Cortado means differently depending on where you are in the world. For some, this means a 1:1 ratio between steamed milk and coffee. For others, cortado means a small latte or flat white coffee using the coffee brewing with pour-over or French press method. Some even say what cortado should depend on the customer.

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Since there’s no clear definition of what a cortado should be, there’s also plenty of room for disagreement and miscommunication. Despite these miscommunications among those who want to serve and order it, one fact remains true – coffee continues to be a menu staple.

Not much has been revealed about the origin of cortado. What’s certain is that it originated from Basque Country, Spain. Cortado is a term that means milk cutting through espresso’s intensity, toning down its acidity while still keeping the coffee’s unique flavor.

Traditionally, this coffee is served with little froth in a 1:1 espresso to milk ratio. Milk is first steamed until it creates a very light foam. The said foam is then added to the espresso before it’s served in a little glass with a handle and base made of metal.

Because of its appearance, people confuse cortado for New Zealand/Australia’s piccolo latte, macchiato, or flat white.

The difference doesn’t matter much for most people, but if you’re one of the few coffee junkies in the world who want to be politically correct, or would want to know what’s exactly on your coffee, then this guide is for you.

Here, we’ll explore everything related to Cortado — from its history to its benefits, recipe, and even difference from other types of coffee. After reading this, you won’t confuse this masterpiece with other fancy coffee you find in your go-to coffee shop’s menu.

You’ll also understand why this coffee is one of the world’s top favorites.

What Is a Cortado

Cortado is a small-sized hot coffee drink that combines espresso with warm milk. The popularity of this drink lies in the fact of how balanced the milk and espresso ratio is – 1:1. So technically, it contains 50% espresso and 50% milk. The point of adding milk is to reduce the espresso’s acidity.

Take note that in a cortado, the milk should be warm from steaming, and it should not have as much milk foam or froth as other famous Italian coffee drinks.

Many people are obsessed with this coffee for its simple yet sophisticated structure and composition and international notoriety. The size of this coffee is permanently set to small, so customizing or altering its size is usually non-negotiable.

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Even if you get it at Costa, Starbucks, and other large-chain coffee shops, they will mostly serve you this coffee in predetermined cup size. Decoration, presentation, and flair are not important with a cortado — perfect harmony and blend among different flavors is.

Benefits of Drinking a Cortado

Benefits of Drinking a Cortado

There are a lot of benefits to drinking a cortado. Since it’s devoid of too much sugar and dairy, you can say it’s a healthy drink that can keep you alert and focused. Aside from this, there are other wonders of sipping a cup of cortado.

Burns Fat

While it’s not applicable if you go for an extra-large latte with whipped cream, with less sugary coffee like cortado, you can expect the caffeine to boost your metabolism. Studies show that consuming a cup or two of coffee per day increases your metabolic rate by 10%.

Lessens Tiredness

Though there’s no real substitute for a good night’s sleep, coffee can still provide that boost just when you need it most. As you already know, caffeine is a natural stimulant that can keep you more focused and alert. With a cortado, you’re free to get more coffee than milk, cream, and sugar, so the effects get magnified.

Reduces the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers from the University of Miami and the University of South Florida released a study that highlighted that adults who consume three coffee cups per day are less likely to have Alzheimer’s.

Lowers the Risk of Depression

Without sweeteners, coffee is also said to diminish the risk of depression, especially among women. This study was even complimented by the Archives of Internal Medicine’s research that revealed that four more cups of coffee per week could lessen the occurrence of clinical depression by as much as 20%.

Lowers Death Risk

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), adults who consume three coffee cups per day can significantly lower their death risk by 10%.

Makes You Happier

Aside from these proven benefits, coffee can also make you feel happier. If you’re down and out, a cup of coffee can lighten your mood and make you feel joyful. There is so much joy brought by coffee to coffee enthusiasts. For one, making their coffee with their best French press travel mug or coffee grinding tool for French press can already give them that high. By lessening their stress levels, they also get to improve their disposition.

