While not as popular as its close cousins, the Cortado and Café Cubano, Cortadito is quite popular in Cuba and is almost the same drink with a lot of sugar. Let us look at the specifics of this drink and how it differs from the Cortado, Cafe Con Leche, and Cafe Cubano.

What is a Cortadito?

Cortaditio is a Cuban Speciality coffee drink that has a Cuban espresso (Cafecito) topped up with a small amount of steamed milk. The ratio of coffee to milk can vary between 50/50 to 75/25, with 50/50 being a milder and more common version than 75/25, with a lesser amount of milk and much stronger coffee flavors.

The Café Cubano, also known as the Cuban espresso or the cafecito, is a traditional Cuban version of espresso (originated in Cuba), sweetened with brown sugar by whipping with the first few drops of espresso. The name Cuban Espresso or Cafe Cubano is sometimes used to designate any espresso drink made with Cuban pre-sweetened espresso as the base.

Traditional Cuban espresso uses a dark roasted coffee, which may be either a Spanish or Italian roast. Cafe Bustelo, Cafe Pilón, and Cafe La Llave are popular brands in Cuba.

How To Make Cortadito – Coffee Recipe

While you can use the espresso machine to make the cortadito at home, the Moka pot is a preferred coffee maker for this drink. You can commonly see the use of Moka pots in Cuban coffee shops or cafes.

Moka Pot may be preferred if the preparation is intended for a large group of people due to its ability to brew larger batches than espresso machines.

Cortadito is very easy to prepare at home, as you will see in the following sections. You do not require any specific tools to prepare it.

Is it Mandatory to use Cuban Coffee?

The traditional Cortadito is prepared using Cuban coffee, which has a long history, but you can use any dark roast coffee to prepare your cortadito. The taste profile of Cuban coffee resembles the island coffee profile, which is characterized by its heavier body and low acidity.

Coffee came to Cuba from Hispaniola in 1748, but the plantations really took off after the arrival of French settlers in 1791 who were fleeing from the Haitian revolution. By 1827, Cuba had more than 2000 coffee farms and generated more revenue from coffee than sugar.

The nationalization of coffee farms during Castro’s revolution, the breakdown of the Soviet Union, and trade embargos by the United States badly impacted the coffee industry. Europe and Japan are the major importers of high-end Cuban coffee, but the total production remains low, and Cuba has even to import coffee for its own consumption.

What type of Milk is required?

The traditional Cuban Cortadito uses either whole milk or evaporated milk or even a mixture of the two. Some coffee lovers feel the combination of these two kinds of milk provides the best taste.

Low-fat and skim milk are not recommended for this purpose, as you may get a thin and grayish coffee that does not resemble the intended drink.

Skimmed milk is preferred where more quantity of foam is required, as it carries a higher amount of proteins. Cortadito requires very little aeration and steaming. If you do not have an espresso machine with a steam wand or a milk frother at home, you can simply heat the milk in your microwave or on a pot on the stovetop.

Another option is to keep your espresso unsweetened and use sweetened condensed milk, which will sweeten the drink in addition and allow you to skip the next step. You can even try the half and half milk for the drink.

What is an Espuna and How to Prepare It?

The main step that characterizes or differentiates this drink from many other espresso-based drinks is the addition of a few drops of espresso in the early stage of the espresso to the sugar. The two ingredients are mixed vigorously with a spoon till you get a heavy foam as the sugar dissolves in the coffee.

The foam is called espumita or espuma. As far as the chemistry of the process goes, the heat of the brewed coffee hydrolyzes a portion of the sucrose in the sugar. This results in a much sweeter and more viscous combination than what you would get if you were to add the sugar later in the process.

The color of the mixture will change from a very dark brown color matching the color of the espresso drops to a distinctive light brown topping towards the end of the process.

With all this understanding, let us look at the actual process of preparation of a Cortadito at home.

What You Need – Ingredients & Equipment

The main ingredients and the equipment needed to prepare the Cortadito at home are

  1. Finely ground coffee beans, 16 to 23 g (0.5 to 0.75 oz) to prepare espresso.
  2. Single or Double shot of espresso – 1.5 to 2 fl. oz (45 to 60 ml) for double shot.
  3. Whole milk or evaporated milk. – 60 ml or two fl oz.
  4. Two teaspoons of sugar, or to taste.
  5. Espresso Maker. You can prepare the espresso with any decent espresso machine or use a Moka pot or Aeropress.
  6. Steam wand of the espresso machine or handheld milk frother.
  7. Digital measure.

Steps to Make a Cortadito

The step-by-step procedure to prepare a Cortadito is highlighted in the list below.

  1. Prepare two shots of espresso in the espresso maker or the Moka pot.
  2. Add two teaspoons of sugar to your final serving of coffee cup.
  3. Add a few drops of espresso, just sufficient to wet the entire sugar. Use a spoon to mix the coffee and sugar vigorously, as explained earlier, till the creamy espuma foam is formed.
  4. Add the remaining espresso to the serving cup with espuma and stir the contents well.
  5. Pour an equal amount of warm milk prepared with the steam wand, frother, or warmed at low to medium heat in a pan over the stovetop.
  6. Serve immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When to drink a Cortadito?

The Cortadito is traditionally a very sweetened beverage and functions as a dessert coffee enjoyed after a large meal as you sit back with the sound of your favorite music. Anyway, it is to be sipped slowly as you read a book or initiate a conversation within a group.

Can you use Almond milk in your Cortadito?

While whole milk and evaporated milk or their combination gives the best results, you can go for any dairy-free or milk alternatives, as no froth is required in the brewing process.

Is it the same as Cortado? – Cortadito vs Cortado

Cortado is a Spanish coffee beverage and is a much more popular drink than Cortadito. The basic composition of Cortadito and Spanish Cortado are similar as both have the same coffee-to-milk ratio (typically 1:1). The difference will even get smaller if you add sugar to the Cortadito after mixing the coffee and the milk and do not go for espuma. The serving sizes are also similar.

What really differentiates these two drinks is the espuma and high sugar content in Cortaditos. The Cortado is normally preferred with lightly warmed steamed milk with no sugar.

Café con leche also uses the same milk ratios but uses scalded milk in its preparation and is preferred during breakfast. In Cuba, however, the use of Cuban espresso is common for its preparation. Usually, the coffee and the milk are served separately and mixed by the drinker.


A Cortadito is a great way to enjoy the combination of espresso and milk, particularly if you are fond of sweetened beverages. Try preparing the Cortaditos at home and share your experience with our readers in the comments section.

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