cortado vs flat white: what are the differences

Cortado vs Flat White: What’s the Difference?

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Over the years, many new and delicious coffee types have been brewed. For example, the debate between cortado vs flat white is a significant one and focuses on cortado’s smoother taste compared to flat white’s heavy milk and caffeine content.

These two drinks differ primarily in these areas but are also different in a few other ways that are important to understand before choosing one.

Cortado vs Flat White: How They’re Different

  • Cortado: A cortado drink is typically smoother and has a less potent coffee taste than the flat white.
  • Flat White: The flat white has a far higher caffeine content and is a great option for those who want an almost instant pick-me-up for their day.

We’ll go into even greater detail about the main differences below.

What is a Cortado Coffee?

what is a cortado coffee

A cortado coffee is a drink made with espresso and steamed milk and has a similar taste and texture to a cappuccino or latte. It was created by Spanish coffee makers and comes from the Spanish verb “cortar,” meaning to dilute or cut back. They made the drink by mixing in milk with the espresso, which helps to decrease its acidity and produce a sweeter and smoother taste for coffee fans.

How to Make a Cortado Coffee

The best recipe we’ve found for making a cortado requires four tablespoons of dark Robusta coffee and one ounce of whole milk. It takes about five minutes to make and is about 50 calories with 75 milligrams of caffeine. You’ll need an espresso machine to follow this recipe, so make sure you have one before trying:

  1. Grind your coffee into an appropriate powder before brewing
  2. Put the coffee into the espresso handle press firmly
  3. Brew the coffee for about 20 seconds and reserve to get about one shot of espresso
  4. Steam the whole milk until it is foamy without getting too bubbly
  5. Layer the milk over the top of the espresso without getting too dense
  6. Serve with a delicious snack or any other food that you enjoy with your coffee.

What is a Flat White Coffee?

A flat white coffee is an espresso-based drink with a thin layer of milk that has a more concentrated level of caffeine than cortado and more milk. This extra milk gives it a rather rich flavor that makes it easy for many people to enjoy. It originated throughout Australia and has only recently become popular in North America and elsewhere, particularly at coffee shops like Starbucks.

what is a flat white coffee

How to Make a Flat White Coffee

When making a flat white coffee, you need an espresso machine that can produce a 6-7 ounce double shot. You’ll also need at least one-half cup of milk to mix with your drink that gives it a richer overall flavor. Follow these steps to produce a flat white coffee at home:

  1. Grind your coffee before you mix it into your espresso machine
  2. Fill the water tank with water and heat it before you start brewing
  3. Pour the grounds into a portafilter and insert into the handle
  4. Press the coffee grounds to compress them before brewing
  5. Put the portafilter into the machine and turn it on the brew the coffee
  6. Steam your milk until it is bubbly, which helps to give it its unique flavor
  7. Pour the milk over the flat white coffee and serve with a snack or meal

The 5 Main Differences: Cortado vs Flat White

In this section, we’ll settle the cortado vs flat white debate by highlighting how they’re different and the ways that they may appeal to certain people. This information is very important for people who are new to both of these drinks and who may not understand what they are and how they’re made. Later on, we’ll discuss more about each drink and give you a guide for making them at home!

1. Cortado vs Flat White: Preparation Methods

While these two are typically produced using a fairly similar method, they ultimately vary based on how long they’re steamed. The cortado isn’t steamed as long as the flat white, which gives it a less bubbly texture. By contrast, the flat white is steamed longer, which can affect its taste and produce a unique texture that many may enjoy.

2. Cortado vs Flat White: Varying Strength Levels

Cortado and flat white will both have a fairly strong coffee taste, though cortado may have a slightly stronger taste due to having less milk. However, the flat white can have a sharp taste due to its higher caffeine levels. This gives it a unique kick that the cortado doesn’t quite possess.

3. Cortado vs Flat White: Caffeine Amounts

The cortado is less intense than flat white and has a caffeine level almost half that of flat white. That makes it a good choice for people who don’t want an extremely heavy caffeine buzz, though those who want to wake up faster may find flat white is better for their overall taste.

