado Coffee tastes

In a cortado, milk is used to soften out the intensity of espresso without overwhelming its distinctive flavors. Therefore, a cortado has a smoother, less bitter taste than an espresso straight shot.

The milk is not as prominent as in other milk-based espresso drinks like lattes or cappuccinos, so the coffee flavor remains the star of the show.

If you want something stronger than a Latte and more approachable than straight Espresso shots, Cortado hits the spot.

I like Cortado as it is easy to make, you just need steamed milk whereas Cappuccino and Latte require foaming and textured milk which are hard to achieve.

Cortado Coffee Recipe

Indulge in the rich and smooth taste of cortado coffee with this simple recipe.
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1
Author: Johny Morrisson

Equipment

  • Espresso machine
  • Coffee Grinder (Optional)
  • Milk Steamer
  • Thermometer (Optional)

Ingredients

  • 2-2.25 oz A double Espresso Shot
  • 2 oz Milk (1/4 cup)

Instructions

  • Prepare a double Espresso shot: Start by brewing two shots of espresso using your espresso machine. Use freshly roasted and finely ground coffee beans for the best flavor.
    Espresso
  • Steam the Milk: While the espresso is brewing, pour 1/4 cup of whole milk into a steaming pitcher. Using a thermometer, heat the milk to around 140°F (60°C) or until it reaches a silky texture with small bubbles.
    Use 2 oz of milk the same amount as Espresso so the ratio of Espresso to milk remains 1:1
    Steam the milk
  • Mix the Espresso and Milk: There's no trick here, simply add the steamed milk over double shot Espresso, give a gentle stir and you are done.
    Mix the espresso and milk

Notes

To make a perfect cup of a cortado; the espresso and steamed milk are combined in equal parts. Compared to other beverages like lattes or flat whites, it typically comes in four-ounce servings.
The natural sugars in milk give the classic cortado its mild sweetness despite the absence of any sweeteners.
If you prefer a sweeter drink, try the Cuban version, the Cortadito, which is sweetened with condensed milk or sugar. This drink is perfect for those who want the balance of milk and espresso with extra sweetness.

Variations of Cortado Coffee

There are few simple variations of Cortado Coffee that you can explore:

Flavored Cortado – Syrups like vanilla, caramel, or pumpkin spice are added to enhance the flavors and sweetness of the drink.

Iced Cortado – This variation involves blending a small portion of cold milk and crushed ice with Espresso. Perfect for warm weather, it is a refreshing drink and less intense than the hot version.

Cortadito – The Cortadito is a Cuban twist on the traditional cortado coffee drink. The unrefined brown sugar is mixed with the espresso shot to create a sweet, syrupy base and then milk is added on the top. It is a favorite choice for those who enjoy both strong coffee and a touch of sweetness.

Cortado Leche Y Leche – The cortado leche y leche is a variation that is made with sweetened condensed milk for an extra creamy and sweet take on the cortado. The thick, rich condensed milk adds an almost dessert-like flavor and texture to the drink.

Cortado compared to other similar drinks

Cortado vs Flat white

Flat White is a slightly larger drink and has a 1:2 ratio of Espresso to Milk, while a Cortado contains exactly the same amount of milk and Espresso.

The Flat white originated from Australia and is served with micro-foamed milk with a creamy texture.

While the cortado originated in Spain and has equal parts of Espresso and simply steamed milk.

The main difference between Cortado and Flat White is the texture of the milk used. The Cortado is simple and smooth and while flat white is creamy and thicker.

Cortado vs Flat white

Cortado vs Latte

Latte has a higher ratio of milk to espresso, making it a sweeter, creamier, and more filling drink while Cortado has a more prominent espresso flavor and smoother texture.

Cortado is served in smaller cups, while Latte is served in larger ones, perfect for sipping and relaxing.

Cortado vs latte

Cortado vs Cappuccino

One key difference between cortado and cappuccino is the foam content. Cortados typically have no foam, while cappuccinos always have a layer of thick foam on top.

In a Cappuccino, equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and foam are layered on each other, creating a distinct separation of flavors and textures.

Cortado vs Macchiato

A macchiato is a shot of espresso with a small amount of milk added on top, while a cortado has equal amounts of Espresso and Milk.

As for serving size, Macchiato is smaller than Cortado and has a much stronger espresso taste.

Also Read: Cortado vs Macchiato

How is Cortado coffee Served?

A smaller glass of 4 ounces is frequently used to serve cortado coffee. The glass can have a handle or not at all, and it is often thicker than a typical coffee cup.

The Cortado can be served simply or with a thin layer of decorative foam.

In some coffee shops, the Cortado may also be served with a tiny spoon on the side for mixing the espresso and milk before drinking.

Also Read: Why is Espresso Served with Water

Can you make Cortado without a Machine?

Traditional Cortado is made with an authentic Espresso shot which is not possible without a machine.

However, you can make a cortado coffee without an espresso machine, although it may not have the exact same flavor and texture as a traditional cortado.

Just brew a strong cup of coffee with a French Press or Moka Pot using a high coffee-to-water ratio and top it with steamed milk.

To steam milk, heat it on the stove or in the microwave until it reaches 140 degrees, then froth it manually using a French press or Mason jar.

Final thoughts

I’m a huge coffee fan and love to try different kinds of coffee drinks

In Cortado, Espresso and lightly heated milk make a straightforward but delectable combination that produces a robust and rich flavor ideal for coffee enthusiasts who prefer a strong but well-balanced beverage.

Cortado is a superb choice for a midday pick-me-up or as a morning treat because the tiny serving size lets you fully savor the flavor without feeling overwhelmed.

Also, read the recipe for other Espresso Based Drinks

FAQs

Is Cortado Coffee Sweet?

Traditionally, cortado coffee is not sweetened. The only ingredients are espresso and lightly steamed milk; the milk’s natural sugars provide a little sweetness though.
However, a sweeter variation of the Cortado is also served in some Cafes, known as Cuban Cortadito, which is sweetened with condensed milk or a little sugar.

Is a cortado one or two shots?

Cortado Coffee can be made with both one or two shots of Espresso depending on the serving size you want. Just make sure the ratio of Espresso to milk should be 1:1.

what is a cortado at Starbucks?

Starbucks doesn’t have Cortado Coffee on their menus, at least not in the USA. However, you can request the Barista to prepare Cortado Coffee with an equal Espresso-milk ratio. The barista may be able to accommodate special requests.

Johny Morrison is a founder and content creator at Coffee About, bringing passion and expertise to the world of coffee.

You can often find him sipping a single-origin pour-over, rich French press, or pulling espresso shots at home. Johny loves full-bodied dark roasts – the bolder, the better!

As a former barista, he takes coffee equipment seriously and enjoys experimenting with the latest gear. When he’s not brewing or blogging, Johny is scouting local cafes for his next coffee fix.