The cortado has been a staple in the coffee-making industry since people began experimenting with espresso drinks after the invention of the espresso machine.
The cortado is a smooth-tasting coffee drink.
You can buy one at any coffee shop, both big and small, almost anywhere in the world.
Keep reading for more information on this drink and a helpful and easy tutorial on making a cortado at home.
What is a Cortado?
A cortado is an espresso drink that has equal parts espresso and warm milk.
The milk in a cortado is not frothy like others in the espresso drink family.
Instead, it is made with steamed milk and has a smooth texture.
It is sometimes called a Gibraltar due to the glass it is usually served in.
Other similar drinks are the cortadito, the flat white, and the cafe solo corto.
These drinks are made similarly to the cortado but contain different ingredients which set them apart.
The Cuban cortadito contains sweetened condensed milk, while the cafe solo corto is made with black coffee and milk instead of espresso and milk.
Origin of Cortado
It is believed by many that the drink is of Spanish origin, specifically from Madrid, Spain.
It is still commonly served there today.
There is no concrete evidence of a timeframe for cortado’s creation.
However, it is common knowledge in the coffee world that espresso drinks began popping up after the invention of the commercial espresso machine in 1905.
There is not a specific amount of espresso or steamed milk needed for a cortado, but the proportions of the ingredients must be equal.
The drink’s name comes from the Spanish word “cortar” which means “to cut”.
The point of the drink is that the milk cuts through the espresso, or otherwise dilutes it, to make it more smooth and palatable because espresso is strong.
Difference Between Cortado and your Other Favorite Coffee Drinks
Though many espresso drinks are similar in their construction, they do have plenty of characteristics that set them apart and affect the taste and texture of the drink.
We have laid out the differences between the cortado and your other favorite coffee drinks for you here.
Difference Between Cortado and Latte
The latte, or cafe latte, is an Italian invention consisting of espresso and steamed milk.
In a latte, the barista steams the milk to a frothy texture.
The frothy texture creates a foam to top the drink.
The typical measurements for a cafe latte are about two ounces of espresso and about 6 ounces of steamed milk.
It is then topped off with a slight layer of milk foam or latte art.
The espresso is added first.
The inclusion of the milk foam makes for a much more silky texture than that of the cortado.
The proportions of the ingredients in the latte make for a milky drink that is smooth tasting and easy on the palette.
Difference Between Cortado and Cappuccino
A cappuccino is an Austrian coffee drink that found its legs in Italy.
The main feature of the cappuccino is that the ingredients are added in layers of equal parts.
This layering technique is similar to the cortado, but the cappuccino consists of three ingredients layered instead of two.
Preparing a cappuccino requires espresso on the bottom, steamed milk in the middle, and an equal part of milk foam as the topping.
The traditional version is a small drink and consists of about 5 or 6 ounces for the entire espresso drink.
Commercial coffee makers serve it in a 12-ounce form, or larger, but keep the proportions of equal thirds the same.
Difference Between Cortado and Macchiato
The Italian coffee drink cafe macchiato, sometimes called an espresso macchiato, is similar to a cortado but requires less milk.
The name’s literal translation is “spotted coffee” which means it is coffee with a spot of milk.
Typically, a macchiato consists of 1-2 teaspoons of steamed milk added to one shot of espresso.
The intention of the milk in a macchiato is to lessen the bitterness of the espresso but not mask it.
The milk is supposed to add a slight sweetness and moderation to the overall flavor of the drink.
How to Make a Cortado at Home
Making a cortado at home is relatively easy, given that you have a high-quality espresso maker and milk steamer.
Here, we will go over a few easy ways to make a cortado at home.
You will need the following ingredients for your at-home brew:
- Two shots of espresso, about 16 grams of espresso grounds
- Any milk of your choice, about 2-3 ounces steamed
- Flavored syrup of your choice (optional)
- A Gibraltar glass
Remember, a high-quality espresso machine and milk steamer will make all the difference when creating espresso drinks at home.
Invest in a good piece of machinery.
Though flavored syrups are not a part of the traditional drink, it is a simple enough drink that adding flavor if you choose will not compromise the result.
How to make the espresso
Making the espresso is best done with a machine.
Follow the instructions specific to your espresso machine.
