Cortado: What Is It and How Do You Make One?

For aspiring baristas and coffee enthusiasts, mastering the art of making a cortado is essential. Let’s dive right into what a cortado is, where it comes from, and how you can make one at home.

A cortado is essentially a harmonious blend of espresso and warm milk. The 1:1 ratio ensures that the milk cuts through the espresso’s bitterness and acidity without overwhelming its rich flavors. The result is a balanced, smooth coffee that’s neither as thick as a latte nor as frothy as a cappuccino.

Originating from Spain’s Basque region, the cortado has made its way to Portugal, South America, and even the United States. Its name comes from the Spanish word ‘cortar,’ which means ‘to cut.’ Depending on where you are, it might be called ‘cortadito,’ ‘marrón,’ ‘piccolo,’ ‘noisette,’ or even ‘Gibraltar.’ In Spain and South America, it’s typically a shot of espresso and a shot of steamed milk, while in the US, it’s often served in a larger 7-8oz cup.

Making a cortado at home is simple. First, grind your coffee beans and load the portafilter. Brew an espresso shot (or two) and pour it into your favorite cup. Steam your milk to match the espresso in a 1:1 ratio. Pour the milk over the espresso, and your cortado is ready to enjoy. If you prefer it cold, add ice to get an iced cortado. For a fancier touch, shake it in a cocktail shaker for a thicker foam.

The cortado stands among various milk-based coffee drinks, offering a unique balance of flavors. Unlike a latte, which has a 1:3 espresso-to-milk ratio, a cortado retains a stronger coffee presence. While lattes can be flavored with syrups like vanilla or hazelnut, cortados remain simple and classic. Compared to macchiatos, cortados are less intense; a macchiato is mostly espresso with just a dash of milk. Cappuccinos, on the other hand, are foamier and milkier, with a 25ml espresso topped with 85ml of milk and foam.

Each of these drinks serves different tastes. For those who enjoy a strong coffee flavor with just a touch of sweetness, the cortado is an excellent choice. It’s a versatile drink that you can easily make at home and adapt to your preferences.

Now you’re well-versed in the world of cortados. You know their origins, variety of names, and how to make one. Whether you prefer it hot or iced, the cortado’s balanced flavor makes it a delightful addition to any coffee lover’s repertoire.