cortado vs latte

Cortado and Latte: Comparing Espresso’s Milky Cousins

When it comes to milky espresso drinks, cortado and latte are two popular options. While they share similarities, such as the use of espresso and milk, there are also key differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of cortado and latte, their brewing techniques, cultural significance, and more, so that you can decide which one is right for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Cortado and latte are milky espresso drinks with distinct characteristics
  • Cortado originated in Spain and has a higher ratio of espresso to milk
  • Latte is a global favorite and has a higher ratio of milk to espresso

Understanding the Cortado

The cortado is a popular coffee drink that originated in Spain. The term “cortado” means “cut” in Spanish, referring to the small amount of milk used in the preparation of the drink. It’s made by combining a shot of espresso with roughly equal parts of steamed milk, resulting in a rich and creamy beverage with a distinct flavor profile.

Unlike other milk-based espresso drinks, the cortado is known for its stronger espresso flavor, as its milk ratio is much lower. Traditionally, the milk used in a cortado is steamed to a slightly lower temperature than a latte or cappuccino, resulting in less foam and a creamier texture.

In Spain, the cortado is often enjoyed as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up, alongside a small pastry or light snack. It’s also a popular after-dinner drink in some regions of the country, served with a shot of anise liqueur or a small glass of brandy.

Preparing a Cortado

To prepare a cortado, start by pulling a shot of espresso into a small glass. Next, steam an equal amount of milk to a temperature of around 140°F – 150°F. The milk should be steamed to a consistency that is thicker than that used in a latte or cappuccino, and with less foam.

Once your milk is ready, gently pour it into the espresso shot, taking care not to create too much foam. The result should be a small but potent beverage with a creamy texture and a bold espresso flavor.

The cortado can be customized to suit individual taste preferences by adjusting the milk ratio or adding flavor syrups, though purists would argue that the true beauty of the drink is in its simplicity.

Exploring the Latte

The latte is a milky espresso drink that has become a ubiquitous part of coffee culture worldwide. It is typically made with a double shot of espresso, steamed milk, and a small layer of foam on top. The word “latte” comes from the Italian caffè latte, which means “milk coffee”.

To prepare a latte, the steamed milk is added to the espresso, creating a smooth and velvety texture. The amount of milk used in a latte is typically more than that used in a cortado, resulting in a creamier and milkier taste. The milk is steamed using a steam wand, which introduces steam into the milk, creating tiny bubbles and increasing its volume.

The quality of the milk used in a latte can have a significant impact on the taste and texture of the drink. Whole milk is the most commonly used milk in lattes, as it creates a creamy and rich flavor. However, alternative milks such as almond, soy, or oat milk can be used as well, creating unique flavor profiles and catering to different dietary needs.

Taste and Flavor Profile

When it comes to taste and flavor, the cortado and latte have distinct differences. The cortado is known for its stronger and bolder espresso flavor, which is balanced by the creamy and smooth milk. The milk in a cortado is steamed to a temperature that is slightly cooler than a latte, which allows the flavor of the espresso to stand out.

The latte, on the other hand, has a more mellow and mild espresso flavor. The milk in a latte is steamed to create a velvety texture and sweet flavor, which can sometimes overpower the espresso. The milk to espresso ratio in a latte is higher than in a cortado, resulting in a milkier taste.

Overall, the taste and flavor of a cortado is more focused on the espresso, while the latte is more focused on the milk. Which one you prefer depends on your personal taste preferences, and whether you prefer a stronger or milder espresso flavor.

Brewing Techniques

The cortado and latte may have different milk ratios, but both require careful attention to detail in their brewing process to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and texture.

Brewing a Cortado

When making a cortado, start by pulling a shot of espresso into a preheated cortado glass. The ratio of espresso to warm frothed milk in a cortado is usually 1:1, so steam the milk accordingly. Once the milk is frothed, gently pour it into the glass over the espresso, holding back the foam with a spoon to achieve a smooth, velvety milk layer on the top.

For best results, use high-quality espresso beans and temperature-controlled milk to ensure the cortado is not too bitter or too sweet.

