Cortados are a popular drink among baristas with Spanish roots; the word “cortado” means “cut” in Spanish, as the espresso is typically cut with steamed milk. This balanced beverage is delicious with a pastry in the morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up. What distinguishes a cortado from other beverages that combine espresso and milk, such as lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos? It all comes down to the ratio. Here is what you need to know to order a cortado on your next visit to the coffee shop.
What exactly is a Cortado?
According to Kaleena Teoh, co-founder and director of education at Coffee Project New York, “a cortado consists of equal parts espresso and steamed milk.” In a typical specialty coffee shop, a cortado consists of roughly two ounces of espresso and two ounces of milk, for a total of four ounces. It is smaller than most coffee shop favorites, and Teoh compares its size to that of an espresso macchiato or a flat white.
The only ingredients in a traditional cortado are espresso and steamed milk, the latter of which imparts a hint of sweetness from milk sugars (some non-dairy milks are sweetened, while regular milk has natural sugars). Teoh recommends the Cortadito, the Cuban version of a cortado that is sweetened with condensed milk or a bit of sugar, for a sweeter beverage. She describes it as the ideal beverage for those who desire a balance of milk and espresso with additional sweetness.
How Do You Prepare a Cortado?
Espresso machines are traditionally used to prepare cortados. Teoh employs a straightforward method: “First, prepare an espresso shot. In the majority of coffee shops, a double shot is approximately two ounces. Then, two ounces of your preferred milk (dairy or non-dairy) are steamed to incorporate air. Simply pour this over the two ounces of espresso.”
It is customary to serve cortados in small glasses that are completely filled. Numerous baristas favor the gibraltar glass, a short, ridged glass with a moderate lip. Due to the fact that cortados are frequently served in these glasses, some coffee shops (such as Blue Bottle) refer to a cortado as a gibraltar.