Cortado Vs Espresso - Their Differences And Similarities!

Cortado Vs Espresso – Their Differences And Similarities!

If you are looking for the differences and similarities of a Cortado Vs Espresso, this article has all the details!

For those of you that are in a rush, here is a quick answer:

The similarities between a cortado and an espresso are only in the fact that both are espresso based and have their origins in European countries. This makes the differences between the two drinks fairly vast, far too many to list in a brief answer.

Keep reading for the detail and great comparison between a Cortado vs Espresso.

Cortado vs Espresso – What Is An Espresso? An Overview

An espresso is not just a bold tasty coffee beverage, it’s also a brewing method that goes way back to 1884 and Italy. The fast way in which espresso coffee is made is how the drink gets its name.

It is, without question and by a long way, the coffee drink that is most commonly made by baristas. This is so as it forms the base of many more espresso based drinks, including a cortado, cappuccino and latte to name just a few.

How Do You Make An Espresso?

To make the perfect espresso coffee you need an espresso machine, be it a home machine or a professional one. There are a couple of coffee brewing apparatus that make an espresso like coffee these are:

  • A moka pot.
  • An AeroPress.

To make strong espresso like coffee for milk based beverages you must alter the coffee to water ratio to 1:8 for a moka pot and 1:12 for an AeroPress.

Making a proper authentic espresso requires the need for an espresso machine, a coffee grinder and digital coffee scales with a timer.

Prior to getting started, you need to check your espresso machine and ensure that the water temperature is in the perfect brewing range of 92C to 96C (195F To 205F) and nearer to the 96C (205F). This is very important for getting all the best flavor compounds into your shot of espresso without it being too bitter or sour.


Ensure that the water pressure is at 9 Bars (130 PSI) to produce a thick, rich crema on top.

When you are ready to brew that perfect shot, weigh your fresh dark roasted coffee bean as whole and weigh 20 grams per shot that you wish to produce. The sharp-eyed coffee lovers amongst us will notice that this is a coffee to water ratio of 1:1.5.

Then grind your coffee beans to a very fine grind; a 200 micron size is ideal. Slightly smaller or slightly larger may be needed.

Tamp your grounds firmly and evenly with approximately 30 kg of pressure.

Brew your shot of espresso and time how long it takes to produce a 30 gram, 1 Oz (30ml, 1 oz) shot.

The brew time should be 25 seconds with a variance either side of 5 seconds.

If it takes a little longer, adjust your grind size and make it slightly smaller. If it brews faster than the allocated brew time, use a slightly smaller grind size to encourage greater contact between the hot water and your coffee grounds.

Note: Freshly roasted dark roast coffee beans produce the best quality crema since it is a combination of the oil and the water pressure that produces the crema.

Espresso is served in “shots” and has a topping of “crema,” which is also known as a brown foam.

There are many different Espresso drinks, here are just some of them:

  • Pure Espresso: A regular espresso with nothing else added. It’s bold, intense and strong.
  • Ristretto: An espresso’s stronger baby brother. 20 ml (⅔ Oz) shot made with a 1:1 coffee to water ratio.
  • Lungo: A long espresso with twice as much volume, 2 oz (60 ml) and a coffee to water ratio of 1:3.
  • Cold Brewed Espresso: An espresso that is made with a lever espresso machine and cold water. It extracts all the low temperature compounds. Same size and coffee to water ratio as a regular espresso.

The range of beverages that an espresso forms part of includes all the espresso based drinks like the ones listed below:

  • Caffe Latte: An espresso with steamed milk made with an espresso to milk ratio of 1:2, frothed milk and latte art.
  • Cappuccino: Espresso, steamed milk and milk foam in equal ratios.
  • Cortado: Double espresso with an equal amount of textured milk.
  • Café Piccolo: A single shot of ristretto and steamed milk in a 1:2 ratio.
  • Flat White: A double ristretto topped with steamed milk and a fine layer of foam.
  • Caffe Breve: A shot of espresso with an equal amount of half-and-half cream.

