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How To Make A Cortado: Ultimate Cortado Guide

As a caffeine addict, it’s a dread to go on your day without a cup of this warm Joe. It doesn’t matter if you want it for the taste or a boost of energy, as a coffee lover will gladly take a sip of this at any time of the day. However, it’s probably a good call to start exploring the wide variation of these brewed drinks.

Cortado might be a familiar drink you’ve noticed at least once in your favorite coffee shop. You’ve probably contemplated on getting one, but you thought it’s better to stick with your regular order. Now, you’re probably thinking: what is the cortado beverage all about?

Get to know about this mini explosive drink, and why it’s so well-known worldwide.

what is a cortado

What Is a Cortado?

The spunky hot drink is a popular coffee beverage that has Spanish origins. It is made with equal parts of espresso and milk, and poured in a smaller-sized cup.

Espresso naturally has a high acidity level, which causes its bitterness. It’s not everyone’s favorite brew, especially those who prefer their coffee sweet. This paved the way for the creation of the very famous Cortado that many coffee enthusiasts have their eyes set on.

To cancel out the bitter taste of the heavy espresso, milk is mixed into the cup. It is effective in toning down the strong taste of caffeine.

Cortado is incomparable to any other type of coffee. The uniqueness doesn’t only apply to the taste, but also to how it is served. First, it’s noticeable for its small size compared to other regular-sized servings in your local coffee shop.

It’s permanently set this way, and it’s rare to find a coffee shop serving it on a size you customize. Even big names such as Starbucks and Costa serve the cortado in a small cup, and there’s no way for you to negotiate with them to have it in a larger glass.

Another thing that many love the cortado for is its simplicity. The ingredients are just half espresso and half milk, but many people acknowledge the calm, light, and thin texture for giving the harmony and balance of flavors.

Birth of Cortado: The Origin Story

Espresso-based beverages are usually Italian in origin, which makes cortado different. It originated from Basque in Spain, and became more wide-set and popular in the Galicia region of northern Portugal. Soon enough, it traveled to cafes all around the world.

Cortado came from the Spanish word “cortado,” which means “cut” in English. The drink is all about figuratively cutting through the espresso with the use of milk. Surely, the name fits the hot brew well as the milk does a great job of decreasing and halving the strength of the strong-flavored espresso.

Spanish drinks’ notable characteristic is having little to no foam in their beverages, and it applies to cortado too. Foam fans shouldn’t make a big fuss about this though, as less foamy milk is what allows it to cut through the espresso.

Brewing the Cortado: D.I.Y.

Aside from knowing that a cortado is made from a 1:1 ratio of espresso and milk, you should also know that its influential ingredient, milk, should be steamed or warm.

Before learning how to make your next favorite caffeine drink, start by checking if you have the equipment and ingredients with you. If not, then you better prepare them at once!

espresso machine
Espresso machine.
  • Espresso machine

You need one to create espresso, the main event in the espresso-based drink. Without this machine, there’s a great probability of failure in making your drink properly.

  • Coffee grinder

Normally, espresso machines are built with a coffee grinder. If yours doesn’t have one, then take note that you need it for this recipe.

  • Whole coffee beans

It’s recommended to use freshly roasted coffee, one that’s between seven to 14 days old.

  • Milk

Take your favorite milk to mix in with the espresso to match your taste buds! If you’re unsure, just use the usual whole or 2% milk.

Now that you have all your equipment and ingredients ready for action, you can start making your homemade cortado. Use this recipe we prepared as a guide, and we guarantee that your drink will be ready after doing these three easy steps.

1.   Start by brewing a double shot espresso.

Depending on the instructions of your espresso machine, prepare the double shot espresso. To do this in detail, grind the coffee beans and extract two shots of espresso using the machine. Use a small cup with a capacity of at least 4 ounces. Your best pick is a Gibraltar glass that holds 4.5 ounces. This is perfect for a cortado.

2.   Steam the milk.

Do this after extracting the espresso. Just froth 4 ounces of your choice of milk like how you would normally do in a latte. Take note that you will only use 2 ounces of the milk, but it’s better to steam 4 ounces as milk tends to burn, which can reduce the amount. Before going to the next step, tap out the air bubbles from the steamed milk as cortados are technically not a foamy drink.

3.   Pour over the milk in the espresso shot.

Pre-measure the milk and make sure it is two ounces before pouring it over your espresso shot, as you want your cortado to have the accurate equal ratio of each ingredient.

Traditionally, a cortado is served in a five to seven ounce glass. Since you are doing it at home, all that matters is the taste of the coffee. Feel free to upsize your drink in case a small cup of the brew is not enough for you.

As you learn how to prepare the cortado, you will realize how easy it is and how you don’t need to make an everyday coffee shop run to drink it when you want it. Espresso is fairly quick and easy to make with an espresso machine, and steaming milk is not much of a hard work either. With the two main ingredients prepared for you, what’s left for you to do is to mix it together and enjoy the drink.

