Cortado vs Cappuccino: [Differences Explained]

Cortado vs Cappuccino: Differences Explained

According to a study done by the (1) National Coffee Association, there’s a 50% increase in the consumption of espresso-based beverages in America. This means that more and more people are drinking coffee drinks that contain some form of espresso.

If you’re new to the world of coffee, all of these espresso drinks may appear very similar to you. But don’t worry, I’m here to help.

In this article, I’ll be discussing the key differences between two of the most popular espresso drinks: cortado vs cappuccino. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly which drink to order next time you’re at your favorite coffee shops.

Ready to get started? Let’s jump right in.


What Is Cortado?

A cortado is a Spanish term that refers to a coffee drink that is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

The steamed milk is added to the espresso in order to cut the bitterness of the coffee and create a smoother taste. And, yes, this is where the name “cortado” comes from.

Its literal meaning is “cut,” which refers to the fact that the steamed milk cuts the bitterness of the espresso.

Cortados are typically served in a small glass or cup and they have either a little or no foam on top.

The steamed milk and espresso should be well combined, but the foam should remain intact (if there’s any).

A cup of cortado

What is Cappuccino?

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A cappuccino is an Italian coffee drink that is made with espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk.

Like a cortado, a cappuccino also has espresso and steamed milk. The key difference is that a cappuccino also contains foamed milk.

A thick layer of foamed milk is added on top of the espresso and steamed milk and it gives the drink a creamy and frothy texture.

The ratio of espresso to steamed milk to foamed milk in a cappuccino is 1:1:1.

This means that there should be equal parts of each ingredient.

A cup of Cappuccino

The cappuccino is a perfect drink for those who love foam and crema. It has been known to create incredible latte art, milk mustaches — even conches!

The different size options allow you to customize your coffee experience with each cup as well. You can make two shots (a double shot) of espresso for a stronger drink or make a single shot for a lighter drink.

What’s even better is that you can add other toppings to your cappuccino, such as chocolate powder, whipped cream, or cinnamon.

So, if you’re looking for a coffee drink that has a bold espresso flavor and is packed with foam, a cappuccino is the drink for you.

Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between these two espresso drinks.


What Are The Key Differences Between a Cortado and Cappuccino?

While both drinks share two key ingredients — espresso and steamed milk — there’s actually a lot that sets them apart.

The key differences between a cortado vs cappuccino include:

  • Milk Foam
  • Size
  • Milk to coffee ratio
  • Creaminess
  • Flavor
  • Milk Texture
  • Nutrient content

I will discuss each of these differences in more detail below.

Milk Foam

The main difference between a cortado and a cappuccino is the milk foam.

A cortado is made with little to no foam, while a cappuccino contains a thick layer of foamed milk on top.

What Are The Key Differences Between a Cortado and Cappuccino?

The foam is created by steaming milk and then using an espresso machine to force it through a small hole. This process creates tiny bubbles that give the milk a light and airy texture.

The amount of foam in a cappuccino can vary depending on how much milk is used and how long it’s steamed.

A cortado, on the other hand, contains very little foam. The espresso and steamed milk can be combined and served without any foam on top.

Size

Another key difference between these two drinks is their size.

As I mentioned earlier, a cortado is typically served in a small glass or cup called Gibraltar glass, which can carry 130 ml/4.5 oz.

This makes it the perfect coffee drink for those who want a quick caffeine fix.

Libbey Duratuff Cortado Glass | Gibraltar Rocks Glass

A cappuccino, on the other hand, is usually served in a larger cup made of glass or ceramic.

This allows for more espresso and milk to be used, which creates a richer and more flavorful drink.

The size of the drink will often depend on the coffee shop you’re visiting.

However, most cortados are around 4 ounces (118 milliliters) and cappuccinos are around 6 ounces (178 milliliters).

A cappuccino cup

Milk to Coffee Ratio

The milk quantity is another key difference between these two espresso drinks.

