Coffee Types

What is Cortado Coffee: Exploring Taste and Flavours

Ever wandered into a coffee shop looking for a caffeine fix that’s not too harsh but not drowned in milk? Meet the cortado, a balanced blend that’s stealing the spotlight from your regular espresso and milkier cousins like lattes and cappuccinos. This small but mighty brew packs a punch, making it the perfect pick-me-up for your bustling mornings or lazy afternoons.

Originating from Spain’s vibrant Basque Country, the cortado cuts through the bitterness with lightly steamed milk, delivering a bold flavor without the froth. In this article, you’ll discover why this trendy sipper, rich in antioxidants and energy-boosting properties, deserves a prime spot in your coffee rotation. Get ready to dive into the world of cortado coffee, where less is definitely more.

What is a Cortado Coffee?

When you’re sifting through a coffee shop menu, you may notice the cortado has made its humble appearance. Unlike its espresso cousin or milkier brethren such as lattes and cappuccinos, the cortado holds its own unique charm. It’s not just another coffee variant; it’s a testament to balance and flavor, perfect for those looking to maximize their caffeine intake without the bitterness often associated with strong coffee.

Originating from Spain’s Basque Country, the term “cortado” is derived from the Spanish verb “cortar,” meaning “to cut.” This refers to the light, steamed milk that cuts through the espresso, softening its sharpness and acidity. You’ll find that with a cortado, the milk is carefully warmed, not to create froth or foam but to achieve a creamy consistency that complements the robust espresso.

As you revel in the taste, you’ll also get the added benefits of antioxidants, known for their wellness impact, without any compromise on the rich, bold flavors you desire from your cup. It’s no wonder that cortado coffee is a delightful choice for an afternoon pick-me-up as well as a kickstart to your morning.

Despite its recent popularity, the cortado is often misunderstood for being similar to a flat white due to its size. However, it stands out with its distinct character – less milk than a flat white and no froth, creating a smooth layer on top of the coffee rather than a foamy one. This method produces a drink where the flavor of the coffee is as prominent as the milk, establishing a perfect harmony between the two.

If elegance in a cup and a substantial caffeine punch are what you’re after, the cortado is your answer. Not too diluted, not too intense, but just right for those who appreciate the art of coffee making and the pleasure of a well-crafted brew. Now that you know what sets a cortado apart, you’ll understand why it’s a choice that reflects sophisticated taste and an appreciation for the subtleties of coffee flavor profiles.

History and Origin of Cortado Coffee

Tracing the roots of your favorite cortado coffee takes you back to the vibrant Basque Country in Spain, where the name itself originates from the Spanish verb ‘cortar’, meaning to cut. This term reflects the essence of the drink—espresso ‘cut’ with a splash of warm milk to reduce its acidity, giving you a smoother experience.

Don’t let its simplicity fool you; the cortado is steeped in tradition and has become an afternoon staple, not just in its homeland but across Portugal and Latin America as well. It’s the perfect libation for coffee lovers who appreciate the robust, undiluted flavor of espresso but long for a creamier texture without the froth.

Oliver Strand highlighted the burgeoning popularity of the cortado in a New York Times Magazine article back in 2010, capturing the drink’s essence and appeal.

A cortado is a coffee drink that sits at the midway point between a macchiato and a cappuccino.

– Oliver Strand, NYTimes Magazine

Despite its stature, this balanced brew with a bold personality is anything but overshadowed by other coffee giants like lattes or cappuccinos. It carves out its own niche for those who are in the know, especially within the buzzing atmospheres of modern coffee shops where discerning drinkers gather.

The cortado stands out with its unique preparation method. Unlike other coffee varieties, it’s made with only a small amount of light, steamed milk which is carefully poured to create not just a reduction in bitterness, but also a delicate foam layer that enhances the drink’s rich flavor profile.

With each sip of cortado, you’re not just enjoying a coffee; you’re partaking in a tradition that combines caffeine with culture. Its growing popularity indicates that more coffee enthusiasts are beginning to value the subtleties that come with a well-crafted cup. Whether it’s part of your morning ritual or an afternoon pick-me-up, the cortado has a way of making any moment a refined experience.

How to Make the Perfect Cortado Coffee at Home

Creating the ideal cortado at home is a matter of precision and choosing the right elements. In this section, you’ll learn about selecting premier coffee beans, mastering the art of steaming milk, and employing brewing techniques that can transform your kitchen into your favorite coffee spot.

