Have you ever gone into a coffee shop keen for a creamy coffee and just been overwhelmed by the options available? It sometimes feels like just when you gain an understanding of one kind of coffee you go into the next coffeeshop and boom, there’s another new term on the menu!
I thought I knew everything there was to know about coffee and whole milk. I could spot a latte a mile away and I knew how to tell apart a cappuccino from a macchiato.
When I first saw cortado listed I asked the barista what it was. In response to the question, I received a vague answer that it’s pretty much a latte. For a while I was confused and I kept thinking, ‘if it’s the same as a latte, then why isn’t it just called that on the menu?’
That was a while ago now and since then I’ve discovered that there is a lot more to the cortado coffee. They are not the same thing as a latte and to help resolve any confusion, here is everything you need to know about the cortado vs the caffe latte.
A latte is an 8-12 oz drink that’s made of 1-2 ounces of espresso topped with steamed milk and one inch of milk foam. A cortado is equal parts espresso and milk so makes 4 oz servings and no milk foam is added. A latte is served in a tall glass and a cortado is served in a small cup or tumbler.
The Caffe Latte
The caffe latte is a modern-day coffee shop staple and you’d be hard pushed to find a menu that doesn’t include this drink. It is made when a shot of espresso is topped up with steamed milk and finished with a small layer of milk foam.
To understand the caffe latte, take the individual words and if you translate them into English from Italian you get Caffe = coffee and latte = milk. The literal translation is coffee with milk and surprisingly, a latte isn’t a common drink in Italy.
Any typical Italian bar will feature espresso or cappuccino on their menu as Italians prefer richer tasting coffee and plenty of milk foam if they’re not drinking the coffee black. If you ask for a latte in Italy you will simply get a glass of milk.
Some locals will take a cafe latte in the morning by adding Moka pot coffee to a cup of warm milk but it isn’t typically steamed milk.
This makes the latte less of a traditional Italian coffee drink although it is said to originate from there. A latte, when ordered in America, is served in 8-12 oz cup sizes and usually features 1-3 shots of espresso. It is frequently flavored with various kinds of syrups to give a variety of sweet drinks with a hint of coffee flavor.
A cortado is similar to a latte in terms of ingredients. It also features espresso topped up with steamed milk but the drink comes from Spain rather than Italy. The Spanish prefer their steamed milk to retain the thick texture but contain minimal froth. The cortado is equal parts milk and espresso so it has a bolder coffee taste.
Cortado is the past tense for the Spanish word for cut (cortar = to cut). The idea is that the coffee is diluted (or cut) with milk to help balance the flavor and reduce acidity.
This Spanish coffee has made a name for itself in the USA but it isn’t always called a Cortado. Blue Bottle Coffee Company in San Francisco, California first coined the term Gibraltar for a Cortado coffee served in a Gibraltar glass (a brand of glassware by Libbey Glass). This drink contains a double shot espresso but more frothy microfoam than the traditional cortado although many claim there is no difference between the beverages.
Cortado vs Latte
The main difference between a Cortado and a Latte is simply the amount of milk used. The Cortado requires less milk and is served in a small cup or a tumbler. It contains equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk so the espresso flavor is pretty pronounced.
A latte has a much lower ratio of espresso compared to milk used. An 8 oz latte will usually contain a double shot of espresso (2 oz) topped up with 6 ounces of milk, making the drink a 1:3 coffee to milk ratio. The drink is finished with a layer of microfoam to give it a lovely, foamy texture on top.
A latte has a mild, creamy flavor with a less intense hit of coffee for the drinker. It’s often served in a tall glass and baristas frequently use it as a canvas for their latte art creations. Starbucks and other leading chain coffeeshops serve lattes flavored with all kinds of ingredients to give famous creations like the pumpkin spice latte.
Similar Espresso Drinks
The latte and the cortado are examples of espresso-based, specialty coffee. There are a number of similar types of coffee that are definitely worth a try.
