With the many coffee and espresso drinks available in coffee shops, it can be hard to keep track of how they all differ. For example, a cortado and a cappuccino are similar drinks made from espresso and milk, but they are not the same.
If you are wondering how to tell the difference or which one is better for you, you’re not alone.
Find out exactly what a cortado and cappuccino are and how to make them at home.
In This Article
Cortado vs Cappuccino: The 4 Main Differences
A cortado and a cappuccino are made with espresso and milk, but the proportions differ. Here’s how they compare.
- Espresso: A traditional cortado is made with two shots of espresso, while a traditional cappuccino is made with one shot of espresso.
- Milk: A traditional cortado has a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk. A cortado with two shots of espresso has two ounces of milk. A traditional cappuccino has a 1:3 ratio of espresso to milk. A cappuccino with one shot of espresso has three ounces of milk.
- Caffeine: Because the cappuccino is made with less espresso than a cortado, it has less caffeine. One shot of espresso has 63mg of caffeine, says Consumer Reports. This means a cortado with two espresso shots contains 126 mg of caffeine, while a cappuccino with one espresso shot contains 63 mg of caffeine.
- Flavor: A cortado has a more robust coffee flavor, while a cappuccino is creamier with a milder coffee flavor. It is more common to add flavored syrups and sweeteners to a cappuccino.
What is a Cortado Coffee?
Originally, a cortado contained a splash of milk to cut the acidity of the espresso, but the amount of milk in the drink eventually became standardized. A cortado is a coffee drink made with two shots of espresso and two ounces of milk. It has a strong coffee flavor and is typically served hot. A cortado in the morning will give you a quick caffeine boost as it has 126 mg of caffeine. Although a cortado could be made in a different size by keeping the espresso-to-milk ratio the same, 4 ounces is the standard size for a cortado.
How to Make a Cortado
- Brew two shots of espresso in your espresso machine, or brew 2 ounces of very strong coffee with your coffee maker.
- Heat two ounces of milk until it just begins to simmer. You can do this in the microwave or on the stovetop but watch it carefully and remove it from the heat before the milk boils.
- Whisk the hot milk with a hand whisk to froth it.
- Scoop a few spoonfuls of foam from the frothed milk and set it aside. Remember, a cortado has a light layer of foam on the top, so you will not need a lot of foam.
- Pull two shots of espresso into a cup.
- Slowly pour the milk into the espresso.
- Top with the reserved steamed and foamed milk.
What is a Cappuccino Coffee?
A traditional cappuccino is a creamy coffee drink made with one shot of espresso and three ounces of steamed and frothed milk. A cappuccino has a mild coffee flavor and contains 63 mg of caffeine. A cappuccino can be served hot or as an iced drink and often has other flavorings, like vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut. A cappuccino has a medium layer of foamed milk on top.
However, keep in mind that not all coffee shops follow the traditional ratio of espresso to milk when making a cappuccino. For example, according to Coffee at Three, Starbucks offers cappuccinos in 8-ounce, 12-ounce, 16-ounce, and 20-ounce cups. The eight and 12-ounce versions have one shot of espresso, while the 16 and 20-ounce cups have two shots of espresso.
A cappuccino may vary slightly between coffee shops.
How to Make a Cappuccino
- Brew espresso in your espresso machine. You can use strong brewed coffee if you don’t own an espresso machine.
- Heat three ounces of milk in the microwave until it begins to form tiny bubbles along the edges.
- Froth the milk with a whisk until it becomes foamy.
- Scoop some of the foam from the milk and set it aside in another container.
- Pull a shot of espresso into a cup.
- Gently pour the steamed milk into the espresso.
- Top with the reserved foam.
If you choose to add sweetener or flavored syrups to your cappuccino, do so before adding the milk.
Which One Should I Order? Cortado or Cappuccino?
Choosing between a cortado and a cappuccino is a matter of personal taste. A cortado has a more robust, more intense coffee flavor, while a cappuccino is creamy and smooth. A traditional 4-ounce cortado has 126 mg of caffeine and will give you a quick caffeine boost. However, a traditional 4-ounce cappuccino only has 63 mg of caffeine.
Ounce-per-ounce, the cortado contains more caffeine, but don’t forget to factor in the size of the drink. For example, a large cappuccino from Starbucks contains the same amount of caffeine as a 4-ounce cortado.
When choosing between a cortado and a cappuccino, consider the amount of caffeine in the drink, the time of day, and what flavor you prefer.
Frequently Asked Questions
A cortado contains more caffeine than a cappuccino when they are compared ounce-per-ounce. Traditionally, a 4-ounce cortado, made with two shots of espresso and two ounces of milk, contains 126 mg of caffeine. On the other hand, a traditional cappuccino made with one shot of espresso and three ounces of milk only contains 63 mg of caffeine.
However, not all coffee shops follow the traditional ratio of espresso to milk, and many offer larger cappuccino sizes. A large cappuccino frequently contains two espresso shots, making the caffeine content in a large cappuccino equivalent to the caffeine content of a four-ounce cortado.
Cappuccino is made with espresso, which gives it a strong coffee flavor. However, because a traditional cappuccino has a ratio of one ounce of espresso to three ounces of milk, it typically has a smooth taste with a light coffee flavor.
Many are surprised to learn that a cappuccino made with one shot of espresso has less caffeine than an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee. A traditional 4-ounce cup of cappuccino has 63 mg of caffeine, while an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee has 95 mg of caffeine.
Cappuccinos made with two shots of caffeine contain 126 mg of caffeine or about the same amount as a 12-ounce cup of brewed coffee.
A cappuccino has more calories than a cortado because it has more milk. According to Nutritionix, one ounce of 2% milk contains a little over 15 calories.
A traditional cortado made with two shots of espresso and two ounces of 2% milk contains 30 calories, while a cappuccino made with one shot of espresso and three ounces of 2% milk contains 45 calories. But don’t forget to factor in the size of the drink, whether the milk is whole milk or low-fat, and whether the drink is sweetened with sugar when comparing the calories between a cortado and a cappuccino.
Cortado is traditionally a drink popular in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, but it is also served in Italy. However, in Italy, the term cortado is often replaced with the name macchiato.
A traditional cortado is made with two shots of espresso and two ounces of milk. The ratio of milk to espresso in a cortado is 1:1.
Drinking coffee, including cortado, in moderation has been shown to offer various health benefits. Healthline says drinking three to four cups of coffee a day (up to 400 mg) can provide several health benefits.
- Lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Decreases the risk of liver disease.
- May help alleviate depression.
- May help with weight control and help prevent obesity.
- May protect against Alzheimer’s Disease, cognitive decline, and Parkinson’s Disease.
- May lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Increases energy and decreases fatigue.
Drinking a cappuccino in moderation can be good for you, providing all the health benefits associated with coffee. However, the added amount of milk and sugar should be monitored as the calories can add up quickly. Likewise, with the popularity of larger-size cappuccino drinks, it is prudent to consider the size of your cappuccino beverage and keep your caffeine consumption below 400 mg daily.
Final Thoughts on Cortado vs Cappuccino
Cortado and cappuccino are similar espresso-based coffee drinks made with milk, but they aren’t identical. For example, a traditional cortado has a 1:1 espresso-to-milk ratio, while a cappuccino has a 1:3 ratio. In addition, Cortado is traditionally sold in a 4-ounce cup, while cappuccino can be found in larger sizes. Which is the better choice for you is a matter of personal taste. Some prefer a cortado early in the morning for a quick jolt of caffeine to start the day and switch to the milder flavored cappuccino in the afternoon as a leisurely drink during an afternoon coffee break.
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