Choosing the Right Coffee Beans for Cortado

The foundation of a great cortado starts with quality coffee beans. Opt for beans that boast a balanced flavor profile, as too bitter or acidic beans could overpower the delicate equilibrium of espresso to milk in a cortado.

  • Seek out single-origin beans, which tend to have distinctive characteristics based on their terroir.
  • Freshness is paramount — look for beans that have been roasted within the past two weeks.
  • Acquire whole beans and grind them just before brewing to preserve their flavors and aromas.

The Art of Steaming Milk for Cortado

Achieving silky, lightly steamed milk is crucial for your cortado experience. Here’s how you do it:

  • Start with cold milk. Full-fat milk will give you the creamiest texture, but alternative milk types like oat or almond can work if you prefer dairy-free.
  • Heat the milk without creating too much foam. For cortado, you want a velvety consistency, not frothy like a cappuccino.
  • Use a thermometer to aim for a temperature around 150°F to 155°F, where the milk sweetness is at its peak.

Brewing Techniques for a Delicious Cortado

Finally, let’s perfect the brewing process:

  • First, pull a double espresso shot (about two ounces). The pull should produce a rich crema, the hallmark of well-extracted espresso.
  • Ensure your espresso machine is properly calibrated — the water temperature, pressure, and grind size are all crucial factors.
  • Pour your steamed milk gently over the espresso to maintain the definitive 1:1 ratio for a classic cortado.

Remember, your cortado should be served immediately after preparation to savor its harmonious blend of strong coffee and smooth milk.

How Does a Cortado Tastes Like?

Cortado taste

When you take a sip of cortado, you’re embracing an espresso experience that’s both bold and harmonious. Imagine an espresso’s intense, intricate flavors, now softened by just a touch of warm milk—that’s cortado for you. Aaron Duckworth, a seasoned coffee professional, suggests that cortado is a top pick for those who love espresso-forward drinks while craving a subtle sweetness that doesn’t overpower the espresso.

The espresso-to-milk ratio paves the way for a perfect balance. Unlike a latte with more steamed milk and dramatic froth, the cortado offers equally split portions of espresso and milk, letting you relish in the pure, robust flavor of the beans. And if you’re creature to cravings for fruitier notes, say from an Ethiopian espresso, expect the aromatic fruit bomb to be there, just slightly sweetened, enhancing the overall taste without the need for extra sugar.

Brewing a cortado is an art of finding the equilibrium between the sharp zest of coffee and the creamy sweetness of milk. Your tastebuds are greeted by a less acidic, yet distinctly espresso-forward beverage. The lactose in the milk acts as a natural sweetener, offering just enough to unify the flavors into a balanced taste combination. It’s a delicate dance, one where no partner outshines the other, resulting in a drink that’s refreshingly harmonized.

Perhaps the best way to phenotype a cortado’s taste is by seeing it as a scaled-down latte. Not as milk-dominant, sans the froth yet bearing a resemblance in taste—it’s a mini-version that allows espresso lovers to appreciate the antioxidants and bold flavors. The typical cortado invites a smooth layer of milk, ensuring that each sip maintains the intricate flavors that espresso enthusiasts seek, while introducing a silkier, voluptuous texture to the palette.

Engross in the world of cortado, where the bold meets the creamy, and each sip speaks to the sophistication of your coffee choice. Enjoy the seamless blend that keeps the espresso’s spirit alive, gently accentuated by the warmth of lightly steamed milk.

How is cortado coffee different from other espresso-based drinks?

Cortado vs. Cappuccino: What Sets Them Apart?

Cortado vs. Cappuccino

When deciding whether to indulge in a cortado or a cappuccino, it’s essential to understand the fundamental differences between these two popular espresso-based beverages. While both contain a shot of espresso, the key distinction lies in the milk content and texture. A cappuccino boasts a higher volume of steamed milk and froth, rendering the drink lighter and less intense in flavor compared to the cortado which maintains a denser, more espresso-forward profile. The cappuccino’s structure traditionally consists of equal thirds of espresso, steamed milk, and foam, an arrangement that significantly dilutes the coffee’s potency.

In contrast, the cortado offers a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, yielding a smaller volume with a stronger coffee flavor. This balance allows the espresso’s boldness to shine through while the steamed milk adds a creamy texture, mitigating acidity without overpowering the coffee. The cortado’s simplicity lacks the layered presentation of a cappuccino and is aimed more towards those seeking a harmonious blend of coffee and milk.

