If you love coffee, then you’re probably no stranger to taking in large amounts of caffeine throughout the week.
Despite this, it can be quite entertaining to shift your focus from caffeine content to the difference between types of espresso-based drinks.
One of these particular drinks is known as the cortado. You may have seen the cortado on your local cafés menu, or might have thought about trying one for a change.
But this begs the question, what is a cortado, and how is it made?
We’ll cover the answer in this article, including where a cortado comes from, and how to make one in the most authentic way possible.
Keep reading to discover why this small, but powerful drink has grown in popularity all over the globe.
Cortado: The Basics
A cortado might sound fancy, but it isn’t as complicated as you might think! This beverage is a small coffee drink, consisting of equal parts warm milk and espresso.
The ratio of espresso to milk is 1:1, roughly half milk, half espresso. The milk’s function is to lower the espresso’s acidity and make it less sharp.
Bear in mind that a cortado’s warm milk will be steamed, but unlike more popular Italian coffee drinks, the milk won’t produce a lot of foam or froth.
Coffee lovers are starting to love the cortado thanks to its simple form and popularity around the globe.
As it’s such a small drink, you won’t be able to change or personalize its size when you order it.
This is the case even at bigger coffee chains, like Starbucks and Costa. Most cafés and coffee shops will only serve cortados in their predefined size.
Cortados are usually served in little glasses made from glass or metal. Unlike lattes, cortados are generally not embellished with foam art.
This is because the cortado isn’t concerned with looks or presentation, but with balance among the different flavors.
Origins Of The Cortado
Before we get into how to make an authentic cortado, it’s important to understand where it comes from.
The term cortado derives from the Spanish verb ‘cortar’, which means ‘to cut’.
This is named as such as the milk is designed to cut through the espresso’s strong taste.
Cortado is the completed action of the term ‘cortar’, which covers both the dilution of espresso and coffee.
Once the cortado was created in Spain, it started to become more popular in the Galicia parts of northern Portugal, as well as areas in Cuba.
Traditionally, the cortado doesn’t contain much foam, which defines it as a Spanish drink. If you do like foam, hear us out.
The lack of foam is for a reason, as it lets the milk power through the espresso, mixing well to deliver a smooth beverage.
This all creates a tasty blend of strong, powerful espresso with light, yet velvety milk.
How To Make An Authentic Cortado?
If you want to make a proper cortado, you will need an espresso machine.
Espresso is the base of the beverage, so you won’t be able to make one without the piece of equipment.
Instant coffee is a no-no, as this won’t have the flavors or crema from a real espresso. This is only possible with the pressure from an espresso machine.
You’ll also need your choice of milk to add to the espresso.
If you want to keep the flavors as authentic as possible, go for whole milk, but if you prefer, you can use non-dairy options like oat or almond milk.
Follow these steps to make a cortado:
- Start by preparing your espresso grounds, taking the time to grind, measure, and tamp them.
- Position the portafilter with the espresso grounds into the machine, then prepare two espresso shots.
- Once you have your espresso, steam your chosen type of milk.
- Carefully pour the milk over the espresso, ensuring that the ratio of both drinks is equal parts.
- That’s it!
If you’re used to making espresso, you’ll probably find the cortado a very easy drink to make.
If you care about presentation, serve it within a classic 5-7 ounce glass, but it will taste just as good in your usual coffee mug.
As the cortado’s makeup is so simple, you can make it slightly more unique by adding flavored syrups.
This won’t affect the cortado’s form too much, provided that the ratio of espresso to milk is kept equal.
You can even swap the milk with condensed milk, transforming the drink into a cortado condensada. Some even top this with cream, turning the drink into a Leche y Leche.
Correct Cortado Etiquette
Unlike some coffee beverages, you need to take your time when sipping a cortado. This is due to the high caffeine content, so don’t make the mistake of drinking one quickly!
Cortados are usually served in small cups ranging between 5 and 7 ounces. Some places may give you a glass of water so you can cleanse your palate between sips.
Differences Between A Cortado And Other Drinks
While a cortado is a coffee-based drink, it is unlike any other type of espresso-based beverage.
Here are some of the main differences between a cortado and other popular coffee drinks.
Cortado And The Cappuccino/Macchiato
When it comes to standard espresso-based drinks, a cortado is somewhere in between a cappuccino and a macchiato.
All of these drinks contain the same volume of espresso, which is around a single shot.
The difference between these beverages is down to the amount of milk. Macchiatos have less milk, which is why they are smaller in size.
This also makes the macchiato a little stronger than a cortado.
In contrast, cappuccinos contain more milk and more foam. They are larger drinks that have slightly lower caffeine content.
Cortado And The Flat White
Cortados are also compared to the popular flat white.
These drinks both contain the same amount of espresso, but different amounts of milk. Flat whites are more like lattes instead.
A cortado and flat white might contain the same amount of espresso, but flat whites contain more milk, making them denser than cortados.
Flat whites are also served with presentation in mind, as you’ll see baristas topping them off with latte art
Cortado And The Latte
As they both contain the same amount of espresso, some confuse the latte and cortado for each other.
While this may be the case, lattes are comparatively different as they contain a lot more milk.
As there is a lot more steamed milk that blends with the espresso, lattes aren’t as high in caffeine compared to the cortado.
Cortado And The Gibraltar
You may have heard of the Gibraltar drink before, but these drinks are actually the same thing as a cortado.
The name Gibraltar was started in San Francisco, California, by the Blue Bottle Coffee Company.
This is because they served the drink within a particular 4.5-ounce glass, known as the Libbey ‘Gibraltar’ glass.
This may be the case, but when it comes to the drink inside the glass, the blend of espresso and milk is exactly the same as a cortado, just under a different name.
There you have it! Now you know how to make an authentic cortado.
This simple, yet delicious drink is simple to make at home, provided that you have an espresso machine.
Have fun making your cortados, and see if this small, yet fun drink can replace your usual morning brew!