4.  Cortado vs Flat White: Milk Differences

Beyond the different milk levels, cortado milk is only lightly steamed, which creates a warm and soft layer of top milk. Flat white has a more consistently heated milk that produces a rich and bubbly foam with smaller bubbles that makes it feel a bit more carbonated than the cortado.

5. Cortado vs Flat White: Latte Art

Latte art refers to the milk designs created in these drinks. Cortado typically has a fairly minimal art for its milk, with the flat white often being far more textured and appealing. If you like a drink that looks cute on the surface, a flat white is probably the better choice for your unique tastes.

Which One Should I Order…Cortado or Flat White?

Both of these drinks are a great choice for the right person. Here’s a few considerations to take into account when deciding if you want to drink a cortado or a flat white:

  • Potency: The cortado has less caffeine than the flat white, which makes it a good choice if you want something a little milder for your next coffee drink.
  • Flavor: The cortado may have a slightly sharper taste than the flat white due to its lower milk content, though you can adjust that if you want.
  • Calories: Though both drinks have a fairly low calorie level, the flat white will have a little bit more than the cortado, which may affect your preference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which has more caffeine: Cortado or Flat White?

A standard serving of cortado coffee has about 75 milligrams of caffeine, while a similar serving of flat white has about 130 milligrams. That gives it almost twice the amount of caffeine as the cortado, though it does use two espresso shots compared to the cortado’s one.

Which has more calories?

Based on numerous sources, cortado has about 50 calories per serving, while flat white has between 58 to 60 calories. This extra amount is negligible for the most part, though drinking multiple cups could add up to a more significant calorie difference.

Is flat white the strongest coffee?

Flat white is one of the strongest coffees on the market and is comparable to the strongest-ranked brand of Devil Mountain Coffee’s Black Label. Like a shot of flat white, it has 130 milligrams, which makes flat white right up there with the most potent types of coffee.

Is a cortado stronger than a cappuccino?

Cortado has a very similar caffeine content to a typical espresso but usually has a smaller coffee level. Its 1:1 ratio makes it a little more potent tasting, though the caffeine level will be about the same as most cortado and espresso drink types.

How many ounces is a cortado?

Though you can get cortado drinks of multiple sizes, the most common is about five ounces. That’s a good level because it’s enough to give you a strong caffeine boost without overwhelming you and avoiding the “caffeine jitters” that some people get from potent coffee types.

How much milk is in a cortado?

Our recipe for a cortado called for one ounce of milk for four ounces of coffee. However, there are other recipes that call for a 1:1 ratio, which makes your cortado more intense. The difference will vary depending on your preference and what kind of coffee tastes best to you.

Does flat white require more milk than cortado?

In our cortado and flat white coffee recipes, the first drink had one ounce of milk, while the second had a half cup of milk. That gives flat white more milk than cortado, even when taking into account portion differences between the two recipes.

Is cortado the same as macchiato?

While cortado and macchiato are espresso-based drinks with the same amount of caffeine, cortado has a lighter coffee flavor because it uses more milk than macchiato. They are basically the same beyond this milk difference, which does significantly change their overall taste.

What do Americans call a flat white coffee?

Americans may call this drink a flat white coffee, though they are also prone to calling it a double-shot espresso. Many coffee shops alternate between the two names, using whatever one is most common in their specific service area.

Is cortado coffee healthy?

Cortado coffee has a high caffeine content that can be healthy for people trying to focus or even lose weight and may even fight against depression. It also has a decent amount of calories, though it is important to make sure that you keep your caffeine level below 400 milligrams per day.

Is flat white coffee healthy?

Like cortado coffee, flat white has a high caffeine content that gives you an energy boost and may provide many health benefits. It also has a good level of potassium, vitamins, and sodium due to nutrient infusion, but should be drunk in moderation to avoid caffeine overdoses.

Final Thoughts on Cortado vs Flat White

When choosing between cortado and flat white, its important to weigh your taste preference and find an option that works the best for you. While both are quite good and even healthy when ingested at safe levels, their different taste, calorie content, and caffeine levels make them quite different. As a result, it is important to try out both and make a decision based on which tastes better to you.

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Thomas Demers
Thomas Demers
Tom is a managing partner with Caffeine Gurus. He has been writing and researching coffee and caffeine for over 10 years.