Cortado Vs Cappuccino (Top Differences)

Photo of a cortado on the left and a cappuccino on the right. Cortado Vs Cappuccino.

Have you ever seen the words “Cortado” and “Cappuccino” written on a coffee menu but weren’t sure of the difference? Both espresso drinks are creamy, luxurious coffee experiences in their own right; however, there are some key differences between a Cortado vs Cappuccino.

Cortados typically have less foam than cappuccinos, while cappuccinos usually use more milk than cortados. This blog post will explore these distinct characteristics to help clarify which drink is best suited for your particular mood and occasion.

Key takeaway points:

  • Cortado has a smoother, velvety mouthfeel with a strong coffee taste, while Cappuccino is airier, sweeter, and creamier.
  • Cortado is served in smaller 4-ounce glasses, whereas cappuccinos use 5 or 6-ounce cups.
  • Cortado originates from Spain and is popular in Latin America, while Cappuccino comes from Italy and is globally popular.
  • Both drinks have similar nutritional values, but cappuccinos may have a higher calorie count due to more milk.
  • Personal preference, time of day, occasion, and availability influence the choice between Cortado and Cappuccino.

Understanding Cortado And Cappuccino

Definition And Origin

Cortado and Cappuccino are two popular espresso-based beverages. The first mention of a cortado appeared in Madrid, Spain, in the early 19th century, when it was referred to as ‘café con leche’.

A traditional cappuccino originated in Italy during the same period with just an espresso and steamed milk without foam or emulsified milk like today’s cappuccinos.

Over time, both drinks evolved and changed depending on geographical location. In modern times, cortados typically contain one shot of espresso diluted with some kind of milk, such as soy or almond milk. In contrast, classic Italian cappuccinos usually consist of two shots which are then topped with thick, aesthetically pleasing cream.

Some variations also include cocoa powder ripples sprinkled onto the top layer of frothed milk, while others incorporate flavored syrups into their recipes for extra sweetness and flavor complexity.

Ingredients And Preparation

Cortado and Cappuccino are two popular coffee drinks that usually contain a single shot of espresso and milk. The key difference between the ingredients and preparation methods for these coffees is their size, type of milk used, flavor profile, sweetness level, foam consistency, the temperature of the beverage, and the amount of espresso used relative to steamed milk.

Both Cortado and Cappuccino use one shot (1 oz) of espresso but with different ratios: Cortados have an equal ratio (1:1) with both regular steamed or foamed milk, while Cappuccinos consist of double-shots (2 ounces total), having a 1:2 ratio with more foam.

In terms of texture, cortados tend to be thicker because they use less steamed/foam milk compared to cappuccinos which often appear very light in texture due to higher proportion airy foam content.

Ingredients and preparation for Cortado:

  • 1 oz espresso
  • Equal parts regular steamed/foamed milk
  1. Brew 1 oz of espresso.
  2. Steam milk to create a smooth and creamy texture.
  3. Add an equal amount of steamed/foamed milk to the espresso.
  4. Serve warm.

Ingredients and preparation for Cappuccino:

  • 2 oz espresso
  • 2 oz steamed milk
  • 2 oz foamed milk
  1. Brew 2 oz of espresso.
  2. Steam milk to create a smooth and creamy texture.
  3. Pour 2 oz of steamed milk into the espresso.
  4. Add 2 oz of foamed milk on top of the steamed milk.
  5. Serve warm.

Size And Texture

Cortado and Cappuccino are two popular espresso-based drinks. Not only do they differ in taste, but size and texture also set them apart from each other.

Cortado typically contains more espresso than milk, with approximately a 1 to 1 ratio of one shot of espresso to about one ounce of steamed milk. As such, it is usually served in volumes between four to six ounces for a single serving – smaller than most cappuccinos.

Texture-wise, cortados have a creamy mouthfeel due the high concentration of microfoam mixed within the drink that lends itself velvety quality when sipped on slowly. In comparison, cappuccinos contain more milk than espresso by volume (usually around 2-3 milliliters), making it significantly larger per cup compared to its cortado counterpart – 6-12 ounces being common sizes seen today at coffee shops.

This extra space is filled with microbubbles formed via steam or a machine referred to as “frothing,” which gives this type of coffee drinks its characteristic fluffy foam layer on top, known as latte art.

Key Differences Between Cortado And Cappuccino

While they may seem similar at first glance, there are several key differences between these two drinks that set them apart. Let’s take a closer look at their key differences, so you can make an informed choice the next time you visit your local coffee shop.

Espresso To Milk Ratio

The espresso-to-milk ratio is the most crucial factor in distinguishing between a cortado and Cappuccino. A cortado is made with roughly equal parts of steamed milk and espresso, giving it an overall milder flavor as compared to a cappuccino which has more espresso than milk for a bolder taste.

This ratio also plays into the texture of the drinks; due to having less steamed milk in comparison, a cappuccino features more foam or froth on top that adds not only visual appeal but also extra creaminess.

In contrast, Cortados are slightly less creamy as they involve almost no foam and just enough undulated liquid for better balance and enjoyment.

