Cortado Vs Flat White

by Anne Franklin 4 min read

Cortado Vs Flat White

The cortado and flat white are two espresso-based coffee drinks that have become increasingly popular in recent years. Though they contain the same basic ingredients - espresso and steamed milk - there are some key differences between these two caffeinated beverages. 

Difference Between Cortado and Flat White  

Cortado Coffee


A cortado is a popularcoffee drink that originated in Spain. It features a creamy, rich texture yet remains light and easy to drink. Its defining characteristics include:

  • Serving Size: Typically served in a 4-5 oz coffee cup or Gibraltar glass, which is why some baristas refer to a Cortado as a Gibraltar. 
  • Espresso to Milk Ratio: A cortado contains equal parts espresso and steamed milk, creating a 1:1 ratio. The espresso is usually a single (1 ounce) or double (2 ounce) shot.
  • Steaming the Milk: The milk for a cortado is steamed to a silky texture, with small microfoam bubbles incorporated throughout. The milk should not be overly foamy or frothy.

How to Make a Cortado Coffee

  • Pull the espresso shot directly into the glass or coffee cup.
  • Steam fresh milk to about 160°F.
  • Pour the steamed milk evenly into the espresso. 
  • Lightly swirl or scoop the milk through the espresso to mix and incorporate the microfoam.
  • Top with a thin layer of milk foam, if desired.
  • Serve immediately while hot.

Flat White Coffee

Flat White Coffee

The flat white originated in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s. It's made with espresso and microfoamed milk from free-pouring the steamed milk. You can easily make it at home with yourNespresso Original Brewer, and these are its characteristics.

  • Serving Size: A flat white is typically served in a small coffee cup or glass, around 5-6 oz.
  • Espresso to Milk Ratio: A flat white uses a double shot of espresso containing around 2 ounces of espresso. The steamed milk makes up the rest of the drink, around 4 ounces. This results in a 1:2 espresso-to-milk ratio.
  • Steaming the Milk: The milk for a flat white is steamed to a microfoam, meaning small, even bubbles throughout the milk. The microfoam incorporates air into the milk to give it a velvety texture while allowing the espresso flavor to shine through.

How to Make a Flat White Coffee

  • Brew a double shot of espresso and pour it into the cup.
  • Steam fresh whole milk to a microfoam texture. This requires aerating the milk for a few seconds, then lowering the steam wand tip just below the surface to spin and heat the milk until glossy and velvety smooth. 
  • Pour the microfoamed milk over the espresso. The key is to pour slowly and evenly to allow the milk to blend with the crema. This creates the signature smooth, velvety texture.
  • Top with latte art if desired. The most common designs are a fern or rosetta.
  • Serve immediately while hot.


Taste Profile

The flavor profiles of cortados and flat whites are quite similar, with some subtle differences. 

Both contain espresso combined with steamed milk, creating a creamy, textured drink. The espresso provides a base of dark,roasted coffee flavors like chocolate, caramel, and toasted nuts. 

The steamed milk adds sweetness to balance the espresso's bitterness. It also contributes to a silky, velvety mouthfeel. 

In a cortado, the espresso slightly dominates the flavor. The milk tames the espresso’s acidity and bitterness. But the coffee remains at the forefront, with the milk playing a supporting role. Cortados have a bolder, richer coffee taste.

Flat whites allow the milk to share center stage with the espresso. The milk softens the espresso’s acidity while matching its sweetness. The coffee and milk complement each other, neither overpowering the other, which is why flat white coffee has a more balanced flavor profile.

Both drinks finish with a lingering sweetness. But cortados have a darker, chocolatey aftertaste compared to flat whites' sweeter finish.

The aroma also differs slightly. Cortados smell strongly of warm, toasted espresso, while flat whites have a milder scent with gentle, creamy undertones. But both drinks offer a pleasant, inviting coffee aroma.

Final Takeaway

Both cortados and flat whites are delicious espresso-based drinks that are perfect for coffee lovers looking for something a bit strong or creamier. They have more similarities than differences, but with some key distinguishing factors. 

So when choosing between the two, it really comes down to your preference. Honestly, there's no wrong choice if you’re looking to expand your espresso drink repertoire and try something new. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cortado Stronger Than Flat White? 

Yes, typically, a cortado is stronger than a flat white. It has an equal ratio of espresso to milk, while a flat white has more milk, making the espresso less intense.

What Is the Difference Between a Latte and a Cortado?

The main difference is the amount of milk. A latte has a larger volume of steamed milk, making it milder, while a cortado has an equal ratio of espresso to warm milk, resulting in a stronger coffee.

What Is the Difference Between a Latte and a Flat White?

Thedifference between a flat white and a lattelies in their composition of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. A flat white has a stronger coffee flavor due to a higher espresso-to-milk ratio and a velvety microfoam layer. A latte, on the other hand, consists of more steamed milk with a lighter froth on top, resulting in a creamier texture and a more subdued coffee taste.

Is a Flat White Just a Cappuccino?

No, a flat white is not just a cappuccino. A flat white typically has a higher concentration of coffee to milk and is served with a thinner layer of microfoam, while a cappuccino has equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, making it frothier.



Nescafe (n.d).Cortado vs Flat White: What is the difference?. Retrieved from 

Methodical Coffee (August 10, 2023).Macchiato vs Cortado vs Flat White: What's the Difference?. Retrieved from 



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