Are you an espresso enthusiast who loves to explore different espresso-based drinks? In this post, we're unveiling the showdown between two popular espresso drinks - cortado and latte. Get ready to learn about the milk used, brewing methods, and taste profiles of these two drinks. Which one will be your new favorite for a bold and creamy espresso experience? Let's find out!

Cortado and Latte: A Brief Overview

A cortado and a latte are two popular espresso-based coffee drinks that differ in their milk-to-espresso composition and overall size. These drinks have their origins in different regions and have unique flavors, making them appealing to different types of coffee enthusiasts.

The cortado, originating from Spain, is an espresso-focused beverage that consists of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. It typically contains little to no foam or microfoam, allowing the strong, bold flavors of the espresso to shine through. Consequently, cortados are ideal for those who enjoy a more intense coffee experience without too much milk. The size of a cortado is relatively small, making it a perfect choice for a quick caffeine boost.

On the other hand, the latte is an Italian creation from the early 1900s, designed to appeal to American customers accustomed to coffee with milk. Today, lattes are popular worldwide and boast a milk-heavy composition, resulting in a creamier, smoother taste. Lattes consist of espresso, steamed milk, and a solid layer of microfoam on top, making them ideal for lovers of flavored coffee drinks, as caramel or peppermint syrup can be easily incorporated. Lattes tend to be served in larger cups than cortados, offering a more substantial coffee beverage.

In terms of nutrition, cortados and lattes have some similarities. A standard cortado made with 2 ounces of espresso and 2 ounces of milk has approximately 50 calories, whereas a latte made with the same quantity of ingredients contains around 200 calories. Keep in mind that the calorie count increases if you add flavorings or sweeteners to a latte.

To summarize:

  • Cortado: Equal parts espresso and steamed milk, little to no foam, small size, strong and bold flavor, 50 calories (without additives)
  • Latte: Espresso, more steamed milk, microfoam layer, larger size, creamy and smooth taste, 200 calories (without additives)

In conclusion, the main differences between a cortado and a latte lie in their milk-to-espresso ratios, sizes, and flavors. While a cortado is an espresso-forward, intense coffee experience, a latte is a milk-heavy, creamy beverage that can be customized with various flavorings. Both drinks offer distinct taste profiles, catering to a wide range of coffee enthusiasts.

Cortado: Origins and Characteristics

Spanish Cortado: Origins

The cortado, originating from Spain and Portugal, is a well-balanced blend of espresso and milk. The term "cortado" is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese words for "cut," signifying the way the espresso is "cut" with an equal part of hot milk. This results in a stronger and bolder beverage compared to a latte.

Gibraltar: The American Twist

In the United States, a variation of the cortado known as the Gibraltar has gained popularity, particularly in specialty coffee shops such as Blue Bottle. The Gibraltar is named after the glass it is served in and remains similar to the traditional cortado, utilizing a 1:1 ratio of espresso and steamed milk. The main difference lies in its serving size, with the Gibraltar being slightly larger than its Spanish counterpart.

Preparation and Serving

Cortados are prepared with equal parts steamed milk and espresso, creating a harmonious balance between the two ingredients. Unlike lattes, which have a ⅓ espresso, ⅔ steamed milk ratio and are topped with milk foam, cortados are less frothy and less sweet. The serving size of a cortado is usually smaller, reinforcing its more intense taste.

Cortado Glass

Cortados are often served in a unique vessel known as a cortado glass. This glass is typically a small, transparent tumbler that showcases the espresso and milk layers within the beverage. The cortado glass not only highlights the visual appeal of the drink but also provides a pleasurable drinking experience for the consumer.

With its rich history and distinctive characteristics, the cortado offers a unique alternative to a traditional latte, satisfying those who desire a more balanced, intense flavor in their espresso-based beverages.

Latte: History and Variety

The latte is a popular coffee beverage that has a rich history and multiple variations. In this section, we will delve into its origins and how it has evolved over time, particularly focusing on the Italian Latte, Café Latte, Caramel Latte, and Starbucks' influence.

Italian Latte: Origins

The history of the latte dates back to the early 1900s in Italy. It is believed that an Italian barista created this beverage as an appeal to the American customers who were accustomed to drinking coffee with milk. The latte quickly gained popularity in America and has since made its way to other parts of the world.