Brewing a Latte

Begin by pulling a shot of espresso into a preheated latte glass, leaving enough room for the frothed milk. Steam the milk for a latte using a steam wand until it reaches a silky texture with small bubbles. The ratio of milk to espresso in a latte is typically 3:1 or 4:1.

With the milk and espresso ready, position the pitcher of steamed milk above the glass at a slight angle and pour slowly, moving the pitcher side to side, to create layers and a beautiful latte art on top.

For a consistent latte, use the same amount of espresso and the same frothing technique with the milk each time.

Whether making a cortado or a latte, always start by heating the cups to ensure the drinks stay warm for longer and the flavor remains intact.

Cultural Significance

The cortado is a traditional Spanish coffee drink that is deeply ingrained in the country’s culture. It is a staple in many cafes and is often enjoyed with a small pastry or biscuit on the side. The cortado is seen as a symbol of Spain’s rich coffee heritage and is celebrated for its distinctive flavor and texture.

In contrast, the latte has become a ubiquitous beverage in cafes around the world. It is a go-to option for many coffee drinkers and is often the default choice for those who prefer a milky espresso drink. The latte has become a symbol of global coffee culture and is enjoyed in many different countries and contexts.

The Cortado in Spanish Coffee Culture

In Spain, the cortado is viewed as a quintessential coffee drink, representing the country’s long-standing coffee traditions. It is often enjoyed as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon treat and is seen as a way to take a break from the day and savor a moment of indulgence.

Many Spaniards take their coffee very seriously and have strong opinions on how it should be prepared. The cortado is a drink that is steeped in tradition, and many cafes and restaurants take pride in their ability to make the perfect cortado. It is often served in a small glass or cup and is known for its rich, caramel-like flavor and velvety texture.

The Global Popularity of the Latte

The latte has become a symbol of the global coffee culture, representing the mainstream appreciation for specialty coffee and milky espresso drinks. It is enjoyed in cafes around the world and has become a staple in the diets of many coffee drinkers.

The latte has become a blank canvas for experimentation, with cafes and baristas around the world coming up with new and innovative ways to serve this classic drink. From latte art to flavored syrups, the latte has become a symbol of creativity and innovation in the coffee industry.

Unique Traditions and Rituals

Both the cortado and the latte have unique traditions and rituals associated with them. In Spain, the cortado is often enjoyed with a small pastry or biscuit on the side, while in other countries, such as Italy, it is common to enjoy a small coffee with a shot of grappa on the side.

Similarly, the latte has its own unique culture, with many cafes and baristas taking great pride in the art of latte making and serving. Latte art competitions are held around the world, with baristas vying for the title of latte art champion.

Cortado vs Latte: Which One is Right for You?

Choosing between a cortado and a latte can be a matter of personal preference. Here are some factors to consider:

Cortado Latte
Taste Strong espresso flavor with a subdued milkiness. Ideal for those who enjoy the taste of espresso, but want a touch of milk. Milky sweetness with a subtle espresso flavor. Ideal for those who prefer a creamier, sweeter coffee experience.
Caffeine Content Less milk than a latte means a slightly higher caffeine concentration. More milk than a cortado means a slightly lower caffeine concentration.
Milkiness Less milk than a latte creates a stronger coffee flavor with a more balanced milkiness. More milk than a cortado creates a smoother, creamier texture with a more subdued coffee flavor.
Overall Experience An ideal choice for those who prefer a stronger espresso flavor with a touch of milkiness. The experience is more about savoring the espresso rather than the milk. An ideal choice for those who prefer a creamier, sweeter coffee experience with a more subdued espresso flavor. The experience is more about enjoying the balance between milk and espresso.

Ultimately, the choice between a cortado and a latte comes down to your own personal taste preferences. Try both and see which one suits you best!

Experimenting with Variations

Looking to switch things up and customize your cortado or latte? There are plenty of variations you can experiment with to create a unique and personalized drink. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Flavored Syrups:

Add a touch of sweetness and flavor to your drink with a flavored syrup. From classic vanilla to trendy pumpkin spice, there’s a syrup for every taste preference. Just be mindful of how much you add, as too much can overpower the espresso and milk flavors.


For a warm and comforting twist, try adding a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom to your drink. These spices pair well with the earthy flavors of espresso and can elevate your drink to a whole new level.

