Cortado Vs Cappuccino - Know The Difference!

Cortado Vs Cappuccino – Know The Difference!

Last updated on October 24th, 2023 at 21:02

When you are considering the difference between a Cortado vs Cappuccino, you may start of thinking that both these drinks are the same, with a cortado being a double cappuccino without the froth.

And you wouldn’t be far wrong, although there is still one technical difference between a double cappuccino without the froth and a cortado.

Keep reading to find out more about a cortado Vs Cappuccino and what their differences are.

What Is A Cortado?

A cortado, which is often called a Gibraltar, is a Spanish coffee beverage that has its origins in the Basque Country and contains just two simple ingredients: A double shot of espresso and warm milk, textured milk to be precise, in a coffee to milk ratio of 1:1.

Only a small amount of foam is added on top of the drink. It’s only a fine line of foam, similar to a flat white. The foam is enough to create a little latte art on top and not enough for a foam mustache.

The espresso to milk ratio of 1:1 is strong enough to taste the bold espresso flavor and give an enjoyable taste of the creaminess of the milk which helps to both tone down the acidity and bitterness of the coffee.

A cortado, gets its name from the Spanish verb cortar, which means to cut. More specifically it is derived from corto, (also derived from the Spanish verb cortar) meaning short which is exactly what a cortado is, a short coffee.

(Source: I studied Spanish at university and spent 12+ years living in Spain).

For the language geeks, yes, cortado is the past participle of the cortar verb.

When the name Gibraltar is used to describe a cortado, it is in reference to the small, four-ounce espresso glass in which the drink is served.

Since this is a 4-ounce drink, it is not on the Starbucks menu, whose smallest drink option is a short 8 Oz (240 ml) drink size.

To order a cortado at Starbucks, or any other coffee shop, order a double espresso with an equal amount of textured milk. Textured milk is simply steamed milk that has not been frothed.

Cortado Vs Cappuccino, What Is A Cortado
A Well Made Cappuccino

Read: Cortado V Macchiato

Cortado Flavor Profile

This is a stronger coffee drink with a notable espresso taste due to being made with an equal ratio of coffee and hot milk. This allows the coffee flavor to come through, to cut through the milk.

It also has a curiously soft taste thanks to the milk, which tones down the coffee flavor. It’s like a latte but with a more prominent taste of the coffee and a lighter creaminess.

If you enjoy a strong coffee with a notable caffeine dose you will certainly get that with a cortado as it has 150 milligrams of caffeine, which is more, twice as much more than a café latte.

Variations Of A Cortado

There are very few variations of a cortado. It’s not a coffee drink that you add flavored syrups to or any type of flavoring with. It is very uncommon for alternative milks to be used to make this beverage. It is entirely possible (and available) in gourmet coffee shops in Spain to request a cortado made with oat milk, soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk.

I’ve seen (and made) cortados with condensed milk and evaporated milk. In Cuba, depending on the coffee shop, often add sugar or make it with condensed milk due to the coffee beans used being strong and bitter. This is to tone down the bitterness.

The biggest and most common variation is changing the type of coffee bean used to make the drink. You can use medium, medium-dark, and dark roast coffee beans.

In Spain, a cortado has a baby brother, the cortadito which is a cortado made with a single shot of espresso and an equal amount of milk. The term “Cortadito” is very ambiguous as it can also mean a regular cortado as it is in Cuba.

What Is A Cortado
A Cortado Is Easy To Make

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What Is A Cappuccino?

A cappuccino is, of course, one of the most popular espresso drinks. It is very similar to a cortado, but there are a few key differences.

A traditional cappuccino is made with coffee, milk and milk foam in equal amounts and ratios of 1:1:1. The drink is easily identifiable with the bubbly layer of milk foam.

The coffee used is a single shot of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk using the 1:1 milk to coffee ratio and then an equal ratio of milk froth is added on top. This means that the coffee taste is very much the same as a cortado with the difference of a lighter texture and bubbly mouthfeel due to the bubbles from the microfoam. It tastes a little sweeter due to the layer of sweet foam on top.

A cappuccino due to the foamed milk used, like a caffé latte, is great for making incredible latte art. When a cappuccino does not have crazy latte art it is topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon, cocoa or chocolate shavings.

Cappuccino Flavor Profile

A cappuccino has the same intense coffee flavor and creamy mouthfeel as a cortado but is slightly sweeter and lighter mouthfeel due to the milk froth and microfoam. It’s a strong coffee with more milky sweetness than a cortado.

It’s airy, light and with a taste and balance that allow the espresso to shine without being too subdued by the presence of the milk content.

Variations Of A Cappuccino

A cappuccino has a number of variations as it can be flavored with spices, syrups and flavored coffee beans.

