There are so many types of coffee drinks in the world that it’s hard to keep up with the trends. Yet, for the caffeine lovers out there, finding the perfect style is like a personal mission story. It’s out there, and even if you have to try them all to find it, the process will be undeniably worth the time. One contender for the list, and definitely worth a try is the cortado coffee drink style of beverage. This post explains all about it, how to make it yourself, and why it is worth exploring.
What is Cortado Coffee: An Origin Story
Cortado comes from the Spanish verb ‘cortar’ which means to cut. It got its name, therefore, by ‘cutting’ the roasted coffee with a splash of milk, or so the story goes. The barista supposedly wished to mix up the traditional style of drinking from the established espresso and added in some extra ingredients to do just that. Therefore, the etymology is sweet and simple. It is a Spanish variety of coffee that is just a variation of the famous espresso. It is assumed to have begun in the Basque region and remains a popular drink option in modern times.
Using the Right Bean in Your Cortado Coffee Drink
The cortado is typically a smaller cup of coffee, so if you’re searching for big caffeine hit you need to order a different drink. That being said, the flavor is still supreme, and much like an espresso, you will definitely get a jolt of vibrance from this beverage. So, it is important to get the bean right if you are making it at home.
- Use a rich flavor with dark qualities like nutty elements to really bring out the full potential of the cup.
- A bean that suits espresso will also suit corto coffee because of the two share similarities and origins.
- Avoid fruit flavors because they are more suited to black coffee, aka a drink without milk. Coffee cortado style does require milk so the two will clash and detract from the purpose of the experience.
Instructions on How to Make a Cortado Coffee Drink
Though it is typically found in cafes, it can be recreated at home. If you are trying out the recipe, there are some crucial steps to follow in order to get it right and avoid wasting good beans and your time.
Step One: Creating the Perfect Espresso Shot
When you set out to make a cortado, you are also engaging in the art of espresso. This is a skill coveted by many across the world. If you want to do it properly, the best advice is to acquire an espresso machine, but a coffee press or pot will do the job as well. When you have found the perfect bean, it needs grinding down, which can be done by hand, or the machine will do it for you. After grinding:
- Pack the granules so they are tight and not overflowing. Pat them down to make it smooth.
- Pull the appropriate lever/shot/button on your espresso machine and watch the magic happen (make sure you have a cup ready to catch the liquid).
If you don’t have a machine, a cafeteria will do the job just fine, minus the frothy top that characterizes the espresso.
Espresso Machine Buyer’s Guide
If you are considering buying an espresso machine to make the process easier and more authentic, there are a few must-read tips to browse through first.
- The Cleanability Factor! Cleaning your machines and equipment while making coffee is essential as, just like any other grown product, they do grow mold. If left dirty in between uses, not only will it depreciate the flavor experience, but it will also put your health at risk. A machine that boasts ease of cleaning would definitely be an advantage.
- Your Budget: Top-dollar machines don’t always make the best coffee, as sometimes you are just praying for a flashy brand name. The best machines are usually over the $200 mark, but if you are a daily drinker, this seems like a worthy investment.
- Accessibility: The machine has to be easy to use unless you feel like sifting through a book of complicated instructions and remembering multi-step processes before you unlock your coffee. Just like budget, don’t assume something is the best version simply because it has lots of fancy buttons and levers.
- Multi-purpose: Some espresso machines are just a feature on a larger, more general coffee device. If you opt for one of these styles, you get more choices and are not limited to just the one espresso option.
Step Two: Steaming the Milk
After the espresso shot has been prepared and is sat waiting, it’s time to steam the milk. This can be done with a milk steamer wand, which is arguably the most convenient option. Alternatively, you can heat the milk in a pan but there is no replicating the froth that a wand provides without it. So, if you are going to invest in anything in the name of the perfect mini cup of coffee, a milk steamer is the top recommendation. Hand frothers are a viable second best and can be used to effectively whisk the milk as it heats up to create a froth on top of the surface. The froth is the main event and enhances the cortado taste.
Step Three: Mixing the Elements
So, you have your espresso shot and the frothy milk is ready to go. What’s next? The fun part, of course! It’s time to mix them both together. This is the stage that will controversially require the most practice as you go through this process. If you pour the milk too fast, the espresso will be overwhelmed, and the flavor will be compromised. If you pour the milk too slowly, you risk losing the froth factor. Therefore, there is a balance to be struck. A steady hand with a steady flow will create the optimal cortado coffee. The ratio is considered as 1:1 here which means equal parts espresso vs. equal parts milk, so this is what we’re aiming for during this stage.
Step Four: Drink Up
Time will help, and so will practice, but after a few attempts, you will find yourself creating passable and delicious versions of the traditional origin drink. If it doesn’t quite work on the first attempt, don’t give up! It is a craft that needs honing, and all new skills take practice.
Cortado V.S. Popular Coffee Drinks
Let’s see how the cortado compares to popular coffee drinks, to highlight the distinctive differences between them.
A flat white is a plain black coffee with a splash of milk. There is no fanciness about it, it is pure and simple coffee, and also one of the most popular, quickest options around. For people who just need a straight coffee fix, flat whites are a great option. Unlike cortados, they are tall and not equal parts coffee to milk, with coffee being the dominant quantity. Flat whites tend to have lighter roasts as the coffee taste is important, but not as strong as other forms of the beverage.
The similarities between cortado and espresso have been discussed already, but the core takeaway is that espressos don’t tend to have milk whereas cortados, though loosely based on the aforementioned, do. In fact, it’s the whole reason behind how they got their name, so the legend says. A ‘corto’ of leche to cut through the sharpness of the coffee. Espressos are most commonly associated with a pick me up style drink, something to either get the morning going properly or a boost of energy for a particularly arduous task. They are supposed to have a strong flavor, and therefore favor a darker roast.
A macchiato is also worth mentioning, as it remains a popular drink globally and is on paper, practically identical to a cortado. It is a shot of espresso plus a dash of milk, so what’s the difference? Macchiatos do not have steamed froth, whereas cortados do. Therefore, the impact is different in the end result and the taste experience also differs.
Why is Coffee So Popular?
Plenty of people start their day with a hot cup of coffee, and there are lots of reasons why it is so popular. It stands to reason then that there are so many favored varieties around the world. The top reasons people state for loving coffee so much are as follows:
- It boosts focus and therefore essential cognitive patterns.
- A jolt of energy is desirable for starting the day off right.
- Sometimes, it can help when having to think about a task in times of sleep deficit.
- Some beans have antioxidants that support good health in the body and the mind.
- It tastes great.
Cortado coffee is a popular choice in the world of coffee lovers, and it’s easy to see why. The subtle yet contrasting flavors combined with the perfect style of milk steaming just make it extremely desirable in so many contexts. The smaller quantity means it is the best way to start the day without getting overwhelmed too.