From cuisine to religion to language, you’ll see a lot of commonalities among Mediterranean people from Italy to Spain. Coffee is not an exception to this case also. Specifically Cortado and Latte. While you are familiar with the latter, you may not have heard about the former. Unless you’re a coffee connoisseur. Well, this is a chance for us all to learn about both of them. We’ll cover topics such as what are these drinks, how they’re made, what’s in them, and of course, how they compare with each other. In short, we’re going to dive into the Cortado VS. Latte debate.
What is Cortado?
A cortado is a crowd-favorite small-sized hot coffee drink. It has only espresso and warm milk. The ratio between the milk and espresso is 1:1. This quantity of milk primarily offers to cut the acidity of the espresso. It’s also crucial to note that the warm milk used in a cortado is steamed. But it doesn’t have as much foam or froth as other Italian coffee drinks.
Traditionally served in a small shot glass made of either glass or metal. It’s not associated with latte arts as lattes tend to be. Because cortado is about harmony between flavors.
Where Did Cortado Come From?
The word “cortado” arrives from the word “cortar”. It is a Spanish verb. Meaning “to cut”. The cortado is named so because the milk is there to cut down the bitterness of the espresso. Additionally, “cortado” is the past participle of “cortar”. Meaning both the dilution of espresso and coffee drinks.
It was born in the Basque region of Spain. Later it was spread throughout the Galicia region of northern Portugal, and then to Cuba. The Cubans sometimes call it Cordito.
The cortado carries the signature characteristic of most Spanish drinks – little or no foam. As the cortado does have little or no foam allows the milk to cut through the dense espresso as well as blend together as evenly as possible. The aftermath? A super delicious mixture of robust espresso with light, creamy milk.
How To Make Cortado?
In order to make a cortado, the most crucial piece of equipment you need is an espresso machine. Since espresso is the base of the drink. In addition to this, you’ll require your favorite milk of choice at the behest to add to the drink. Here are the how-to steps:
- Start by grinding, measuring, and tamping the espresso grounds
- Lock the portafilter filled with your espresso grounds into the espresso machine
- Extract (double shots) the espresso
- After extraction, steam the milk. We recommend whole milk. But you can also use oak, almond, coconut, etc.
- Slowly pour the steamed milk on the espresso. Keep the ratio of espresso to milk is 1:1 carefully, and voila!
If you have an espresso machine at home, try cortado. Because it’s a simplistic yet savory drink to add to your list. You can serve it in just a coffee mug or the traditional 5 – 7 oz. glass of your choosing.
As long as you keep the amount of milk and espresso right, you’re fine to get somewhat creative with your cortado by adding different flavorings.
Some exclusive cortado varients are Cortado Condensada or Bombon. It is made with condensed milk instead of regular milk. Another one is Leche y Leche. Meaning condensed milk and cream on top.
What is Latte?
It’s a classic coffee that’s built with 2 key ingredients – espresso and steamed milk. The word “Latte” hails from the Italian word – caffè e latte. It simply means “coffee and milk”.
The Latte. The King and Classic. Loved by many, yet truly studied by few. Thick and creamy, rich and robust espresso, a delicious combination that makes every coffee connoisseur’s mouth water.
The latte is 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and a 1/3, thin layer of microfoam on the surface. With this ratio, baristas can simply change the size of the latte when they order it. Although the traditional size of the latte ranges from 10 to 12 ounces.
Where Did Latte Come From?
People have been loving the coffee + milk combo since the 1600s. As time has passed, references and the name of the drink blend have evolved. In the late 1700s, coffee houses in Austria started serving the Kapuziner. It consisted of coffee with sugar, spices, and cream. This was the start of the classic Italian cappuccino.
The main reason for adopting the word “latte” is because it’s slang for “caffe latte”. AKA coffee and milk. Over time, “latte” began to refer to an espresso drink with milk. The rest is history!
Coffee was a part of breakfast in European households for years. But the latte drink is an American invention exclusively. Even throughout WWII, the word “Latte” could not be found on Italian or French cafe menus.
How To Make A Latte?
A homemade latte is super easy and takes under 10 minutes in total. You’ll require the following kitchen tools: Whisk, Saucepan, Mason jar, Coffee maker, and Measuring cup.
- Milk (4 ounces)
- Cocoa powder, nutmeg, or cinnamon to garnish
- Strongly brewed 2 ounces of ground coffee. Note: Any kind of milk will do
Using A Coffee Maker
Step 1: Make Your Strongly Brewed Coffee
Grind your espresso beans. Use a coffee-to-hot water ratio of 1:3 (for making a double shot/ 2 oz. of espresso). The less water, the stronger coffee gets.
