The Silky Smooth Duel Cortado vs Flat White

Written by: Expose Media

cortado vs flat white

Are you a coffee lover looking to expand your palate beyond your regular latte or cappuccino? In the world of specialty coffee drinks, the cortado and flat white are two popular choices that offer a unique and delicious experience.

But what sets these two beverages apart? From their origins and espresso-to-milk ratios to their caffeine content and serving styles, we will explore the differences between the cortado and flat white to help you decide which one suits your taste buds.

So grab your favorite mug and let's dive into the silky smooth duel of the cortado versus the flat white!

What Is a Cortado?

A Cortado is a specialty coffee beverage made with a balanced ratio of espresso and steamed milk, creating a creamy and smooth texture that enhances the rich espresso flavor.

The key to preparing a perfect Cortado lies in achieving the ideal balance between the bold espresso and velvety steamed milk. The magic happens when these two elements come together harmoniously, with the creamy milk complementing the intense espresso without overpowering it. The steamed milk, often heated to around 150°F, should have a silky microfoam consistency, adding a luxurious touch to the coffee. This meticulous process ensures that every sip of Cortado delivers a delightful symphony of flavors that tantalizes the taste buds.

What Is a Flat White?

A Flat White is a trendy espresso-based drink known for its silky smooth texture achieved through a carefully balanced combination of espresso and velvety steamed milk.

The contrast between the rich, bold notes of espresso and the creamy sweetness of steamed milk creates a harmonious flavor profile that is comforting yet sophisticated. The key to perfecting a Flat White lies in mastering the art of properly frothing the milk to achieve that velvety microfoam texture that enhances the overall drinking experience. This specialty beverage has gained popularity for its ability to deliver a balanced yet intense coffee flavor in a seamless blend with the luscious milk, making it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts seeking a refined and indulgent drink.

Read: Flat White Wonders Your Complete Guide to All Things Flat White Coffee

What Are the Differences Between a Cortado and a Flat White?

difference of cortado and flat white coffee

When comparing a Cortado and a Flat White, the key differences lie in the ratio of espresso to milk and the texture of the milk used in each beverage.

A Cortado typically contains equal parts espresso and steamed milk, creating a balanced and strong coffee flavor with a velvety mouthfeel. In contrast, a Flat White has a higher ratio of espresso to milk, resulting in a bolder taste that is complemented by the creamy microfoam on top.

The milk in a Cortado is steamed to a silkier consistency compared to the denser, foamier texture found in a Flat White. These variations in milk texture and espresso-milk ratios significantly influence the overall taste profiles and aromas of these espresso-based drinks.


The origin of the Cortado can be traced back to the rich espresso culture of Spain, where the drink was traditionally enjoyed for its bold espresso flavor and smooth milk texture.

Originally known as a 'Cortado' or 'Cortadito,' which means 'cut' in Spanish, referring to the espresso being 'cut' with a small amount of warm milk, this beverage quickly became a cornerstone of Spanish coffee traditions. Spaniards embraced the Cortado as a way to balance the intensity of espresso with a touch of creamy sweetness, making it an integral part of their daily coffee rituals.

Over time, this distinctive drink spread beyond Spain, gaining popularity in various parts of the world and captivating coffee enthusiasts with its harmonious blend of coffee and milk.

Ratio of Espresso to Milk

The ratio of espresso to milk is a crucial aspect that distinguishes a Cortado from a Flat White, with the Cortado typically having a higher proportion of espresso to milk compared to the Flat White.

This ratio plays a key role in determining the flavor profile and consistency of these espresso-based beverages. In a Cortado, the espresso tends to shine through more prominently due to the higher ratio, resulting in a bolder and more intense coffee flavor. On the other hand, a Flat White, with its balanced espresso-milk ratio, offers a smoother and creamier texture that complements the espresso without overpowering it. Baristas often aim for a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio in a Cortado, while a Flat White typically features a 1:3 ratio to achieve the perfect harmony between the rich espresso and silky milk.

Read: A Basic Guide To Common Espresso And Milk Drinks

Texture of Milk

Texture of milk between cortado and flat white

The texture of the milk used in a Cortado and a Flat White plays a significant role in defining the mouthfeel and overall experience of the beverages, with the Cortado featuring a thicker, creamier foam compared to the Flat White's velvety microfoam.

