Cortado Vs Latte: Compare The Key Coffee Differences

Nothing beats a cup of coffee, but with all the coffee drinks typically served in a coffee shop you can have a hard time keeping up.

A cortado and a latte are two popular drinks in the coffee world. Both are made with espresso and milk so when it comes to cortado vs latte, what's the difference? In this guide we'll explore the differences between the two drinks, and help you decide which best suits your tastes. 

1. Composition 

Despite both coffee recipes consisting of espresso and milk, they don't have equal amount. This is down to the volume of the ingredients, and how they are layered.

A latte is made with 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and a thin layer of microfoam on top. The espresso and steamed milk combine to make a drink of 8-16oz (though you can get some larger sizes).

A cortado is made with 1/2 espresso 1/2  warm milk in an equal ratio. The espresso and steamed milk combine to give a drink of around 4oz, with the smaller amount of milk making it a much shorter drink.

The equal parts steamed milk and espresso in a coffee cortado give it a stronger espresso flavor, but it has much less acidity than a regular espresso. So, when it comes to cortado vs latte, coffee lovers shouldn't definitely chose a cortado.

2. Flavor 

Most famous espresso drinks, like the cortado and latte, have the same ingredients - an espresso shot, steamed milk, and milk froth - so it's surprising that the taste can vary so much. 

The high quantity of steamed milk in the latte makes it one of the milkiest coffee beverages, and as a result the latte taste is very milky, sweet, and smooth

A cortado with equal parts espresso and milk, therefore the cortado taste is slightly bitter from the espresso, but with a rich flavor

The steamed and frothed milk in a latte make it the perfect vehicle for flavored syrups, and many people choose to make the coffee drink even sweeter by adding different flavors.

If you enjoy a stronger espresso flavor you'll prefer the cortado, but if you like it mild then you'll prefer a latte because it is more milk heavy. 

3. Serving Size 

Most american coffee shops offer popular espresso based drinks in a range of sizes - but that's not always the case.

A latte is served anywhere from 8oz to 16oz, and some chains even offer a 30oz latte. In comparison, a cortado is typically only served in a 4oz size, and you can't order anything larger.

The drink's size is probably the main difference between the two coffees. A cortado is one of those traditional espresso drinks with the same amount of coffee and milk. Altering the size would place with this balance, and ruin the flavor of the drink.

It's worth noting that the espresso to milk ratio in larger lattes doesn't change, so if you order the biggest size you will probably have more than two espresso shots in the cup. 

4. Milk Content 

The different espresso to milk content in a cortado and a latte is what impacts their texture and flavor.

A latte is 2/3 milk, with a 1:2 ratio  of espresso to steamed milk and foamed milk in a microfoam layer on top. 

A cortado has an equal ratio of espresso to steamed milk, and the milk isn't frothed up like a latte but blended with the shots of espresso. This creates a layered effect in the cup.

The hot milk content is the key difference in cortado vs latte drinks, and it's what makes the cortado stronger in taste. There's a nice balance to both but the higher milk content and higher volume of a latte makes it easier to drink.

5. Caffeine Levels

Coffee drinks are designed to perk you up, but it's good to know the exact caffeine content in each of these espresso based drinks. 

Cortado and latte both have equal amounts of caffeine, around 90-130mg per serving from the espresso shots. This fairly standard compared to other coffees which tend to have about the same amount. 

A cortado has stronger coffee flavor because it has less milk foam, not because it has more espresso coffee.

Just bear in mind that you can get very large lattes are made with one to three shots of espresso, so these may be stronger than a regular cortado.

6. Calories

Every coffee drink is different so it's good to know how many calories are in a cortado vs latte.

A cortado has 50-70 calories in a serving. A small latte has 150-180 calories

The main reason that a latte has more calories is because of higher quantity of creamy milk. This coffee and milk combination makes the espresso shots more disguised and easier to drink, but does make it less healthy. 

If you want a lower calorie coffee drink you should go for a cortado over a latte, but just be aware that different syrups and sauces will add more calories to either drink. 

7. Traditional Serving Container 

Both cortados and lattes are made using an espresso machine, but they're served very differently, primarily because a latte is a larger drink.

A latte is typically served in a tall glass, cup, or mug which has room for a lot more steamed milk.

A traditional cortado is typically served in a cortado glass tumbler or Gibraltar glass which only has room for the 4oz drink.

8. Variations 

One of the best things about espresso based drinks is that they can almost always be customized to meet your tastes. There are several different variations on a cortado and a latte, and you can ask your barista to add other ingredients if your desired drink isn't on the menu.

