What Is The Difference Between A Cortado Vs Cappuccino

crazy by Editorial Staff | Posted on July 26th, 2023

There’s no denying its wide global appeal and the seemingly limitless ways we can enjoy it. You’ve probably found yourself standing in a bustling coffee shop, staring at the menu, trying to decide between the myriad options available.

Today, we’re focusing on two standout choices: the cortado and the cappuccino. This exploration of the distinguishing factors between these two brews is your ultimate guide to making an informed coffee decision.


The Cortado – A Balance in a Cup

The cortado is an espresso-based drink where the intensity of the espresso is “cut” (the English translation of “cortado”) with an equal portion of warm milk. This pairing softens the espresso’s acidity and creates a smooth harmony of bold and mild flavors.

Cortado, although not globally recognized, has become a favorite amongst baristas due to its simplicity and the perfect balance it strikes.

Crafting a Cortado

Craving a cortado at home? The trick to a great cortado lies in getting the perfect balance of espresso and milk. Start with brewing a shot of espresso, then steam your milk to a silky texture. The ideal cortado has a 1:1 espresso-to-milk ratio, so pour an equal amount of your steamed milk into the espresso.

Cappuccino – A Rich Italian Tradition

Originating from Italy, the cappuccino is a well-known coffee beverage. Like the cortado, it contains espresso and steamed milk. However, it also has a third element: a crown of frothed milk. It derives its name from the Capuchin friars, whose brown hoods mirrored the color of the drink.

Cappuccino Construction

To make a cappuccino, you’ll begin much like you would with a cortado, by brewing espresso and steaming milk. Fill about two-thirds of your cup with the steamed milk and espresso combination. Spoon out the remaining foam and place it atop the steamed milk until the cup is full. The foam should be thick, offering a delicious textural contrast to the creamy milk and potent espresso. Add a sprinkling of cocoa powder or cinnamon for an extra flavor kick!

Cortado Vs Cappuccino: The Core Differences

When choosing between a cortado and a cappuccino, it’s important to keep a few key differences in mind:

Milk-to-Espresso Ratio

The most significant distinction between a cortado and a cappuccino lies in their milk-to-espresso ratio. Cortados boast a 1:1 ratio, leading to a bolder, espresso-focused taste. On the other hand, cappuccinos typically have a 1/3 espresso, 1/3 textured milk, and 1/3 foam ratio, resulting in a creamier, milder flavor profile.

Milk Texture and Temperature

Cortados and cappuccinos also differ significantly in their milk texture and temperature. For cortados, the milk is steamed to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which results in a smoother texture and less foam.

Cappuccinos, however, have their milk steamed between 150 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, creating a richer, creamier texture. This high temperature also facilitates the light, frothy foam synonymous with cappuccinos.

Origins and Cultural Influences

The cortado, originating from Spain and Portugal, is typically enjoyed in the morning. Contrarily, the Italian-born cappuccino is a staple accompaniment to a light breakfast. These cultural variances also influence how these drinks are served, with cortados often presented in small, tapered glasses and cappuccinos in large cups.

Flavor Distinctions

The cortado, with its equal parts of espresso and milk, offers a stronger, more robust taste. The cappuccino, on the other hand, with more milk and frothy foam, is milder and creamier.

How to Choose Between a Cortado and Cappuccino

Personal Preference

Ultimately, the choice between a cortado and a cappuccino hinges on personal taste. Some may enjoy the intense flavor of a cortado for their morning caffeine fix, while others might prefer the foamy, creamy appeal of a cappuccino.

Time of Day

The time of day can also influence your coffee choice. A cortado, with its strong espresso, might be the perfect morning pick-me-up, while a cappuccino’s creaminess could be the ideal afternoon or post-dinner indulgence.

Food Pairing

Don’t forget about food pairings! The cortado’s intensity pairs perfectly with sweet treats like pastries and desserts. Conversely, the milder cappuccino complements savory breakfast or brunch items such as eggs or a breakfast sandwich.

Coffee is an incredibly personal experience, and these guidelines are meant to help you enjoy your next coffee shop visit. Whether you lean towards the bold cortado or the frothy cappuccino, remember the most important thing: savor and enjoy every sip. After all, it’s more than just a cup of coffee, it’s an adventure in every cup.

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


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.