How to make a Cortado coffee

Joshua Allerton
February 6, 2023



Origin: Spain

Size: 120ml (small)

Strength: Strong

A cortado coffee is a traditional Spanish and Latin American coffee drink that is made by combining espresso with a small amount of steamed milk. The result is a smooth, creamy, and slightly sweet coffee that is not too bitter. The ratio of espresso to milk is 50:50 and the final drink is around 120-150 ml.

Perfect for: coffee drinkers who want something a little richer than a straight espresso, but not as heavy as a latte. It’s a great way to start your day or enjoy a break!

In recent years, cortado coffee has become a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts and baristas alike, as it allows them to showcase their skills in creating a well-balanced and delicious coffee drink. With the rise of specialty coffee shops, the cortado has become a staple drink on many coffee menus.

The history and origin of cortado

The origin of the cortado coffee can be traced back to Spain in the early 20th century. It is believed that the name "cortado" comes from the Spanish word "cortar" which means to cut. The cortado coffee was created to cut the intensity of the espresso by adding a small amount of steamed milk. This balance of espresso and milk made the drink more accessible to a wider range of people and it quickly gained popularity.

Cortado spread to other Spanish-speaking countries, such as Cuba and Argentina, where it remains a beloved and staple drink to this day. The popularity of cortado coffee continued to grow and it eventually made its way to other countries, including Italy, France, and the United States.

Similar beverages are found in other countries. They vary based on the amount of milk used. For example, the Italian macchiato only uses 1-2 tsp of textured milk. These differences are small, but make a massive impact on the overall taste and experience.


  • Espresso - freshly brewed and brewed to order for optimal taste
  • Steamed milk - a small amount, heated to around 60-70°C

I’ve found whole and semi-skimmed milk to produce the best results. For non-dairy milk, use barista grade for optimal texture.

Sugar is optional. However, the steamed milk is supposed to take away the edge from the espresso. If a Cortado is too strong for you, try a milk-based coffee instead.

Equipment needed to make a cortado coffee:

  • Espresso machine and tamper
  • Milk steamer
  • Demitasse cup: A small cup, usually around 3-4 oz, is used to serve the cortado.
  • Coffee Grinder (if grinding whole beans)
  • Milk pitcher
  • Thermometer

Step by step instructions

  1. Start by heating up a 60ml in a steam wand on your espresso machine.
  2. Pull 2 shots of espresso (60ml)  into a small cup.
  3. Once the milk is heated to around 60-70°C and has a velvety texture, pour it into the cup with the espresso.
  4. Stir gently to mix the two together and enjoy your cortado!

How to serve and enjoy your cortado coffee

  • Drink it while it's hot: A cortado is best enjoyed while it's still hot, so be sure to drink it as soon as it's ready.
  • Sip and savour: Take small sips and savour the flavours of the coffee. The cortado should have a balance of espresso and milk, with the espresso being the dominant flavour.
  • Pair it with a light snack: A cortado is often paired with a light snack like a biscuit or a pastry.
  • Take time to enjoy it: A cortado is meant to be enjoyed slowly, so take the time to sit down and relax while you drink it.
  • Enjoy with company: Sharing a cortado with friends or family is a great way to enjoy it, it can be a great conversation starter.

Tips to make the perfect cortado coffee:

  • Use fresh, high-quality coffee beans: The quality of the coffee beans you use can greatly affect the taste of your cortado. Make sure to use fresh, high-quality beans that have been roasted recently.
  • Use the right grind: A fine grind is best for espresso, so make sure your beans are ground accordingly.
  • Texturize the milk correctly: The milk should be texturized correctly to create a velvety microfoam, this will help to mix the espresso and milk together perfectly.
  • Practice makes perfect: Like anything, making a great cortado takes practice. The more you make it, the better you will become at it.

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