Cortado vs Latte: 6 Key Differences Explained

Have you ever stood in front of the menu of your local coffee shop and felt overwhelmed by the plethora of choices? Well, with over 40 different kinds of espresso drinks, analysis paralysis is inevitable. 

But to find your favorite coffee beverage, understanding the differences between them is key. In this showdown of Cortado vs Latte, we tackle their similarities and differences. By the end of this article, you’ll know which drink you’d prefer for your next coffee order! 

To give you a sneak peek, the main difference between cortado and latte is due to the variation in the ratio of espresso and steamed milk. Cortado is a more espresso-forward drink, while a latte oozes with the creaminess of milk. 

Let’s dig deeper! 

What is a Cortado Coffee?

A cortado is a mixture of equal parts of warm steamed milk and an espresso shot made with dark-roasted Robusta beans. Coffee enthusiasts love a cortado because of this balanced 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, which imparts creaminess while still maintaining its strong coffee flavors.

Originating from Spain, cortado comes from the word “cortar” and roughly translates to the verb “cut.” In this context, it means “cutting” the strength of an espresso with steamed milk. Back then, people presumably, ordered cortado as “cafe cortado con leche” or coffee cut with milk. 

Traditionally, the cortado is served in small 2-ounce glasses. But, when the Blue Bottle company popularized them in the States, they doubled the size and marketed it in 4oz Gibraltar glasses. 

Are you also wondering about the difference between a cortado and a cappuccino, click here!

What is a Latte?

A traditional latte consists of a 1:2 ratio of espresso to steamed milk topped with a thin layer of lightly frothed milk foam. 

Latte is more formally known in Italy as a “caffè latte”, which means “coffee with milk”. As this became a popular coffee around the world, the word latte became the norm. Just like its name, the drink has evolved in many ways since. 

This Italian coffee creation is typically served in 8 oz. mugs. Now, you can find many coffee shops upgrade the size of the drink to up to 16 oz. Moreover, the amount of milk added is also enhanced, creating a more common espresso-to-milk ratio of 1:3 to 1:5, making it a very creamy milk coffee.

Besides, latte variations, like those with added syrup and sweeteners, are also common. Lastly, baristas would usually craft latte art to give the drink its signature aesthetic.

If you’d like more latte-related content, find out more here!

What is the Difference Between a Cortado and a Latte?

While Cortado and latte are both combinations of milk and espresso, the similarity ends there. Mainly, they differ in the amount and kind of ingredients used, as well as their preparation method. This variation leads to its overall difference, including flavor, texture, and nutritional content. 

cortado vs latte

#1: Milk Used and Texture

Both a cortado and a latte use steamed milk. However, milk in the cortado is untextured and contains no foam. This is because the milk hasn’t been heated enough to reach a temperature where it gets a silky and foamy texture. 

Meanwhile, latte milk undergoes light frothing, thereby creating a thin and velvety layer of milk foam. This is why baristas can create visually pleasing latte art with it. Besides the aesthetic appeal, the frothed latte milk creates a smoother kind of coffee drink. 

#2: Coffee Bean Selection

Traditionally, cortado is made with dark-roasted Robusta beans, which gives the drink a stronger coffee flavor and a heavier mouthfeel.  On the other hand, a latte is made with subtly sweet arabica beans, as they can give a robust flavor without overpowering milk.

However, there isn’t really a standard for the beans used in a latte. It would depend on the barista’s preferences, resulting in many variations of the drink. 

 #3: Ratio of Espresso to Milk 

This aspect provides the most significant difference between the espresso-based coffee drinks.

As mentioned, a cortado follows a 1:1 coffee-to-milk ratio, meaning it has equal parts espresso and steamed milk. Meanwhile, the ratio for a latte varies widely among coffee chains, but it would typically range from 1:2 to 1:5.

#4: Espresso Shots, Coffee Strength, and Caffeine Content 

Currently, both a latte and a cortado are often made with double shots of espresso. However, it wasn’t always this way. 

