Coffee Brewing

Cortado vs Latte – How To Tell The Two Espresso Drinks Apart

Written by

Erica Cervenkova

Coffee Holli Top Pick

Cortado vs Latte


Espresso and milk are a match made in heaven. With just milk and shots of espresso, you can make countless espresso drinks, such as the Cortado and Latte.

However, they can be hard to differentiate. This post compares one of the most popular coffee drinks, the Latte, and a Cortado, the most balanced espresso drink.

This will not only help you differentiate them but also know why they taste different despite containing the same ingredients.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the day’s business.

Cortado vs Latte – What’s the Difference?

The Cafe Latte is the largest and milkiest espresso drink made with 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and a small microfoam layer on top. On the other hand, a Cortado is smaller, containing an equal amount of espresso and steamed milk without foam.

Ratios1/2 : 1/2 Espresso and steamed milk1/3 : 2/3 Espresso and steamed milk
Number of espresso shots21 or 2
Standard Serving size3-4 Oz8 to 20 Oz
Caffeine content126 mg63 or 126 mg
Calories59 when made with 2 shots100-250 depending on size
ToppingsVanilla syrup Honey syrupCinnamon Caramel  
TasteStrong espresso flavor. A little bit sweet.Mild espresso flavor. Milky. Sweet  

5 Key Differences Between a Cortado and Latte

1. Origin


The differences in how Cortados and Lattes are prepared and served can be traced back to their origin. 

History shows that the coffee drink Cortado originated in the Basque country in Spain. This is supported by the Spanish name Cortado, which means to cut in English. The drink got the name as the preparation involves cutting or diluting espresso with steamed milk.

On the other hand:

The Latte originated in Italy, specifically regions that received American visitors. Visitors who found the espresso too strong had milk added to their espresso

In the US, the Latte was popularized in the 1980s and is today, the most popular and most ordered coffee drink together with the cappuccino.

2. Ingredients


Like with all espresso drinks the ratio of espresso to milk is the key feature. 

The Latte is the largest and milkiest espresso-based drink. It is prepared with 1/3 of espresso, 2/3 of steamed milk, and a small layer of microfoam on top.

This is typically 1- 2 shots of espresso and 8-15 ounces of steamed milk

On the other hand, the Cortado contains equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk. The standard cortado recipe is 2 shots of espresso and 2 ounces of steamed milk resulting in a 4-ounce drink. 

Check out our step-by-step guide on how to make a caffe latte.

3. Taste

The fact is:

The Latte has more milk than espresso. A cup of a Latte prepared with 2 shots of espresso will have between 8 and 15 ounces of milk.

The result?

A milky coffee-tasting drink. The espresso flavors are noticeable but are not very strong.

A Cortado combines equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk. The goal is to balance the espresso and milk flavors to achieve a strong and smooth cup of coffee.

This makes Cortado ideal when you want a strong-tasting coffee drink. Go with a Latte if you are after a sweet and milk-heavy cup of coffee.

4. Serving 


Traditionally, a Latte is served in an 8-12 Oz tall glass latte to show off the drink’s layers. However, it’s not uncommon to find larger servings of up to 20 Oz.

For instance, Starbucks has lattes in four sizes; 8 Oz, 12 Oz, 16 Oz, and 20 Oz

Cortado on the other hand is served in 3-4oz. Most coffee shops maintain the tradition that a Cortado should be smaller than a Cappuccino and Latte but larger than a macchiato. It’s served in glass or a Gibraltar glass tumble

5. Nutritional value

The standard Cortado serving containing 2 shots of espresso has 126 mg of caffeine, while a cup of Latte prepared with 2 shots of espresso will have the same amount of caffeine.


A 20Oz Latte serving containing double shots of espresso has the same caffeine content as a 4-ounce Cortado serving. However, since it contains more milk it has more calories and fats than the Cortado.

A 12 oz Starbucks Cafe Latte has 150 calories, 14 g sugar, and 14 g sugar, while Cortado made with two ristretto shots contains 50 calories, 1.7 g fat, and 4.6 g sugar


While both the Cortado and Latte contain shots of espresso and steamed milk, they are completely different drinks. Below is a recap of the differences between a Latte and a Cortado. 

  • The Latte is the biggest and milkiest coffee drink.
  • Cortado is smaller, containing equal parts of milk and espresso.
  • A Latte is 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and a 1.5cm microfoam layer on top. 
  • A Cortado contains equal parts of espresso and steamed milk with no foam.
  • The Cortado is native to Spain, while the Latte originated in Italy.
  • Unlike Cortados, Lattes are usually decorated with Latte art.
  • Lattes have a milky coffee taste, while Cortados are smooth but have a strong espresso taste.

And that is it for the Cortado vs Latte. With this information, it should be easy to order and even prepare any of the two drinks at home. 

Go ahead and try one and let me know down in the comment section how it goes and, which one will be your favorite.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much caffeine is in a Cortado?

A cup of Cortado containing 2 shots of espresso contains 126 mg of caffeine.

How much caffeine is in a Latte?

Just like a Cortado, a cup of Latte with 2 shots of espresso contains 126 mg of caffeine.

Which is stronger, Cortado or Latte?

In terms of strength, a Cortado is stronger as it is less dilute than a Latte, which contains the most milk. A Cortado has a strong coffee flavor, while a Latte has a strong milk taste.

Is a Cortado the same as a flat white?

No, a flat white and a Cortado are two different coffee drinks. The major characteristic of a flat white is that the milk is carefully steamed to have microfoam. On the other hand, Cortado is prepared with slightly steamed milk with very little or no foam.

What does Starbucks call a Cortado?

Starbucks UK has Cortado on its menu, made with two ristretto shots and warm milk. In the US, you have to describe the drink if you want a cup of Cortado. Just say, double espresso shots with two ounces of lightly steamed milk.

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.


Leave a Comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00