Cortado vs Latte: Sound Legit By Knowing These 5 Differences

Even baristas have a hard time keeping up with the hundreds of variations of milk and coffee drinks. Some beverages, like latte, remain a staple drink. Cortados however, are lesser known. When you first come across Cortado, it might seem like a fancy way to name a latte, but it’s far more than that. To make things easier for you, we’ll dive deep and explain the differences between Cortado vs Latte.

Topics Explored

  1. Cortado Background
  2. Latte Background
  3. 5 Differences Between a Cortado and Latte
  4. Beverages Similar to a Cortado or Latte
  5. FAQ

Background on the Cortado

The Cortado is a small, warm coffee drink from Spain, made with half espresso and half milk. The milk is steamed but not very foamy.

Order a Cortado, and you’ll be served a glass tumbler with a silky drink that is stronger than a cappuccino but still less acidic than an espresso.

Cortado
Cortado

Cortado gained some popularity and made it to the menus of popular coffee chains, and each made its variations. For example, you can get Cortado with a 1:2 ratio of coffee and milk or two Ristretto shots topped with milk foam(1).

Baristas often ask customers to describe their order, just to make sure they’re getting the Cortado they want.

How do you pronounce Cortado?

Cortado is a Spanish word and can be troublesome to pronounce. To make sure your barista understands you, learn how to say it correctly. It’s cor-tah-doh, and cor-tah-dohs for plural.

Latte Background

Latte is the primary espresso with milk drink, originating in Italy shortly after the espresso.

Traditionally it’s made with 2/3 steamed whole milk and 1/3 espresso. It’s served in a cup many times topped with some latte art. The name comes from the Italian cafe a latte meaning coffee with milk.

Latte from Side
Latte

As years went by, the world – or coffee chains, to be precise, came up with many latte variations. Just think of the popularity pumpkin spice latte enjoys.

Today, you can get a latte with 6 to 20 oz of milk and different additives like chocolate or flavoring syrups.


What’s the Difference Between Cortado vs Latte?

So what are you getting between Cortado vs latte? We’ve listed the similarities and variations so you’d know what you’re getting when ordering one of the two. This way, you’d be able to explain to your barista exactly how you want your coffee made.

Cortado Latte
1/2 Espresso
1/2 Steamed milk
Espresso
Steamed milk
Milk froth
Flavor Profile:
– Milky
– Coffee flavor more prevalent
-A balance of bitter & sweet notes
Flavor Profile:
– Milky
– Coffee profile is less bright
– Lightly sweet from milk
Caramel colored with thin foam layer.
Served in clear glass.
Tan colored with thin foam.
Served in a mug.
4.5 oz serving size Usually 8 to 12 oz
Country of Origin:
Spain
Country of Origin:
Italy

Composition

Both drinks are espresso-based, but the volume of milk varies. Cortado uses a 1:1 ratio of one to two espresso shots and an equal amount of steamed milk (this guide will teach you how to make a Cortado from scratch).

Latte, on the other hand, is milkier, with one-third espresso and varying quantities of steamed milk and milk froth.

Taste

You know what you can expect from a coffee and milk combination. While both drinks are milky, the Cortado has a more pronounced coffee taste and slight bitterness with hints of sweetness from the milk.

Latte has a light coffee flavor and is sweeter due to the higher volume of milk.

Appearance

The appearance is one of the main giveaways; Cortado has a deeper brown tone due to the higher content of espresso. It’s served in a glass tumbler where you can notice the lovely caramel tone and topped with a thin foam layer.

Latte is served in a mug with a thin foam layer and has lighter, tan color.

Latte and Cortado Side by Side
Side by side comparison

Volume

Lattes vary in volume; depending on where you order, you can get a latte in an 8 to 12 oz size. It’s larger in size due to the higher milk content.

Cortados are shorter and come in one size only, commonly a 4.5 oz cup. Since they’re 1:1 ratio, they can’t be larger.


Similar Beverages

There are over 30 primary coffee drinks and hundreds of variations to them. It’s hard to keep up with the coffee drinks these days, and you can easily get confused about what exactly is in your cup. So these are drinks similar to Cortado and latte.

Flat White

Flat White

The Flat White originated somewhere between Australia and New Zealand. The locals transferring from instant coffee to espresso-based drinks asked for a flat cappuccino, a drink without the mountain of milk foam.

As a result, the Flat White is stronger, shorter than the latte, and with less foam.

Piccolo Latte

Piccolo Latte

The Piccolo Latte is not what the name suggests – a small latte. Instead, it’s a drink you can rarely find in regular coffee shops, made with one shot of espresso (a Ristretto to be exact) and two parts steamed milk, and a layer of silky milk foam on top.

It’s a well-balanced coffee and milk drink served in a 3 to 4 oz glass.

Cortadito

Cortadito

Cortadito is not a smaller Cortado. It’s a Cuban espresso-based drink(2) made with a pre-sweetened espresso shot and steamed milk. The ratios vary between 1:1 and 3:1 espresso and milk. It’s made in a Moka pot; the sugar is added to the top of the pot.

Once it’s brewed, it’s poured in a cup and topped with steamed milk.

Espresso Macchiato

Macchiato

Espresso Macchiato is the espresso and milk drink with the lowest milk content. It was invented in the 1980s, and the name comes from the Italian word stained or marked. It’s made with a shot of espresso and a dash of milk.

There’s no universally accepted amount of milk, so you might get it different each time.

Macchiato Latte

Macchiato Latte

Latte Macchiato is not a mix of latte and macchiato but a Starbucks coffee drink. It’s a type of reversed Macchiato – instead of milk-marked espresso; it’s espresso-marked steamed milk.

It draws the roots from an actual drink Italians would give their children who are too young for coffee.


Final Thoughts: Cortado vs Latte

Cortado vs Latte

The list of differences between Cortado vs Latte might not be long, but it delivers two diverse flavors. The Cortado has a more potent coffee flavor, one universal size, and a recognizable serving cup.

Latte is the pioneer among the coffee with milk drinks, but it offers a milder coffee taste. It’s sweeter due to the higher volume of milk, and you can get it in cups of up to 12 oz.


Cortado vs Latte FAQs

Is a Cortado a small Latte?

Cortado is not a small latte. The espresso to milk ratio in a Cortado is different than the one in a latte, and lattes barely ever come in sizes of 4.5 oz. The serving size and glass might even remind you of the piccolo latte at first sight, but the Cortado is an entirely different drink.

Why is a Cortado served in a glass?

The first cafe that popularised Cortado in the US started making it in a Gibraltar glass, so it even got named after the glass. It has kept up the serving method for decades. At some cafes, you can’t order a cortado, but if you see Gibraltar on the menu, go for it; that’s the same coffee.

What does Starbucks call a Cortado?

Starbucks doesn’t have Cortado or Gibraltar on their menu. However, their drinks are highly customizable, so you can ask for a short triple latte or espresso doppio with an equal amount of steamed milk. For this type of coffee, boutique cafes are a way better choice.

Verified Sources

Wondering where your info comes from? We totally understand. Hey Joe only obtains our information from reputable sources. Contents from this article are sourced from the following publications:

  1. Perfect Daily Grind: https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/03/what-is-a-cortado/
  2. Knothole Coffee Roasters: https://knotholecoffee.com/cortadito-or-cortado-espresso-drinks-from-cuba-and-spain/