A traditional cortado was served in two-ounce glasses. This means that it was made with a combination of a single shot of espresso and an ounce of milk. On another note, a single or triple espresso shot latte isn’t unheard of. 

If both drinks are made with two ounces of espresso shots, both a cortado and a latte would actually have the same strength in terms of how much caffeine it has. Since each shot of espresso has 62.8 mg of caffeine, a standard cortado and latte contains about 125.6 mg of caffeine (1).

However, the type of beans and roast used for both drinks could vary from one place to another, so numbers may deviate from this. But, generally, the caffeine and strength in both these drinks is directly proportional to the shots of espresso added. 

#5: Coffee Taste

Cortado has a stronger coffee taste than a latte, not only because it has a lower espresso-to-milk proportion but also because it uses Robusta beans. Moreover, people seldom use any add-ins in a cortado. it’s just what it is: a combination of espresso and milk. 

In other ways, a latte seems to be milder coffee mainly because of its higher milk proportion and the use of subtly sweeter arabica beans. Unlike a cortado, the boldness of an espresso in a latte is often cut by sweeteners, whipped cream, or just anything else. 

#6:  Serving Size, Calorie Content, and Variations

The most visible difference between these popular coffee drinks is the way they are served.

Commonly, a serving of cortado is cupped in 4 oz. Gibraltar glasses, while lattes are served in big, 8 to 16 oz. coffee mugs. Coffee drinkers who are always in a rush may love a cortado for its smaller serving, while those satisfied with more volume would name a latte as the perfect coffee order. 

Now that we know their typical serving sizes, let’s estimate how many calories they have. 

Both drinks have espresso as their coffee base. And because espresso is a black coffee, thus, it has negligible calories. Most of the calories in a cortado or a latte come from milk. 

Assuming that milk with reduced fat is used, a cortado would usually contain 2 ounces of milk, resulting in 60 kcal. Whereas a latte has 6 ounces of milk, contributing to a total of 180 kcal. (3).

Using a different type of milk could also change the number of calories. For example, using 2 ounces of plant-based milk, such as soy milk, would give you about 23 kcal (4) Moreover, some lattes would probably have more calories from additional sweeteners and other add-ins. 

Note: The results of Caffeine and Calories are according to the amount and ratio of these two drinks mentioned above, and we use the statistics from the USDA food database (5).

Cortado vs. Latte: Which is better?

When choosing between a cortado and a latte, you only need to consider the coffee flavor and the serving size. If you enjoy a more robust espresso flavor, then cortado is the one for you. If you prefer a mild, smoother, and milkier coffee, a latte is a great coffee choice.

Explore the coffee world with us! You might be interested in: 
Cappuccino vs Latte, Cortado vs Cappuccino, 30+ Types of Espresso Drinks


  1. USDA – Espresso
  2. ​​USDA – Latte
  3. USDA – Milk
  4. USDA – Soy Milk
  5. USDA  food database


Is a Cortado just a small Latte? 

Cortado is not a small latte. Although they have the same amount of espresso, they differ in milk composition. The ratio of espresso to milk in a cortado is 1:1, while the ratio ranges from 1:2 to 1:5 in a latte. Moreover, a latte has 1 cm of milk foam topping, which isn’t present in a cortado.

What is another name for a cortado? 

Gibraltar is another name for a cortado. It got its name from the Libbey Gibraltar glass that they are served in.

Why is Cortado so popular? 

Cortado is popular for several reasons: (1) It has perfect balanced flavor and strength between espresso and milk, making milder and sweeter alternative to espresso. (2) It’s simple to prepare and is made of common ingredients. (3) It has a small size that is convenient to consume for coffee drinkers who are always in a rush.

When should I drink cortado?

There is not a stringent drinking time for a cortado. You can enjoy it anytime you want. Generally, because of its small size and strong caffeine kick, people usually drink cortado in the mornings when they’re in a rush or in the afternoons for a quick break. However, we don’t recommend drinking any coffee within 6 hours before sleep as it will be difficult for you to have a good rest at night.

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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