How Does a Cortado Work

The logic behind a cortado is quite simple. As you may have observed, as coffee shops thrive, customers are offered different variations of coffee beverages. Some coffee shops even create names for their unique beverages.

This may sound fun and exciting, but this has also created confusion among coffee drinkers. Coffee shops, on the other hand, became a place for people to order their coffee on-the-go or study and meet. Though this is a welcome change, the purpose of having a cup of coffee was defeated.

Before these coffee drink variations were made, people enjoy the luxury provided by a cup of coffee by taking time to savor its immaculate taste. They sit on their favorite spot, enjoy a good book, or simply marvel at nature’s beauty with their favorite cup of coffee. Coffee allows you to slow down and savor the beauty of your surroundings.

This is what a cortado is trying to achieve. With its simplicity, you go back to the time when coffee was just coffee beans and milk. With no sugar added, it’s meant to be sipped slowly – helping you enjoy it a sip at a time.

Short History of Cortado Origin

Short History of Cortado Origin

Cortado came from the Spanish verb ‘cortar,’ which means ‘to cut.’ This coffee is rightly named because of the milk’s purpose to cut through the acidity of the espresso. Cortado is also the past participle of the verb ‘cortar,’ referring to the dilution of espresso and coffee beverages.

It was first created in the Basque country of Spain, a cortado spread throughout northern Portugal’s Galicia region, reaching as far as Cuba. This coffee mimics the prominent characteristics of most Spanish beverages, which have little to no foam. Because there’s no foam, the milk can seamlessly cut through the espresso, blending together as smoothly as possible.

Pros and Cons of a Cortado


  • It’s healthy because it’s devoid of sugary substances.
  • It’s simple to make, so you can enjoy one even at home.
  • It’s less acidic than black coffee because of the presence of milk that cuts through the espresso’s acidity.
  • Because there’s pure coffee, you get to enjoy all the benefits of coffee by drinking it.
  • Depending on the type of coffee bean you use, you’ll get to enjoy smooth (Robusta), out-of-the-ordinary (Excelsa), or woody (Liberica) taste. You can also use other coffee beans. For one, Vietnamese coffee is bitter and sweet at the same time. You can use these coffee beans, too.


  • It may taste bitter, especially if you’re not used to unsugared beverages.
  • It can also get too strong, especially for non-espresso drinkers, because it usually contains about 75mg of caffeine per cup.
  • It may cause palpitations if taken too much, so it’s really essential to drink coffee in moderation.

How to Make a Cortado

If you’re excited to make a cortado at home, here is a simple step-by-step guide to help you. But first, you need to have an espresso machine since espresso is the drink’s foundation. You can use siphon machines or coffee machines. For one, a siphon machine extracts aroma from coffee beans.

On the other hand, Keurig offers multiple different coffee machines. You need it to make the proper a cortado coffee. Next, you also have to choose the milk you want to add. Once done, follow the following steps:

Step 1 – Grind, measure and tamp your espresso grounds

As mentioned above, espresso is the foundation of a cortado, so you need to start the process by also preparing to grind your coffee beans.

Step 2 – Use the espresso machine

Next, you need to put the portafilter with the espresso grounds into your espresso machine. Let the extraction begin. You need to extract two espresso shots.

Step 3 – Steam, steam, steam

Once you’re done with the extraction, it’s time to steam your milk of choice. You may go for whole milk, but you can also use oak, coconut, or almond milk.

Step 4 – Mix

As soon as you finish steaming, you need to pour the steamed milk slowly into the espresso. The ratio should be 1:1. Once poured, you’re done.

Step 5 – Enjoy your coffee

As soon as the 1:1 ratio is mixed, you can now relax and enjoy the cortado coffee you just made. We suggest drinking a cup while reading a good book or early in the morning while marveling at the beauty of the sunrise.