Of course, there are many more, including a macchiato, mocha, caffe Americano, red eye etc, etc. Far too many to list them all.

Cortado vs Espresso
An Espresso

Read: Cortado vs Latte Vs Cappuccino

What Is A Cortado – Overview Of A Cortado

A cortado is a Spanish coffee drink that is popular all over Spain, Portugal and Latin America. It has its origins in the Basque Country. It’s made with a double shot of espresso and an equal part of textured milk.

It’s a creamy drink served in a 4.5 to 5 Oz (135 to 150ml) Gibraltar glass.

It’s creamy, strong and very well-balanced with all the best of the coffee flavor with none of the bitterness and the creaminess of the milk.

Where Does The Name Cortado Come From?

The name cortado is derived from the past participle of the Spanish verb cortar which means to cut. It is also derived from the word corto, which is from the same verb, and means short. This is exactly what a cortado is, a short coffee.

How Many Shots Are In A Cortado?

A cortado is made with two shots of espresso or one double shot. 60 ml (2 Oz) of espresso is used, and then 60 ml (2 Oz) of textured milk, which is steamed milk that has not been frothed.

There are other drinks that are very similar to a cortado which are:

  • A cortadito: In parts (not all) of Spain this is a cortado made with a single shot of espresso and an equal amount of textured milk.
  • Gibraltar: A beverage with origins in San Francisco and is very similar to a cortado. Made with a double espresso and an equal amount of steamed milk.
What Is A Cortado
A Cortado

Read: Flat White Vs Cortado

Cortado Vs Gibraltar

Both these drinks are very similar, incredibly similar and thus requires its own small section to highlight the subtle difference between the two beverages.

  • Cortado Coffee: Made with a double espresso and an equal amount of textured milk.
  • Gibraltar: Made with a double espresso and an equal amount of steamed milk.

That is the very subtle difference, the type of hot milk used. One uses textured milk (cortado), the other, a Gibraltar uses steamed milk. There is a slight difference in the texture.

What Type Of Milk Should You Use To Make A Cortado?

A traditional cortado is made with whole fat milk. Having worked in coffee shops during my 12+ year tenure in Spain it is almost always UHT milk and not fresh milk that is used.

You can use any milk that suits you: oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk and soy milk as well as rice milk are great choices.

Notably, it is relatively common in Cuba for a cortado to be made with condensed milk or evaporated milk.

Differences Between Cortado And Espresso

There are many differences between a cortado and an espresso, including the content and flavor profile.

Here are the main differences between the two beverages:

  • An espresso is dairy free with no milk of any type used; a cortado has dairy (or non-dairy) milk in an equal amount.
  • A cortado is served in a Gibraltar glass, an espresso is served in a small demitasse cup.
  • An espresso is bold, intense and acidic while a cortado is smooth, balanced and strong.
  • An espresso is a small cup of coffee in its purest and strongest form. A cortado is derived from an espresso.
An Espresso In A Demitasse Cup
An Espresso In A Demitasse Cup

Read: Cortado Vs Latte

Similarities Between A Cortado And An Espresso

Now we have covered the differences, let’s talk about the similarities of these two drinks. The main, standout and obvious similarities between a cortado and espresso is that they both contain espresso coffee and need to be made with an espresso machine.

Another similarity is they both have their origins in European countries, to be more granular, both come from southern European countries that have a Latin based language.

Cortado vs Espresso Macchiato

These two drinks are very different in both appearance, taste and construction.

  • Espresso Macchiato: A shot of espresso with just a dash of milk, typically just a teaspoon.
  • Cortado: Double espresso with an equal amount of textured milk.

Notably an espresso macchiato has a strong and bold taste due to being dominated by the espresso shot. Compared to this, the cortado is milder and more balanced.

A Macchiato
An Espresso Macchiato

Cortado Vs Cappuccino

These two coffee drinks are very similar in taste with the texture being very different.

