What Is a Cortado Coffee

4 min read MAR 29, 2022

If you’ve seen the buzz around cortado coffees online and have been wondering what cortado coffee is, this article is for you. 

Cortado is a drink with an interesting history. 

It’s a caffeinated beverage rich in culture, having Spanish roots. Understanding the roots of a drink and how it’s meant to be made helps you appreciate it, so we’ll take you through the history of the cortado.

It’s also valuable to know how to make your new favorite drink at home. We’ll explain how to make a cortado, including a coffee bean recommendation.

We’ll also take you through variations of the cortado around the world. 

There are a few drinks similar to the cortado, such as the latte. We’ll tell you how these drinks differ so that you can choose the caffeinated beverage most suited to you.

Cortado Coffee 

The cortado is a Spanish espresso-based drink. It’s a mixture of espresso shots and foamed milk. 

what is cortado coffee

It’s made from two shots of espresso mixed with two ounces of lightly textured milk. That means it’s equal parts espresso and milk.

The cortado is a small drink. It’s served in a four-ounce glass tumbler called a Gibraltar glass.

It’s similar to a latte but lower in volume. The difference between cortado and latte is how much milk is added to the espresso shots. 

While a cortado has only two ounces of milk, a latte has up to eight. 

The milk in a cortado is steamed to give it a light texture. 

There isn’t a thick layer of foam on top of the drink. This is because the milk is intended to reduce the acidity of the beverage, not to add texture.

Cortado Coffee History

While most espresso-based drinks are Italian in origin, the cortado originally comes from Spain. 

Its name is derived from a Spanish word. The word “corter” in Spanish means “to cut.” The drink was given the name cortado because of the way the milk “cuts” through the espresso shots. 

The cortado was intentionally created with little to no foam on top. The lack of foam is what allows the milk to cut through the shots of espresso.

The result is that the espresso and milk blend smoothly together to create a robust, creamy drink.

The drink soon gained popularity in northern Portugal and Cuba. From there, it gained popularity worldwide.

It’s now a staple at most coffee shops around the world. There are, however, multiple variations of the drink that now exist.

Cortado Variations Around The World

As cortado has become more popular, people and cafes have created their own variations of the drink. This was done to make the drink more appealing to locals.

The first thing that was altered was the size of the drink. 

what is a cortado coffee drink

Coffee drinks in the US can go up to 20 ounces in volume, so the cortado is sometimes bulked up to appeal to the US market. In order to really count as a cortado, the ratio of espresso to milk has to be kept at 1:1.

The cortadito is a popular variation of the cortado. 

Cortadito is also made with two shots of espresso and two shots of steamed milk, but with an added twist. The espresso is whipped with a few spoons of sugar, which creates a caramel-colored coffee.

It’s then topped with a thick foam. The milk can be replaced with evaporated milk to create a dessert drink.

This variation of the cortado is popular in Cuban immigrant communities in the US.

What Does The Cortado Taste Like?

The cortado is a strong coffee drink, but it can be described as soft at the same time. 

When looking at a cortado against an espresso, the main difference is the addition of milk in the cortado. Cortado tastes strong because there are two shots of espresso in it. 

Traditionally it doesn’t contain sugar, but the steamed milk lowers the acidity of the drink. 

To gain an understanding of the texture of a cortado, it can be compared to a latte. This is because both contain steamed milk, so they have a similar texture. 

The main difference between cortado and latte is the amount of steamed milk each contains. A latte has between 8 and 15 ounces of milk.

How Much Caffeine Is In A Cortado?

cortado coffee drink

A cortado contains about 150 mg of caffeine.

This is the same amount of caffeine as a regular long black coffee, so you don’t have to worry about feeling jittery after drinking a cortado.

The caffeine content makes it a great option for your regular morning coffee.

Cortado Coffee Recipe

If you’ve ever made a black-eyed coffee or a red-eyed coffee, you’ll be familiar with the first half of this process.

To make your own cortado at home, you’ll need the following:

First, you need to grind your coffee beans. Next, you need to make your espresso. 

This involves putting water in the bottom chamber of your Moka pot and the ground coffee in the middle chamber. 

You then put it on the stove. When it stops making a gurgling sound, your espresso should be ready in the top chamber.

Pour two shots of the espresso into your cup.

Next, steam your milk. You can do this with a steam wand or by whisking warmed milk.

Add two ounces of the steamed milk to your espresso and you have a cortado.

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