Cortado Recipe

Here are the things you need to make yourself and your loved ones a cortado drink:

  • Two espresso shots
  • Steamed milk
  • Espresso machine

If you want to add flavor to your coffee, you can also add ¼ ounce of vanilla syrup. If you want to sweeten up a bit, you can also choose to add ¼ ounce of honey syrup.

Cortado vs Other Similar Coffees

As mentioned above, there are many variations of coffee that identifying one from the other is not only challenging but also tricky. To help you distinguish a cortado from other caffeinated drinks, let’s look at their differences below.

Cortado vs Macchiato/Cappuccino

A cortado and macchiato may be similar in ingredients, but they have striking differences. Both use steamed milk as an added ingredient to the espresso. Their differences are in the ratio between milk and espresso and presentation.

A cortado follows the 1:1 milk to espresso ratio, while macchiato follows the 1:2 milk to espresso ratio, making it stronger in taste. And while a cortado is typically served in a cortado glass, macchiatos are served in a demitasse cup with a saucer and spoon.

Cortado vs Flat White

Cortado has a Spanish origin, while flat white hails from Australia. While both have the same ingredients — espresso and steamed milk, they differ in the milk’s consistency. A cortado has smooth, non-textured milk, while flat white has a thicker and more velvety milk texture.

Cortado vs Latte

Again, these two coffee types have the same ingredients, but a cortado is characterized by having minimal to zero microfoam, while a latte normally comes with more steamed milk, topped with a solid microfoam layer.

Cortado vs Gibraltar

Some say that there’s no difference between these two, except that Gibraltar is the underground name of a cortado. They also said that the difference is where you order your coffee — a cortado is from a Spanish coffee shop, while Gibraltar is from the Bay Area in San Francisco.

The visible difference between both coffee is the glass used to serve them — a cortado is served in a cortado glass, while Gibraltar is best consumed in a Gibraltar glass.

Do’s and Don’ts With a Cortado

Do’s and Don’ts With a Cortado



FAQ About a Cortado

How do you drink a cortado?

Cortado should be drunk in a cortado glass, sipping it slowly to enjoy the pure caffeine it contains. Since it doesn’t contain sugar substances, it may taste bitter. This explains why it’s best consumed while sitting down and taking things slow.

How many shots are in a cortado?

A cortado is made in a 1:1 espresso to steamed milk ratio. And to get that perfect coffee ratio, you need to extract at least two espresso shots.

What is the difference between a cortado and a cortadito?

First and foremost, a cortado is a Spanish drink made with a 1:1 espresso to steamed milk ratio. Cortadito, on the other hand, is a Cuban espresso made with pre-sweetened espresso topped with steamed milk. The ratio followed in cortadito is flexible. Depending on the coffee drinker, it could be 50/50 or 75/25 espresso to milk ratio.

What does a cortado taste like?

A cortado strikes a good balance between flat white’s milkiness and macchiato’s intense punch. It’s the drink you would like to have if you want a slightly lesser punch than a macchiato, yet less sweet and milky than flat white.

Does Starbucks have a cortado?

Yes, Starbucks also serves this drink as part of their espresso line.

Why is cortado served in a glass?

The fact that a cortado is served in glass has so much to do with the fact that this drink is made up of two parts — espresso and steamed milk. The espresso is below the milk, and the one who made this want the drinker to know the art of separating these two magical ingredients. Glass is the perfect vessel to show this separation.


A cortado may be a simple drink, but its rich history tells us how its maker gave much thought into the coffee-making process. It may be just espresso and steamed milk, but the fact that it’s meant to be sipped slowly and that milk is added to cut through the coffee’s acidity made it a masterpiece.

At the end of the day, with a cortado, you’re not simply sipping coffee; you get to enjoy every sip of it, too. With every sip, you feel better, and you appreciate your surroundings more. In the truest sense of the word, this is what coffee should be — simple yet blissful.

Photos from: shiraraz /, Nitrub /, belchonock / and RobStark /

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