Cortado vs Flat White: 6 Key Differences Unraveled

Are you confused about the difference between a cortado and a flat white? Don’t worry! You’ll learn all about it in this guide. 

I brew and enjoy both cortado and flat white often. So I can give you an unbiased view and a fair comparison between them. After a few minutes, you’ll be certain about their differences and know which one you prefer most. 

Let’s start by having a brief overview of a cortado and a flat white. 

What is a Cortado?

Cortado is a one-to-one ratio of dark-roasted espresso made with Robusta beans and warm steamed milk. It is set apart from other espresso-based drinks by its serving size, which is typically about 4-5 ounces.

Originating from Spain, cortado comes from the Spanish word “cortar,” meaning “to cut.”  They named it this way because a cortado is made by “cutting” the intensity of the espresso and balancing it with the creaminess of the milk. 

Out of all creamy espresso drinks, you would prefer a cortado if you want a perfectly balanced experience. It is a happy medium between the bold and robust flavor espresso gives and the sweet, milky taste the milk imparts.

If you are also interested in comparing Cortado vs. Cappuccino, read about it here.

What is a Flat White?

Simply, a flat white is made by diluting one part of espresso with two parts of steamed milk. In a typical 6 oz. serving, it is common for baristas to use double ristretto shots instead of a regular double-shot espresso. This gives the flat white a more intense flavor.

To counterbalance this intensity, milk is steamed to a temperature of around 140 to 150°F or until the milk jug becomes too hot to touch. This temperature range is perfect for retaining nutrients and its characteristic sweet flavor. 

What’s more, the velvety texture of flat white is due to its extremely thin layer of microfoam. Unlike making a cappuccino or a latte, baristas would carefully limit the air they incorporate milk to achieve an ultra-creamy texture.

Although the true history of flat white remains uncertain, Australia and New Zealand are both laying claims on it. It’s not a surprise since it is a drink beloved by many coffee lovers who enjoy savoring an espresso with a bit more milk and sweetness, though not to the extent of a Latte. 

Cortado vs. Flat White: The Main Difference

The fundamental difference between a cortado and a flat white is the proportion of the ingredients in the drink, which results in the variation of flavor, texture, and nutrition.

ComparisonCortadoFlat White
OriginSpainAustralia and New Zealand
Standard serving size4 ounces6 ounces
BeansDark Roast Robusta beansNo specific beans
Espresso shots22
Espresso-to-Milk Ratio1:11:2
Texture and FlavorRobust, Full-bodied, UntexturedVelvety, Creamy
Caffeine Content(1)125.6 mg125.6 mg 
Calories (2)60 kal120 kal

Is a Cortado a Small Flat white?

Cortado is not a small flat white for many reasons, which include the choice of beans, the higher ratio of espresso-to-milk in a flat white, and the different techniques used to process milk. We’ll get into the details below. 

Are the Beans in a Cortado and Flat White Different?

The beans in a cortado and flat white are different. 

The espresso base of a classic Cortado must be made of dark-roasted Robusta beans. This kind of bean imparts a bolder, more intense coffee flavor that stands out.

There are no specific beans used for a flat white. However, coffee aficionados prefer light-roasted beans with a double espresso as a base or light-to-medium-roasted beans for a double ristretto shot. These are perfect for toning down acidity without giving a bold flavor. 

Is the Milk in a Cortado and Flat White Different?

A cortado and a flat white both use steamed milk, but there is still a tiny difference in preparation.  

The milk is steamed in Cortado at a lower temperature, resulting in non-textured milk. In a flat white, on the other hand, milk is steamed until hot while the incorporation of air into the milk is controlled to create the perfect microfoam. 

The espresso-to-milk ratio between these two drinks also differs. Preparing a standard 4 oz. cortado requires 2 oz. of espresso and 2 oz. of steamed milk, following a 1:1 ratio. While a regular 6 oz. flat white needs 2 oz. of espresso and 4 oz. of steamed milk, following a 1:2 ratio.

Is a Cortado stronger than a Flat White?

Yes, a cortado is stronger than flat White because its lower espresso-to-milk ratio produces a more robust espresso flavor. If you make a standard serving of both drinks, you’ll need to use equal amounts of espresso and dilute it with milk. Since less milk is used for a cortado, this beverage has a more noticeable espresso taste. 

Caffeine in a Cortado vs Flat white

Since the only source of caffeine is espresso in both drinks, the caffeine content is determined by the added shots of espresso.

A cortado and flat white contain 125.6 mg of caffeine in a standard serving because both drinks have two shots of espresso, each with about 62.8mg of caffeine (1). And, of course, you can get a lower caffeine content if you brew a decaffeinated version.

Calories in a Cortado vs Flat white

Espresso contains negligible calories. So, the energy in a cortado and flat white depends only on the milk added. 

As the milk in a flat white is twice the amount in a cortado, the calories also double, assuming you use the same type and brand of milk (2). That is, a cortado has approximately 60 kcal, while a flat white contains 120 kcal. 

Note: calories may increase by adding other ingredients, such as sweeteners. 

Note: Our calculation is based on the standard preparation, serving size, and the statistics from the USDA Food Database (3).

The Bottom Line 

The bolder-tasting beans, the lower milk content, and the different milk prep is what sets a cortado apart from a flat white. So, go for a Cortado if you prefer more espresso flavor in your coffee, and order a Flat white for a sweeter and creamier drink.

I hope that this article was helpful in your coffee education. 

Happy Drinking! 

Want to know more about espresso drinks? Check out our article “30+ Types of espresso drinks”!


  1. Caffeine content in espresso
  2. Calories in milk used in Cortado and Flat White
  3. USDA  food database
Photo of author


Mesphird Yang

I have been brewing and drinking coffee for almost 6 years now. At first, I was just dazzled by how baristas look and that's why I started learning. In the long run, I became obsessed with its charm. I have tried many coffee brewing methods, with different kinds of beans in various roast levels. If I could have more than 4 cups of coffee a day, I definitely would!

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