Alternative Milks:

If you’re looking to cut back on dairy or have a lactose intolerance, try using alternative milks in your cortado or latte. Soy, almond, oat, and coconut milks are all popular options, each with their own distinct flavor and texture.

Iced or Frozen:

For a refreshing summer drink, try serving your cortado or latte over ice. You can also blend it with ice for a frozen, slushy consistency. For an extra indulgent treat, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to your blended latte.

Remember, there are no rules when it comes to experimenting with coffee drinks. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new things. Who knows, you might just stumble upon your new favorite drink!

Perfecting Your Home Brew

Making a delicious cortado or latte at home requires some practice and patience, but with the right tools and technique, you can achieve professional-grade results. Here are some tips to perfect your at-home milky espresso drinks:

Select the Right Espresso Machine

The key to a great cortado or latte is a high-quality espresso shot. Invest in a reputable espresso machine that can deliver consistent and flavorful shots. Look for machines that have a built-in milk frother or steam wand, as they allow you to create the perfect milk texture.

Choose Quality Beans

Start with fresh, high-quality espresso beans to achieve the best flavor and aroma. Look for beans that are roasted specifically for espresso, as they have a more robust and intense flavor. Proper storage can also make a big difference in the taste of your espresso. Keep your beans in a cool, dry place and grind them just before brewing.

Master Milk Steaming

The texture and temperature of the milk can make or break a latte or cortado. To create the perfect foam, start with cold milk and a clean steam wand. Position the wand just below the surface of the milk and slowly introduce steam while keeping the wand at a slight angle. Stop once the milk has doubled in volume and reaches a velvety texture. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and aim for 150-155°F for a cortado and 140-145°F for a latte.

Perfect Your Pour

The way you pour your milk can affect the appearance and taste of your cortado or latte. For a cortado, aim for a 50/50 split of espresso and milk, gently pouring the milk to create a thin layer of foam. For a latte, pour the milk in a steady stream, allowing it to mix with the espresso to create a layered effect. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different pouring techniques.

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy a delicious cortado or latte from the comfort of your own kitchen. Experiment with different beans, milk ratios, and brewing techniques to find your perfect cup.

Exploring Coffee Culture

Coffee is more than just a beverage; it is a global phenomenon that has shaped culture and commerce for centuries. The popularity of cortado and latte reflects the evolution of coffee culture and the increasing demand for unique and sophisticated coffee experiences.

Specialty coffee shops have emerged as hubs for coffee culture, providing a space for coffee enthusiasts to gather and explore different roasts, blends, and brewing methods. Skilled baristas play a key role in showcasing the distinct flavors and techniques associated with cortado and latte.

Coffee education has also become a significant part of the coffee culture, highlighting the importance of sustainable sourcing, ethical practices, and community engagement. This focus on quality and social responsibility has helped raise the profile of cortado and latte, as consumers seek out authentic and conscientious coffee experiences.

Cortado has a particular significance in Spanish coffee culture, where it is commonly enjoyed as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up. The simplicity and balance of cortado reflect the relaxed pace and social nature of Spanish life, emphasizing the enjoyment of coffee as a shared experience.

Latte, on the other hand, has become a symbol of global coffee culture, with its popularity spanning continents and cultures. The creamy texture and versatility of latte make it a favorite among coffee drinkers around the world, reflecting the diverse tastes and preferences of coffee consumers.

As coffee culture continues to evolve, so too does the appreciation for cortado and latte. Whether enjoyed as a morning ritual, an afternoon indulgence, or a social occasion, these milky espresso drinks offer a rich and rewarding coffee experience that appeals to a wide range of tastes and expectations.


After comparing and contrasting cortado and latte, it’s clear that these two milky espresso drinks are distinct in their flavor, milk ratio, and cultural significance. While cortado is a more traditional and intense option with a 1:1 or 1:2 milk to espresso ratio, the latte is a popular and beloved classic with a 1:3 milk to espresso ratio and a velvety texture achieved through milk steaming.

Choosing between a cortado and a latte depends on personal preference and the occasion. Those who prefer a stronger coffee taste and less milkiness may opt for a cortado, while those looking for a creamy and indulgent experience may prefer a latte. For a quick and energizing morning drink, cortado may be the best choice, while a latte can be enjoyed at any time of day.

