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What is a cortado coffee? And why you should try it

A cortado coffee is served in a 5 – 7 fl oz cup and contains two ingredients, espresso and milk. The most important thing about the cortado is that it uses a ratio of 1:1 (an even amount of espresso and milk). It’s made by extracting a double shot of espresso and slowly pouring an equal amount of milk on top.

You may be a coffee enthusiast just like a lot of us, but have you ever walked into a coffee chain and wondered what a cortado is? Well, you’re not alone. It’s a strong espresso-based drink but has a unique taste like no other coffee out there.

What is a cortado?

The cortado is a very simple drink. It consists of two ingredients, espresso and steamed milk. The ratio between these two is 1:1 (half espresso, half milk). The reason for the milk to be half of the espresso is to reduce acidity. The milk in a cortado is steamed but not frothed as in many Italian coffee drinks. The drink comes from Madrid, Spain, where it’s commonly served.

The serving size of this beverage is what is most important. It’s served in a small size (5 – 7 oz cup) and altering or customizing the size of the drink is often not negotiable. Even at large coffee chains like Starbucks, the serving size of the cortado is in a pre-determined cup.

There are also no other additives or sugar added to the traditional cortado. It only contains espresso and milk.


The history of the cortado

The Spanish word “cortado” translates to “cut”. It is rightly named so because the milk is meant to cut through the espresso.

Similarly, “cortado” is the past principle of “cortar”, which refers to both the dilution of coffee and espresso drinks. After its creation in Spain, the drink began spreading in popularity throughout the Galicia region in northern Portugal.

The cortado contains no foam, which is what Spanish drinks are known for. But don’t worry if you’re a fan of foam. The good thing is that because the cortado does not contain any foam, it allows the milk to cut through the espresso, blending the two ingredients together as smoothly as possible. This gives you a delicious combination of a strong, robust espresso flavor with creamy, light milk.

The differences between drinks

Yes, the cortado is another coffee beverage, but you can’t compare it to any other one. There are a lot of options out there but none of them are quite like the cortado.

Cortado vs Latte

The Latte shares the same amount of espresso as the cortado. But the difference is in the amount of milk added. A latte has a lot more milk and has some foam on top too. This makes lattes less caffeine intense than the cortado.

Cortado vs Macchiato

The same applies here as to the latte. The espresso amount is the same as the cortado. But the amount of milk is reduced a lot here. The Macchiato has a lot less milk than the cortado and on top of that has only tiny bits of frothed milk on top. This makes the macchiato very espresso dominant and strong.

Cortado vs Cappuccino

The cappuccino usually has more milk and foam than the cortado. It’s also larger in volume and is more gentle on the caffeine because of it. They’re very familiar to each other but not quite the same.

How to make a cortado

So, now that I got you hyped into tasting a cortado, why not just make one right now! You will need an espresso machine since espresso is the base of the cortado coffee. You will also need your preferred milk of choice ready to be steamed.

  • Extract two shots of espresso from the machine into a 5 – 7 oz cup.
  • After espresso extraction, steam your desired milk of choice (we prefer whole milk, but anything from almond to coconut is fine).
  • Slowly pour your steamed milk into your espresso and don’t forget that the ratio of espresso and milk is 1:1.
  • Enjoy!

If you are used to using an espresso machine then this will be a piece of cake. The cortado is a very simple coffee to make but hard to master. The most important thing of the cortado is the ratio of the espresso and milk. You could add extra additives like flavoring syrups and sugar but that’s up to you.

Cortados are meant to be sipped slowly. They are served in a 5 – 7 oz cup and are meant to be sipped since the caffeine content is very dominant. In some places, it’s even served with a side glass of water for you to cleanse the roof of your mouth after each sip.

The bottom line

The cortado is a popular coffee with a strong caffeine content that’s served in a 5 – 7 fl oz cup. It uses two ingredients, espresso and milk which are poured into a cup with a ratio of 1:1 (both equal amounts). 

The Spanish word “cortado” is the past principle of “cortar” which translates to “cut”. This means the milk cuts into the espresso, hence the name Cortado. It was created in Madrid, Spain, and quickly spread in popularity in northern Portugal.

A lot of drinks might seem similar to the cortado but it’s far from the truth. If you get the ratio of a cortado right then it’s one delicious and strange drink. But next time you visit your favorite coffee chain you have to give the cortado a try and enjoy it with everything it has to offer. I’m sure you will love it!

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