A world view of the Cortado

February 25, 2018

Coffee Cortado

I was a Barista for over six years in the mid-90's and never once did someone ask for a Cortado. To be honest, I had no idea what it was until the Fall of 2017.

Today, the Cortado is found on nearly every specialty coffee menu. As it turns out, it is quite popular in countries all over the world. I jumped on the Facebook group started by the world-famous barista, Dritan Alsela, called World of Coffee to ask about the origins and the popularity of the Cortado.

The response was overwhelming and I immediately learned how popular this style of coffee beverage was.

The Cortado

Cortado means "to cut" in Spanish. It's an appropriate title since the espresso is "cut" with milk (or your favorite milk substitute) making the beverage less acidic. The most common way to make a Cortado is roughly 1/2 espresso and 1/2 steamed milk. The Cortado is popular among baristas who use textured milk to make latte art. Generally speaking, the name Cortado is broadly used to define a small coffee beverage that has been "cut" with milk.

I should mention Cortado and Macchiato were used interchangeably by several people which, I have since learned, is an incorrect assumption about the drink. In short, a Cortado has a little more milk than a Macchiato and less foam. It just so happens that the Machiatto has a broad and diverse definition, which we shall save for a later time.

Other similar drinks include a Flat White and a Piccolo, both of which have subtle differences. The use of espresso and milk remain a common theme, but preparation, quantity and even how it is served determine the name of the beverage. It's common to feel a little confused when deciphering the subtle differences of each beverage, I'm barely holding on to the definition myself.

It was a common correction among the people engaged in this discussion that coffee and espresso are not to be confused. The Cortado is definitely made with espresso and not coffee. Espresso being the more condensed and flavorful cousin of coffee.


The Cortado seems to be extremely popular in Spain as it is said to be the country of origin. One response claimed the Cortado is not popular at all in Portugal, which is curious considering its proximity to Spain. However, this individual said there is another beverage quite similar called café pingado or pingo.


London was mentioned frequently which, according to the British Coffee Association, is not surprising considering 55 million cups of coffee are consumed every day. You will likely find the Cortado on every coffee shop menu in London.


An individual from Bulgaria commented saying a Cortado is short shots of espresso, usually a double or a triple, and mixed with equal parts steamed milk. They also mentioned that in Bulgaria, they drink is referred to as a Clasick.

United States

The Cortado can be found in most metropolitan areas as specialty coffee shops continue to spring up across the US. Legend has it the Cortado or Cortadito as it's called in Cuba came to the States via Flordia from Cuba in the 1960's.

In California and other parts of the West coast, you will find a similar beverage called a Gibraltar, coined after the 4.5-ounce glass tumbler it is served cafes owned by the Blue Bottle Roasting Co.


Coffee fans from South Africa, Cuba, France, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Austrailia were among the other counties who chimed in. It's obvious the drink is quite popular among dedicated coffee connoisseurs. The Cortado is also clearly gaining traction among the general coffee going population as it moves it's way up the menu. 

We want to hear from you. Have you tried a Cortado? Where are you from? As always, thanks for reading!

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