Popular latte variations include:

  • Flavored lattes - made with syrups these lattes have a completely different taste. The most popular are the caramel or peppermint latte.
  • Chai lattes - these are made with a spice mixture to give it a unique taste.
  • Pumpkin spiced latte - this is the ultimate Starbucks fall drink made with espresso, milk, pumpkin spicy syrup, and pumpkin puree - with nutmeg and cinnamon on top.
  • Short latte - this is made with slightly less milk and is actually very similar to a cortado. A short triple latte is popular, and comes with three espresso shots - perfect for intense coffee lovers.

Popular cortado variations include:

  • Cortado condensada or bombon - this is made with condensed milk (a slightly fatter milk) and has a more creamy texture.
  • Cafe con leche y leche - this is similar to the cortado condensada but with a dollop of light cream resting on top which gives it a nice balance.

You can also ask for your cortado or latte without whole milk. Non fat milk massively reduces the calories, or you can go for a dairy-free almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk instead. The choice of milk varies in coffee shops, but they usually have a few options.

When it comes to variations of cortado vs latte coffee drinks you can see that a latte has more options. This makes it the better coffee drink for those who like to mix it up. 

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

Cortado is a Spanish word which means "cut" or "trimmed." It's a coffee drink made by with equal parts steamed milk and espresso, and is a very popular drink in Spain (though the creamy milk makes it popular internationally).

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

Cortado Vs Latte: Compare The Key Coffee Differences

The cortado is ordered in a coffee shop by 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. 

To make a cortado: 

  1. 1
    Pull a double shot of espresso (or espresso doppio) using good quality coffee beans
  2. 2
    Heat foamed milk in a stainless steel pitcher
  3. 3
    Pour the milk forward into the espresso, ensuring there's an equal amount of steamed milk and coffee
  4. 4
    Pour the cortado into small glasses (or a special cortado glass if you have one), and enjoy!

Pros & Cons of Cortado Coffees 

What We Like 
  • Cortado tastes stronger and is a 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 latte coffee

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

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

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 thick layer of micro-foam on top which is often used for latte art. 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 one shot of espresso using good quality coffee beans- you can alter the amount of espresso if you want a stronger latte. 
  2. 2
    Pour 120ml of milk into a jug and steam (the amount of milk may vary depending on how large you want to make a latte). 
  3. 3
    Combine the espresso and steamed milk, leaving a small layer of froth on top after mixing well with the coffee. 
  4. 4
    If you're feeling brave you can pour the milk foam on top to create latte art on the microfoam layer.
  5. 5
    Add optional flavoring syrups and additions on top for extra flavor. 

Pros & Cons of Latte Coffees 

What We Like 
  • It's delicious with a smoother taste!
  • Less robust flavor- you don't need to be a coffee connoisseur to enjoy a latte. 
  • The solid layer of foam makes latte art easy.
  • 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.

Which Is Healthier - Cortado Or Latte?

When we consider the health choices of our favorite coffee shop order we need to think about the caffeine and the calories. So, when it comes to the healthiness of a cortado or latte, what's the difference? 

Both coffee recipes contain an equal amount of espresso, so their caffeine content is practically the same, though some larger lattes tend to have a third espresso shot.

Cortados and lattes both mix espresso and milk, and it's the ratio of espresso to milk that really adds to the calories.

Cortados are made with equal parts milk and espresso so it only requires a little milk. Plus, because it's a smaller drink which only comes in one size so you only need a small amount of sugar to sweeten it. As a result, you could argue that the cortado is the healthier option because it has fewer calories simply because of its size.  

In the end, the latte has a lot more milk and 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 heavier whole milk, consider using skim milk or unsweetened plant-based milk (such as almond or oat) and a natural sweetener, such as Stevia. You can also reduce the calories by ordering a small latte instead of a large.

making a latte

Frequently Asked Cortado & Latte Questions

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, and has a more robust flavor. 

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 small glass instead of a ceramic cup because it's a small 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. 


Most people know lattes, when it comes to cortado vs latte what's the difference?

The biggest difference is that a latte is served with a lot more milk, whereas a cortado has an equal amount of steamed milk and espresso. This gives the cortado a stronger espresso taste, even though both drinks have the same amount of caffeine.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of cortado vs latte coffee beverages, and you're keen to get out there and try them!

Kayla Stavridis

Kayla Stavridis

Kayla Stavridis is the Head of Marketing here at Barista HQ. While keeping up-to-date on the latest trends in coffee, you can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening. She is passionate about keeping you informed about what’s new in coffee.

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