Cortado vs. Latte: Understanding the Differences

The cortado and latte may seem similar at first glance, but a deeper look reveals clear distinctions:

Coffee Type Espresso Shots Milk Content
Cortado Two Equal parts with espresso
Latte One ⅔ steamed milk

The latte, with its Italian heritage, is characterized by its creamier texture and milder coffee flavor. It includes just one shot of espresso to two-thirds steamed milk, capped with a layer of microfoam. Further customization is possible by adding flavored syrups or using alternative milk varieties, resulting in a personalized beverage often enjoyed leisurely.

On the other hand, the cortado’s Spanish origins dictate a more straightforward and robust approach. With double the espresso shots and a direct 1:1 ratio with warm steamed milk, the cortado delivers a more intense coffee experience. This higher caffeine concentration and the absence of additional flavors cater to those who prefer their coffee strong yet smooth, often savored as a quick pick-me-up.

Cortado Vs Flat White

Although they share similarities, the cortado and flat white have distinguishing features that set them apart:

Aspect Cortado Flat White
Milk Quantity Less More
Texture Smooth layer mixing with espresso Thicker microfoam
Presentation Less emphasis Focus on aesthetic pour and foam

The cortado’s equal parts espresso to milk render a smaller beverage with less milk than the flat white. A flat white, with its origin in Australia or New Zealand, has more milk and is typically served with a velvety microfoam which adds to the texture and body of the drink. While a cortado is straightforward in presentation, a flat white’s allure also lies in its visual appeal, with baristas often showcasing their artistry through latte art on the thicker foam.

Cortado Vs. Macchiato

Understanding the cortado in relation to the macchiato is critical for discerning coffee enthusiasts. Both are espresso-centric, but the macchiato is essentially espresso “stained” with a dollop of milk, usually foamed. This Italian creation is starkly less milky, providing an even more pronounced espresso flavor and often served in a smaller demitasse cup for a quick, intense coffee hit.

Comparatively, a cortado involves a generous mingling of espresso and steamed milk, which rounds out espresso’s sharp edges without diminishing its bold character. For those who prefer a palatable yet potent espresso experience, the cortado outshines the macchiato. It tempers the bitterness while maintaining the coffee’s depth, an appealing choice for those looking to enjoy the full spectrum of espresso’s rich flavors in a moderated format.


Embrace the cortado’s rich heritage and indulge in the delicate balance of robust espresso softened by warm, lightly steamed milk. Whether you’re a coffee aficionado or simply looking for a creamy twist on your usual espresso, the cortado offers a sophisticated, antioxidant-rich experience. It’s a testament to the art of coffee-making and a celebration of flavor subtleties that’s gaining popularity in cafes worldwide. Next time you’re at your favorite coffee spot, why not treat yourself to this exquisite, smooth beverage and savor the perfect harmony of bold and creamy?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a cortado coffee?

A cortado coffee is an espresso-based beverage made with equal parts espresso and lightly steamed milk, creating a balanced and smooth coffee drink. It’s known for its creamy consistency without the bitterness of strong coffee.

How does a cortado differ from a latte or a flat white?

A cortado has less milk than a latte and lacks the froth of a flat white, allowing for a stronger espresso flavor with a smooth layer of milk on top, highlighting the drink’s espresso foundation.

Why is the cortado considered a sophisticated coffee choice?

The cortado is favored by those who appreciate the subtle nuances of coffee flavor. Its balanced mix of bold espresso and the slight sweetness of warm milk require precision in its making, reflecting a sophisticated taste.

What are the origins of the cortado?

The cortado originated in the Basque Country of Spain and its name is derived from the Spanish verb “cortar,” meaning “to cut,” which represents espresso “cut” with a splash of milk.

Is the cortado a popular drink outside of Spain?

Yes, the cortado has gained popularity in various countries, especially in Portugal and Latin American regions. It’s also a growing choice in modern coffee shops around the world.

Can the cortado be considered a healthy coffee choice?

Yes, due to its balance of milk and espresso, the cortado provides antioxidants and flavors from the coffee without an overwhelming amount of milk, making it a healthier option for those conscious of their intake.

Ajay Deep

Like many of you, I start my day with a cup of coffee. My love for this beverage grew when I started experimenting with different types of roasted beans at my co-working space. I created to help others explore and experience the best coffee. I am an author and an entrepreneur. Whatever I do, coffee will always remain a passion. You may reach me at

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