A cortado is a unique and popular coffee beverage that you might have seen buzzing around coffee shops lately. In a nutshell, a cortado is an espresso-based drink made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, creating a perfect balance between bold coffee flavors and the creamy texture of milk.

The word “cortado” means “cut” in Spanish, as the espresso in this drink is cut with steamed milk. This delightful coffee has its origins in Spain, but its popularity has spread across the globe, with regional variations adding a touch of local flair. Whether you’re a seasoned espresso aficionado or a curious coffee explorer, getting to know the cortado might just lead you to your next beloved beverage.

Origins of a Cortado

Spanish Influence

The Cortado has its roots in Spain, specifically the Basque Country. The name “Cortado” is derived from the Spanish verb ‘cortar,’ which means to cut or dilute. The idea of a Cortado is to “cut” the strong taste of espresso by adding warm milk to it. This combination became popular in other areas of Spain and later in Northern Portugal.

The Cortado also shares similarities with the cortadito from Cuba, which is made with a 1:1 ratio of espresso to warm milk as well. The main difference between the two is that the Cuban cortadito typically has sugar added to the espresso shot.

Gibraltar and San Francisco Variations

As the Cortado became more popular across the globe, new variations started to emerge. One such variation is the Gibraltar, which takes its name from the type of glassware used to serve the drink. This variation originated in San Francisco, California, at coffee roasters such as the Blue Bottle Coffee Company and Ritual Coffee Roasters.

The Gibraltar is quite similar to a Cortado in terms of recipe and proportions, but is usually served in a specific type of Libbey Glass Company glassware also called “Gibraltar.” This unique serving style, along with San Francisco’s thriving coffee culture, helped popularize the drink both in its home city and beyond.

So, when you’re in the mood for a balanced coffee beverage with Spanish roots, you might want to give the Cortado a try!

Making a Cortado

Recipe Details

A cortado is an espresso-based coffee drink with a small amount of warm milk, which cuts the bitterness and intensity of the espresso. To make a cortado, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Freshly ground coffee beans
  • Warm steamed milk

The ideal ratio for a cortado is 1:1, meaning equal parts espresso and steamed milk. For a standard serving, you’ll need:

  • A double shot of espresso (about 2 ounces)
  • Two ounces of steamed milk

Brewing Techniques

To make a cortado, follow these steps:

  1. Grind your coffee beans: Use a grinder to get a fine, even grind that’s perfect for brewing espresso.
  2. Prepare your espresso: Using an espresso machine, a Moka pot, or an AeroPress, brew a double shot of espresso (about two ounces).
  3. Steam your milk: Heat the milk to a temperature of around 150°F (65°C) and create a slight foam. Avoid creating too much foam, as you want the milk to be smooth and velvety.
  4. Assemble your cortado: Pour the double shot of espresso into a glass or cup. Slowly pour the steamed milk over the espresso, using a spoon to hold back the foam if needed. Your cortado is now ready to enjoy!

Latte Art in Cortado

While latte art is not essential for a cortado, it can add a touch of flair and elegance to your coffee. To create latte art in your cortado, follow these tips:

  • Practice frothing: Achieving the right milk consistency is key for creating latte art. Work on frothing milk to a silky, velvety texture with just a hint of foam.
  • Choose the right cup: Latte art is easier to create in a cup with a rounded base and a slightly flared top. This design helps the milk flow smoothly and integrate with the espresso.
  • Pour slowly: As you pour the steamed milk into the espresso, make sure to do it slowly and steadily. This allows the milk to form patterns on the surface of the espresso.
  • Experiment with designs: From simple hearts to intricate rosettas, there are many latte art designs to try. Practice different techniques and find the ones that work best for you and your cortado.

Variations and Comparisons

Cortado vs Other Coffee Drinks

When it comes to comparing a cortado with other popular espresso drinks, understanding the differences in milk content and texture is key. Here’s a quick rundown of some popular coffee drinks and how they differ from a cortado:

  • Latte: This drink has more milk than a cortado and is commonly served in larger sizes. The texture of the milk in a latte is typically more frothy, giving it a lighter feel.
  • Cappuccino: Similar to a latte, a cappuccino has more milk than a cortado. However, the milk is frothier and usually topped with a layer of foam.
  • Flat White: Originating from Australia, this drink has a similar serving size and milk-to-espresso ratio as a cortado but has a smoother, velvety milk texture.
  • Macchiato: Unlike the cortado, which has equal parts espresso and steamed milk, an Italian macchiato has more espresso and just a dollop of milk foam.

The Cortadito: A Cuban Variation

A noteworthy variation of the cortado is the Cuban cortadito. Unlike the traditional cortado that uses just steamed milk, the cortadito adds sweetened condensed milk to the mix, creating a sweeter and sometimes thicker beverage.

This Cuban staple is similar in taste to a café solo corto but has the addition of rich, sweet milk.

Trends and Adaptations

As with many coffee drinks, the cortado has seen its fair share of adaptations. Here are a few notable trends:

  • Gibraltar: Hailing from California, this version of a cortado is served in a small, glass tumbler called a Gibraltar.
  • Piccolo Latte: This Australian variation of the cortado uses textured milk, similar to a flat white, but is served in a smaller glass.
  • Iced Cortado: As the name suggests, this trendy adaptation of the cortado features a refreshing combination of espresso, milk, and ice.
  • Nespresso and Keurig Cortados: Thanks to modern technology, you can now enjoy a cortado at home using your Nespresso or Keurig machine.

While some adaptations involve experimenting with different milks like vanilla, chocolate, or mocha, they all start with the core concept of the cortado, which is an equal balance of espresso and milk. So next time you want to change up your coffee routine, why not give these variations a try?

Understanding the Cortado Experience

Flavor Profile

The cortado is generally less acidic due to the presence of steamed milk, which tones down the bitterness of the espresso.

It is an ideal choice if you’re looking for a coffee variation with a smooth, full-bodied taste profile.

Calorie Count

The calorie count in a cortado mostly comes from the type of milk used. With whole milk, the calorie count is higher compared to using non-dairy alternatives such as oat milk. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the cortado is typically served in smaller sizes (4 oz), so the overall calorie count remains relatively low.

Here’s a breakdown of calories for different milk options:

  • Whole milk: 60 calories
  • Dairy alternatives (e.g., oat milk): 40 calories

Expanding your Coffee Palate

A cortado is an excellent choice to expand your coffee palate, especially if you’re more familiar with traditional Italian or Portuguese coffee drinks. The balance between coffee and milk creates a unique flavor and texture that provides a different experience compared to classic options like latte or cappuccino.

When it comes to pairings, the cortado’s versatility allows it to be enjoyed with a variety of foods. A cortado can be a great complement to savory dishes, as well as sweeter treats, like pastry or biscuits. Be creative and find the food pairings that best suit your taste buds.

The cortado offers a delightful experience for both coffee enthusiasts as well as casual drinkers. With its balanced flavor profile, relatively low calorie count, and versatility in food pairings, it is a worthwhile addition to any coffee connoisseur’s repertoire. So, next time you find yourself at a coffee shop, give the cortado a try and enjoy the unique experience it has to offer.

Written By Roger Stanley

Behind AFullMug is Roger Stanley, a coffee enthusiast whose journey into the world of coffee began behind the counter of a local coffee shop – several years later and here we are!

We want to remind our readers that the articles or content found on afullmug.com do not constitute nor replace professional health or dietary advice. The information provided on our website is purely educational and informational, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed dietician, medical practitioner, or nutritionist.