Cortado Vs Latte: Compare The Key Coffee Differences

On a chilly winter day, nothing beats a hot cup of coffee. Coffee has been enjoyed by humans for hundreds of years and is a favorite drink in many cultures. 

The coffee culture has wildly spread worldwide, and there are now hundreds of thousands of coffee shops and cafes scattered across the globe. Every location has a unique coffee culture, but coffee trends tend to catch on quickly.

Two major coffee trends in recent history are the latte and the cortado. While both drinks are made using milk, they are actually very different. 

Cortado is a Spanish word meaning "cut" or "trimmed." It's a drink made by mixing espresso with warm milk and is a very popular drink in Spain. 

We like to think of the cortado as a drink that is halfway between an espresso and a cappuccino. It's called "cortado" because it's cut with the addition of steamed milk, similar to how you would cut a whiskey with water. 

man pouring coffee

The cortado is for people who want something a little stronger than a latte but don't want to sacrifice the coffee taste. It's also for people who want to experiment with their coffee-drinking habits but are not quite ready for a straight shot of espresso. 

An authentic cortado is made by pulling a double shot of espresso. The first shot is pulled into a 4-ounce glass and then topped with foamed milk. 


Pros & Cons of a Cortado Coffee 

What We Like 
  • Cortado is a stronger, more concentrated version of a latte, which means that it packs a punch.  
  • It's espresso-based — a strong and flavorful alternative to drip coffee 
  • It's perfect for when you want a stronger coffee but don't want to drink a lot.  
  • It is the perfect coffee to have instead of a glass of wine after a meal. 
Things We Don't 
  • Not quite as strong as black coffee, but perfect for a morning commute. 
  • It's harder to prepare than other types of coffee 
  • The cup is much smaller than a regular coffee. 

What Is A Latte? (Overview + How They Are Made)

filling coffee

A Latte (pronounced "La-Tay") is a hot beverage made from freshly-foamed hot milk and espresso.

The milk is steamed and then poured over the espresso, which is a coffee brewed under pressure by forcing hot water over finely ground coffee beans. 

The latte is said to have been invented in Italy in the late 18th century, and the word "latte" comes from the Italian word for milk. 

A latte is a pretty simple drink to make. It's a mix of steamed milk and espresso with a layer of micro-foam on top. You can make it hot or cold, and you can add different types of milk like soy, oat, or almond milk. 

To make a latte: 

  1. 1
    Prepare a single shot of espresso. 
  2. 2
    Pour 120ml of milk into a jug and steam. 
  3. 3
    Pour milk on top of the shot, leave a small layer of froth on top after mixing well with the coffee. 
  4. 4
    Add optional syrups for extra flavor 

Pros & Cons of Latte Coffees 

What We Like 
  • It's delicious!
  • You don't need to be a coffee connoisseur to enjoy a latte. 
  • It's easy to create latte art.
  • It's hard to get a bad latte.
Things We Don't 
  • The milk and sugar (optional) in a latte add a lot of calories.  
  • They cost a lot more than a regular cup of coffee — unless you make your own at home. 
  • Not suitable for those with lactose intolerance.

Cortado Vs Latte - Key Differences Compared 

Composition 

The standard combination for a latte is 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and a small, thin layer of microfoam on the surface. 

A cortado is a drink made with espresso and warm milk in an equal ratio to lessen acidity. 

Flavor 

Because the espresso to milk ratio is 1:1, you'll get both the robust taste of espresso and the smooth and silky taste of milk in a cortado. 

While cortados have a strong espresso flavor, lattes are generally more milky than anything else. Lattes are the perfect drink to customize by adding flavored syrups. 

Serving Size 

If you frequent your local coffee shop, you're probably aware that lattes come in a variety of sizes, up to 30 oz in some places. 

A cortado, on the other hand, is designed to be a much smaller beverage, typically served in 4oz cups. 

Milk Content 

In a latte, the milk is steamed and frothed to make foam and then mixed with espresso to make the latte. Lattes can be made with hot or cold milk. 

A cortado is a drink that consists of espresso topped with a little bit of steamed milk. The steamed milk isn't frothed like a latte. Rather it's blended with the espresso to create a layered effect in the cup. 

Traditional Serving Container 

Lattes can be served in whatever you want but traditionally come in taller glasses or cups, tumblers, or mugs. 

Cortados, on the other hand, are traditionally served in small, 4oz glasses, or smaller takeaway cups.

Variations 

The best thing about lattes is they can be completely customized. One of our favorites is the Pumpkin Spice Latte, a seasonal beverage that is sold by Starbucks during the fall. The drink is made from espresso, milk, pumpkin spice syrup, and pumpkin puree. The drink is topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. 

The cortado condensada or bombon is served with condensed milk, while the leche y leche is a bold mix of cream and condensed milk.  


Which Is Healthier? Cortado Vs Latte 

Because each of these coffees is produced with a single shot of espresso, their caffeine content is practically the same. 

The cortado requires relatively little milk, and because it's a smaller drink, it doesn't require a lot of sugar to sweeten it. As a result, you could argue that the cortado is healthier because it has fewer calories simply because of its size.  

In the end, the latte is only as healthy as you make it. Using full-fat milk or adding sugary syrups can quickly turn your beverage into a calorie-laden drink. 

Instead of full-fat milk, consider using skim milk or unsweetened plant-based milk (such as almond or oat) and a natural sweetener, such as Stevia. 

making latte

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the difference between piccolo latte and cortado? 

A piccolo latte, also known as a petite latte, is an espresso drink made with a single shot of espresso, steamed milk, and a small amount of foam. A cortado is made with espresso, steamed milk, and a little bit of foam. 

Is a cortado the same as a flat white? What about a macchiato? 

The cortado is a very hot drink at the moment in the coffee world. There's a lot of debate over what it is and whether it's the same as a flat white. The consensus seems to be that it's a cross between a cappuccino and a flat white. 

In fact, the only difference between a cortado and a flat white is the milk. The milk for a Cortado is prepared the same as a Flat White, with simply less foam. 

The Macchiato has a more obvious intensity to its flavor, as it is prepared with a single shot of espresso, a dash of milk, and a dash of foam. 

Why is a cortado served in a glass? 

The cortado is served in a glass instead of a ceramic cup because it's a smaller drink. The ceramic cup is traditionally used for longer espresso and cappuccinos because it keeps the temperature of the drink high. However, the cortado is consumed quicker, so it doesn't need to stay as hot for long. 

Practical reasons aside, most coffee shops choose a glass instead of a cup simply for aesthetics. 

Do you stir a cortado? 

Confused about why your cortado comes with a spoon? The spoon is used to stir the espresso, mixing the layers and helping to bring the flavor out of every sip. It's important to mix everything together, so it has a good balance. Don't feel like you have to use it, but that's why it is there! 

blue and white ceramic mug
Does Starbucks have cortados on the menu? 

Officially, no. Despite this, a cortado is simply espresso cut with a little bit of steamed milk, and so you may find a friendly barista ready to whip up your favorite drink for you. 


Conclusion

While you may be familiar with the traditional latte, the next time you're in a coffee shop and the barista asks you what you want, why not consider a cortado?

Hopefully, you have an understanding now of the difference between the two beverages, but how do you know if you'll like it? There's only one way to find out..