Cortado vs. Café con Leche: Exploring the Spanish Coffee Classics

crazy by Editorial Staff | Posted on April 3rd, 2023

As a coffee lover, you’ve probably come across the tantalizing names of Cortado and Café con Leche. But did you know that these Spanish coffee classics are more similar than you might think? Don’t worry—we’re here to break it down for you and settle the Cortado vs. Café con Leche debate once and for all!


Let’s dive into what makes each of these coffee drinks unique and why they’ve become staples in coffee shops worldwide.

coffee and milk

What is a Café con Leche?

Café con Leche, a Spanish classic, is a harmonious blend of equal parts espresso (or Moka coffee) and whole milk. Traditionally, a double shot of espresso is paired with scalded milk to create a rich, creamy beverage with a delightful sweetness.

Wondering about scalded milk? It’s milk heated close to the boiling point without foaming, resulting in a frothy texture and sweet taste. Scalded milk beautifully complements the natural bitterness of the espresso, making Café con Leche a go-to choice for those who love a balanced coffee experience.

Main Characteristics of Café con Leche:

  • Equal parts espresso and whole milk
  • Traditionally uses a double shot of espresso
  • Features scalded milk for creaminess and sweetness
  • Suitable for non-dairy milk alternatives (may alter taste)

Fun fact: If you’re a fan of non-dairy milk, you can still enjoy Café con Leche! Just keep in mind that using alternatives like coconut, oat, or soy milk may alter the taste. Feel free to experiment until you find the perfect match!

What is a Cortado Coffee?

Next up, we have the Cortado, another Spanish gem. Cortado coffee consists of equal parts espresso and milk, often served in a 4.5 fluid ounce cup. The term “Cortado” comes from the Spanish verb “cortar,” meaning “to cut”—and that’s precisely what the milk does! It cuts the acidity and intensity of the espresso, creating a smooth and satisfying drink.

Unlike Café con Leche, Cortado uses thinly steamed milk with little to no foam. A fun bonus: the lack of foam allows baristas to show off their latte art skills!

Main Characteristics of Cortado:

  • Equal parts espresso and milk
  • Usually served in a 4.5 fluid ounce cup
  • Features thinly steamed milk with little to no foam
  • Bolder coffee flavor due to lower milk content

The origins of the Cortado can be traced back to Spain’s Basque Country, and it has since gained popularity across the globe. The Cortado’s closest cousin is the flat white, but the Cortado stands out with a stronger coffee taste due to the lower milk content.

What Sets Them Apart?

You might be thinking, “Café con Leche and Cortado sound pretty similar. Are they the same?” Not quite! While both drinks feature a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, the preparation of the milk makes all the difference.

Let’s take a closer look at the key differences:

AttributesCafé con LecheCortado
Espresso to Milk Ratio1:11:1
Milk PreparationScalded (heated close to boiling)Thinly steamed (little to no foam)
Taste ProfileSweeter, creamier, balancedBolder coffee flavor, smooth
Serving SizeVaries, often largerTypically 4.5 fluid ounces
FoamNoneLittle to no foam
Common Cup TypeCup (varies)Glass (varies)

Both Cortado and Café con Leche have variations that are worth exploring. Whether you prefer your coffee iced or with a twist, there’s something for everyone!

Iced Cortado and Iced Café con Leche

Perfect for a hot day, these iced versions offer a refreshing take on the classics. Simply pour the espresso and milk over ice and enjoy!

Cuban Café con Leche

The Cuban version of Café con Leche is known for being sweeter and having more milk. It’s less bitter and pairs wonderfully with traditional Cuban pastries.

Cortado with Alternative Milk

Looking for a dairy-free option? Try a Cortado with almond, oat, or coconut milk. Keep in mind that alternative milk may impact the texture and flavor, so experiment to find your favorite combo!

Flavored Cortado and Café con Leche

Add a dash of flavor to your coffee with syrups like vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut. These flavored versions provide a delightful twist to the classics.

Which is Better? Or Are They the Same?

By now, you know that Café con Leche and Cortado are different but equally delicious. The Café con Leche’s scalded milk gives it a sweeter edge, while the Cortado’s steamed milk allows for a bolder coffee flavor.

So which is better? That’s entirely up to you! Whether you’re craving a pick-me-up in the afternoon or a satisfying finish to a good lunch, both of these Spanish coffees have something special to offer.

Ultimately, the choice between Cortado and Café con Leche comes down to your personal taste preference. Whichever you choose, you’re in for a delightful coffee experience that’ll transport you to the vibrant streets of Spain.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to share the love of Cortado and Café con Leche with fellow coffee enthusiasts! Cheers to discovering new flavors and indulging in the rich coffee culture of Spain!

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Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.

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Editorial Staff

The editorial staff at Crazy Coffee Crave is a team of coffee enthusiasts & Baristas who enjoy the one thing we all think about as soon as we get up in the morning. Trusted by thousands of readers worldwide.