A Cortado is a beverage consisting of one shot of espresso combined with an equal amount of hot, steamed milk. That means the ratio of espresso to milk is 1:1.
The milk helps reduce the acidity of espresso, and usually in a cortado it’s steamed, but not frothy and texturized as in many espresso-based drinks.
In essence, it’s supposed to cut into the espresso, making a softer drink, while still allowing the flavor of the coffee to shine through.
Think of the logic behind an espresso macchiato – the one with a tiny dollop of milk froth on top. The milk is supposed to just take the edge off that strong espresso, but in a cortado the milk is mush stronger.
A very important element in a cortado is the milk. Not just the amount of milk but the way it’s heated and the fact that it’s not frothy. We’ll get to that later in the article.
Several variations on the cortado exist
All that being said, it’s important to note that the cortado is one of the most the least consistent espresso drinks you’ll ever find, right up there with mocha and iced anythings, and even frappes.
What does a cortado taste like?
In Cuba for example the cortado can also be found as a cortadito, which is actually a shot of espresso whipped with spoonfuls of sugar to create a creamy, foamy caramel-like drink that’s topped with frothed milk or condensed milk. It’s more of a treat or dessert than an actual coffee.
Aside from this, each barista prepares the cortado a little differently, according to what they know would taste best, and also what each customer asks for.
The only constants in all of this are:
a shot of espresso (size and strength vary)
roughly equal amount of steamed milk, often without froth
no sugar or flavorings
The point is that it’s really hard to put an industry standard on very cultural drinks, and also the fact that there’s just so many espresso drinks now that it gets hard to tell them apart sometimes.
Where does the cortado come from ?
This mild and espresso drink is originated in the Basque area of Spain. The name comes from the verb in Spanish “cortar” which means “to cut”.
It is a very popular drink in Spain, Portugal and Cuba. Now it can be found all over the world in various forms. For example, there are some places in Cuba where milk is replaced with sweetened condensed milk.
What is the difference between other drinks and cortado?
If we compare a double cortado with a flat white (it too double espresso), the key is the amount of milk. While double cortado has 50 ml of espresso and 50 ml of milk, flat white has 50 ml of espresso and ~110 ml of milk. This is a huge difference and the flavor is definitely milkier.