Before you order, take the time to learn the true differences between cortado vs flat white so that you can order just the perfect drink for your deserving tastebuds.
Visually, these drinks will look very similar to each other. They taste similar to those who have not grown up drinking both regularly. The main differences will be in the strength of the espresso and the milk content.
A cortado is made from equal parts espresso (2 shots) and steamed milk. A flat white will have the same blend of steamed milk and espresso (1 shot), but it has milk foam on top of it.
There’s more you need to know below to help you order just the right thing!
What is a cortado?
A cortado is a small, 5 oz drink that blends two shots of espresso and equal parts of steamed milk. This is a creamy drink with a smooth texture. It’s well-stirred before the customer gets the final blended drink.
What is a flat white?
This lesser-known drink combines one shot of espresso with equal parts steamed milk. Then, foamed milk is poured on top of the steamed milk. It doesn’t typically get stirred together, and there isn’t often art in the foam. The flat white foam is often centered in the drink’s middle, just for the aesthetic.
Can you get a flat white in the US?
For many Americans and US dwellers, a flat white is probably foreign to you. You can get a flat white in the US, most notably at Starbucks. Even though Starbucks and other specialty coffee shops offer a lot of fancy and international drinks, drip coffee is still the most popular coffee in the US.
Key differences between a cortado and a flat white
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two popular drinks so that you can put them side by side and see how they offer you a unique flavor and experience!
A cortado is from Spain, though it’s widely enjoyed around Europe and the Americas. It’s mostly unchanged from its original creation. A flat white is from Australia and New Zealand (there is a lot of debate about which country it originates from) and has mostly stayed in that area, though it is ordered in Europe.
Of the two, a cortado is more popular worldwide, even if drinkers aren’t entirely sure where it comes from!
A cortado will continue to keep it simple and contain espresso and steamed milk. Again, the focus here is on the fact that the flavor is blended by mixing the drink’s two ingredients evenly. A flat white adds milk foam to the top of the drink, giving it a different texture and a distinct milky flavor.
The brewing process for a cortado and a flat white is the same. Both start with a double or single shot of espresso in the bottom of the cup; then, it’s topped with steamed milk. From there, a cortado is stirred before being served, and a flat white is dotted with milk foam before it’s served.
Both of these drinks are served in a 5- or 6-oz glass. The cortado only needs a 5 oz glass, but many use a 6 oz just for breathing room when walking it over to the customer. A flat white has a 6 oz glass because of the milk foam at its top!
There is a vital difference between the taste of a cortado and a flat white! A cortado has a potent bitter espresso taste cut by the milk (hence its name, which is adapted from Spanish for “to cut”). A flat white will taste very strongly of coffee rather than espresso and then be softened slightly with a larger amount of milk.
What is stronger: a cortado or a flat white?
As you might be able to guess from the description of these two drinks, a cortado is made using two espresso shots to be much stronger in both its flavor and its caffeine level! A flat white will be foamy in comparison and weaker in its bean taste and caffeine content!
Calories in a cortado vs. flat white
Since coffee, unfortunately, has calories and we all must watch our waistlines, this question is very relevant. According to myfitnesspal, a cortado has 74 calories per serving, and a flat white has 135 calories per serving.
If calorie counting is your primary goal, a cortado is probably a better choice. However, you can still enjoy a flat white by switching from whole milk to something lower in fat, like coconut or almond milk. There are many ways to make your classic coffee options a bit healthier!
Why make one healthier instead of simply having a cortado? Firstly, not everyone will like a cortado’s strong espresso flavor. It can take a while to get used to, and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea! Er, coffee. Anyway…
The other main factor that surprised me a lot was that a cortado’s use of a double espresso is harder on your cardiovascular health than a flat white when compared directly. It makes sense when you think about it because one is a double shot, whereas the other is a single shot.
If you have a history of cardiovascular health concerns, or you’re simply trying to be mindful of heart health, try to limit how often you have a cortado!
Which is better: a cortado or a flat white?
This is the most challenging question because the world sometimes gets polarized regarding which is better and why. I’m sharing my thoughts, though, to help!
Firstly, a flat white is a seemingly identical drink to the beloved latte. However, I’ve written before about a latte vs. a cortado, and I disagree with this when you get into the details of each type of drink.
Many readers say that because these drinks were introduced to them to a latte before a flat white. So the flat white is directly competing with the latte. Anyone from Australia or New Zealand will quickly say that a flat white is entirely different from a latte, and they are correct! So, it’s all about perspective.
Secondly, a cortado shouldn’t compete directly with a flat white. Where a flat white is foamy and creamy, a cortado is smooth and bitter. While it can be easy to confuse the two, especially if you are new to both, it takes proper immersion in either (or both) to see how distinctive they look, feel, and, most importantly, taste.
I admit I was surprised to learn as much as I did about the differences between a cortado and a flat white. While they come from entirely different parts of the world (Spain and Australia/New Zealand, respectively), many can confuse them for each other if they’re not used to drinking either!
However, a cortado has two espresso shots, whereas a flat white has one. A cortado is blended with equal steamed milk and espresso and served mixed, while a flat white has steamed milk poured on top of the espresso and then is topped further with milk foam. A cortado has fewer calories than a flat white, but a flat white is better for your heart health. There’s so much to know about these drinks!
If you know someone who’s going to find these differences as fascinating as you did, share this with them and see which details they’re most surprised about!