- Pour 3 ounces of water into the coffee maker
- Add 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of ground coffee
- Power on your coffee maker
- When the espresso is finished, pour it back again and re-run it. It will give you a rich and flavorful espresso
- Pour 2 ounces or 2 shots of espresso into a cup/mug
Step 2: Steam The Milk
Heating milk increases the creamy texture and adds to the taste of the espresso. Its micro-foam bubbles provide the base for latte art – which is the most eye-catching difference in the latte vs cortado debate.
- Take 2 ounces of milk
- Use a small Saucepan
- Pour the milk into the saucepan. On low-medium heat place it on your stovetop
- Do not steam over 70 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, it will ruin the richness
- Keep the temperature between 55 – 62 degrees Celsius
- Rapidly whisk the milk. Until the small bubbles form on the sides
- Turn off the stove. Pour the milk on top of the espresso shot
Step 3: Top-Off The Latte With Milk Foam
Frothed milk creates a large fluffy mound on a latte. You can skip this if you like less foam. Either way, your latte will still taste better.
- Pour another 2 ounces of (steamed) milk into a mason jar. Cover it tightly. Make sure the milk fills only less than half of that jar
- As hard as you can, shake the jar. Do it for about a minute
- Once it’s ready, you’ll see the milk is frothy and has doubled in size
Finally, pour on your cup and enjoy!!
Using An Espresso Machine
Making The Espresso
- Fill the water tank with spring water or distilled water
- Power on the espresso machine to heat up the boiler. The machine will alert you when it’s ready
- Take 14 – 18 grams of coffee beans for making double shots or 7 – 9 grams for a single shot
- Grind the coffee beans finely. The grind size has to be smaller than the drip coffee
- Use the portafilter to tamp the ground coffee (apply 30 bars of pressure for tamping)
- Start brewing. Aim for at least 25 seconds for pulling the shot. Although it can vary by 5 seconds less or more
Milk Steaming With Steam Wand
- Pour 4 ounces of cold milk into the metal pitcher
- Turn on the steam wand
- Let some air in to avoid getting the milk too hot
- Let the wand tip touch the surface of the milk. Keep the pitcher a little angled against the wand
- Keep the wand’s whirlpool until it’s 55 degrees Celsius
- Now angle the pitcher a bit more and swirl it around slowly to incorporate the formed foam
- Once you see little bubbles stop the process
- It’s now ready to use. Simple pour or make latte art with it
Latte Art: Will You Give It A Go?
Many baristas seem to enjoy making lattes due to the celebrated practice of creating latte art. In the Latte VS. Cortado debate, this serves as the best distinction between the two. Cortado does not require milky artwork like latte art. Whereas, without latte art, a latte isn’t complete.
This art form requires the methodical pouring of steamed milk into espresso to make complex designs like heart shapes, leaves, flowers, etc. There’s even an international tournament for latte art. It occurs annually. In the coffee community, it’s an event that’s held in high regard.
The Core Factors – Cortado VS. Latte
The key difference between cortado and latte is their composition. The cortado, by contrast, is a more balanced drink. It has an even ratio between the espresso and steamed milk and that’s how it tastes (if you have not added any flavoring).
A latte has a coffee-to-milk ratio as high as 1:6. Also, lattes often have extra pinches of chocolate or cocoa dust for sweetness.
A cortado weighs 3 to 4 ounces. With 2 ounces of espresso mixed with 1 to 2 ounces of steamed milk. Topped with little or no foam. So this is a small drink. Served in a rather small shot glass.
On the other hand, lattes have 2 ounces of espresso. It gets topped with 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk. Lattes have heavy dosing of microfoam that gives them their signature texture. Thus, a cortado is about half the size of a latte.
Cortado Is Healthier
Most cafés will use whole or 2% milk. That means, for a cortado, you are getting 16 to 36 calories versus the 93+ calories from a latte.
Cortado Is Stronger As Well
A double shot of cortado carries 185 mg of caffeine content. Whereas, standard double shots of latte have 150 mg of caffeine content in them.
In conclusion, a cortado is a smaller drink with a stronger coffee flavor. The Latte is a significantly large and milk-forward espresso drink.
So, for cortado vs. latte – regardless of which drink you go for, you are looking at a milky brew with a healthy dosage of espresso at the bottom. The sweet version of the difference between cortado and latte is that cortado is a smaller, stronger coffee drink and the latte is a significantly milk-based larger drink. Hopefully, our quick guide can assist you to make your mind up the next time you go to your local coffee shop.
Enjoy Your Coffee!