Cortado – Everything You Need To Know

Cortado coffee is a Spanish drink that combines a double shot of espresso and warm milk. This beverage is somewhat similar to a latte but is smaller in size and comes with equal parts milk and espresso without the foam on top.

Have you ever heard of cortado coffee? It’s a famous type of espresso-based drink that you will almost always find in every coffee shop around the world.

Cortado is a barista’s favorite and has been in the coffee scene for a very long time. And as the name suggests, this beverage is of Spanish origin and literally means “cut”. The appearance of this beverage is typically similar to a caffe latte and a cappuccino but has numerous differences in other aspects. So what exactly sets the cortado apart from other espresso beverages? If you plan to give the drink a try on your next cafe visit, here’s everything you need to know.

What Does Cortado Mean?

Cortado is derived from the Spanish word “cortar”, which means to “cut off”. In the coffee world, a cortado is a simple coffee drink you can order in a cafe which is composed of espresso shots cut with steamed milk.

Just like other popular espresso-based beverages, the coffee used in making a cortado is brewed from a high-pressure espresso machine. This is then combined and stirred with hot milk and served in a small cup. It’s the perfect choice for those who prefer a milk-based drink with more caffeine kick but isn’t as intense as pure espresso.

What Is A Cortado Made Of?

Just like the latte and cappuccino, a cortado has two main ingredients–espresso and milk. The milk should be steamed to a hot temperature but should undergo less aeration to avoid getting a frothy consistency. The delicious balance of these two components reduces the coffee’s acidity and adds more espresso character to the overall taste of the beverage.

In other coffee shops, cortado coffee recipes vary. There is this popular variant called the “cortado condensada”, which is made of frothed condensed milk that makes the beverage creamier than usual. Adding sweeteners like sugar, syrup, or honey are also common inclusions.

The History Of Cortado

History Of Cortado

The cortado has a rich history that traces its roots to Spain. Its name is derived from the Spanish verb “cortar” meaning “to cut.” This refers to the milk cutting down the bitter taste of espresso. While this coffee drink has been around for many years, it had gained global popularity by the end of the 20th century, gracing cafe menus far and wide.

Who invented cortado coffee?

The rise of this drink in the United States is associated with Steve Ford, an employee at Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco. He developed a cortado-like drink served in a small Gibraltar glass. While Ford played a role in popularizing the cortado, there are no specific names connected to the discovery or invention of the said drink–it surely has a much longer history predating its recent resurgence.

Where is cortado coffee from?

The cortado originated in Spain’s Basque region. It gained popularity in the Iberian Peninsula, particularly in regions like Galicia and Portugal. From there, it spread to Latin American countries.

How Much Caffeine Is In A Cortado?

A single serving of a cortado has two shots of espresso–this means it has more caffeine than other usual coffee beverages that come with a single espresso shot. In general, a regular cortado coffee will contain about 58 to 185 mg of caffeine.

For coffee drinkers who love adding more espresso to their coffee orders, every coffee shop offers you the option to do so. However, you should control your daily caffeine consumption as advised by health experts. While the amount present in a cortado is high, you can still manage your caffeine intake more cautiously with decaffeinated espresso coffee beans.

How Many Calories Are In A Cortado?

A cortado contains equal parts coffee and milk. To cite an example, two fl oz of espresso (about five calories) is added to 4 fl oz of milk (about 60 calories). In this case, one order of cortado coffee will offer approximately 65 calories.

However, factors such as milk type and sugar inclusion will affect the total amount of calories per serving. Skim and 2% milk contain the least amount of calories as compared to other milk alternatives such as whole, soy, almond, and oat milk.

How To Make A Cortado?

How To Make A Cortado

Because a cortado is primarily made with espresso, it is mostly served in a coffee shop rather than a drink made and consumed at home. Nevertheless, fortunate individuals who own an espresso machine at home may be able to make a homemade version of this beverage. Below is a quick guide on how to make your own cortado coffee.

Brew your espresso.

Measure, grind, and add a dose of espresso into a portafilter. Tamp the coffee and lock it to the grouphead of your espresso machine. Begin brewing the two shots of espresso and wait until finished.

Prepare your milk for steaming.

Pour your milk into a steaming pitcher. Make sure to add enough with a little bit of allowance for unavoidable circumstances.

Steam the milk.

Steam the milk of your choice. Do not froth the milk.

