Cortado Vs Latte: It’s All About The Foam

By Shabbir
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Picture this: you’re a latte person, but when you walk into the new coffee shop that’s just opened down the road, you find a very interesting option: the cortado, or Spanish Gibraltar coffee.

So you’re scratching your head, wondering what is the difference between a cortado vs latte.

The reality is that both drinks are similar in that they’re made from a shot of espresso and steamed milk. But that’s where the differences end. Learn more about these two coffee drinks.

What Is The Difference Between a Cortado And Latte?

cortado vs latte - a photo of a cortado

As we mentioned above, it won’t take you long to find the similarities between a cortado and a latte.

While both are made from espresso and milk, the amount of milk that goes in is the key difference. In a cortado, there is an equal amount of milk and coffee. However, there is not much foam in a cortado.

On the other hand, a latte is also made from espresso and milk, but there are 4 parts steamed milk to one part espresso.

You could optionally opt for a double espresso if you prefer your latte to have a bigger kick to it.

Also, a cortado will have a very tiny layer of microfoam or no milk froth at all. Traditional cortado does not have any milk, but some coffee shops have started adding a little bit of foam to give it a better texture.

Where did cortado come from?

Cortado is a Spanish drink made with equal parts milk and espresso. Even though it’s part of the espresso drinks family, it’s quite unique.

Spanish coffee tends to have very little milk, which is why the cortados are quite strong. The term Gibraltar coffee came about a little later. Some accounts say that it is quite recent, by a coffee shop in the Bay Area that served it in a Gibraltar glass.

Cortado is the Spanish word for cut. The espresso shot is “cut” with a small volume of milk which adds a little complexity to the flavor.

What Is In A Cortado?

Cortados are a creamy espresso drink with an equal ratio of espresso to milk. This is not set in stone, so the ratio can vary from one barista to another. However, this variation won’t be to the extreme of ounces: rather, it’ll just be a few ml up or down.

Most traditional coffee shops will serve the Cortado in a glass or metal cup.

What is a latte?

Lattes are large espresso-based drinks made from espresso shots and 4 parts milk. A latte has a lot of milk compared to the amount of espresso, so it’s typically much more mellow and creamy in taste and texture.

Lattes are typically served in large glasses or mugs, and can sometimes have added syrups to flavor them. You can also add a little bit of sugar or cocoa if the flavor is too intense.

Latte art is an integral part of the latte experience, so you may find that the barista hands over the cup or glass to you with a little bit of a design in the milk foam.

Is Cortado The Same As A Flat White?

Much like the traditional latte, there are some similarities between the Cortado and a flat white. That being said, there are differences, which means that the Cortado is still an espresso drink that stands on its own.

The biggest difference between the Cortado and the flat white is the fact the milk is not textured in a Cortado. So, even though the preparation of the steamed milk and a double shot of espresso is the same, the texture between each drink could not be more different.

Because of how the steamed milk is added, the flat white provides a thicker and velvet-like structure. The Cortado on the other hand, provides a smoother texture, which is just as pleasing to the tastebuds.

Both drinks should not be confused with other coffee beverages that resemble the traditional latte either, this includes options such as piccolo coffee.

While they are all made with milk, espresso or even the ristretto shot, the unique way steamed milk is added or the overall texture and quantity of the beverages provides the difference.

The different types of coffee, especially those including milk in the equation, provide a perfect example of how the unique addition of each ingredient can have a huge influence on the overall taste of a beverage.

It also shows how a small cup of coffee with milk can have so many variants, there are an endless number of combinations coffee lovers can use. In fact, we believe that you will never look at coffee and milk in the same way after reading this article.

Cortado Vs Latte: Can either be considered “better”?

Remember: the key difference between cortado and espresso is how much milk is in your coffee drink.

We mentioned how the unique way in which ingredients are added or layered can influence the taste and the feel of the beverage. So beginners might not immediately notice the subtle nuances in each of the coffees.

Of course, this makes it all the more exciting to be a coffee lover, as there are numerous taste combinations, ingredients, and techniques to master and experiment with these days!

So, while some swear by their latte and will not consider anything else where Italian espresso is concerned, others prefer the traditional Cordato and its characteristic simple yet complementing flavors. Therefore, if you are unsure about the option that is right for you, why not try each espresso drink and find out which one piques your taste buds?

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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.