Cortado vs. Latte: What’s The Difference?

By Robert Parsons August 20, 2021

If you are like most of us, it is quite difficult to keep up with the many coffee names and the real differences between each of them. Some have the same ingredients even but the smallest details make for an entirely different drink. 

Today, we are talking about two drinks specifically: the cortado and the latte. What are the differences between a cortado and latte and what are the similarities? We will dive into all of this in the most simple way that keeps the confusion to a minimum.

What is a Cortado?

You may not even be familiar with a cortado. A cortado is a mixture of espresso and steamed milk. This drink originated in Spain and means “cut” because it is equal parts espresso and steamed milk. There are no other added sugars or creams. Just the two simple ingredients. The drink comes to only about 3 or 4 ounces in total and is served hot. 

Think of this as the perfect cafe drink to impress your friends or coworkers when you are trying to stand out from the everyday iced caramel macchiato. 

What is a Latte?

Very similar is makeup, a latte is a mixture of espresso and milk, but the key is part steamed milk and part milk foam. There is a major art to steamed milk and the many options that can come from the way the milk is prepared. In this case, the milk is frothed into a microfoam that sits at the top of the drink. The rest of the steam milk sits below with the espresso shot. 

It is also served hot and comes to a total of 6 or even 20 ounces depending on the sizing. The larger the size, the more espresso and milk you will get. Typically cafes stop offering after 3 shots of espresso, but that is a hefty amount of caffeine for the day for sure. The latte is much more common and versatile than a cortado. 

The Big Differences

Now in comparison, there are a few key differences to point out. The largest difference is the key ingredient in each. A cortado comes off much more espresso rather than milk. Due to each part, the espresso takes over. It also has much smaller portions than the latte which makes one espresso shot really stand out. 

The latte has much more milk flavor rightfully so. It is full of both milk steam and froth with much less espresso added in. The large variation options of a latte make it a sought after drink for those wanting a small amount of espresso or quite a bit. 

Pro and Cons

So is one better than the other? Let’s compare them both. It is almost impossible to rule one better than the other and so many people’s preferences vary so much, but we can rule what each drink offers so that each of you can determine what your better option is. 


Smaller Beverage

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, the cortado is dainty and divine. It can be a quick morning pick me up for a class or a pairing with your afternoon snack. Regardless of when you choose to drink it, there is a guarantee you won’t overdo it with this small coffee delight. 

Heavy on the Espresso Flavor

This can go either way. It might be way too much espresso for some especially without any cream or sugar added in, or it may be the perfect mix of espresso and milk. It definitely highlights the richness an espresso shot offers while sprinkling in a bit of milk to help smooth it out a tad, but there are much more mild options including the latte if that does not sound like your match. 

Not Offered Everywhere

Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with this drink. Due to the lower amount of popularity, it might be a difficult task to find this drink at your local cafe. Trial and error are the only way to go with this dilemma, but if you are lucky enough to find a cafe that offers cortado’s, give it a shot. 


Milk Heavy

Since this drink is unevenly matched in espresso and milk, it needs to be a guarantee that you enjoy the milk aspect of an espresso drink before giving a latte a try. However, most places do offer milk substitutes if you’re an oak milk type of person, just be mindful the froth may end up a bit different. 

Syrup Options

There are unlimited amounts of syrup options for lattes which can be a huge plus to those of us who like some extra flavor options in the mix. This does, however, mask the espresso flavor at times, but most people seem to admire its versatility rather than the downsides. 

Smooth Going Down

Due to the lower amount of espresso, this drink is much easier to drink even for the least coffee versed. This is a large reason why it is considered one of the most basic drinks on a cafe menu. Basic seems to have become a way of insulting when people like something that is just good. 

If you aren’t as much of a fan of lighter on the coffee, heavy on the milk and sugar, this might not be the best drink for you.