Thick, concentrated brewed coffee, espresso is made from finely ground coffee beans that have been exposed to hot water and high pressure. The brew cycle lasts around 30 seconds and gives an ounce of thick coffee with a texture similar to melted honey. The defining characteristic of the espresso is the thick, bubbly crema that floats on top and this is extracted from the coffee oils by the espresso machine.
Espresso is a super-intense, ultra-rich way to enjoy coffee but still features a balanced flavor. It can be enjoyed as is, or sweetened with a cube of sugar.
Espresso doppio is literally just a double shot espresso. The barista uses more coffee grounds and a bigger portafilter to brew this option. It ends up as a 2 ounce (50ml) shot of coffee but retains all the characteristics of the single shot of espresso.
An Americano is said to have got its name from when American soldiers visited Italy during the war and they found the espresso far too concentrated. This led to the coffee being topped up with hot water to give a cup of black coffee similar to drip coffee.
Americano is extremely popular and is sold in most coffee shops across America. It can be enjoyed black or with milk and sugar added.
This coffee beverage is very similar to a Cortado but is Cuban in origin. It’s made using sweetened, Moka pot coffee to give a very bold, espresso-like cup of coffee but the lack of high pressure means it doesn’t have a thick crema. The coffee is brewed and sugar is added before it’s poured into an espresso cup. The drink is then topped with a dash of steamed milk. Traditionally this drink was prepared with heated condensed milk as fresh milk wasn’t always avaliable.
Like a cross between the latte and the cortado, the piccolo latte is a drink prepared similar to a latte but served in a way similar to a cortado. It is made using a 3-4 oz glass and the espresso is topped up with steamed milk and milk foam. It is much smaller than a typical latte but retains the foamy texture on top, unlike the cortado.
A favorite of coffee lovers from all over the globe the cappuccino is very similar to a latte. It’s an espresso topped up with equal parts steamed milk and milk foam. The foam on top gives it a lighter, airy texture and allows the coffee flavor to come through stronger compared to the latte where less foam is used.
Italian for ‘marked’ or ‘stained’ a macchiato is an espresso ‘stained’ with milk foam. The coffee is brewed and a small amount of steamed milk at around a 2:1 coffee to milk ratio is added. It’s just enough milk to round off the coffee flavor but not enough to make a milky coffee.
An espresso based drink of Australian origin, the flat white is similar to a latte but with a few key differences. It’s smaller in volume (5-6oz) and has a thinner layer of microfoam on top. Less milk means the coffee flavor stands out more and the drink has a rich, velvety texture.
Is a cortado stronger than a latte?
A cortado isn’t stronger than a latte in terms of caffeine as it contains the same amount of coffee. It is stronger in terms of flavor as it contains less milk so the coffee flavor stands out more.
Is a cortado just a small latte?
A cortado is smaller than a latte but the ratio of milk to coffee is different. The cortado is a 1:1 ratio of coffee to milk and it just has steamed milk, no milk foam is added.
Is a cortado the same as a Flat White?
A flat white contains the smae amount of coffee as a cortado but is 5-6 ounces in size due to more steamed milk being added. This gives it a coffee to milk ratio of around 1:2. It also has a tiny layer of milk foam. The cortado is 1:1 coffee to steamed milk and no foam.
Which has more milk latte or cortado?
A latte has a lot more milk than a cortado.
What are the differences between a cortado and a latte?
Ratio, the cortado is a 1:1 coffee to milk and the latte is a 1:3 ratio. The latte is finished with an inch of milk foam and a cortado has no foam.
What is a cortado made of?
Espresso coffee and textured, steamed milk.
What is the origin of the cortado?
The cortado is Spanish in origin.
What is the difference in calories between a latte and a cortado?
An 8oz latte has 67 calories and a 4 oz cortado has 24 calories.
Is a cortado made with espresso?
So that’s it for cortados and lattes. Both are creamy tasty coffees made from espresso and steamed milk but the latte is larger due to more milk being used. The may be made up from the same ingredients but the result is two very different cups of coffee but both equally delicious in their own special way.