Cortado Coffee: The Balance of Espresso and Milk


When it comes to coffee, there are endless options to choose from. If you’re looking for a drink that strikes the perfect balance between bold espresso and creamy milk, look no further than the cortado coffee. This elegant coffee drink, with its Spanish origins, has gained popularity among baristas and coffee enthusiasts alike.

The cortado coffee is a well-crafted beverage that combines the intense flavor of espresso with the smoothness of steamed milk. What sets it apart is the one-to-one ratio of espresso to milk, creating a harmonious blend of flavors that delight the senses. Not too strong, yet not too milky, the cortado offers the perfect balance for those who appreciate a sophisticated coffee experience.

Unlike larger coffee shop favorites such as lattes and cappuccinos, the cortado is smaller in size, typically served in a four-ounce glass. This allows you to savor the strong coffee taste with just a hint of creamy sweetness. It’s the ideal choice for those who prefer a more concentrated coffee flavor without compromising on the smoothness that milk provides.

Key Takeaways:

  • The cortado coffee combines the bold flavor of espresso with the smoothness of steamed milk.
  • It is made with a one-to-one ratio of espresso to milk, resulting in a harmonious blend of flavors.
  • The cortado is smaller in size compared to lattes and cappuccinos, making it the perfect choice for those who want a strong coffee experience with a hint of creamy sweetness.
  • The cortado originated in Spain and has become a favorite among baristas and coffee enthusiasts.
  • With its elegant balance of espresso and milk, the cortado offers a sophisticated coffee experience in a small, concentrated size.

What is a Cortado Coffee?

A cortado is a delightful coffee drink that combines the boldness of espresso with the smoothness of steamed milk. This elegant beverage originates from Spain and has gained popularity in coffee shops worldwide. With its perfect balance of flavors, the cortado offers a unique coffee experience for connoisseurs.

The cortado is made using a specific ratio of espresso to milk. It consists of equal parts espresso and steamed milk, creating a harmonious combination of rich coffee and creamy goodness. The cortado is typically served in a four-ounce cup, making it smaller than other milk-based coffee beverages like lattes and cappuccinos. Despite its smaller size, the cortado provides a strong coffee flavor with a hint of sweetness.

Let’s take a closer look at the cortado ratio. The classic cortado is made with a one-to-one ratio of espresso and milk. This means that when preparing a cortado, baristas combine one ounce of espresso with one ounce of steamed milk. This equal proportion ensures the perfect balance between the intense espresso and the smooth milk, resulting in a pleasing and satisfying drink.

Did You Know? A variation of the cortado called the cortadito can be found in some coffee shops. The cortadito includes a touch of sweetness by adding condensed milk or sugar to the traditional cortado recipe. This sweeter version is perfect for those who enjoy a little extra indulgence in their coffee.

The Anatomy of a Cortado:

Espresso1:11 ounce
Steamed Milk1:11 ounce

Now that we have a better understanding of what a cortado is and its components, it’s time to explore how to make this delicious coffee at home. In the next section, I’ll share a step-by-step guide on preparing a cortado and offer some tips for those looking to enjoy a dairy-free version of this delightful beverage.

cortado coffee

How Do You Make a Cortado Coffee?

To make a delicious cortado, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps. Here’s a breakdown of the cortado preparation process:

  1. Start by pulling a double shot of espresso, which is typically around 2 ounces. This will provide the strong, bold base for your cortado.
  2. Next, you’ll need to steam 2 ounces of milk of your choice. The goal is to create a velvety texture, so make sure to add some air while steaming.
  3. Pour the steamed milk on top of the espresso in a small vessel, such as a cortado glass or a Gibraltar glass. These glasses are short, ridged, and offer a medium lip, perfect for serving cortados.

In addition to traditional dairy milk, you can also experiment with non-dairy alternatives like oat milk or almond milk to create a dairy-free cortado that suits your preferences.

cortado glass

Dairy CortadoDairy-Free Cortado
Taste and TextureA balanced blend of rich espresso and creamy milkSmooth espresso with the choice of plant-based milk
Glass TypeCortado Glass (Gibraltar Glass)Cortado Glass (Gibraltar Glass)
PreparationDouble shot of espresso + 2 ounces of dairy milkDouble shot of espresso + 2 ounces of plant-based milk

Can You Make a Cortado Without a Coffee Machine?

Creating a delicious cortado at home is possible even without owning an espresso machine. With a few simple techniques and alternative ingredients, you can still enjoy this elegant coffee drink in the comfort of your own kitchen. Whether you’re seeking a regular cortado, a dairy-free option, or even an iced cortado, there are methods available for every preference.

Making a Regular Cortado

If you have a Nespresso or Keurig machine, you’re in luck. These popular single-serve coffee makers can be set to brew a strong shot of espresso. Simply use the same amount of milk as espresso to maintain the classic one-to-one ratio that defines a cortado. This ensures a balanced blend of rich coffee flavors and creamy sweetness in every sip.

cortado at home

Steaming Milk Without a Steam Wand

“To achieve the desired texture for steamed milk without a steam wand, you can utilize a handheld frother. This tool effectively aerates the milk, creating a velvety consistency that is perfect for a cortado. Simply submerge the frother into the milk and turn it on, moving it in an up-and-down motion until the milk reaches your desired level of foaminess.”

