Cortado vs Flat White: What’s the Difference?

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By: Tom Valenti


A double espresso shot is perfect for your daily caffeine fix. There are many such caffeine-infused beverages to kickstart the day with – flat white and cortado being two of the classier versions of espresso drinks. So one can easily be confused with the other. This raises the following question, Cortado vs Flat White – what’s the difference?

Cortado is a relatively more recent addition to the grand, wide world of coffee. It’s smaller in size yet much stronger in comparison to a flat white. Flat white, on the other hand, is the smaller version of a latte, thus it contains textured milk (a thicker and hotter beverage indeed). But cortado has lightly steamed milk, which explains the stronger taste.

Now if you want to dive deeper, here’s all you need to know!

What Is Cortado Coffee? (The Cortado Recipe)

What Is Cortado Coffee

It’s a coffee drink made using lightly steamed milk. The milk here has no foam or froth, so it isn’t texturized. Rather the steamed milk minimizes coffee acidity and forms a micro-foam at the top with the espresso. This is what gives the rich-flavored beverage such a strong taste.

Coffee cut with milk – that’s a cortado coffee. Equals part espresso (double shot) and equal part steamed milk.

What Is Flat White Coffee? (The Flat White Recipe)

What Is Flat White Coffee?

Micro-foamed milk that’s poured over either a double or single shot of espresso – that’s a flat white coffee. This micro-foamed milk is velvety, smooth, and creamy steamed milk. The steaming of the milk and then the pouring of the milk, both are very important steps when it comes to preparing your flat white.

Cortado vs Flat White: What’s the Difference?

1. Taste and Texture

The size of a cortado is smaller since it’s got a lesser quantity of milk – the coffee-to-milk ratio is 1:1. Flat white, on the other hand, is larger with a coffee-to-milk ratio of 1:2. Therefore, cortado tastes stronger in comparison to a flat white. But it’s flat white that has a smoother texture because of the micro-foamed milk, which lends a slightly heavier and silky mouthfeel as well.

One other thing is that flat white is a hotter coffee drink because heat is needed to create the micro-foam.

2. Espresso Shot

Both coffee beverages include espresso. But what differs is the type of beans used for espresso. Cortade coffee is all-Robusta coffee beans. These beans are dark roasted to offer a more intense, bolder flavor.

As for flat white, any kind of espresso beans will do. More often than not, these are Arabica coffee beans. As for the roast type, any roast works.

3. Milk

Steamed milk makes a grand appearance in both cortado and flat white, unlike Americano coffee that doesn’t include milk. What really differs is the amount and texture of milk.

Steamed milk but not textured milk, and no milk foam either (or very little of it), is used for making a cortado. The milk is heated at a lower temperature, then espresso is cut, and that’s about it. This means equal part milk and equal part espresso.

In the case of a flat white, the coffee-to-milk ratio is 2:1. And the milk is textured (foam or no foam depends on you) to produce that sumptuous creamy, velvety sensation. Flat white, because of its larger portion size, has a more luxurious feel and sweeter taste.

4. Caffeine

If both cortado and flat white are prepared with a single (or double) shot of espresso, then the level of caffeine in both is the same. But then keep in mind that the amount of caffeine also differs from one type of coffee to another. However, both beverages will contain the same level of caffeine when the same kind of coffee shots are added.

5. Calories

Now it’s only logical to assume that, since flat white consists of more milk content, the number of calories it has is also greater.

Starbucks DrinkNo. of Calories
Cortado with skimmed milk44 calories
Flat White with skimmed milk63 calories
Cortado with whole milk72 calories
Flat White with whole milk108 calories

6. Size

A major difference between the two espresso beverages is that one is smaller than the other. Cortado is the smaller one as it has less milk than a flat white. In a cortado, you add equal part espresso and equal part milk. For a flat white, you double the quantity of milk, which is poured over one part espresso.

How to Order a Cortado at Starbucks?

It’s simple – just ask for a single or double shot of espresso with an equal part of lightly steamed milk added on top.

Is a Cortado Just a Small Latte?

Where a cortado is one part espresso and one part steamed milk, a latte is one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk. Cortado can have a single or double shot of espresso while latte is made only with a single shot.

What Makes a Cortado Special?

The cortado is made with equal part espresso and equal part steamed milk. The special feature here is that the espresso is “cut” with the milk (cortado in Spanish means cut). A cortado will always have equal part espresso and equal part milk, even if that means double shots of espresso with two ounces of milk.

Cortado or Flat White, Which One Should You Pick?

Why not try both just to see what you like more? If you ask me, I’d pick Cortado for mornings when I just to drink stronger coffee. But flat white has its own special appeal because of the more luxurious and velvety mouthfeel.

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Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

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