  • Cappuccino: Double espresso with steamed milk and milk froth in equal amounts.
  • Cortado: Double espresso with an equal amount of textured milk.

At the core of it a double cappuccino is almost a cortado with airy milk froth on top. In fact, a double cappuccino would be a Gibraltar with 2 oz (60 ml) of milk froth added on top.

Cortado Vs Latte

A cortado looks a lot like a mini latte; this is where the similarities end. The ratios of milk are very different in these two beverages where milk and creaminess dominate a latte and as a result they have a light coffee flavor.

While a cortado has a lower coffee to milk ratio and thus a reduced milkiness and a greater presence of the coffee flavor.

  • Cortado: Double espresso with an equal amount of textured milk.
  • Latte: Single shot of espresso and twice as much steamed milk as coffee.

Cortado Vs Flat White

A flat white is an espresso-based coffee beverage with its origins down under, a coffee enjoyed by Australians and Kiwis alike.

  • Flat White: Double ristretto with steamed milk using a coffee to milk ratio of 1:2.
  • Cortado: Made with a double espresso and an equal amount of textured milk.

The result is a coffee that is very like a cross between a latte and a cortado with a more dominant coffee taste than a latte and almost on par with a cortado and has a little more creaminess in the texture and mouthfeel due to the higher milk ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cortado Vs Espresso

Is A Cortado Stronger Than An Espresso?

A cortado coffee has a more rounded and balanced flavor than an espresso. The equal amount of textured milk tones down the bold taste of the espresso in the drink. In terms of caffeine content, both a double espresso and a cortado have the same amount of caffeine.

Is A Cortado Just A Small Latte?

No, both a cortado and a latte are two very different drinks. A latte is ⅓ espresso and 2/3rd steamed milk with a layer of milk foam. While a cortado is 50% espresso and 50% textured milk.

Even though it looks like a mini latte, looks are deceiving.

How Many Shots Of Espresso Are In A Cortado?

There are 2 shots of espresso in a cortado.

Is Cortado Same As Macchiato?

A macchiato and a cortado are two very different coffee drinks. A Macchiato, the Italian classic coffee drink, is a shot of espresso coffee with just a dash or teaspoon stain of steamed milk added. Often a small amount of foamed milk is added too.

A cortado is very different. It’s a double espresso with the same amount of textured milk added.

What Is Stronger Than An Espresso?

A ristretto has a more potent flavor and more caffeine per fluid ounce (or per 100 ml) than an espresso. A ristretto is a smaller shot of espresso brewed with a more focused 1:1 coffee to water ratio.

Does A Cortado Have A Lot Of Caffeine?

A cortado has more than an ample amount of caffeine thanks to the double shot of espresso containing approximately 150 milligrams of caffeine.

Final Thoughts – Cortado Vs Espresso

If you have read this far (thanks, appreciated!) you know a lot more about a Cortado Vs Espresso and their differences and similarities. You know how a cortado weighs up when compared to other popular and similar coffee drinks like an espresso macchiato, latte, cappuccino and a flat white.

Join our cool coffee community and join in by sharing your coffee creations, amazing latte art, delicious recipes and I double dare you share a funny coffee joke…or two! Don’t forget those memes! Find us on Facebook/Meta.

Coffee is love, it's more than love — it's a passion of mine. I've had the luck to have travelled and enjoyed the most exotic of coffee's and unique flavors, brewing methods and techniques of making the perfect coffee from Thai hill tribe coffee to Indonesian volcanic coffee, Malaysian coffee that comes in a tea bag and the array of flavors in Vietnam, from Vanilla to Orange to Coconut to Avocado to even salt coffee and the famous egg coffee. The best part of my coffee adventures is getting to mix with the locals over a nice brew and learning how they make it! I'm cited and referenced on Google Scholar for the topic of coffee. Learn more about me and Latte Love Brew by checking our About Page

Blogarama - Blog Directory