Café Latte

Café Latte is another name for a latte, which is traditionally made with ⅓ espresso, ⅔ steamed milk, and topped with a thick layer of milk foam. The key to a perfect Café Latte lies in the carefully balanced ratio of espresso and milk, making it a milk-heavy and sweeter beverage compared to other espresso-based drinks like cortados or cappuccinos.

Caramel Latte

A popular variation of the traditional latte is the Caramel Latte. This version incorporates a caramel syrup into the beverage, adding a sweet and indulgent flavor to the mix. The Caramel Latte starts with a base of espresso and is topped with steamed milk and caramel syrup. The beverage is often finished with a drizzle of caramel sauce on top, making it an attractive and delicious option for those with a sweet tooth.

Starbucks Influence

Starbucks, the global coffee giant, has played a significant role in popularizing the latte and its various iterations. Alongside their iconic Caramel Latte, they have introduced numerous flavored lattes over the years, showcasing the versatility of this beverage. Some of the popular offerings include seasonal favorites like the Pumpkin Spice Latte and the Peppermint Mocha Latte. Starbucks' impact on the coffee culture worldwide has undeniably contributed to the latte's widespread popularity and the constant innovation in this drink category.

Comparing Cortado and Latte

Taste and Flavor Profiles

Cortados and lattes are both espresso-based beverages, but they have distinct taste and flavor profiles. Cortados offer a balanced taste between the espresso and steamed milk, with a more pronounced espresso flavor. Lattes, on the other hand, have a milkier taste, often accompanied by added flavorings such as caramel or peppermint syrup.

Espresso and Milk Ratio

The primary difference between cortados and lattes lies in the ratio of espresso to steamed milk. Cortados comprise equal parts of espresso and steamed milk, usually with a small amount of microfoam or none at all. Conversely, lattes contain a larger amount of steamed milk, with a solid layer of microfoam topping the beverage.

Strength and Bitterness

Given the differing ratios of espresso and milk, cortados and lattes have varying levels of strength and bitterness. Cortados are stronger and more intense than lattes due to their higher espresso content. Lattes tend to have a creamier, more subdued taste, making them an ideal choice for individuals who prefer milder coffee beverages.


The visual contrast between cortados and lattes is quite apparent. Cortados are typically served in smaller glasses, showcasing the balance of espresso and milk. The lack of microfoam creates a more uniform appearance. Lattes, in contrast, are often served in larger glasses or cups, with a striking layer of microfoam on top. The foamy layer in lattes also presents an opportunity for latte art, leading to a more visually appealing presentation.

In conclusion, cortados and lattes both offer unique experiences for coffee enthusiasts. The choice between the two largely depends on personal preferences for taste, strength, and appearance. If you prefer a stronger and more espresso-forward beverage, a cortado may be the right choice, whereas if you enjoy a milder, milkier coffee, a latte would be a more fitting option. Speaking of espresso, the quality of the drink can significantly be influenced by the machine used to brew it. For businesses and cafes, having a top-notch espresso machine is paramount. If you're in the market to buy a commercial grade espresso machine, it's essential to consider options that cater to your commercial needs. Our commercial espresso machine collection offers a variety of models designed to deliver the best in terms of quality and performance. Dive deep into our collection to discover the perfect fit for your establishment.


Cappuccino is another popular espresso-based drink that shares similarities with both cortados and lattes. It contains equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, giving it a balanced flavor between the boldness of the espresso and the creaminess of the milk. Cappuccinos are known for their rich and velvety texture, mainly due to the microfoam layer on top, which sets them apart from other coffee drinks. They are often enjoyed as a morning beverage or an after-dinner treat and can be garnished with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or cinnamon.

Flat White

Flat White is a coffee drink that originated in Australia or New Zealand, depending on who you ask. It's made with a double shot of espresso and a smaller amount of steamed milk compared to a latte, resulting in a stronger coffee flavor with a velvety mouthfeel. The key to a perfect flat white is the microfoam, created by steaming the milk at a lower pressure than what is used for cappuccino or latte, resulting in a smoother and less frothy texture. Flat whites are ideal for those who prefer a bolder espresso taste but still want a creamy and silky experience.


