American coffee options are always evolving and we see European specialties popping up in our coffee shops all the time. You’ve probably tried the Italian latte, with its creamy texture and fluffy milk foam, but have you sampled the tasty Spanish cortado yet?
But wait, what’s the difference between a latte and a cortado? Let’s consider flavor, origins, and serving styles to resolve this cortado vs latte question.
What is a Cortado?
You may be surprised by the simplicity of a cortado. It’s made up of one-part espresso and one-part steamed milk.
The History of the Cortado
When you’re considering the cortado vs latte question, you might want to know where each of these tasty coffee drinks originated.
The name “cortado” comes from the Spanish word “cortar,” which means “to cut.” The idea is that a little bit of steamed milk is used to “cut” the acidity of the espresso.
The cortado is most popular today in Spain and Portugal, but it’s consumed throughout Latin America. It is traditionally an afternoon drink because it is neither too hot nor too cold.
If you see the word “Gibraltar” printed on the menu at your coffee stop, you’re looking at another form of the cortado. A Gibraltar is a double-shot of espresso with either one or two ounces of steamed milk placed in a glass tumbler.
The New York Times says Blue Bottle is the first coffee shop to formulate a cortado-like drink in the US in 2005, so cortado lovers can thank them for introducing the drink to America.
Serving Up a Cortado
Before you choose your personal favorite when it comes to cortado vs latte, here are some more things you should know about cortado:
- A cortado is traditionally served in a small cortado glass. A traditional cortado glass features a metal ring at the base and a metal wire handle. Even Starbucks only serves cortados in their “short” coffee cups!
- The ratio of coffee to milk in a cortado can run between 1:1 and 1:2, but purists generally stick with the former.
- The steamed milk is added after the espresso. It should be added when it is warm, but not hot.
- There will probably be a layer of foam gracing your cortado, but a small one! Cortados can even be served without foam altogether.
What is a Latte?
A latte is undoubtedly a popular drink – who can deny its seductive, creamy sweetness?
The latte is an Italian drink that is served quite warm. A café latte is one-part espresso and three-parts milk, and don’t forget the added sweeteners.
The latte has recently become popular for its “latte art,” where aesthetic designs are formed using the microfoam. Go ahead, take a look online – you can find pirate ships, swans, and even faces drawn in latte foam.
Did you know you can sign up for a latte art class? Important life skills, you know.
The History of the Latte
Café latte is Italian, and you can probably guess how it translates: “milk coffee.” If you ever visit a true Italian coffee house, be sure to ask for a “café latte” rather than just a “latte”—if you ask for a latte, you’ll be walking out of that coffee shop with a glass of milk.
The idea of mixing milk and coffee probably originated somewhere in Europe, although we can’t be sure where. The latte we know and love, with a shot or more of espresso, is America’s spin on coffee and milk.
Serving Up a Latte
How do you describe preparing a cortado vs latte? Here’s how to serve up a café latte:
- Pour your espresso into a cup.
- Using a spoon to hold back the milk foam, pour your desired amount of warm milk into the coffee.
- Finally, pile milk foam on top of your latte until you’re satisfied!
Don’t forget to froth your milk for your latte, instead of simply steaming it like you would for your cortado!
Comparing a Cortado vs. Latte
Overall, you can easily summarize the cortado vs latte debate by saying a cortado has less milk than a latte, and doesn’t have that thick, frothy, top layer of milk foam.
Here’s a little more detail on flavor, serving size, and it more when it comes to the cortado vs latte question:
|Composition||1-part espresso, 1-2-parts milk||1-part espresso, 3-parts milk|
|Flavor||Bold and creamy||Mild and creamier|
|Serving size||Small serving||Large serving|
|Milk||Steamed, no foam||Steamed and textured, with foam|
|Traditional serving container||Glass tumbler with metal base and handle||Ceramic coffee cup|
|Where to find it||Spain and Latin America, and a few select US coffee shops||Any coffee shop in the United States|
A cortado is simple with no added sugar. A cortado could become your go-to drink if you’re searching for a healthier caffeine boost that’s never too hot or too cold.
A latte is a warm morning treat with plenty of creaminess. If you’re seeking comfort from your coffee, you can’t go wrong with the easily prepared latte.
So, what’s your personal answer to the cortado vs. latte question?
- Have you ever wondered what the difference between a flat white and a cappuccino is?
- How much coffee is in a shot of espresso?
- What is matcha tea and why does it make a mean latte?