Cortado Vs Flat White

Cortado Vs Flat White

Coffee is among the most consumed beverages worldwide.

The world drinks two billion cups of coffee per day across nearly 120 varieties.

Despite the numbers, most people don’t know much about the rich world of coffee. Use this guide to two of the most popular drinks—the cortado Vs flat white—to begin your journey to become a coffee connoisseur. 

What Is a Cortado Coffee?

Cortado coffee is one of the espresso drinks popular in South America.

The word “cortado” is a Spanish word that means “cut,” and the term refers to the milk “cutting” through the bitterness and density of the espresso.

The unique ratio of espresso to milk required to perfect it distinguishes the cortado from other similar coffee drinks. The cortado consists of equal parts espresso, which means a 1: 1 espresso to steamed milk ratio, typically relatively small.

Most cortado drinks are four ounces, typically unsweetened unless you order a cortadito, a Cuban variation on the cortado that often includes condensed milk.

Cortado Coffee

Origin of the Cortado

The origins of the cortado are ambiguous.

The popular drink first appeared in Spain. It was popularized in the Spanish Basque country, a small, independent nation-state tucked in the western Pyrenees between France and Spain. The Basque people inhabit the coast of the Bay of Biscay, and it is here that the cortado coffee was allegedly born. 

In Spain, the cortado is quite a cheap drink. But it has only recently become popular in the United States, where, according to food experts, it has become a luxury.

The key trait of a cortado is that it has little to no foam, allowing the sweet, creamy milk to blend perfectly with robust espresso.

How to Make a Cortado

The critical feature to remember about the cortado is its small size and the same amount of espresso and steamed milk.

Most people in the United States use two ounces of milk and a double shot of espresso to make this sophisticated variation so that you can remember the number two. 

Also, remember that the cortado is not meant to have milk foam or froth, as you will only be using a small amount.

You will need the following:

  • Two ounces of espresso coffee beans
  • An espresso maker and milk steamer (or whisk)
  • Milk (regular, almond, coconut, oat, or cashew)
  • Sweetener (optional)
  • Flavoring (optional)

The recipe for the cortado is as follows:

  1. Start by grinding your espresso beans to a fine grain.
  2. Tamp your espresso grounds.
  3. Place the grounds into a portafilter and put it into the machine.
  4. Pull a double espresso shot.
  5. Steam your milk. If you do not have steaming capabilities, warm it in the microwave for several seconds and whisk it.
  6. Slowly pour your milk onto your espresso. 
  7. Add flavoring or sweetener if needed.

Once you have finished, you can serve your cortado in a small espresso cup or your favorite coffee mug. If you like it, consider ordering it next time you go to a coffee shop (or to Spain!).

What Is a Flat White

The flat white is similar to the cortado but has specific crucial differences.

The flat white is an espresso-based drink with steamed milk. It also contains a thin layer of micro-foamed milk at the top—much like a cappuccino. 

Flat whites are often served in ceramic cups, slightly smaller than traditional lattés—and somewhat larger than cappuccinos.

Different countries—and coffee shops—use different strategies to make the flat white. Some use double espresso shots, while others use a double ristretto for a stronger coffee taste.

Flat White Coffee

Origin of the Flat White Coffee Drink

Much like the cortado, the flat white is of unknown origin.

However, most coffee lovers agree that the flat white was born out of the love of the latte, which appeared in England in the 1980s.

The flat white rose in popularity in Australia or New Zealand around the same time and has been most popular in the Southern Hemisphere ever since.

Coffee Drinkers would order a latte in the coffee shop and request less foam, explicitly asking for the drink to be “flatter.” Thus, the term “flat white” was born.

How to Make a Flat White

If you’re ready to start making your flat whites, consider the following.

First, you’ll need an espresso machine, a milk steamer or frother, and your favorite specialty coffee beans. If you want to grind your beans, consider purchasing a primary grinder. 

Then, follow the instructions below to create your masterpiece.

  1. Grind two shots worth of beans (16 to 18 gms).
  2. Tamp the grinds and place them into your portafilter
  3. Place the portafilter into the espresso machine
  4. Pull your espresso double shot and pour it into a cup or glass
  5. Steam 4 ounces of milk to 55-62 degrees Celsius (131-143 degrees Fahrenheit).
  6. Gently place your hand on the pitcher or use a thermometer to learn the temperature of the milk intuitively. This will help you next time you want to make a flat white.
  7. Gently pat the bottom of your milk pitcher and swirl the milk around to smooth the foam.
  8. Pour the steamed milk into the espresso.
  9. Add flavoring or sweetener if you wish, and design your favorite latte art on the surface of your drink! 

Once you have finished your drink, you can pour it into a ceramic cup or your favorite coffee mug. It’s customary to drink the flat white the way that you would drink a latte: slowly. 

Cortado Vs Flat White – Key Differences

Although the two share specific essential characteristics, there are several crucial differences between the cortado and the flat white.

1. Milk 

The most important feature of both drinks is the milk-to-coffee ratio.

In a cortado, the ratio is one-to-one. If you pour two ounces of espresso, you’ll need two ounces of steamed milk.

On the other hand, the flat white typically has a ratio of one-to-two, although you can eyeball the amount of milk you pour over your espresso.

The milk in your cortado will thus turn out to be more concentrated than the milk in a flat white, leading to a strong coffee taste. The flat white has a milder and sweeter flavor because more milk dilutes the espresso. The flat white makes use of textured milk.

The cortado is also generally smaller than the flat white. Because the cortado contains less milk than a flat white and is more condensed, you will typically receive it in a smaller cup.

2. Foam

The second significant difference between the two drinks is the amount of foam.

The cortado contains only a little bit of milk, steamed at a lower temperature and for less time than the milk used in a flat white.

Thus, the cortado also has less foam than the flat white—around 0.25-0.5cm of microfoam. 

Conversely, the flat white contains milk steamed at a higher temperature and rate, so the layer of microfoam is typically larger—around 1-2 cm.

While you can create latte art for your flat white, you probably will not be able to do so with a cortado.

Less foam also contributes to denser milk, which is why the cortado has a bolder taste than the flat white.

3. Intensity

The cortado has a significantly more intense coffee flavor than the flat white, even if made with the same coffee beans or the same espresso shots.

The former has a bolder taste because of the smaller milk-to-coffee ratio. Additionally, the density of the milk leads to a thicker, more bitter taste.

The milk is also not frothy or texturized, leading to a bolder, more robust flavor. 

On the other hand, the flat white contains rich, frothy milk and lots of foam. It is not unlike a latte in that it is much smoother and sweeter than a traditional espresso or cortado.

Because the milk heats up at higher temperatures, it becomes frothy, disrupting the density of the espresso.

These key distinctions are primarily due to a geographic difference in taste. Southern Europeans are likelier to drink bolder coffee, while Australians share their love of milk-diluted drinks with Western Europeans.

4. Texture

The texture of the cortado is entirely different from that of the flat white.

The cortado is denser and bolder, leading to a thick texture, not unlike Turkish or Vietnamese coffee. 

The small amount of milk dilutes the bitterness of the coffee, retaining the espresso’s rich texture and bright flavor.

The flat white has a smoother, gentler texture. Because the milk is frothed at high speeds and temperatures, it separates the espresso, leading to a lighter, cloud-like feel.

Additionally, the flat white has more foam, which contributes to the creaminess and decadence of the flat white.


Both the cortado and flat white are hugely popular drinks around the world.

Although they share many similarities, they also feature essential differences.

Consider trying each recipe before drawing your conclusions. Share this article with your friends to crowd-source opinions.

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