Combining a shot of espresso with an equal amount of warm, steamed milk, the cortado is perfect for those who want to enjoy a shot of coffee but can’t quite handle its bitter kick alone.
As the English translation of the Spanish word ‘cortar’ is “to cut,” you can assume that this refers to the way in which the sweetness of the dairy slices through the strong and fragrant espresso flavor.
Though there are of course traditional Spanish methods of preparing this popular beverage, there are also plenty of cool alternatives worth checking out.
Next time you go to have your same old order from the barista – or bake up a traditional coffee cake – consider whipping up one of these instead!
1. Coffee at Three – How To Make a Cortado
Taking you right back to basics, the good folks over at Coffee at Three will not only tell you how cortados differ from other popular coffee shop drinks but also exactly how to prepare one in accordance with the traditional technique of Espana.
If you’ve never made a cortado, you won’t go wrong by starting here.
2. Nespresso – Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cortado
Putting a twist on those classic flavors, the coffee connoisseurs of Nespresso developed this sinfully sweet and delicious combination that tantalizes the taste buds.
It’s a lovely autumnal drink reminiscent of the pumpkin spice latte, but easy enough to enjoy all year round – and nowhere near as expensive as Starbucks.
3. Sloane’s Table – Espresso Cinnamon Buns with Cortado Glaze
Looking to bake up a storm for a loved one who is obsessed with coffee? Forget the standard dessert fare and try out these devilish cinnamon buns, sweet and gooey but imbued with warm coffee flavors.
You’ll be baffled about why you haven’t tried such a combination before.
4. The Vegan Kind – Mocha Cortado
Just because you follow a dairy free diet, doesn’t mean that the delightfulness of a cortado is out of your reach – quite the opposite, in fact!
This recipe throws some chocolate into the mix to give you a short mocha that hits the spot and gets you fired up for your day all in one.
5. Coffee Affection – Simple Cortado
Again, sometimes basic is better, and over at Coffee Affection, they certainly know what they’re talking about.
Offering one of the simplest step-by-step guides to preparing this popular drink on the entire internet, even the most inexperienced of caffeine fiends should be able to whip one up.
6. Chameleon Cold Brew – Chilled Salted Maple Cortado
Prefer your coffee ice-cold? You’re not alone! Many people are all about chilled coffee lately, as demonstrated by this divine sounding maple cortado recipe from Chameleon Cold Brew.
It makes for a perfectly refreshing drink, ideal for those days when you need to pick me up but don’t want to drink a large iced latte.
7. HomeGrounds – Honey Bee Cortado
As the name of this delightful drink suggests, it utilizes the brilliant bounty of bees to bring an extra sweetness to this beloved beverage.
The other secret to its success is a splash of vanilla syrup; together with the honey, it makes for a satisfying beverage that isn’t overpowering in a cloying sugary way.
8. Primal Palate – Coconut Milk Cortado
Once again, a reminder that the world of milk-based coffees is not closed off to you just because you aren’t a fan of or are allergic to dairy.
For example, Primal Palate prefer to whip up their cortados with coconut milk, which not only makes it vegan friendly but also provides a subtle tropical taste that fans of Bounty chocolate will love.
9. Food52 – Cold Brew Banana Bread with Cortado Glaze
Yet another delightful baked treat and alternative to the traditional coffee cake, this bad boy combines a beloved baked good like banana bread with a globally adored beverage and then decides to go the whole hog and throw some more coffee on top.
It’s definitely worth the caffeine jitters you’ll get if you drink coffee whilst you eat it!
10. Nespresso – Traditional Cortado
Last, but by no means least, let’s return to Nespresso.
Widely regarded as some of the best coffee in the world, you can trust that their recipe for the original cortado which hails from Spain is bound to satisfy even the snobbiest caffeine connoisseur.
And if it feels like too much hassle, just get some of their pods!
Cortado Frequently Asked Questions – What You Need To Know About The Short Coffee That Packs a Punch
Is a cortado the same as a flat white?
Nope! The basic elements remain the same, as both are made with a shot of espresso and some heated milk, but that’s where the similarities end.
The two are very different beverages hailing from different countries, though both in Europe.
As we’ve already explained, the cortado originated in Spain as a slightly sweeter alternative to the plain espresso, which is paired with an equal amount of steamed milk and then served up in a small 5-ounce glass.
Comparatively, a flat white consists of a double shot of espresso, to which some textured, micro foamed milk – this has a smooth, velvety consistency and looks like glossy white paint when done correctly.
It’s basically a condensed latte! You’ll receive it in a smaller mug, though, so don’t be surprised by its shorter size.
Essentially, the primary difference between the two drinks is their size, as a flat white is around double the size of a cortado.
Likewise, the texture of the milk each drink requires is slightly different, though it’s not particularly distinguishable unless you’re a regular coffee drinker.
If you prefer a latte to anything stronger, you’ll probably appreciate the added sweetness of a flat white’s extra milk, as the cortado holds a little bit more of that bitterness.
What is the difference between a cortado and a macchiato?
Though both are shorter drinks that consist of espresso and hot milk, there are some primary differences between the macchiato and the cortado.
It won’t make a huge amount of difference, but these distinctions are important to note!
First and foremost, let’s discuss the ratio of coffee to milk. With a cortado, it’s a 1:1 set up, with just the same amount of steamed milk as you have espresso, successfully cutting through to provide a little bit of sweet relief.
As for a macchiato, which translates from Italian to English as meaning “stained,” you start out with a single or double shot of espresso, then add just a dollop of steamed milk on top, resulting in a stronger, richer drink overall.
Likewise, where a cortado is traditionally served up in a short glass, a macchiato comes in a demitasse cup with a saucer and a spoon, so there’s also a slight difference in the presentation to remember as well.
So, if you prefer a stronger coffee flavor, but you’re still looking for a little added sweetness, then the macchiato might be just what you’re looking for.
Otherwise, give the cortado a try, as it’s not quite as overpowering in that very first sip!
Do cortados come with foam?
A tiny bit! When made properly, a cortado comes with very little foam, if any!
Unlike a cappuccino, for instance, which is made by frothing milk until a great deal of thick, airy foam forms, the cortado makes use of steamed milk, the same style that you’d get if you ordered a latte.
As a result, you might get a tiny layer of foamy bubbles right on the very top of the drink, but it will remain a very small layer – probably around half a centimeter.
If it’s frothy foam you’re after, you’ll probably want to go for a different drink.
Why is a cortado served in a glass?
Well, the cortado made its way to America via San Francisco, wherein several different coffee roasters began serving the cortado drink, including Ritual Coffee Roasters and Blue Bottle Coffee Company most notably.
They did so in a Libbey Glass Company Gibraltar glass, which has room for exactly 4.5 ounces of liquid.
The first 2 ounces should be reserved for a double shot of espresso, whilst the rest is topped with steamed milk.
As the popularity of the drink spread, so too did this method of serving.
However, not every single coffee shop serves their cortado in a glass, and you will definitely find some more alternative places presenting theirs in different drinking vessels.
This is also why you will sometimes hear the cortado itself referred to as a Gibraltar, calling back to the special glass you’d receive one in when they first became available across the United States.