In a nutshell, a cortado and a flat white are similar yet distinct coffee beverages. Both are espresso-based drinks that feature a smaller amount of milk compared to a latte. However, the texture and ratio of milk to coffee differ in each. With origins in Spain and Italy for the cortado, and Australia and New Zealand for the flat white, these beverages offer unique takes on the classic coffee and milk combination.
The Anatomy of a Cortado
The cortado hails from Spain and enjoys widespread popularity in Spanish-speaking countries. “Cortado” literally means “cut” in Spanish, signifying how the espresso is “cut” with an equal amount of steamed milk. The milk in a cortado is lightly textured, just enough to reduce the espresso’s acidity but not so much as to create frothy foam.
A cortado is an espresso “cut” with an equal amount of steamed milk.
Key Components of a Cortado:
- Espresso: One shot
- Steamed Milk: Equal part to espresso, typically around 150 ml
- Foam: Minimal, merely a thin layer
- Cup Size: Smaller, usually around 200-250 ml
The Anatomy of a Flat White
Originating from Australia and New Zealand, the flat white has become a staple in coffee shops across the UK. The drink consists of one or two shots of espresso and a larger volume of steamed milk. Unlike a cortado, the flat white features a thin layer of velvety microfoam, which gives the beverage a smoother, creamier texture.
A flat white offers a creamier texture due to its thin layer of microfoam.
Key Components of a Flat White:
- Espresso: One or two shots
- Steamed Milk: Approximately 200 ml
- Microfoam: Thin layer
- Cup Size: Generally around 250-330 ml
What’s the difference between a Cortado and a Latte?
The latte is another espresso-based drink that has gained worldwide recognition. Unlike a cortado, a latte comprises a larger volume of milk and a more generous layer of foam. Essentially, a latte is more diluted in terms of its coffee to milk ratio, making it a less intense beverage compared to both the cortado and the flat white.
Comparative Data: Cortado vs Latte vs Flat White
|Drink||Espresso||Steamed Milk||Foam||Cup Size|
|Cortado||One shot||150 ml||Minimal||200-250 ml|
|Flat White||One or two shots||200 ml||Thin layer of microfoam||250-330 ml|
|Latte||One or two shots||250-350 ml||Thicker layer||350-450 ml|
While the cortado, flat white, and latte may all appear to be similar espresso-based drinks, they are each distinguished by their ratio of milk to coffee, foam texture, and serving size. Whether you prefer the balanced intensity of a cortado, the creamy texture of a flat white, or the mellower, milkier latte, understanding these differences can enhance your coffee experience.