Milk Texture And Temperature

One of the key differences between a Cortado and a Cappuccino lies in their milk temperatures. For the preparation of a cortado, the steamed milk is heated to 130 F (54 C), while for a Cappuccino, it’s 140 F (60 C).

This difference can be experienced in both taste and texture; because of its lower temperature, Cortado has a smoother, velvety mouthfeel compared to Cappuccino which has an airier volume with lighter bubbles.

The way each drink is blended also has an influence on how we perceive their taste. A classic Cortado contains 1 part espresso and one part steamed milk that’s poured over equal parts so as not to dilute too much flavor from either component, creating a balanced cup where neither element dominates nor conceals any flavors coming from different coffee beans.

Serving Size

Cortado and Cappuccino differ significantly in size, which has a direct impact on the flavor and texture of both beverages. Cortados are traditionally served in small 4-ounce glasses, while cappuccinos typically use 5 or 6-ounce cups as their standard size – sometimes even larger.

This difference in serving sizes allows cortados to maintain an intense espresso flavor without being overpowered by the steamed milk, making them the preferred choice among coffee aficionados who prefer strong, bold flavors.

Regionally there are also varying approaches when it comes to serving sizes; Italians pour approximately two ounces of espresso into three ounces of frothed milk for smaller (caffè macchiato) or larger (Cappuccino) servings depending on where customers live.

Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of a cortado and Cappuccino differ significantly. Cortados have an equal amount of espresso and steamed milk in their drinks, resulting in a rich texture with a strong coffee taste.

The milk content is generally dense, velvety, and foamy; this gives the drink its unique deep coffee flavor, which may even be slightly bitter or acidic. A cappuccino, however, has much more milk than espresso in it – usually double the quantity – creating a sweet and almost creamy textured beverage.

There are also subtle nuttiness and chocolatey tones to enjoy when having a cappuccino too. The difference between these two beverages lies within how much milk they contain when being made: Cortados use an equal ratio of espresso to heated/steamed milk, while Cappuccinos use twice as much steamed/frothed milk than espresso making them sweeter than regular Cortado by nature.

Culture And Origin

Cortado and Cappuccino are two coffee drinks with distinct cultural roots. Cortado is a Spanish drink usually made with an equal amount of espresso and warm, steamed milk to get a creamy yet strong coffee beverage.

It is common in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and other Latin American countries, where it is often served in a small glass tumbler or cup. On the other hand, Cappuccino originated from Italy and has become popular worldwide for its distinct taste featuring more foamed milk compared to Cortado.

While both drinks contain espresso as their base ingredient along with some form of steamed or foam milk as secondary ingredients, there are several differences between them, mostly attributed to their regions of origin.

Generally speaking, Cappuccino has bolder flavor notes since it contains double shots of espresso combined with microfoam. At the same time, cortados tend to be lighter thanks to its combination of equal parts espresso-milk ratio, which produces a creamy texture without bitterness found in stronger coffees like the Italian style espressos used commonly for making cappuccinos.

This helps explain why Cortado is considered milder than Cappuccino despite containing an almost equal amount of extracted coffee per shot; yet less microfoam used on top gives it a smoother mouthfeel than its Italian cousin.

Taste And Flavor Profile Comparison

Cortados and cappuccinos can be distinguished by their taste and flavor profile, which is affected by the surface area of foam, the espresso-to-milk ratio, and other factors in the preparation.

Bitterness And Acidity

Cortado and Cappuccino have different levels of bitterness, acidity, and overall flavor profile. Cortado has a balanced acidity which tends to be less harsh than that found in Cappuccino but slightly more acidic compared to other coffee drinks.

It also has a bolder espresso taste as the ratio is much higher compared to milk. On the other hand, Cappuccino’s milk-to-espresso ratio is higher, so it usually tastes milder with almost no sense of bitterness or acidity.

Depending on how it is prepared, some can still find hints of both in the final cup.

Sweetness And Creaminess

The main difference between Cortado and Cappuccino lies in their sweetness and creaminess. The texture and temperature of the milk used to make these drinks play a major role in their flavor profiles.

A cortado is served with an equal balance of espresso to steamed milk, creating a creamy, velvety drink that has a more intense coffee flavor. The steamed milk tends to be thicker with smaller bubbles, unlike the softer foam found on top of cappuccinos.

In contrast, a cappuccino is made using one-third espresso and two-thirds microfoam or soft foam on top of warm milk. Because there is less espresso than a cortado, this results in a milder coffee flavor overall — plus adding extra sweetness from its foamy topping layer.

Nutty And Chocolatey Notes

Cortado and Cappuccino are both coffee drinks that contain a shot of espresso and some type of milk, but their flavor profiles have subtle differences due to their various ingredients and preparation methods.

Cortados feature a strong espresso taste with nutty notes, while cappuccinos offer creamy sweetness. The variation in flavor comes from the amount of steamed milk used as well as the type of coffee beans employed – an Indonesian blend is usually chosen for making a cortado, where Brazilian or Colombian coffees make for delicious cappuccinos.