Exploring Variations

For those looking to experiment with their cortado and latte, there are endless variations to try. Adding a flavored syrup such as vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut can add a unique twist to your drink. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom can also spice up your drink. For those who prefer non-dairy milk, options such as almond, soy, or oat milk can be used for a different taste experience.

Perfecting Your Home Brew

Enjoying a perfect cortado or latte at home requires some practice and guidance. Investing in a quality espresso machine and selecting the right beans can make a significant difference in the taste and texture of your drink. Learning to steam milk properly is also essential for achieving the velvety texture of a latte. With some patience and experimentation, you can become a home barista and enjoy these milky espresso drinks anytime.

Exploring Coffee Culture

Cortado and latte are just two examples of the vast and diverse world of coffee culture. From specialty coffee shops to barista competitions to coffee education, the coffee industry has a rich history and continues to evolve. Whether you’re a passionate coffee lover or a casual drinker, exploring the fascinating world of coffee can open up new horizons of taste and culture.

So go ahead and explore the world of cortado and latte, experiment with variations, perfect your home brew, and immerse yourself in coffee culture.


Q: What is a cortado?

A: A cortado is a milky espresso drink that originated in Spain. It is made by combining equal parts espresso and steamed milk, resulting in a balanced and slightly milder flavor compared to other espresso-based drinks.

Q: What is a latte?

A: A latte is a popular milky espresso drink that consists of espresso shots topped with steamed milk, usually in a 1:3 to 1:5 ratio. It has a creamy texture and is often served with latte art on the surface.

Q: How does the milk ratio differ between cortado and latte?

A: While a cortado has a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, a latte typically has a higher milk-to-espresso ratio, ranging from 1:3 to 1:5. This difference in milk concentration gives each drink its unique flavor and texture.

Q: What is the taste difference between cortado and latte?

A: Cortado has a bold, yet balanced taste due to the equal parts of espresso and milk. It offers a smooth mouthfeel with a rich espresso flavor. On the other hand, a latte has a creamier and milder taste, as the espresso is more diluted with a higher proportion of steamed milk.

Q: How do you brew a cortado?

A: To brew a cortado, start by extracting a double shot of espresso using an espresso machine. Steam an equal amount of milk until it reaches a velvety texture. Pour the steamed milk into the espresso, aiming for a 1:1 ratio. Serve and enjoy!

Q: How do you brew a latte?

A: To brew a latte, pull a double shot of espresso using an espresso machine. Steam milk until it is creamy and has a velvety texture. Pour the steamed milk over the espresso shots, aiming for a milk-to-espresso ratio of 1:3 to 1:5. Optionally, add latte art on top for a visually pleasing presentation.

Q: What is the cultural significance of cortado and latte?

A: Cortado holds cultural significance in Spain, where it is commonly enjoyed as a mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up. The latte, on the other hand, has gained global popularity and is a staple in coffee culture worldwide, often associated with specialty coffee shops and cafes.

Q: How do I choose between a cortado and a latte?

A: When choosing between a cortado and a latte, consider your flavor preferences and desired level of milkiness. If you prefer a stronger espresso flavor with a balanced milk ratio, go for a cortado. If you prefer a creamier and milder coffee experience with more milk, opt for a latte. Additionally, consider the occasion or time of day to match the drink’s intensity and caffeine content to your needs.

Q: Can I experiment with variations of cortado and latte?

A: Absolutely! Cortado and latte offer a great canvas for personalization. You can experiment with various flavored syrups, spices, or alternative milks to add unique twist to your drink. Get creative and tailor the drink to your taste preferences.

Q: How can I perfect cortado and latte brewing at home?

A: To perfect cortado and latte brewing at home, invest in a quality espresso machine that allows for precise control over extraction and milk steaming. Select high-quality coffee beans and master the art of milk steaming to achieve a velvety texture. Practice and refine your techniques for consistently great results.

Q: What role does coffee culture play in the popularity of cortado and latte?

A: Coffee culture, including the rise of specialty coffee shops, skilled baristas, and coffee education, has contributed to the popularity of cortado and latte. It has created a platform for these milky espresso drinks to be appreciated and enjoyed by coffee enthusiasts worldwide.