Cortado vs Flat White: Key Differences Between Two Coffee Classics


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Within the world of specialty coffee, there are two popular espresso-based drinks that share some similarities, yet possess distinctive characteristics: the cortado and the flat white. Both beverages have a strong coffee taste, but the type and amount of milk used create noticeable differences in flavor and texture.

The cortado focuses on achieving a balance between a bold espresso and a smaller, steamed milk component while the flat white involves a greater milk volume, resulting in a creamier and smoother experience.

These variations contribute to the unique identity of each drink and offer enthusiasts a chance to explore diverse coffee experiences.

So let’s uncover the secrets of cortado vs flat white.

Cortado vs Flat White

Cortado vs Flat White

Origins and Popularity

The cortado and flat white are both popular espresso-based coffee drinks, but they have different origins. The cortado originated in Spain, while the flat white was first created in Australia.

Both drinks have gained global popularity and are now enjoyed by coffee lovers worldwide.

Key Components

Although both the cortado and flat white are espresso-based drinks, they differ in the amount of milk used and how the milk is prepared.

In a cortado, equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk are used. The milk in a cortado is not frothed or textured, resulting in a less creamy and less sweet beverage compared to a flat white.

A flat white consists of one part espresso to two parts textured milk. This combination creates a creamier and smoother drink with a more luxurious feel. The microfoam in the flat white contributes to the rich and velvety texture that sets it apart from the cortado.

Both drinks offer a strong coffee taste, but the cortado’s flavor is more pronounced because it has less milk. The flat white, with more milk, provides a smoother taste profile.

Comparing Espresso Ratios

When discussing the differences between a cortado and a flat white, it is essential to examine the espresso ratios present in each drink. Espresso forms the base in both beverages, and their unique characteristics become evident as we delve into the coffee-to-milk proportions.

In a cortado, the ratio is 1:1 as equal parts of espresso and steamed milk are used but a flat white has a ratio of 1:2 with twice as much milk to espresso.

Differences in Milk Preparation

Steaming and Frothing

For both cortados and flat whites, the milk is steamed, but the methods and techniques can vary.

  • In a cortado, the milk is steamed to a lower temperature than a flat white, resulting in a thinner and less dense layer of foam.
  • The milk in a flat white is frothed more vigorously, creating a smoother and velvety texture with a higher volume of microfoam.

Texture and Consistency

One of the most significant differences between these two espresso-based beverages is the texture and consistency of the steamed milk.

In a cortado, the milk is relatively thinner with only a small amount of foam, allowing the robust espresso flavor to shine through more prominently. In contrast, the flat white features a more uniform and thicker layer of microfoam, which results in a creamier and well-balanced combination of coffee and milk flavors.

Cup Sizes and Serving Styles

Difference between Cortado and Flat White

One of the most noticeable differences between a cortado and a flat white is the cup size and the serving style.

A cortado is traditionally served in a small glass, allowing for equal parts espresso and steamed milk. This smaller size emphasizes the intensity of the espresso while balancing out the flavors with the addition of warm milk. Due to the smaller size, you can expect cortado servings to be around 4 to 5 ounces in volume.

Flat whites are commonly served in ceramic cups that can range from 5 to 8 ounces. This allows for a double shot of espresso to be paired with a larger volume of textured and frothy milk. The creamier, velvety texture of the milk in a flat white contributes to its smooth and luxurious mouthfeel.

When it comes to serving style, the cortado’s glass presentation showcases the layers and color gradients between the espresso and milk, making it visually appealing. The flat white’s ceramic cup offers heat retention and a tactile experience as you hold the warm cup in your hands during consumption.


When it comes to the mouthfeel, the steamed milk in a cortado is not frothed, resulting in a less creamy and less sweet beverage.

The cortado’s less creamy texture makes it more suitable for those who prefer a stronger punch from their coffee but with a smoother finish than straight espresso.

A flat white creates a luscious and silky experience due to the microfoam layer on top. This not only elevates the mouthfeel but also adds a touch of elegance to every sip. The flat white’s creamy and smooth profile makes it popular among those who enjoy a luxurious coffee experience without sacrificing the boldness of espresso.

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