The quality of milk foam can greatly impact the taste and aroma of a coffee drink. In a Cortado, the foam is aerated to a creamy consistency, providing a rich and luxurious feel on the palate. On the other hand, a Flat White showcases microfoam, achieved through precise steaming techniques, resulting in a smooth and silky texture that complements the espresso's flavor profile. The contrast between these foam textures highlights how different milk frothing methods can enhance or alter the overall sensory experience of a coffee beverage.

Read: Not Just Any Cup Elevating Your Coffee with Milk

Size of Drink

In terms of size, a Cortado is typically served in a smaller glass, ranging from 4 to 5 ounces, whereas a Flat White is often presented in a larger cup, usually around 6 to 8 ounces, reflecting the difference in serving styles and volume.

The variations in cup sizes between a Cortado and a Flat White not only influence the quantity of espresso and steamed milk but also play a significant role in the overall drinking experience.

The smaller, more compact nature of a Cortado allows for a rich concentration of flavors that is savored in each sip.

On the other hand, the larger cup size of the Flat White provides a creamier and slightly milder taste due to the additional milk volume.

These differences in serving presentations cater to different preferences and create distinctive sensory experiences for coffee enthusiasts.

Serving Style

The serving style of a Cortado often emphasizes the pour of espresso into the milk, creating a layered effect, while a Flat White is known for its smooth and velvety surface, making it ideal for intricate latte art designs.

The pour of the espresso into the milk for a Cortado is typically done at a slower pace to allow the layers to form distinct bands of color in the glass, showcasing the contrast between the rich espresso and creamy milk.

On the other hand, when preparing a Flat White, baristas focus on achieving a velvety microfoam texture in the milk through a smooth and controlled pouring technique, ensuring a consistent and creamy surface that serves as a perfect canvas for beautiful and detailed latte art decorations.

Which One Has More Caffeine?

caffeine content of cortado and flat white

When comparing the caffeine content, a Cortado typically contains a higher concentration of caffeine compared to a Flat White due to the stronger espresso base used in the preparation of a Cortado.

Espresso, being the foundation of both beverages, plays a crucial role in determining their caffeine levels. The Cortado's intense espresso shot results in a bolder flavor and higher caffeine kick, making it a preferred choice for those seeking a robust energy boost. On the other hand, the Flat White, while still espresso-based, has a smoother taste due to its milk-to-espresso ratio, offering a more balanced caffeine experience.

Understanding these nuances can help coffee enthusiasts choose the brew that aligns best with their desired caffeine intake and flavor preferences.

Which One Is Better for Latte Art?

When it comes to showcasing latte art skills, the Flat White is often preferred over the Cortado due to its smooth and consistent foam, providing baristas with a canvas for intricate designs and patterns.

The velvety microfoam in a Flat White allows baristas to create detailed art forms like hearts, rosettas, and even more complex designs with precision. The creamy texture of the foam holds well atop the espresso base, enhancing the visual appeal of the final product.

On the other hand, the Cortado, with its equal parts espresso and steamed milk, can present challenges in achieving the desired contrast for intricate artwork. Baristas often find that the rich foam of a Flat White provides better control and depth, enabling them to bring their latte art visions to life with finesse.

Which One Is More Popular?

In recent years, the Flat White has gained significant popularity in the coffee scene, becoming a favored choice among enthusiasts, while the Cortado remains a classic option appreciated for its rich espresso flavor and creamy texture.

The appeal of the Flat White lies in its perfect balance of velvety microfoam and strong espresso, creating a smooth and indulgent experience for coffee lovers seeking a less bitter option than a traditional cappuccino.

Meanwhile, the Cortado continues to hold its own in the coffee world, with its equal parts espresso to steamed milk ratio offering a robust yet mellow flavor profile that caters to those who enjoy a straightforward coffee taste without overwhelming bitterness.

How to Make a Perfect Cortado?

Crafting a perfect Cortado involves expertly pulling a balanced espresso shot, frothing milk to a creamy texture, and carefully layering the velvety microfoam over the rich espresso base for a silky smooth finish.

  1. To begin, ensure your espresso machine is properly heated and your coffee grounds are freshly ground to the right consistency for espresso extraction.
  2. Next, tamp the grounds evenly in the portafilter to create a compact puck, which is crucial for a consistent extraction.
  3. When frothing the milk, aim to create a smooth, glossy microfoam by gently introducing steam into the milk without creating large bubbles.
  4. The ratio of milk to espresso is key in a Cortado, as it should strike a perfect balance between the rich coffee flavor and the sweetness of the milk.

How to Make a Perfect Flat White?

