What is a Cortado?

cortado coffee: double ristretto, milk and milk foam

An espresso steamed with a creamy touch of milk and a thin layer of frothed milk on top – that’s how a perfect cortado could be summarized. But how exactly is a cortado made, and what’s the secret behind this coffee?

What is cortado coffee?

Cortado is a short milk-based beverage originating from Spain, which gained worldwide recognition with the rise of specialty coffee. Some consider it similar to the Italian piccolo latte, but cortado contains even less milk and features a more distinctively roasted coffee.

Others claim it’s flat white with half the ingredients, but that’s also a misconception. The cortado doesn’t consist of double espresso shots; it uses double ristretto shots.

Regarding size, Cortado coffee can vary. Some places use a 1:1 ratio of coffee to milk, while others go for 1:0.5 or even 1:2. If you’re looking for a milk-based coffee bursting with flavor, we suggest the latter option.

A cortado is a ristretto-based drink, typically around 3.4 to 4.1 fluid ounces (100-120 ml) with added milk. Most often, it’s prepared using a lighter roast coffee, allowing a balanced amount of milk to complement the strong, distinct espresso taste while maintaining the coffee’s flavor.

It’s important to understand that a cortado is not just a thick layer of frothed milk added to espresso. The drink consists of a delicate layer of milk cream, about the thickness of your finger, that elegantly covers the well-crafted cortado. 

Cortado coffee is traditionally served in a glass cup, highlighting the beautiful layering effect created by the milk.

How many oz is a cortado?

A cortado is typically around 4 to 4.5 ounces in size. It’s a nice little coffee treat that’s just the right amount to savor without feeling overwhelmed. If you want to balance espresso and milk, cortado coffee is the perfect choice!

What is a cortado at Starbucks?

As Starbucks says: Two ristretto shots topped with warm, silky milk served in a 6oz cup that gives you the needed coffee kick for your day. 

It’s like a mini latte with equal parts espresso and steamed milk. Perfect for when you want that rich coffee taste without drowning it in milk. So, if you’re looking for a small, balanced cup of goodness, the Starbucks Cortado is where it’s at!

How to make a cortado coffee?

A fine cortado starts with a delicious ristretto. This could be a shot from an automatic coffee maker or a coffee capsule machine. 

Achieving the right milk texture is crucial for obtaining the perfect taste experience. If you don’t have the tools to steam milk at home, alternative methods exist.

Check out how to froth milk at home

So, for a heavenly cortado, you need a perfect ristretto and creamy milk.

  • Glass cup (it looks best in that, showcasing the milk layering)
  • Approximately 1oz of coffee (30 ml) 
  • 2.4-2.7oz of steamed creamy milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons of thick milk foam (you can skip this according to taste, but it makes it look appealing!)

Cortado recipe step by step

  1. Brew a double ristretto using your espresso machine or coffee maker. 
  2. Start steaming the milk using the steam wand or milk frother. The goal is to create a creamy and velvety milk texture. Heat the milk to around 150°F (65-70°C).
  3. Pour the Milk: Gently tap the bottom of the steaming pitcher on a flat surface to remove any large bubbles. Slowly pour the steamed milk into the espresso cup or glass cup. Aim for a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of espresso to milk, depending on your preference. 
  4. Create the Milk Cream: Use a spoon to hold back the milk foam as you pour to achieve the traditional cortado look. This will allow a thin layer of milk cream, about the thickness of your finger, to form on top of the espresso.
  5. Serve and enjoy: Your cortado is ready! Sniff it, slurp it – and then, you can snuggle.

How to drink cortado?

Sipping a cortado is about enjoying the harmonious blend of espresso and steamed milk. Take a moment to appreciate the flavors! No need to rush.

You can also use a teaspoon to eat the cream first and then drink the coffee.

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