Cortado: Overview, Steps to Make It, and How to Order It at Starbucks

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Cortados are a happy balance of espresso and milk. Here’s everything you need to know to order and make this drink at home.

Two cortado drinks in glass cups.

What is a Cortado?

  • A cortado is a drink made with equal parts milk and espresso.
  • Cortados are served with a double shot of espresso and 2 ounces of milk.
  • In Spanish, the word “cortado” means “cut.” This refers to the milk “cutting through” the espresso.
  • The milk in a cortado is thinner and very lightly textured, similar to that of a latte rather than a cappuccino. 
  • This drink is also known as a gibraltar—this refers to a small glass cup that many use to serve cortados.
  • Most espresso-based drinks come from traditional Italian drinks but cortados are one of the only mainstream espresso drinks that are Spanish in origin.

Learn more about other popular cafe drinks — check out my guides on latte, cappuccino, cafe au lait, flat white, americano, and macchiato.

Difference Between Cortado and Latte

Espresso
Cortados are made with 2 shots of espresso. Lattes are made with 1-2 shots of espresso. 

Milk
Cortados have lightly textured milk, about 2 ounces. Lattes can have anywhere from 8 ounces of milk or more. Both cortados and lattes have a thin layer of microfoam on top.

Drink size
Cortados are served in 4 ounce cups—sometimes in clear rocks glasses called a gibraltar. Lattes are served in cups that are 8 ounces or bigger. 

Difference Between Cortado and Cappuccino

Espresso
Cortados have 2 shots of espresso, while cappuccinos have 1-2 shots.

Milk
Cortados have 2 ounces of lightly textured milk. Cappuccinos have 5 ounces of lighter, frothier milk. 

The milk in a cappuccino is more textured than a cortado. The layer of microform on a cortado is thin but thick on a cappuccino. 

Drink size
Cortados are served in 4 ounce cups, and while gibraltar glasses are popular, they are not necessary for the drink. Cappuccinos are served in 6 ounce cups. 

Difference Between Cortado and Macchiato

Espresso
Both cortados and macchiatos have 2 shots of espresso. 

Milk
Cortados and macchiatos are both small drinks with a small amount of milk. Cortados have 2 ounces of lightly textured milk and macchiatos have 1-2 ounces of frothy milk.

Drink size
Cortados and macchiatos are sometimes served in the same sized cup. Cortados are 4 ounces and macchiatos are 3 ounces. 

Cortados at Starbucks

You would think Starbucks would have cortado on their menu, but nope. It’s not an official Starbucks espresso drink so be prepared to explain how the drink is to be made in case the barista doesn’t know.

To order it, ask for a double shot of espresso with 2 ounces of steamed milk on top.

Since it’s not an official Starbucks drink, it may be rung up as an espresso macchiato or another drink.

What You’ll Need to Make a Cortado

  • Espresso machine 
    My favorite (ahem, only) espresso machine and what I use at home.
  • Coffee grinder
    Some espresso machines have one built in so only needed if yours doesn’t have one.
  • Whole coffee beans
    Freshly roasted coffee—between 7 and 14 days—is best. 
  • Milk
    Whole or 2% milk is the usual, but you can use whatever you like.
My Espresso Machine Pick

Photo Credit: crateandbarrel.com

The machine I use to make espresso-based drinks every morning. I love it and recommend it.
SEE PRICE ON CRATE & BARREL

How to Make a Cortado at Home

Here’s a quick overview of the steps to make this drink. For full ingredients and instructions, scroll down to the recipe.

  1. Pull 2 shots of espresso.
    Grind coffee beans and use an espresso machine to extract 2 shots of espresso into a small cup that holds at least 4 ounces. A gibraltar glass is the perfect size for a cortado at 4.5 ounces.
  2. Steam milk.
    Froth 4 ounces of lightly textured milk (the same as you would for a latte)—but you’ll only use 2. 
  3. Pour milk into espresso.
    Into your cup with espresso, pour in 2 ounces of milk.

BARISTA’S TIP: It’s not easy to steam just 2 ounces of milk, which is why you should froth 4 ounces at the minimum to prevent burning the milk.

Notes & Tips

  • Like a macchiato, it’s hard to steam the small amount of milk required for a cortado. When steaming milk, try pairing it with another milk drink to reduce waste.
  • Cortados can be served with any type of milk, although whole milk is what’s usually used.
  • Usually made with steamed or lightly textured milk, you can top it off with little foam if you like.

Questions You May Have

Is a cortado a flat white? 

No, these are two distinct drinks. A cortado has a double shot with 2 ounces of milk, and a flat white has a double shot with 4 ounces of milk. 

Is a cortado sweet?

Traditionally no. There’s no sugar in a standard cortado, but in some countries drinks similar to cortados (like a Cuban cortadito) might have sugar. You can add sugar at the end if you’d like.  

Why is a cortado served in a glass? 

This comes from a coffee shop in San Francisco that wanted to make a drink that fits into a gibraltar glass. A lot of coffee shops have adopted this practice of serving cortados in gibraltar glasses. 

Are cortados stronger than macchiatos? 

No. Both have two shots of espresso, so they’re the same strength. A cortado has an ounce more of milk, so it’s more harmonious with the milk versus a macchiato, which is espresso-dominant.

How do you pronounce cortado? 

‘Cortado’ is a Spanish word. It’s pronounced COR-TA-DOUGH. 

How can I make a cortado with a Nespresso or Keurig?

Make 2 shots (2 ounces) of espresso in a Nespresso or Keurig then add 2 ounces of steamed milk.

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How to Make a Cortado

Author: Jee Choe
This balanced drink is equal parts espresso and milk.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 4 mins
Total Time 4 mins
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving

INGREDIENTS
 

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 2 ounces milk

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Pull 2 shots of espresso.
    Grind coffee beans and use an espresso machine to extract 2 shots of espresso into a small cup that holds at least 4 ounces. A gibraltar glass is the perfect size for a cortado at 4.5 ounces.
  • Steam milk.
    Froth 4 ounces of lightly textured milk (the same as you would for a latte)—but you’ll only use 2 since steaming less than 4 ounces is difficult without burning it.
  • Pour milk into espresso.
    Into your cup with espresso, pour in 2 ounces of milk. 

NOTES

How to make a cortado using a Nespresso or Keurig: Make 2 shots (2 ounces) of espresso in a Nespresso or Keurig then add 2 ounces of steamed milk.

NUTRITION

Calories: 40kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 33mg | Potassium: 144mg | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 92IU | Calcium: 64mg

The nutrition information is an estimate calculated using an online nutrition calculator.

Keyword Espresso drink
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2 thoughts on “Cortado: Overview, Steps to Make It, and How to Order It at Starbucks”

  1. I fell in love with these in the U.K. where they are on the Starbucks menu! I wish they would bring them stateside.
    Been a big fan of your tea blog and just discovered this one. Oh, how I adore you! Thank you for making my days brighter with delicious drinks.

    Reply

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