Achieving the perfect Flat White requires skillful extraction of a balanced espresso shot, steaming milk to create velvety microfoam, and pouring the milk in a way that blends seamlessly with the espresso, resulting in a beautifully textured and flavorful beverage.

To start, ensure your espresso shot is extracted properly - the grind size, dose, and extraction time all play crucial roles. Aim for a rich, aromatic shot with a balanced flavor profile.

When frothing the milk, focus on creating a glossy, silky microfoam that enhances the coffee's sweetness. The key is to heat the milk to around 140°F while incorporating air to achieve a creamy texture.

When pouring, maintain a steady hand and gradually pour the milk into the espresso, allowing for the perfect union of flavors to shine through.

Which One Should You Choose?

choosing between cortado and flat white coffee

Deciding between a Cortado and a Flat White depends on various factors, including your preference for espresso intensity, milk texture, and the overall experience you seek from your coffee beverage.

If you enjoy a stronger coffee flavor with a balanced milk-to-espresso ratio, the Cortado might be your go-to choice. Its smooth texture and bold espresso kick make it a favorite for those who appreciate a more pronounced coffee taste.

On the other hand, if you prefer a velvety mouthfeel with a sweeter milk presence that nicely complements the espresso, the Flat White could be the ideal pick. The creamy microfoam in a Flat White adds a luxurious touch to the rich espresso base, creating a harmonious and satisfying coffee experience.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing

Before making a choice between a Cortado and a Flat White, consider factors such as whether you prefer a milk-based drink, the desired texture contrast between espresso and milk, and how each beverage aligns with your flavor preferences.

These factors play a significant role in determining your coffee experience. For those who enjoy a more pronounced espresso flavor with a velvety smooth milk texture, a Cortado might be the ideal choice.

On the other hand, if you prefer a stronger coffee taste with a silkier and creamier texture, a Flat White could better suit your palate. Understanding how milk enhances the coffee's taste and adds a touch of sweetness can help guide your decision between these two popular milk-based beverages.

Personal Preference

Your personal preference as a coffee lover will play a significant role in determining whether you lean towards the bold flavors of a Cortado or the velvety smoothness of a Flat White, reflecting your unique taste and appreciation for specialty coffee beverages.

When faced with the choice between these two popular espresso-based drinks, it's crucial to consider the nuances that define each.

The Cortado, known for its equal parts espresso and steamed milk, delivers a robust and intense flavor profile, ideal for those who enjoy a strong coffee kick.

On the other hand, the Flat White, featuring a double shot of espresso topped with velvety microfoam, offers a creamy and silky texture that appeals to individuals seeking a more mellow and balanced coffee experience.

Time of Day and Purpose

Consider the time of day and your coffee-drinking purpose when deciding between a Cortado and a Flat White, as the Cortado's higher caffeine content may suit morning pick-me-ups, while the Flat White's smooth texture can be perfect for relaxed afternoon indulgences.

During the morning hustle, a Cortado with its robust caffeine kick can provide that necessary boost to kickstart your day and keep you focused on tasks at hand.

In contrast, a leisurely afternoon coffee break calls for the velvety, creamy texture of a Flat White to savor the moment and unwind amidst the day's demands.

The balance between caffeine levels and milk texture in these espresso-based drinks can truly enhance your coffee experience based on the timing and ambiance you desire.

Frequently Asked Questions

cortado and flat white coffee comparison

What is the difference between a Cortado and a Flat White?

The main difference between a Cortado and a Flat White lies in the milk to espresso ratio. A Cortado has a 1:1 ratio while a Flat White has a 1:2 ratio.

Which drink has a stronger coffee taste, a Cortado or a Flat White?

Since a Flat White has a higher ratio of espresso to milk, it typically has a bolder and stronger coffee taste compared to a Cortado.

What type of milk is used in a Cortado and a Flat White?

Both drinks use steamed milk, but a Cortado traditionally uses whole milk while a Flat White often uses a combination of whole and textured milk.

Can you customize the milk in a Cortado or a Flat White?

Yes, you can customize the type of milk used in both drinks. For example, you can opt for almond or oat milk instead of traditional cow's milk.

Which drink has a smoother texture, a Cortado or a Flat White?

Both drinks are known for their silky smooth texture, but a Flat White may have a slightly smoother texture due to the higher proportion of steamed milk.

What type of espresso is used in a Cortado and a Flat White?

Both drinks use a double shot of espresso, but a Cortado often uses a slightly longer pull of espresso compared to a Flat White. This can result in a slightly different taste and strength of the coffee.