Cortado vs Latte: What's The Difference?

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Updated Nov 24, 2022
Amélie Bigras
Amélie Bigras
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Cortado vs Latte: What's The Difference?Cortado vs Latte: What's The Difference?

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The cortado is the solution to people not knowing a verdict on a coffee shop. If you have a plain espresso, it might be fine but the bitterness can overwhelming. In a latte you’re not tasting much espresso. Yet the latte is the king of all coffee drinks because they are laid back, fun and soft on caffeine. One thing to remember - the cortado has more espresso and the latte has more milk. In this blog, we will go over the reasons that should motivate you to buy either a cortado or a latte.

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What is the difference between a cortado and a latte?

The main difference is in the amount of espresso shots and milk they both require. A cortado has two espresso shot while a latte only has one.

  • Caffeine : A cortado has around 136 mg (2 shots of espresso). A latte has 68 mg (one shot of espresso).
  • Milk: The cortado has around only 2 ounces compared to the latte who has around 6 ounces.

The cortado is a Spanish invention which comes from Madrid. The word cortado is the past participle of the Spanish verb cortar (to cut). It refers to the fact that we dilute the espresso with milk.

A cup of latte with a cup of cortado and a croissant

What is a cortado?

Cortados contain espresso mixed with approximately equal amounts of warm milk to reduce the acidity. Cortados have steamed milk, not frothy or "texturized" like in a latte.

Here is a beautiful made video by Espresso Anatomy on how to make a modern Cortado. They go over temperature, quantity and size.

What is a latte?

It's the surpreme classic. Everyone knows what a latte is... or do they?

A latte is constructed with espresso and steamed milk. The word “latte” comes from the Italian word “caffè e latte”, which simply means “coffee & milk.”

The standard combination for a latte is 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and a small, thin layer of microfoam on the surface. When you order a latte, the barista can easily adjust the size, though the traditional size is 10-12 ounces. The fun thing about lattes is that they can be customized. You can add flavours like mocha, caramel, vanilla, or other syrups, and different kinds of milk like soy, almond, coconut, or oat. You can serve it ice cold in the summer or warm in colder weather, with sweetener or not. It is a very versatile playful drink.

In the video below made by Roasty, they will show you how they make the classic latte.

Cortado and Latte: Comparison

A cup of latte and a cup of cortado

Caffeine

A latte has 68 mg of caffeine. A cortado has about double the amount of caffeine (around 136 mg).

Milk content

Typically, a latte uses 6 oz (0.18 l) of steamed and foamed milk.

For a cortado, 2 oz (0.06 l) is usually used for this traditional espresso coffee drink with steamed milk and no foam topping.

Calorie

Depending on the type and the amount of milk used, the latte will be double or triple the number of calories of a cortado. A cortado will range between 10 to 40 calories and a latte will be between 70 to 100 calories.

Taste

What's right for you depends on you! You'll like the Cortado if you like stronger coffee. If you are looking for more comforting and lighter taste, a latte will be more satisfying. The latte is topped with a layer of foam, while the cortado only uses steamed milk without the foam. Steamed milk adds a smooth flavour to the robust espresso coffee, while foamed milk adds a bit of texture to it.

Similar drinks to the Cortado

The Gibraltar

In the United States (San Francisco), some sources will say that there's no real distinction between a Gibraltar and Cortado, but places that serve both generally differentiate Gibraltar with a richer, more velvety texture and a cooler temperature. Whereas a cortado is a broader term, a gibraltar is specifically defined in its proportions by the constraints of its cup size which is filled by a standard double espresso shot and the remainder filled by foamy steamed milk.

The Cortadito

In Cuba, The cortadito is usually a small beverage similar to the café solo corto. It consists of a standard 30 mL espresso shot and it is generally cut with heated sweetened condensed milk. Historically, fresh milk was often unavailable in Cuba. Espresso Drinks made a video in honor of the Cortadito and they will show you the process of making one.

Drinks that are often confused with Cortado

Piccolo Latte

In Australia, a similar drink is called a piccolo latte. It's a ristretto shot in a macchiato glass filled with steamed milk like a cafe latte.

Galão

In Portugal, a similar drink to cortados is the galão. It's a larger drink with a 1:3 ratio.

In Italy, there's a big difference between a Cortado and an Italian caffè macchiato, cappuccino, or flat white.

  • A macchiato contains a little bit of milk foam.
  • A cappuccino has both milk and foam.
  • A flat white uses the same proportion of espresso to milk, but it uses steamed and textured milk (e.g. microfoam), so it's hotter and lighter than a caffe latte.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cortado similar to Ristretto?

No. Ristretto is a "short shot" (30 ml from a double basket) of a highly concentrated espresso. There is no milk to reduce acidity. The exact amount of ground coffee is used, but a finer grind is used (also in 20 to 30 seconds) and half the water is used. A normal short shot might look like a ristretto, but in reality, it would only be a weaker, more diluted, shot. The opposite of a ristretto (which means in Italian, "shortened, narrow") is a lungo ("long"), which is a double shot. The French call a ristretto a café serré.

Does Starbucks have cortado on their menu?

No, they surprisingly do not! But they do have quite a collection of lattes.

What is the difference between a cortado and a macchiato?

A macchiato contains a little bit of milk foam while a cortado is steamed milk.

Is Cortado the same as Flat White?

No. In general, a flat white uses the same proportion of espresso to milk, but it uses steamed and textured milk (e.g. microfoam), so it's hotter and lighter than a caffe latte.

Cortado vs Latte: What's The Difference?

Amélie Bigras

Amélie has a dual Bachelor of Biological Sciences and Literature. She wrote a Master's Thesis on the importance of blending scientific knowledge with the arts to create a healthier culture. She also has a Bachelor of Education and has been teaching Biology and Language Arts since 2016. She is happily addicted to coffee and constantly learning.