Add sweetener as needed.

You can add sugar or syrup into your small cup or glass if you prefer to sweeten your cortado up.

Assemble the drink.

Put a double espresso shot into your cup. If you’ve added sugar or syrup, swirl the cup to dilute completely. Pour the hot milk into the espresso slowly.

Serve and enjoy!

Enjoy your delicious cortado.

How To Froth Milk For A Cortado

Frothing milk for a cortado entails less aeration to avoid stretching the milk too much and producing much foam. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to steam milk for a cortado.

Tools You’ll Need:

  • Stainless steel steaming pitcher
  • A calibrated thermometer
  • Espresso machine with a steam wand
  • Serving vessel
  1. Pour 3 ounces of cold milk into your stainless steel steaming pitcher.
  2. To eliminate any remaining water, purge the steam wand.
  3. Immerse the steam wand of the espresso machine into the milk, ensuring it is slightly below the milk’s surface. Open the valve completely.
  4. Briefly introduce air into the milk for a moment, then submerge the wand entirely into the milk.
  5. Tilt the pitcher to enable the steam wand to create a whirlpool effect within the milk.
  6. Continue steaming until the milk reaches a temperature of approximately 150-155°F (65-68°C).
  7. Turn off the steam wand and wipe it clean with a damp cloth to sanitize.
  8. Give the milk pitcher a gentle tap on the counter to remove any large bubbles. Swirl the milk to achieve a smooth and velvety texture.
  9. Pour the steamed warm milk into your serving vessel, along with the double shot of espresso.


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Prep Time: 5 minutes


  • Steaming pitcher
  • Grinder
  • Espresso machine with steam wand
  • Cortado glass


  • Espresso beans
  • 3 oz whole milk


  • Adjust your espresso grinder to a fine setting and grind coffee.
  • Using your recipe as a guide, measure an appropriate amount of ground coffee and add it to the portafilter.
  • Securely lock the portafilter into place and begin brewing the espresso.
  • While the espresso is being prepared, measure approximately 3 oz of milk.
  • Transfer the milk to the steaming pitcher and start steaming.
  • Continue steaming the milk until it reaches your desired temperature.
  • Once the espresso extraction is complete, transfer the two shots of espresso into the cortado glass.
  • Pour the warm milk into the espresso base. Make sure it’s equal parts milk and coffee.
  • Serve and enjoy your cortado!

Cortado Vs Latte

Cortado vs latte

The main difference between a cortado and a latte lies in ratio. Typically, a latte has more steamed milk than a cup of cortado coffee. This is because cortado is made with equal parts coffee and milk. In addition, a caffe latte has milk foam on top, while a cortado doesn’t.

In terms of caffeine content, the cortado consists of more caffeine due to the inclusion of two shots of espresso. Also, a single serving of a latte will have more calories than a cortado–in fact, double or triple the amount since a latte contains more dairy.

Lattes are for coffee drinkers who find comfort in lighter-tasting espresso drinks. Meanwhile, it’s time to try the cortado if you seek a more straightforward coffee taste and robust character.

Cortado Vs Cappuccino

Primarily, the difference between a cortado and a cappuccino is their beverage build. In general, a cappuccino has one shot of espresso, while a cortado comes with two. In addition, cortados are less frothy but have a more espresso-forward vibe. Cappuccinos come with a very foamy consistency.

If you are a fan of lighter and creamier coffee with lots of foam on top, you should choose the cappuccino. Meanwhile, if you’re more into stronger character and coffee flavor, get yourself a cortado.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much milk is in a cortado?

The amount of milk added to a cortado depends on how much espresso is in the recipe. A cortado has equal parts coffee and milk.

What is cortado made of?

A cortado is made up of equal parts coffee and hot milk. In comparison to a latte and a cappuccino, the cortado isn’t topped with milk foam.

Why is a cortado served with sparkling water?

Drinking some sparkling water before and after consuming a cup of cortado coffee helps cleanse the palate and enjoy the flavors more.

How many shots are in a cup of cortado?

In general, one serving of a cortado contains two shots of espresso.


The perfect balance of the boldness of the espresso and the smoothness of the milk defines what a perfect cortado is. As you step into your favorite coffee shop, consider choosing a cortado and experience the art of espresso and milk in perfect harmony. Its unique character might just captivate your taste buds that may even turn into your go-to beverage of choice!