Cortado vs Flat White: Which Espresso Drink Is Right for You?

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An espresso shot is a go-to coffee for people in dire need of caffeine. But if you’re not strong enough to handle strong coffee, you can always sit back and enjoy a cup of milky espresso drinks like cortado and flat white.

Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with these two beverages. You’ve got nothing to worry about, for this article will enlighten you on the difference between a cortado vs flat white. By the end, you will also learn how to brew them quickly at home.

Cortado vs Flat White: Quick Comparison

CortadoFlat white
Coffee-to-milk ratio1 part espresso
1 part steamed milk
1 part espresso
2 parts steamed milk
TasteSlightly creamy, strong coffee flavor Creamier, mild coffee flavor
Caffeine content (double espresso)126 mg 126 mg 
Calories (double with whole milk)4074

What Is a Cortado? 

A cortado, a common Cuban coffee drink

A cortado is a Spanish-descent coffee beverage made with equal parts espresso and warm milk. It was named after the Spanish word “cotar” because it meant “to cut” or lessen the espresso’s acidity and strength with the help of steamed milk. 

What Is a Flat White?

A flat white, an espresso drink that may or may not have originated in Australia

A flat white is an espresso-based drink with steamed milk and a very thin layer of microfoam. While Aussies have argued about it, others believe that flat whites originated in Wellington after a barista used low-fat milk in a cup of cappuccino with less froth on top.

Flat White vs Cortado: Coffee-to-Milk Ratio

A cortado is made with equal amounts of espresso and warm milk, while a flat white has 1/4 espresso and 3/4 steamed milk.

What makes a cortado a cortado? It is traditionally made by adding two espresso shots and an equal amount of steamed milk. However, you can request to have a single-shot cortado.

Meanwhile, a flat white has a bigger milk-to-coffee ratio, albeit having two shots of espresso. It’s also called “flat” because it has a flimsy layer of subtle milk foam.

Despite their difference in coffee-to-milk proportions, you can still do latte art to both coffee drinks. That’s because the milk added to cortados is also velvety, while the milk poured into flat whites is lightly textured. 

Flat White vs Cortado: Serving Traditions

A cortado has a smaller serving size than a flat white.

Cortados are usually served in a 4-ounce cup or a transparent rock glass called a Gibraltar.

Flat whites are served in ceramic cups that are larger than cortado glasses but smaller than latte or cappuccino mugs. You won’t see too many coffee shops serving a flat white in an 8-ounce mug.

Flat White vs Cortado: Flavor Profile

A cortado tastes stronger than a flat white.

If you’re obsessed with strong but creamy flavors, you should have a cortado due to its balanced proportions of steamed milk and espresso. The milk reduces the espresso’s acidity but still lets the espresso shot be the superstar.

Meanwhile, if you’re a latte lover, you will most likely prefer to have a cup of flat white. You’ll still taste the espresso, but it’s not going to be as strong as in a cortado.

However, if you want your flat white to have a sweeter flavor, you can replace the espresso with ristretto. 

But what is ristretto? This coffee extract is made with extremely fine ground coffee but less hot water. It also has a shorter extraction time. As a result, your coffee becomes more concentrated and tastes sweeter and fruitier than regular espresso.

Flat White vs Cortado: Caffeine Content

Both beverages have almost the same amount of caffeine.

Although a flat white has more milk than a cortado, they are still double-shot espresso drinks with an average of 126 mg of caffeine per serving. The caffeine content will also vary depending on the type of ground coffee beans.

However, an espresso-based cortado has more caffeine if you’re comparing it to a ristretto-based flat white. Though ristretto tastes stronger, it has slightly less caffeine than espresso.

Flat White vs Cortado: Calories

Counting calories is also significant in choosing the right cup of coffee. A flat white with whole milk has 74 calories, while a cortado with the same milk type only has 40 calories. In that case, cortados are the healthier options.

To make a flat white the healthier coffee alternative, you can switch from whole milk to skim or low-fat milk. Where whole milk has 17 calories per ounce, low-fat milk has 13, and skim milk has only 11.

Cortado and Flat White Recipes

How to make a Cortado

  1. Finely grind 18 grams of coffee beans.
  2. After grinding, brew two shots of espresso.
  3. Steam 4 ounces of milk a little cooler than usual (130-150 °F).
  4. Create a small espresso base in a Gibraltar glass.
  5. Pour the milk over the coffee.
  6. Serve and enjoy it while it’s still hot!

How to make a flat white

  1. Finely grind 18 grams of coffee beans.
  2. Prepare your double espresso shots.
  3. Pour the espresso into your 6-ounce cup.
  4. Steam 4 ounces of milk in a milk pitcher.
  5. Remove any large bubbles by tapping the container.
  6. Slowly fill 3/4 of the cup with your steamed milk.
  7. Enjoy!

Take Espresso to the Next Level

Cortados and flat whites are perfect for the creamy coffee craze that can still provide you with a zap of energy. But if you prefer something with an even stronger coffee flavor, you should try a cup of magic coffee

If you want to take your espresso experience to the next level, you should try even more types of coffee drinks. I highly recommend a cappuccino, a regular latte, or an espresso macchiato. And feel free to try out variants of these drinks made with a long shot or a ristretto instead of regular espresso.

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