Extra Tip: Best Coffee to Use in Cortado

Even if you have a certain preference for a type of coffee bean, it’s still better to use the most suitable type to make an accurate and traditional cortado. The coffee beans’ quality makes up most of the taste of this drink as it provides the main flavor.

To get the richness of the espresso shot, use coffee that has more of a chocolate or nutty kick. This will surely make your cortado taste like a chef’s kiss.

The coffee beans you should absolutely avoid are fruit-based coffees. They don’t pair well at all with whatever milk you decide to use, and they can even taste sour, which is not what you’re trying to brew here.

As a general guide, choose a coffee bean that has a stronger profile as it will make a good pair for the milk to cut through. The flavor of the espresso will stay as it blends with the hot milk. Do not choose coffee beans that are softer or more delicate in nature, as the milk can overpower its flavors, resulting in losing the real cortado flair.

Drink Cortado Like a Pro

This milk and espresso drink can be seen in a sophisticated light, and the cortado will taste best if you sip it slowly. Coffee doesn’t have to be a rushed morning drink at all times, as it is better to bask in the experience of savoring the taste and texture.

Drink Cortado Like A Pro
Drink Cortado Like A Pro

Cortados should be your first pick when it comes to a catching-up reunion with your friends, where you engage in the conversation while graciously sipping in the drink. Moreover, the caffeine is still strong and some places even offer water to cleanse your palate every after sip. Enjoy the cortado slowly rather than consuming it all in.

Cortado Vs. Other Regular Caffeine Drinks

Cortado vs. Macchiato

Even with the same double espresso shot, the macchiato is still viewed as the stronger drink between the two. Out of all the regular caffeine drinks, you can usually see on the main menu of a coffee shop, cortado uses two ounces of lightly textured milk. Meanwhile, macchiato uses frothy milk with about a single or two ounces in volume. You can see from here that since the macchiato uses a slightly lesser amount of milk, it keeps a little bit of bitterness.

Macchiato is just espresso with a little bit of milk that is usually not more than 25% of the drink. Cortado, on the other hand, balances the milk and the espresso better, but can give a lesser kick than the other drink.

Cortado vs. Cappuccino

Cappuccino significantly has more milk and foam than the cortado. Both are offered in a double shot espresso, sometimes only a single shot for the cappuccino. It greatly differs when it comes to milk, as the cappuccino uses four ounces of lighter and frothier milk. Compared to the hot milk that is used in the cortado, the cappuccino’s milk is also more textured and it forms a microfoam layer on the top of the drink.

Since cappuccino has more milk, it’s a gentler drink than the cortado. If you can’t handle the strong punch of the macchiato or you find the gentleness of the cappuccino a little lacking, then cortado, which is in between the two, has the potential to be your favorite drink.

Cortado vs. Flat White

Before comparing the cortado to a flat white, it is good to take note that flat white’s milk volume is a little bit lesser than the cappuccino but more than the cortado. Like always, it uses the same amount of espresso and it only varies in the amount and type of milk. Flat white’s milk is steamed to achieve the velvety texture of the microfoam, while cortado uses hot milk that ensures that there will be no foam. Flat whites are also more noticeable as they can be presented with some latte art.

Flat white is also an Australian drink, while cortado is a Spanish brew. Origin and tradition between these two places can greatly differ, which plays a great role in how it differs in quality and taste.

Cortado vs. Latte

Latte is coffee that’s predominantly milk. Cortado and latte both have the same amount of double espresso shot. Lattes sometimes only use a single. When it comes to milk, a latte uses a whopping eight ounces or more milk. This drink uses four times more milk than a cortado and that alone proves that it will greatly differ in taste.

Lattes are also served in larger serving cups, which can be twice the amount of a cortado, or more. Although very different, a single characteristic both drinks have is having only a very thin layer of microfoam.

Latte Coffee
Latte Coffee.

Cortado vs. Cortadito

These two drinks sound similar as they both start with “cortad.” Don’t be fooled or confused, though! Cortadito is entirely different from the half-and-half drink.

Cortadito is a Cuban specialty that uses frothed milk or frothed condensed milk to make sweetened coffee. Crema is mixed in a Moka pot with sugar to whip the thick froth that will be used in the drink. It’s the sweetest drink out of all on the list, and the most different, to say the least!


Cortado is a Spanish drink that is more enjoyable to consume in a slow-paced manner, different from how we usually drink coffee in a single gulp for a quick burst of energy. It’s a drink created with harmony between espresso and milk, which makes it different from other espresso-based drinks. You can view it as a simple drink, but what makes it unique is how it pays attention to perfect balance.

If you’re too tired of your gentle latte or you think that a macchiato is too strong for you, then it’s time to switch it up with a small glass of cortado – easy to make and easy on the taste buds.

About Rencel Leyran