A cortado contains a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk. This means that there is an equal amount of espresso and milk in the drink.

A cortado contains a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk

A cappuccino, on the other hand, has a 1:2 ratio of espresso to milk, but more specifically, a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk to foam. This means that there is an equal amount of espresso, steamed milk, and foam in the drink.

A cappuccino has a 1:2 ratio of espresso to milk, but more specifically, a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk to foam.

The higher milk quantity in a cappuccino creates a richer and creamier drink.

Creaminess

Next to my list of key differences is creaminess.

A cortado is typically a less creamy drink than a cappuccino. This is due to the lower milk quantity and lack of foam in the drink.

The espresso and steamed milk are usually combined and served with little to no foam on top.

A cappuccino, however, is much creamier than a cortado. This is because it contains more milk and foam, which makes the drink richer and more flavorful.

A cortado is typically a less creamy drink than a cappuccino.

Flavor

The flavor of a cortado and cappuccino can also vary significantly.

A cortado is typically a less sweet drink since it contains less milk. This allows the espresso to be the main flavor in the drink.

A cappuccino, on the other hand, is a sweeter and more flavorful drink.

The espresso is still the main flavor, but it’s balanced out by the sweetness of the steamed milk and frothed milk—and sometimes other flavorings like chocolate powder or cinnamon.

The flavor of your espresso drink will also depend on the type of espresso used. A darker roast will give your drink a more intense flavor, while a lighter roast will be more mellow.

Cappuccino's flavor

Milk Texture

I mentioned earlier that the foam in a cappuccino is created by steaming milk and then using an espresso machine to force it through a small hole.

This process creates tiny bubbles that give the milk light and airy texture. The foam is often thick and creamy, which can add to the richness of the cappuccino.

A cortado, on the other hand, contains less steamed milk. This gives the drink a thinner consistency and less foam.

In fact, the thickness of cortado and that of condensed milk are often compared.

Nutrient Content

While the caffeine content is similar in both espresso drinks (as long as they share the same espresso base – a single or double espresso shot), the nutrient content can vary.

A cortado contains less milk than a cappuccino, which means it has fewer calories and fat.

A cappuccino, on the other hand, contains more milk—and sometimes cream—which makes it richer in calories and fat.

So, if you’re watching your calorie intake, a cortado may be a better choice.


To Wrap Up

If you’re wondering whether to order a cortado or cappuccino, it really comes down to your personal preference.

Do you like your espresso drinks rich and creamy? If so, go for a cappuccino.

Do you prefer a more balanced drink with less milk and foam? If so, a cortado may be more up your alley.

Still can’t decide? Why not try both and see for yourself!

If you have any more questions about these espresso drinks, feel free to leave them at the end of this article. I’ll be happy to answer them!


FAQs About Cortado vs Cappuccino

Is Cortado Smaller Than Cappuccino?

A cortado is typically served with a double espresso. This is because the milk to coffee ratio is 1:1, so two espresso shots are needed to balance out the milk.

What Is the Main Difference Between a Cortado and Cappuccino?

The main difference between a cortado and a cappuccino is the milk foam. A cappuccino contains more milk and foam than a cortado, which makes it richer and creamier. The espresso to milk ratio is also different in these two drinks. A cortado is typically made with a 1:1 espresso to milk ratio, while a cappuccino is made with a 1:2 espresso to milk ratio.

 A cappuccino contains more milk and foam than a cortado, which makes it richer and creamier.

Is Cortado Single or Double Espresso?

A cortado is typically served with a double espresso. This is because the milk to coffee ratio is 1:1, so two espresso shots are needed to balance out the milk.

Cortado is typically served with a double espresso

What is the Difference Between a Cortado and an Espresso Macchiato?

Both macchiato vs cortado are small drinks made with espresso and milk. However, the espresso macchiato is a single shot of espresso with just a dollop of milk foam, while the cortado is a double espresso with an equal amount of milk.

Macchiato vs Cortado

References:

  1. NCA releases Atlas of American Coffee

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