Coffee Brewing

Cortado Vs Flat White – Differences & Which One To Choose

Written by

Erica Cervenkova

Coffee Holli Top Pick

Cortado vs Flat White

Our journey of exploring and comparing espresso drinks continues with a comparison of two different coffee beverages.

This guide compares an espresso drink with a contended history, the Flat White and the Spanish-origin Cortado.   We will unravel their origin, ingredients, preparation, and how to prepare any of the two at home.

Without any further delay, let’s get into it.

Cortado Vs Flat White – What’s the Difference?

A Cortado is a Spanish-origin espresso drink containing equal amounts of espresso and lightly steamed milk. Flat White, on the other hand, contains 1 to 2 shots of espresso and velvety steamed whole milk. While a Cortado seeks a balanced and mild espresso flavor, Flat White aims for a velvety and smooth taste.


That’s just about the taste, these two drinks are a world apart. Below is a side-to-side comparison of a Cortado vs Flat White.

CortadoFlat White
OriginSpain 🇪🇸Australia 🇦🇺 / New Zealand 🇳🇿
Ratios1:1 Espresso and steamed milk1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk
Number of espresso shots1-21-2
Serving size3-4 oz5-6Oz
Caffeine content63 mg – 126 mg126 mg
Calories59 when made with 2 shots100-300
ToppingsVanilla syrup Honey syrupNo  
TasteStrong espresso flavor. Smooth and rich.Intense coffee flavor. Velvety smooth texture

5 Key Differences Between Cortado vs Flat white

1. Origin


While its evident that Flat White originated in Down Under, both Kiwis and Aussies claim to have invented this drink.  However, there is no hope that this battle will be adjudicated soon.


Many coffee experts say the drink originated in Australia but was perfected in New Zealand in the 1980s. In the US, the drink became mainstream after Starbucks introduced it in 2015.

On the other hand:

Cortado originated in Spain’s Basque Country before spreading to other Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. The drink is called Um pingo in Portugal and Tallat in Barcelona.

When served in a Gibraltar glass tumbler, a Cortado is called Gibraltar coffee.

2. Ingredients

First off:

Both Cortado and Flat White are espresso drinks. They are a combo of espresso and steamed milk. The only difference is the ratios and preparation.


For a Cortado, the aim is to dilute the strong espresso flavor with an equal amount of steamed milk. By the way, the word Cortado is a Spanish word that means “to cut”

In the case of this drink, the milk cuts the espresso flavors. The milk should diffuse the espresso without diminishing the flavors.


The milk is slightly steamed and has no foam to make sure the milk blends beautifully with the espresso.

A Flat White contains 1/3 espresso and 2/3 velvety steamed milk. The standard Flat White recipe is 2 shots of espresso and 4 ounces of steamed milk.


The signature feature of a Flat White is the silky texture of the micro-foamed milk. If the milk is not steamed properly you will end up with a smaller latte and cappuccino.

3. Taste


As the name suggests, a Cortado seeks to cut the espresso flavors and give the drink some texture. The steamed milk diffuses the espresso’s acidity and flavors without diminishing the flavors.

The results?

A smooth and strong drink that packs a punch compared to a Cappuccino or Latte.

For Flat White, the glory is in the micro-foamed milk. Since the amount of milk is double the espresso, the drink is smooth and creamy.

It’s said you cannot appreciate a Flat White until you taste a perfectly made cup of a Flat White.

4. Serving


Typically, a Cortado is served in a 3-4 Oz glass or metal cup and it’s rare to find medium and large servings.

Despite recipe adjustments from place to place, the Cortado’s serving size has remained small.


You may also find places where a Cortado is called Gibraltar when served in a 2 or 4.5 Oz Gibraltar glass. This name originated from some coffee shops in San Francisco.

A Flat White is typically served in 5-6 Oz ceramic cups to differentiate it from a Latte, which is served in 8 to 20 Oz glass mugs. 

However, some coffee shops such as Starbucks sell bigger Cortados from 8 to 20 Oz. Starbucks also uses double ristretto shots instead of regular espresso shots.

5. Nutritional value


When it comes to nutritional value, these two drinks pack the same amounts of caffeine when prepared with two shots of espresso.

According to the USDA, an ounce of espresso contains about 63mg of caffeine, resulting in 126mg when 2 shots of espresso are used.

Since a Flat White contains more steamed milk than a Cortado, it has more calories. According to the USDA, 250ml of whole milk contains 152 calories.

Starbucks Flat Whites have between 110 and 190 calories depending on the size.


And that is it for the major differences between a Cortado and Flat White. Here is a quick recap of the differences.

  • The Flat White originated Down Under, while the Cortado originated in Spain.
  • While a Cortado contains equal parts of espresso and milk
  • Flat White contains 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk.
  • The Flat White is typically 5-6 Oz while the standard Cortado serving is 3-4 Oz.
  • A Flat White contains more milk than a Cortado and hence has more calories.
  • A Cortado is stronger than a Flat White.

Have you made a choice yet? It should be easy.

What about trying a Cortado or a Flat White the next time you are ordering coffee, and seeing if you like it? Let us know in the comment section below, which one will be your favorite.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much caffeine is in a Cortado?

A cup of Cortado prepared with 2 shots of espresso contains 126 mg.

How much caffeine is in a Flat White?

While a cup of Flat White made with 2 shots of espresso is larger, it contains 126 mg of caffeine just like a Cortado.

Is a Cortado stronger than a Flat White?

Yes. A Cortado is prepared with equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk, while a Flat White has 1/3 espresso and 2/3 micro foamed milk. Because Flat White has more milk, it’s more dilute.

Does Flat White require more milk than Cortado?

Yes, a Flat White has more milk than a Cortado. A Cortado contains equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk, while Flat White is made with milk double the amount of espresso.

Is Cortado same as macchiato?

No, while Macchiato and Cortado contain shots of espresso and steamed milk, they are not the same. A macchiato is prepared with 2 shots of espresso and a dollop of steamed milk, making it one of the strongest espresso drinks.  A Cortado contains equal parts of steamed milk and espresso.

Is a Cortado 1 or 2 shots?

The standard Cortado recipe is 2 shots of espresso. However, there are a few places where baristas use 1 shot. The key feature in a Cortado is the 50:50 espresso to steamed milk ratio.

Erica Cervenkova
Coffee Connoisseur, SCA Member

As a coffee connoisseur and member of the Specialty Coffee Association, I am dedicated to understanding the sustainability of coffee pods and the impact it has on the environment. My expertise lies in the realm of capsule coffee machines, from the likes of Keurig and Nespresso to other well-known US brands. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and helping others make informed decisions about their coffee choices. Whether you're a coffee enthusiast or just looking for a new way to enjoy your morning cup, I'm here to help.


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