Cortado

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A cortado is a coffee beverage traditionally made by combining equal parts of espresso and steamed milk. The term “cortado” comes from the Spanish word “cortar,” which means “to cut,” and refers to the fact that the espresso is “cut” with a small amount of milk.

Key Takeaways:

  • A cortado is a Spanish coffee drink with a shot of espresso and a small amount of frothed milk.
  • It has a strong espresso flavor and creamy texture.
  • A cortado is usually made with equal parts espresso and milk and served in a small (6-ounce) cup.
  • The espresso’s quality determines a cortado’s flavor, so it’s important to use high-quality espresso.
Cortado in a glass
Cortado | Photo by Lex Sirikiat on Unsplash

Understanding Cortados

A traditional cortado is a coffee beverage mixing equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk. They’re often served in small glasses or cups and are known for their balanced flavor and smooth texture.

The combination of the strong, bold flavor of espresso with the creamy, slightly sweet taste of steamed milk results in a coffee drink that is both rich and refreshing.

Cortados are popular in many countries around the world, especially in Spain, South America, and parts of Europe. They are often served in coffee shops and cafes and are a popular choice for coffee drinkers who want a more nuanced and complex flavor profile than what is typically found in a standard cup of drip coffee.

The origins of the Cortado

The history of the cortado is closely tied to the history of espresso itself, which was developed in Italy in the early 20th century. Espresso quickly gained popularity in Spain, and the cortado became a popular variation on the traditional espresso drink. It was initially served in small, ceramic cups called “chiquitos” and was often consumed as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

An outdoor cafe in Spain
An outdoor cafe in Spain | Photo by Lex Sirikiat on Unsplash

Over time, the cortado has become a staple of Spanish coffee culture and can now be found in coffee shops and cafes throughout the country. It is also popular in other parts of Europe, as well as in the United States and other parts of the world. While it is often served in a small, 6-ounce glass or ceramic cup (like these), the size and strength can vary depending on the preferences of the individual coffee shop or barista.

How to make a Cortado

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make a cortado:

  1. Start by brewing a shot of high-quality espresso. This is the most critical step, as the flavor of the cortado will depend mainly on the quality of the espresso.
  2. While the espresso is brewing, heat up a small amount of milk in a frothing pitcher. Aim for around 2-3 ounces of milk, depending on your cup size and preference.
  3. Once the milk is hot, use a frothing wand to create a smooth and creamy foam. The goal is to create a velvety texture with tiny, consistent bubbles.
  4. Pour the brewed espresso into a small, 6-ounce glass or ceramic cup (like these on Amazon).
  5. Add the frothed milk to the cup, pouring it slowly and aiming for even distribution.
  6. Serve immediately, as it is best enjoyed when the espresso and milk are hot.

It is essential to use high-quality espresso and milk for the best flavor. The espresso should be freshly ground and brewed using a high-quality machine, and the milk should be fresh and well-steamed. Steaming the milk until it is smooth and frothy is essential, as it helps to create a creamy texture and a balanced flavor.

The differences between a Cortado and other coffee drinks

The cortado is similar to other popular coffee drinks, such as a latte and a cappuccino, but there are some key differences between these drinks.

Cortado vs. Latte

One of the main differences between a cortado and a latte is the ratio of espresso to milk. A cortado is typically made with a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, while a latte is made with more milk and a smaller amount of espresso. This means that a cortado has a stronger espresso flavor than a latte and is generally considered a more intense and bold coffee drink.

Cortado vs. Cappuccino

A cortado is also different from a cappuccino in terms of the amount of foam. A cappuccino is made with a shot of espresso, a small amount of steamed milk, and a large dollop of foam. The foam is usually stiff and firm and is often used to create decorative patterns on the drink’s surface. In contrast, a cortado is typically served with a small amount of foam on top, and the foam is usually much softer and more velvety in texture.

Cappuccino in a glass
A cappuccino has a lot of foam | Source

Cortado vs. Flat White

The main difference between a cortado and a flat white is the ratio of espresso to milk and the texture of the milk. A cortado has a stronger espresso flavor and a velvety texture, while a flat white is slightly creamier and more velvety due to the microfoam milk.

Cortado vs. Macchiato

The main difference between a cortado and a macchiato is the amount of milk and texture. A cortado is made with a small amount of warm, frothed milk, while a macchiato is made with a small amount of foam or steamed milk. A cortado has a creamy, velvety texture, while a macchiato has a more textured, foam-like texture.


FAQ

Are Cortados sweet?

cortado

Cortados are not sweet and are primarily known for their bold espresso flavor. They may add a small amount of sweetener, but this varies by coffee shop and customer preference.

What kind of glass is a Cortado served in?

cortado glass

A cortado is typically served in a small, 6-ounce glass or ceramic cup. The size and shape of the cup can vary depending on the individual coffee shop or barista, but the goal is to create a balance between the espresso and milk and to allow the flavors to develop fully.

How do you pronounce Cortado?

Cortado is pronounced “kor-tah-doh” in Spanish. The stress is on the second syllable, “tah.” The “c” is pronounced as an “s” sound, and the “r” is rolled slightly. The “o” is pronounced as an “oh” sound, and the “d” is pronounced as a “doh” sound. The “a” is pronounced as an “ah” sound, and the “t” is pronounced as a “tah” sound. The final “o” is pronounced as an “oh” sound.

Can Cortados be iced?

Yes, cortados can be served iced. To make an iced cortado, brew espresso and pour it over ice. Then, add a small amount of cold milk or milk alternative and stir to combine. Alternatively, you can make a cold foam cortado by frothing cold milk or milk alternative and adding it to the iced espresso.

Conclusion

Overall, a Cortado is a delicious and unique coffee drink that is worth trying for any coffee lover. It is a perfect balance of espresso and milk, offering a bold and satisfying flavor, unlike any other coffee drink.

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