The cortado is an espresso drink with the perfect balance of milk and espresso! It’s a uniquely smooth pairing that’s silky and robust.

Cortado

Want an impressive espresso drink that’s even better than a latte or a cappuccino? Try the Cortado! This Spanish coffee drink is intensely smooth, the ideal balance between espresso and milk. It’s rich, robust, and silky, each component bringing out the best in the other. Many espresso drinks are Italian in origin, but this Spanish drink takes this strong coffee to a whole new level.

What’s a cortado?

The Cortado is an espresso drink of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. It’s Spanish in origin: “cortado” means “cut” in Spanish, indicating that the espresso is cut with the milk. In contrast to other coffee drinks, a Cortado is always the same volume: one doubleshot of espresso and 2 ounces milk.

A Cortado is always served in a 4.5 ounce glass cup, making it easy to pour in the exact quantities. When it’s served in a special glass called a Gibraltar glass that tapers at the bottom, it’s called a Gibraltar. This tradition started at a coffeehouse in San Francisco and persists to this day! Some people say there are slight differences but the drinks are essentially the same.

Cortado

Cortado vs latte

Wait: what makes it a cortado vs a latte? Here are the key differences:

  • A Cortado is 1:1 milk to espresso; a latte is 2:1 milk to espresso.
  • A Cortado is 4 ounces and served in a small glass; a latte is typically 6 ounces and can be served in a mug, cup or glass.
  • The milk for a latte is textured to become microfoam, a wet paint-like texture. The milk for a Cortado is steamed, but not textured.

Because it has less milk, the cortado allows the bold espresso flavor to shine through more than a latte. To us, the cortado is like an elevated latte: in fact, we much prefer its flavor! The cortado also has less calories than a latte since it uses less milk.

How to make a cortdado: basic steps

Ready to get sipping? Here’s the outline of how to make a cortado at home:

  • Make a double shot of espresso.
  • Steam or froth ¼ cup whole milk using the instructions below.
  • Pour the espresso into a small glass, then top with the milk.

Below are a few notes on the methods for how to make espresso and how to steam or froth the milk.

Cortado

How to make the espresso

Let’s start with the basics: first, the coffee! You’ll need a good espresso roast coffee, then pick your favorite espresso method:

Use whole milk for best flavor

The best milk for a cortado? Whole milk. It’s the ideal richness for pairing with the bittersweet coffee, and it steams the easiest. Want to make a vegan cortado? Oat milk is your best bet: it’s the best dairy-free milk for steaming.

Steaming or frothing the milk

One advantage to the cortado over the latte is that the quality of the steamed milk is less important. You don’t need the perfect microfoam texture like you need when making latte art. The milk is steamed but not textured. You can use the frothing process here and it works great! Here’s what to do:

  • Froth the milk with a hand-held frother, French press, or whisk. The best tool is a frother if you have it, but a French press also works well. (We’d advise against a whisk here, but use it if it’s all you have.) Go to How to Froth Milk.
  • Steam the milk using an espresso machine. Of course, the best cortado uses milk that’s steamed with an espresso machine! Go to How to Steam Milk and use the instructions for stretching the milk to 20 to 25% in height.
Gibraltar Coffee
Cortado coffee in a Gibraltar glass

Where to find cortado glasses

It’s not a cortado if it’s not in a cortado glass! Of course, you can use whatever small glass you like. But here are the types of glasses that are typical for this drink:

And that’s it! Let us know how you get on in the comments below.

More coffee drinks

The cortado is one of our favorite coffee drinks because of its intensely smooth flavor. Here are a few more favorite drinks to try at home:

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Cortado

Cortado


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

The cortado is an espresso drink with the perfect balance of milk and espresso! It’s a uniquely smooth pairing that’s silky and robust.


Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

  1. Make the espresso: Go to How to Make Espresso.
  2. Steam the milk: Steam the milk with an espresso machine (stretching the milk to 20 to 25% in height), or froth the milk with a frother, French press or whisk. Use ½ cup milk for this process: discard the leftovers or make two drinks.
  3. Serve: Pour 2 ounces espresso into the cortado glass, then top with the steamed milk. Drink immediately. 

Notes

*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Espresso
  • Cuisine: Coffee

Keywords: Cortado

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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