If you are looking for a beverage to start your day off with that is full of flavor and will give you lots of energy, you might have come across the Cortado. But what exactly is a Cortado coffee? If you are interested in brewing your own coffee at home and want to give this one a try, it’s a good idea to start out by getting familiar with what this coffee is, where it comes from, what it tastes like, and what makes it different from other coffee types like the espresso or lungo.
What is Cortado Coffee?
What is a cortado? There isn’t a short answer when it comes to explaining just what a cortado coffee is. It’s actually a variety of different drinks depending on who you ask. Sometimes a latte or flat white is considered to be a cortado, while other baristas consider it to be an espresso shot with a small amount of steamed milk added. While it might just be a lot of different things, one thing is for sure – a cortado is a great, tasty way to get your day off to the best start.
The main thing that most people will agree on when it comes to exactly what a cortado is, is that it is espresso with milk added. In the US, a cortado is typically served in a special glass that has a metal ring on the base and a handle made from metal wire. It is served with a 1:1 ratio of milk and espresso with a bit of milk foam added on the top.
However, in Spain, you’re going to get something else if you ask for a cortado. Here, this drink is typically served with less milk than espresso. It’s often a single shot of espresso with around 1:05 ratio of espresso to milk, also with a small amount of milk foam on the top. But while these are probably the two most common versions of the cortado that you will find, there are several more depending on where you go. Chances are, you may have already had a cortado without even realizing, since it does go by different names depending on the area. For example, if you have had one on the west coast, it would have been called a Gibraltar.
Where Does the Cortado Originate?
A cortado is a Spanish drink that gets its name from the word ‘cortar’, which means ‘to cut’. It is named this due to the fact that the milk is used to ‘cut’ the espresso to achieve a milder flavor. The cortado was first introduced in the Basque County of Spain; however, it began to gain more popularity and eventually spread to other regions of Spain including Cuba and Portugal’s Galicia region, from which it spread throughout the rest of the world.
Cortado vs. Other Coffee
How does the cortado compare to other types of coffee drinks? When it comes to the strength and the quantity of espresso and milk used, a cortado would probably fall somewhere between a short macchiato and a cappuccino. The differences are mainly with the amount of milk used, as a cappuccino has more milk than the cortado and a macchiato has less.
One of the unique things about the cortado compared to other coffee drinks with milk is that it does not have foam, which means that the espresso and milk combine, creating a very balanced drink that is unique and smooth on the palate.
Cortado vs. Cappuccino
Both espresso and milk are used to make a cappuccino and a cortado. However, the way that the milk is prepared for both drinks is different. For a cappuccino, you will have a double shot of espresso that is followed by an equal amount of steamed milk, before adding an equal amount of milk foam, with a 1:1:1 ratio of all three of the ingredients that are used. On the other hand, to make a cortado, all you need is a shot of espresso with steamed milk added, using a 1:1 ratio, so it is always served in a small cup.
Cortado vs. Latte
Like a cappuccino and a cortado, a latte is also made with espresso and steamed milk. However, the main difference here is the quantity of the milk and how it is heated. Latte drinks actually have much more steamed milk compared to a cappuccino, and unlike the cappuccino, it is not a layered drink either. To make a latte, the steamed milk is combined right into the espresso to achieve a more blended flavor. The steamed milk also has a higher foam due to using more heat. On the other hand, there is a lot less foam with a cortado since the milk is very lightly steamed.
Cortado vs. Flat White
Many people get a flat white and a cortado confused as they are both fairly small drinks that are made using a combination of espresso and milk. However, these two drinks are quite different. Mainly, the cortado is an even smaller drink compared to the flat white, and a flat white is more like a small latte as the milk is textured, meaning that it has a much thicker and creamier taste compared to a cortado and is usually hotter. Typically, a cortado is made with a double shot of espresso and 2oz of steamed milk, while a flat white, on the other hand, is made with a double shot of espresso with 4oz of steamed, textured milk with a much thicker foam.
What Do You Need to Make a Cortado?
Since there are only two ingredients required for the cortado recipe, it’s not difficult to make a cortado. However, when it comes to equipment, you are going to need an espresso machine to pull the espresso base of your drink, and a milk frother or steam wand to make sure that your steamed milk is of the right consistency. Pull a double shot of espresso and lightly steam 2oz of milk, before mixing the milk into the coffee. Traditionally, a cortado is served in a glass or metal cup rather than an espresso cup or a standard coffee cup.
Making a Cortado at Home
How to make a cortado:
If you like brewing your own coffee at home and want to get started with making your own cortado for in the morning, the first thing to do is make sure that you have all the right equipment and ingredients. Start with high-quality coffee beans, which should be ground to a fine consistency before creating the puck in your espresso machine. Then, pull a double shot of espresso into a four ounce cup. Steam four ounces of milk, since two ounces is more likely to burn. Pour two ounces of the steamed milk into your double espresso shot, and your cortado is ready to drink.
How to Drink a Cortado
Once you have brewed a tasty cortado, it’s time to sit down and enjoy it. Like a lot of coffee drinks, the cortado is best enjoyed when you slow down, so find somewhere comfortable to sit down and relax while you drink your coffee. Take your first sip slowly and rest for a few moments before taking the next, so that you can fully enjoy the flavor of the coffee.
What Does a Cortado Taste Like?
A cortado is a unique coffee drink in that it tastes both strong and soft at the same time, due to the equal amount of espresso and milk that it contains. There is just enough milk to add a silky, smooth taste to the drink while you can still very much taste the powerful espresso kick. The perfect balance between the two ingredients is what separates the cortado from other coffee drink options. For this reason, it’s a great espresso drink to choose if you want something that’s a little less ordinary.
Why Does Milk Matter in a Cortado?
When it comes to how your cortado is going to taste, milk can be considered to be the most important ingredient. When preparing milk for a cortado, it should be steamed lightly, rather than heated. While the exact amount of milk and ratio of milk to coffee in a cortado does vary based on the region or the barista who is preparing the drink, the one thing that everybody agrees on is how much milk in a cortado; only a small amount is used no matter the variation. One of the main characteristics of the milk in a cortado is that it gets a caramelized flavor that milk gets when it is steamed without foam and bubbles, and just a tiny layer of foam forming at the top.
In summary, a cortado coffee is a variant of the espresso that originated in Spain, with its name literally translating to ‘to cut’. The name comes from the milk that cuts through the espresso to enhance the drink’s richness and reduce acidity levels. The form and amount of the milk that is used in this drink is what makes it stand out from other coffee beverages.