It is very common for the type of dairy milk used with oat milk cappuccinos, soy cappuccinos, and coconut milk as well as almond milk cappuccinos being popular choices. A cappuccino with cream and heavy cream is how the drink was originally made. It is common for a cappuccino with heavy cream too.

Various toppings like cinnamon, and cocoa and chocolate shavings are possible too. You can customize a cappuccino to your heart’s content, including enjoying an iced cappuccino on hot days!

What Is A Cappuccino
A Well Made Cappuccino

Read: Cortado Vs Latte

Cortado Vs Cappuccino – What Is The Difference Between A Cortado And A Cappuccino?

Both these beverages contain a balance of espresso and milk in the same 1:1 ratio. They differ in quantity, texture, taste, type of steamed milk used and just about every other possible aspect.

The Biggest Difference Between A Cortado And A Cappuccino

The biggest difference between a cortado and a cappuccino is the use of microfoam. In fact, if you added an equal amount of foamed milk froth to a cortado you’d have a double cappuccino.

That foam makes the drink sweeter and changes the taste and texture.

The Taste

A cappuccino is much sweeter without the addition of sugar or anything else. An extra sweetness is added with a drizzle of chocolate or a sprinkle of cocoa if you want a particularly sweet cappuccino.

A cortado is more acidic and has a strong espresso taste, stronger than a cappuccino with the texturized milk taking the edge off the acidity and bitterness of the strong espresso taste, leaving you with all the better and higher quality tastes.

The Texture

The texture of the two beverages also represents a big difference in these two classic espresso drinks. The milk texture and the milk content of a cortado gives it a rich silky like velvet mouthfeel.

A cappuccino is lighter and frothy due to the bubbly layer of milk foam giving an airy mouthfeel.

Cortado Vs Cappuccino Caffeine Content

It’s easier to determine which of these fashionable espresso drinks has the greater caffeine dose. Obviously, a cortado due to having twice as much espresso has twice the caffeine content than a cappuccino.

A typical cappuccino from your local coffee shop will have 75 milligrams of caffeine while a cortado with 150 mg of caffeine is more suited to a seasoned caffeine enthusiast.

Cortado Vs Cappuccino Calories

If you are watching your weight, a cappuccino is something you may want to limit to 2 or 3 per week maximum since it can have from 150 to 200 calories and more per drink depending on how you have it. Extra drizzles of chocolate and flavored syrups and toppings only add to the calorie content.

A 4 ounce cortado has only a fraction of that with 15 to 30 calories depending on the type of milk used.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cortado Vs Cappuccino

Is Cortado Stronger Than A Cappuccino?

A cortado, like a cappuccino, is made with a shot of espresso and an equal amount of milk. The strength of flavor is very much the same. A cortado has a slightly more dominating flavor due to two main reasons: the type of steamed milk used and the fact that a cortado has no froth. A cortado uses texturized milk, which is milk that is steamed but not frothed while a cortado uses frothed milk.

As far as caffeine content goes, a cortado is much stronger as the source of caffeine is a double shot of espresso while a cappuccino has only a single espresso shot. It’s 75 milligrams of caffeine vs 150 milligrams.

Why Is It Called A Cortado?

A cortado is so called because the name comes from the Spanish verb, cortar, meaning to cut. It is also from the Spanish word, corto meaning short, which is also derived from the same cortar verb. This is exactly what a cortado is, a short coffee.

Does A Cortado Have More Caffeine?

Yes, the quantity of caffeine in a cortado is double that of a cappuccino. A cappuccino is made with a single shot of espresso while a cortado is made with a double shot. The result is obviously and notably more caffeine in a cortado.

Why Is Cortado So Small?

A cortado, the small coffee that all coffee shops in Spain have, is only 4 ounces as it is brewed using a double espresso with an equal amount of textured milk. The drink is intended to be small due to the meaning of the word “cortado” meaning to cut short, which is what the drink is, a coffee that is cut short.

Cortado Vs Cappuccino Calories

There is a significant difference between these two delicious espresso drinks when it comes to their calorie count. A short 8 ounce (240 ml) cappuccino with no flavoring or topping added has 70 calories compared to the 30 calories of a 4 ounce cortado.

Is Piccolo Same As Cortado

No, a café piccolo, also known as a piccolo latte, is a coffee that is made with a shot of ristretto and twice as much steamed milk and a little milk foam. A cortado is made with two shots of espresso and an equal amount of texturized hot milk with no foam. Latte art can be added to both drinks.

Incidentally, a piccolo differs from a flat white as a flat white is made using a double shot of ristretto, steamed milk and fine cap of milk foam.

Final Thoughts – Cortado Vs Cappuccino

Now you know all about a Cortado Vs Cappuccino and how they are two coffee drinks that are very different.

Which do you prefer, a cortado or a cappuccino?

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Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or, mentioning your name and location

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