Grind, measure, and tamp your grounds properly for a perfect espresso shot.
How to Make It
Here is how you make a cortado at home.
- Grind, measure, and tamp your espresso grounds
- Pull two espresso shots in the manner specified for your machine into a small Gibraltar glass.
- While the espresso is being extracted, prepare the steamed milk with your milk steamer. Be sure there is no foam in the milk, and be careful not to over steam it.
- Add the milk slowly to the espresso.
This is a pretty simple drink to make, but be careful not to over steam the milk.
Doing so will create foam and ruin the components of a cortado.
If you prefer to add flavoring, do so cautiously so you don’t overwhelm the drink or change its proportions.
How to Drink a Cortado
A cortado should be sipped slowly because it has a high caffeine content and can be rather bitter-tasting.
Some cafes even serve it with a palette cleanser like water.
Be sure to sip it slowly so you don’t retain so much of the bitter taste in your mouth and you can enjoy each sip!
How to Serve a Cortado
Serve a cortado in a small glass, like the small Gibraltar glass.
The drink is traditionally prepared with only 5-6 ounces of liquid, so it requires a smaller serving glass.
They are not usually decorated with art like a latte, but that seems to be changing as coffee houses become more aesthetically concerned.
Nutrition Facts about Cortados
Cortados are simple drinks.
Their nutrition facts will vary based on the ingredients you use.
If you choose to use almond milk instead of whole cow’s milk, your calorie and protein facts will vary.
Adding flavoring will increase the calorie count and sugar content of the drink.
If you are concerned with the nutrition facts of your drink, be sure to use products that you are comfortable using and are aware of the ingredients in them.
How many calories are in a cortado?
Generally speaking, a cortado has about 40-70 calories depending on the milk and how many ounces you use.
Of course, this can change depending on the amount of milk and the type of milk you use, and if you choose to add any flavoring.
Two shots of espresso contain about 10 calories.
The bulk of the calorie count in the cortado comes from the milk.
Coffee Lovers’ Choice: Cortados at Starbucks
Starbucks does not have a cortado as one of its set menu items.
If you would like to order a cortado at Starbucks, ask for a double shot of espresso with two ounces of steamed milk.
Sometimes the barista will ring it up as an espresso macchiato.
Starbucks has very few stores called Starbucks Reserve where they make small-lot classics like the cortado.
If you come across one of these stores, you can order a cortado and they will make it in its traditional form!
Next Level: Cortado Art
As mentioned before, cortados are usually not decorated with any kind of art.
The drink is about the simplicity and harmony of the espresso and hot milk.
However, it is becoming more popular.
Cortado art is a bit more difficult because the drink is so small.
There is little time to get the milk to pour exactly right before you run out of room in your glass!
Frequently Asked Questions
Take a look at a few answers to frequently asked questions regarding cortados here.
How many shots of espresso are in a cortado?
A cortado contains two shots of espresso.
If you would like to change the amount of espresso in your cortado, be sure that you alter the amount of milk you use.
You do not want to change the composition of the drink and the cortado calls for equal parts espresso and milk.
Where to find cortado glasses?
The most traditional cortado glass is the Gibraltar rocks glass.
Libbey makes a great Gibraltar glass.
There are plenty of other companies who make and sell them just as well.
You can get a set of two for a modest price on Amazon.
These glasses are also often sold at any home goods store.
How to make a Brown Cinnamon Sugar Cortado?
A brown cinnamon sugar cortado is created just like a traditional cortado, but with the addition of flavoring.
Pour about one teaspoon of brown sugar and just a pinch of cinnamon into the bottom of your glass before pulling your espresso shots. then add the milk and enjoy!
Can you make an iced cortado?
You can make an iced cortado.
However, since the drink is supposed to be sipped and leaving it too long on the ice might water it down, it is not the ideal way to serve a cortado.
If you choose to do so, be aware that it may end up more watery than a traditional, hot cortado.
You make an iced cortado in the same manner, but serve it over ice.
The cortado is a classic, smooth espresso drink that you can enjoy at any time of the day.
It is the perfect sipping espresso drink for a cafe conversation or a relaxed morning.
If you feel inspired, put your barista skills to the test by trying out our recipe for the best at-home cortado!