Using Specialty Brand Instant Crystallized Coffee

If you don’t have access to espresso, there is an alternative to recreate the depth and concentration of espresso flavor. Look for specialty brand instant crystallized coffee, which can closely mimic the taste and texture of espresso. Add a small amount of water to the crystals to create a concentrated coffee shot. Then, follow the same steps as making a regular cortado by steaming the milk using a frother and combining it with the coffee for a delightful drink.

Enjoying an Iced Cortado

The same methods can be applied to create an iced cortado. Instead of using hot milk, start with cold milk and add ice to the mixture. The result is a refreshing twist on the classic cortado, perfect for those hot summer days when you need a cool pick-me-up.

So, whether you’re looking to make a regular cortado, a dairy-free version, or an iced variation, there are ways to enjoy this elegant coffee drink without a coffee machine. With a few alternative techniques and ingredients, you can savor the rich espresso flavor and creamy milk balance of a cortado right at home.

Cortado vs Latte: Unveiling the Espresso Showdown

Cortado and latte are two popular espresso-based coffee drinks with their own unique characteristics. Understanding the differences between the two can help you choose the perfect coffee to satisfy your taste buds.

The cortado, known for its strong and intense flavor, is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk. This balanced coffee drink offers a bold coffee taste without overpowering the smoothness of the milk. Cortados are typically served in smaller glasses, allowing you to savor every sip of this elegant coffee delight.

On the other hand, the latte is known for its creamy and velvety texture. It contains more steamed milk, resulting in a smoother and less intense coffee flavor. Lattes are often served in larger cups, providing a satisfying and comforting coffee experience.

When it comes to calories, the cortado takes the lead with approximately 50 calories per serving, making it a great choice for those mindful of their calorie intake. In contrast, a latte contains around 200 calories due to the additional milk used in its preparation.

Another aspect that sets these two coffee drinks apart is the wide variety of flavors available for lattes. From classic options like caramel and vanilla to seasonal favorites like peppermint and pumpkin spice, lattes offer a versatile selection of flavors to cater to different preferences.

Whether you prefer the strong and compact profile of a cortado or the creamy indulgence of a latte, the choice ultimately depends on your personal taste. Both drinks provide a delightful espresso experience, emphasizing the mastery of combining espresso and milk to create unique coffee flavors.

At a Glance: Cortado vs Latte

Equal parts espresso and steamed milkMore steamed milk for a creamier taste
Strong and intense coffee flavorSmooth and balanced coffee flavor
Smaller serving sizeLarger serving size
Approximately 50 calories per servingAround 200 calories per serving
Wide variety of flavors available

cortado vs latte

As you explore the world of espresso-based coffee drinks, don’t forget to try other delicious options like cappuccinos and flat whites. Each coffee creation offers its own unique combination of espresso, milk, and foam, providing endless possibilities to satisfy your coffee cravings.

Cappuccino: Another Espresso Delight

In addition to cortados and lattes, cappuccino is another popular espresso-based drink. Cappuccinos are made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, offering a balanced flavor profile. The combination of these three elements creates a delightful coffee experience that is loved by coffee enthusiasts around the world.

What sets cappuccino apart from other espresso beverages is the addition of milk foam. The foam is created by aerating the milk, resulting in a creamy, velvety texture that enhances the overall drinking experience. The milk foam adds a touch of elegance to the cappuccino, making it visually appealing and delightfully satisfying to sip.

Another espresso-based drink worth mentioning is the flat white. Originally from Australia or New Zealand, the flat white is made with a double shot of espresso and a smaller amount of steamed milk. This results in a stronger coffee flavor compared to a latte. The flat white has gained popularity for its smooth and rich taste, making it a favorite choice for coffee lovers who prefer a bolder espresso experience.


What is a cortado coffee?

A cortado is a barista-favorite coffee drink with Spanish origins that combines the bold flavor of espresso with the smoothness of steamed milk. It is made with a one-to-one ratio of espresso and milk, resulting in a harmonious blend of flavors.

How do you make a cortado coffee?

To make a cortado, start by pulling a shot of espresso, typically a double shot. Then, steam two ounces of your choice of milk, adding air to create a velvety texture. Pour the steamed milk on top of the espresso to create the cortado.

Can you make a cortado without a coffee machine?

Yes, it is possible to make a cortado at home even without an espresso machine. If you have a Nespresso or Keurig machine, you can set it to brew espresso and use the same amount of milk as espresso to maintain the one-to-one ratio. To steam the milk without a steam wand, you can use a handheld frother. Alternatively, you can use instant crystallized coffee to mimic the concentration and texture of espresso.

What is the difference between a cortado and a latte?

Cortado and latte are both espresso-based coffee drinks, but they have distinct differences. A cortado is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a strong and intense coffee flavor. In contrast, a latte has more steamed milk, creating a creamier and smoother taste. Cortados are served in smaller glasses, while lattes are typically larger. A cortado contains approximately 50 calories, while a latte contains around 200 calories.

What is a cappuccino?

Cappuccino is another popular espresso-based drink. It is made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, offering a balanced flavor profile. The milk foam adds a rich and velvety texture to the drink, distinguishing it from other espresso beverages.