Beyond the Brew: What Is a Cortado?

Have you ever stumbled across the term “cortado” at your local coffee shop and wondered what exactly it is? Well, just like lattes, espressos and soy milk mochas with a pump of caramel, a cortado is a coffee order that has a dedicated (albeit underground) fan club. So if you want to find out why this Spanish coffee is one of the most popular drink orders in Latin America, keep scrolling.

So, what is a Cortado?

A cortado is a milk-based coffee that’s a strong competitor against popular frothy coffees like cappuccinos, flat whites and macchiatos. As a short-style coffee, they definitely still pack that caffeinated punch but the creaminess of milk mellows the richness and lets you savour the taste.

The best part about cortado coffee is that they’re incredibly simple to make. Essentially they’re just a 1:1 ratio of espresso and milk – specifically two shots of espresso. That basic brewing is what makes this specialist drink a favourite among baristas and those who appreciate a smooth yet intense coffee experience.

The origin of the Cortado

Travel back to Spain in the early 20th century and you’ll discover the popular “Café con Leche Pequeño”. This translates to “small coffee with milk” and was the first iteration of the cortado, with only one shot of espresso and equal steamed milk. It quickly became a staple in Spanish cafes as it offered people a quick yet satisfying coffee break that skipped the sipping time associated with lattes and cappuccinos.

What about the name, you ask? It’s actually similar to how the term “espresso” was coined as it reflects the very process it takes to make it. The word comes from the past tense Spanish verb “to cut”, referring to the method of cutting the espresso with milk, minimising the intensity of the coffee while retaining all that caffeinated goodness.

Why choose a Cortado?

The charm of the cortado is its simplicity and balance. It’s the perfect coffee choice for those who enjoy savouring the roast profile of the espresso but also want a touch of creamy smoothness. As we’ve mentioned, a cappuccino or latte, can be heavy on the milk and their larger size leads to longer leisurely sipping. The cortado, however, keeps things strong, simple and flavorful with just the right amount of milk to mellow the intensity.

Top tip: Opt for a cortado as a go-to for a mid-morning pick-me-up or an afternoon treat, as it offers you those rich notes of espresso with a creamy touch in a quick yet savoury burst.

How to make the perfect cortado

If you want to try this Spanish favourite, polish off your barista skills at home and make your very own cortado. Here’s our go-to guide:

  1. Brew your espresso: for the best results you want to use high-quality coffee like our Signature Whole Beans or if you’re in a pinch for time our Espresso Blend Coffee Pods are a must.
  2. Steam your milk: you want to make sure milk has a silky texture and is hot, not boiling (we find 65-70°C is perfect).
  3. Combine your cortado: start by pouring the milk into the espresso shot, creating a balanced blend where neither flavour overpowers the other.
  4. Serve, sip and savour immediately.

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