How to Brew

What Is A Cortadito?

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If you’ve been to a few local coffee shops, you’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of choice on the menu board. It can also be disorientating when every coffee house has unique names for their coffee and sizes. 

One rare selection is the cortadito. What makes this offering unusual isn’t the ingredients or the size. No need to guess because the surprising reason is just below.

Recommended: 50+ Different Types Of Coffee Drinks Explained

Cortado vs. Cortadito

You can’t learn about the cortadito without first learning about the cortado. In most parts of the world, coffee lovers will have had the chance to spot cortado on the menu. 

What is a cortado? The cortado is a Spanish or Portuguese espresso.  

The structure is simple: a double shot of espresso and steamed milk. The ratio of coffee to milk is 1:1, meaning half espresso and half milk. While the makeup of cortado is uncomplicated, two components help it stand out: size and milk preparation. 

There’s no foam or froth, only heat. When making a cortado, you steam the milk, which allows the sweetness to stand out but not overpower the flavor. The sweetness also cuts down some of the acidity of the espresso. As a result, it’s robust and rich but creamy and smooth. 

The cup of coffee is tiny, typically not much larger than 4 ounces. If your order at a chain coffee shop, like Starbucks, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, or Biggby Coffee, you won’t be able to customize your size. You won’t have a cortado if you try to squeeze in any extra ingredients. 

With the basics of the cortado grasped, let’s break down the cortadito. 

If you examine the names alone, you might be thinking a cortadito is a smaller version of the cortado. But, unfortunately, despite cortadito meaning “small cut” and the hint of adding “-ito” usually indicating a smaller version in Spanish, it’s a misdirect. 

Here’s the shocking twist: cortadito and cortado are the same.  

Why are there separate names for the same “coffee with milk” beverage? The origin of the cortado is Spanish, while the cortadito is Cuban. 

Suppose you’re ordering your coffee in a Cuban cafe or a coffee shop near a significant Cuban population, like in South Florida. In that case, you’d ask for a cortadito. Everywhere else in the world, the name cortado is more popular. 

But are there any differences? The most significant change is that the cortadito has slightly more wiggle room. You serve both drinks in the same small cup, but the milk ratio varies. You might pour the usual 1:1 or mix in more milk or a drop more of Cuban espresso. 

There are also some cases of mixing a pre-sweetened espresso shot with warmed milk. If you’re making it at home, you can experiment until you find your perfect balance.

How to Create a Cortadito

What Is A Cortadito

The Cuban version of the cortadito coffee drink fuses bold espresso and warmed milk. It’s easy to find the ingredients, and you can master the steps in no time.

Creating Your Cortadito:

  1. Prepare your espresso by grinding, measuring, and tamping your espresso beans.
  2. Place your finely ground coffee beans into the espresso maker.
  3. Extract two shots of espresso.
  4. Prepare the milk by warming or steaming with your method of choice.
  5. Pour your espresso shots into your glass or coffee cup.
  6. Pour the prepared milk on your espresso, carefully measuring a 1:1 ratio. 

Here’s a point of contention: some makers steam the milk while others insist on warmed milk. There is a difference, but it’s subtle. If you’re brewing by hand, you might simplify the process by warming milk in the microwave. But, if you have a handy machine, go ahead and steam. 

For milk: there’s no right or wrong answer. You can use whole milk, almond, oat, or other. However, keep in mind the milk is meant to cut the intense espresso flavor, so be wary of unsweetened milk varieties. 

For espresso: You can prepare your espresso with any method, such as an espresso machine, an espresso-style Keurig, a French Press, or a Moka pot. 

For flavor: Don’t be afraid to get creative. For example, add a touch of syrup, cardamom, or flavored milk.

How to Drink A Cortadito

Like its twin, the cortado, the cortadito is a sipping beverage. You should drink it slowly and enjoy the robust flavor.  

Read a book, people watch or challenge a crossword puzzle. The cortadito is also a fantastic conversational drink. Sip this delicious coffee and socialize with no pressure to finish before the foam flattens. 

Be careful of drinking too quickly or ordering a few rounds, as espresso packs a caffeine punch. If you’re a light coffee drinker, consider weaning into the cortadito. Start with milkier drinks, like a flat white, with a 3:1 ratio.  

Alternatively, you can keep the same ratio but change out the ingredients. You might not have much luck customizing at a coffee house, but at home, you can change the expresso or add sweeter evaporated milk.

Cortadito Vs. Flat White

If you’re considering using the flat white as a stepping stone into the cortadito, you should know what to expect. Both share the same amount of espresso (a double-shot), but the milk content is higher in the flat white. 

The flat white is a suitable canvas for latte art due to the light floating foam. However, you’ll also find the serving size more generous, as the milk adds more volume. 

Cortadito Vs Gibraltar

We have another plot twist: another twin drink. The cortadito, cortado, and Gibraltar are the same drink. The Blue Bottle Coffee Company was experimenting with new glasses when they served espresso in a 4.5-ounce glass. The glass was called a Gibraltar. 

The unfortunate side of the story is that, at the time, they thought they were inventing a new drink. However, after the Gibraltar became popular, they realized it was the same mix as the cortado.

Conclusion

Now you know that the cortadito is not only a twin but an accidental triplet. You can show off your coffee knowledge the next time you’re ordering. 

Enjoy a relaxing sip of cortadito and have fun with it.

What Is A Cortadito

Cortadito

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Cuban version of the cortadito coffee drink fuses bold espresso and warmed milk. It's easy to find the ingredients, and you can master the steps in no time.

Ingredients

  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 1/2 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Prepare your espresso by grinding, measuring, and tamping your espresso beans.
  2. Place your finely ground coffee beans into the espresso maker.
  3. Extract two shots of espresso.
  4. Prepare the milk by warming or steaming with your method of choice.
  5. Pour your espresso shots into your glass or coffee cup.
  6. Pour the prepared milk on your espresso, carefully measuring a 1:1 ratio. 
Happy Caffeinating!

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