Nutty notes come through on cortados when using robusta beans mixed with an increasing concentration of brewed dark roasts, which contribute chocolatey aromas too.

Cappuccinos provide a milder, more delicate experience with softer acidity along with rich foam, which adds creaminess to the palette; this is possible thanks to Arabica beans being better suited because they produce more crema than robusta varieties do.

Nutritional Value Comparison

Cortados and cappuccinos differ in nutritional value due to the differing proportions of espresso and milk used for each type.

Calories in Cortado vs Cappuccino

In terms of calories and macro composition, Cortado and Cappuccino are quite similar. A standard Cortado contains one double shot of espresso (60 ml), mixed with 60 ml of steamed milk.

This mixed drink has an average calorie count between 75 to 140 kcal depending on the type of milk used. The equivalent Cappuccino consists of a double-shot espresso (60 ml) blended with 120ml steamed milk for about 120 kcal.

However, using lower-fat or skimmed variants can significantly reduce the calorie count in either beverage.

Health Benefits And Concerns

Cortado and Cappuccino provide several potential benefits for a person’s health as long as they are consumed in moderation. Both drinks contain caffeine—which can enhance alertness, reduce fatigue, and even improve short-term memory recall.

Cortado’s primary benefit comes from its nutrient content, while cappuccinos have zero nutritive value aside from providing you with caffeine. The amount of coffee varies between each drink, making the Cortado slightly stronger than a standard cappuccino containing fewer milligrams of caffeine per serving size.

In addition to potential positive health consequences, both Cortados and Cappuccinos also come with certain risks, such as negatively impacting teeth enamel due to acidity in espresso itself, especially when combined with milk which most people enjoy their espresso cups like this combo milky way! Moreover, overconsumption of caffeine-containing drinks can greatly increase a person’s risk for side effects like headaches and heart palpitations.

Choosing Between Cortado And Cappuccino

Whether you’re looking for a milder cup of coffee or a stronger flavor, the choice between Cortado and Cappuccino can depend on your personal preference.

Personal Preference

Personal preference is an important factor when deciding between a Cortado and Cappuccino. Depending on individual taste, texture preferences, and the occasion or atmosphere, one drink may be more suitable than the other.

For example, if you prefer a mild coffee with a subtle sweet flavor and creamy texture, then the fluffy foam of a cappuccino could make for a better choice.

On the flip side, if you are looking for something stronger with an intense coffee hit but still toned down by milk, then opt for a smaller Cortado – it’s made with just one shot of espresso that is balanced out by steamed milk, which produces velvety microfoam.

Time Of Day

Though there are no hard and fast rules as to when you should reach for a cortado or Cappuccino, considering the amount of caffeine in your chosen beverage and its level of sweetness can help determine which would be preferable depending on the time of day.

Cortado is traditionally made with just two ingredients: espresso and warm milk – 1 part espresso to 1 part steamed milk – making it an ideal option for those who don’t wish to consume too much sugar early in the day.

On the other hand, cappuccinos offer more than twice as much milk compared to cortados, designed to offset intense coffee flavors (typically 2 shots) with a creamy, frothy topping that gives this drink its signature feel.

As such, they often make more sense after lunch when one might care more about taste over buzz -– allowing drinkers to savor their coffee while still enjoying enough energy thanks to the double shot.

Occasion Or Atmosphere

When it comes to occasion or atmosphere, both Cortado and Cappuccino have special roles to play. Cortados are usually served in a more traditional setting with an emphasis on classic vibes. The subtle balance between espresso and milk is an ideal choice for refined and casual social gatherings where ‘mildness’ is the key flavor preference.

Fun Fact:

Did you know that in Spain, cortados are given instead of chocolate milk during breakfast?

Cappuccinos, on the other hand, modernize the coffee experience with their sweetness and creamy foam layer – making them best suited for sweeter occasions like after-dinner meetups or mid-morning get-togethers when caffeine feels unsatisfactory without any round-off from sugar.


Cortado and Cappuccino are two popular coffee drinks that vary in availability depending on the region or country. In Italy and Spain, where these beverages originated, Cortados are much more commonplace than their variant of the Cappuccino.

Here, a cortado is usually served as simply espresso with a small amount of steamed milk to add sweetness and remove any strong bitterness from the espresso blend.

However, this pattern changes once you move away from Europe. While many cafes across America still offer both drinks on menus, they’re less prevalent in comparison because local variations like Lattes and Mochas remain more popular.

Which One Is Right For You?

Cortado and Cappuccino are two different types of coffee drinks that have similarities but also several important distinctions. While both contain espresso, the amount of foam, milk texture, and temperature, as well as size, can differ.

Furthermore, their flavor profiles vary depending on the preference for a stronger or milder coffee experience and personalized tastes. When deciding between Cortado and Cappuccino there are various factors to consider including personal preference, time of day, occasion or atmosphere, availability, and nutritional value.

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Robert Knowlton is an expert barista with more than 15 years of experience. Robert's main goal is to make sure everyone can enjoy the perfect cup of coffee regardless of their skill level.