The Macchiato, which means "stained" or "spotted" in Italian, is a simple espresso-based drink consisting of a shot of espresso with just a small dollop of steamed milk or foam. This coffee drink is designed to showcase the full intensity and bold flavor of the espresso, with the slight addition of milk serving to soften the taste and add a hint of creaminess. Macchiatos are perfect for those who want a stronger and more concentrated coffee flavor, without the sweetness or large amounts of milk found in lattes and cappuccinos.

In conclusion, while cortados and lattes offer different coffee experiences in terms of ratios and textures, other related drinks like cappuccinos, flat whites, and macchiatos also provide unique tasting adventures. Understanding the distinctions between these beverages can enhance a coffee lover's appreciation and guide them towards their perfect cup.

Customizing Your Coffees

When it comes to enjoying a Cortado or a latte, there are many ways to customize your coffee experience to suit your personal taste preferences.

Flavored Syrups and Sweeteners

One option for personalizing your coffee beverages is by adding flavored syrups or sweeteners. There are various syrup flavors available, such as vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, and chocolate. Adding a flavored syrup can enhance the taste of both a Cortado and a latte by introducing new flavor profiles that complement the coffee's natural notes.

Sweeteners like sugar, honey, and agave syrup can also be used to adjust the sweetness levels in your coffee. These options allow individuals to find the perfect balance between the espresso's bitterness and the added sweetness, creating a delightful coffee experience.

Milk Alternatives

While both the Cortado and latte traditionally use steamed milk, there are many milk alternatives available for those who have dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply prefer a different type of milk. Some popular milk alternatives for coffee include almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and coconut milk. Each milk alternative offers its unique flavor and texture, which can alter the overall taste of the coffee, adding an extra layer of customization to your Cortado or latte.

With the wide variety of milk alternatives available, each individual can choose the one that best fits their taste preferences or dietary needs.

Syrup Options

Flavored syrups provide an exciting opportunity to experiment with different flavor combinations for your coffee beverages. Suggested combinations include:

  • Chocolate syrup with almond milk for a rich, nutty mocha
  • Caramel syrup with coconut milk for a tropical-inspired treat
  • Hazelnut syrup with oat milk for a nutty, earthy delight

Of course, these are just a few of the many possible variations that can be created with flavored syrups and milk alternatives. By experimenting with different combinations, you can find the perfect balance between the boldness of espresso and the sweetness of the additional flavors, resulting in a customized coffee drink that truly satisfies your personal taste preferences.

Brewing Techniques and Beans

Moka Pot

The Moka Pot is a popular stovetop espresso maker that produces a strong coffee similar to espresso. While not typically used for making cortados and lattes, it can be an alternative for those who don't have an espresso machine. To make a cortado or latte with a Moka Pot, simply brew the coffee concentrate and mix with steamed milk in the appropriate ratios. For a cortado, this would be a 1:1 ratio of coffee to steamed milk, whereas for a latte, it would be a 1:3 ratio.

Espresso Machine

An espresso machine is the go-to for making cortados and lattes as it produces an authentic espresso shot, which forms the base of these drinks. To make a cortado, extract a single shot of espresso (around 1 ounce) and mix it with an equal amount of steamed milk. For a latte, extract a double shot of espresso (around 2 ounces) and mix with approximately 6 ounces of steamed milk. Frothed milk is then added as a top layer to create the characteristic foam for a latte.

Coffee Bean Choices

Selecting the right coffee beans plays a key role in the flavor and quality of a cortado or latte. Opt for high-quality, freshly roasted beans to ensure the best taste. Beans with a medium to dark roast are ideal for espresso-based drinks, as they provide a robust flavor that pairs well with milk. Some bean choices that work well for cortados and lattes include:

  • Arabica: Known for its smooth and mild flavor, Arabica beans are a popular choice for espresso drinks.
  • Robusta: Robusta beans offer a punchier flavor, with higher caffeine content and a more robust body, making it a suitable option for those who enjoy a stronger coffee.
  • Blend: A blend of Arabica and Robusta beans can provide a balanced flavor profile and complexity that works well in cortados and lattes.

When it comes to brewing techniques and bean choices for cortados and lattes, the key is to find the right balance of flavors and intensity that suits your taste. By experimenting with different equipment, techniques, and bean types, you can craft the perfect cortado or latte to enjoy at home or in a cafe setting.

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Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

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