The Best Coffee: Cortado vs Cappuccino?

Are you up for a well-caffeinated debate? These two iconic espresso drinks will have your taste buds debating and may just keep even the most experienced barista coming back for more. Cortado vs Cappuccino – Making the ultimate caffeine decision can be difficult but we’re here to make it easier by breaking down what these espresso classics are all about, from their origins to each one’s unique profile in flavor and texture.

Read on to discover why deciding between sipping a cortado vs cappuccino is less like choosing between hot and cold beverages and more like finding out which style of espresso makes your heart skip a beat.

What is a Cortado and what is a Cappuccino?

A Cortado and a Cappuccino are both espresso-based coffee beverages, but they differ in their preparation and ingredients.

A cortado is a coffee drink made with espresso and warm milk. The ratio of espresso to warm milk is usually two parts espresso and one part steamed, frothed whole milk, resulting in an espresso slightly thicker than regular consistency. Cortados are also often referred to as “cortaditos” or “noisettes”.

A cappuccino is also a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk but the difference comes in the form of the froth used for topping. Instead of using rich, full-fat whole milk as a cortado, a cappuccino uses frothed milk foam that is typically light and airy. Cappuccinos are also often served with a dusting of cocoa powder or cinnamon on top, making them even more enjoyable than their cortado counterpart.

Both beverages are traditionally served in small cups to highlight their intensity and flavor. While a cortado has a stronger coffee flavor than a cappuccino due to the higher ratio of espresso to milk, a cappuccino is creamier and more balanced in flavor due to the addition of milk foam.

Origin of Cortado vs Cappuccino

The two iconic espresso drinks have their roots in Italy and Spain, respectively. The cortado is believed to have originated in Spain and was traditionally served with a small amount of cold milk. It’s now evolved into the warm version found in cafes all over the world today.

The cappuccino is believed to have been invented in Italy by an Italian named Cappuccio. It’s made with a double shot of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed foam on top, giving it its signature light and airy feel.

Cortado vs. Cappuccino: What’s the Difference?

A cortado and a cappuccino are both espresso-based drinks that are popular in many coffee shops around the world. While they may appear similar, there are some key differences between the two that make them unique.

Cortado vs cappuccino

1. Differences in the brewing method

A cortado is typically made with a single shot of espresso that is cut with a small amount of steamed milk. The ratio of espresso to milk is usually around 1:1, resulting in a strong, but smooth and creamy coffee beverage. To make a cortado, the barista will typically pull a shot of espresso into a small glass or ceramic cup, and then add steamed milk to fill the cup about halfway. The steamed milk is usually not frothed, so it does not contain a significant amount of foam.

On the other hand, a cappuccino is typically made with a double shot of espresso, and equal parts steamed milk and foam. To make a cappuccino, the barista will pull a double shot of espresso into a larger cup, and then add equal parts steamed milk and milk foam on top. The resulting drink has a more pronounced foam layer and a lighter, frothier texture than a cortado.

2. Differences in texture

The texture of a cortado and a cappuccino can also differ due to the way they are prepared.

A cortado has a smooth, velvety texture due to the equal parts of espresso and steamed milk. The milk is steamed just enough to create a bit of froth on top, but not so much that it creates a layer of foam. This results in a drink that is creamy and rich while still maintaining a strong coffee flavor.

In contrast, a cappuccino’s texture is lighter and airier, thanks to the addition of milk foam on top of the steamed milk. The foam is created by aerating the milk with a steam wand, which creates a layer of bubbles. This foam layer gives the cappuccino a thick, frothy texture that contrasts with the smooth espresso and steamed milk underneath.

While both drinks have a creamy texture, the cortado is more uniform in its texture, with the milk and espresso blending together smoothly. The cappuccino, on the other hand, has a more layered texture, with the espresso at the bottom, the steamed milk in the middle, and the foam on top.

3. Differences in flavor

The flavor profile of a cortado and cappuccino can also be quite different.

A cortado is made with a single shot of espresso, so it has a bold coffee flavor that is balanced out by the rich, creamy texture of the steamed milk. The drink can have subtle notes of sweetness depending on the type of beans used, but overall the flavor is strong and intense.

A cappuccino, on the other hand, is made with a double shot of espresso and equal parts steamed milk and foam. This results in a drink that has a slightly sweeter flavor than a cortado due to the added richness of the frothy foam. The presence of foam on top gives the cappuccino a lighter and more airy feel, which helps to balance out the bold espresso flavor.

4. Differences in ingredients

Finally, the ingredients used to make a cortado and cappuccino can also vary.

A cortado is typically made with just espresso and steamed milk, while a cappuccino usually contains espresso, steamed milk, and frothed foam. Depending on the coffee shop, other ingredients such as syrups or flavored powders can also be used to give the drinks a unique flavor.

5. Differences in strength

The strength of a cortado and cappuccino can vary depending on the amount of espresso used. Cortado has a stronger flavor since it contains less water and more espresso than Cappuccino; thus it has a higher caffeine content. On the other hand, Cappuccino is typically made with a double shot of espresso, and the addition of frothed milk and foam helps to mellow out the flavor and reduce its overall strength. This makes Cappuccino a great choice for those who want to enjoy coffee without having it be too intense.

6. Differences in presentation

The presentation of a cortado and a cappuccino can also differ, as they are typically served in different types of cups.

A cortado is traditionally served in a small glass or ceramic cup, which allows the layers of espresso and steamed milk to be visible. The glass or cup is usually about 4-6 ounces in size, allowing for a small amount of milk to be added to the espresso. The cortado glass is wider than an espresso cup, with less height than the cappuccino cup. Some coffee shops may also serve cortados in small ceramic cups with a handle.

A cappuccino is typically served in a larger ceramic cup that can hold around 6-8 ounces of liquid. The cappuccino cup is more traditional, tall and narrow at the bottom, and the top of the cup is wider then it narrows again at the top. The drink is layered with a defined espresso base, steamed milk in the middle, and milk foam on top. It’s usually served with a small spoon on the side as the customer is encouraged to mix the foam and espresso together. The foam layer is often decorated with latte art, which can add an extra level of visual appeal to the presentation.

7. Serving suggestions

Cortado vs cappuccino

Cortados and cappuccinos can be enjoyed as is or with a variety of accompaniments depending on the occasion. For breakfast, a cortado is perfect to pair with pastries such as croissants and cookies.

A cappuccino can also be served alongside sweet treats like cupcakes or muffins for added indulgence. For a more savory option, cortados and cappuccinos can be enjoyed alongside sandwiches or even lunch dishes like pasta.

Both drinks are also great for afternoon pick-me-ups when paired with snacks like nuts or pretzels.

How to make a Cortado vs Cappuccino

Making a cortado and a cappuccino is both simple and can be done with just a few ingredients and some basic equipment.

For a Cortado


  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk


  • Espresso machine
  • Steaming pitcher
  • Cortado glass


1. Pull a shot of espresso into a cortado glass.

2. Heat the milk in your steaming pitcher until it is hot and steamy.

3. Pour the steamed milk slowly over the espresso, stirring gently to combine and create a creamy mixture.

4. Serve immediately in the cortado glass with a spoon for stirring, if desired.

For a Cappuccino


  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 cup of milk foam


  • Espresso machine
  • Steaming pitcher/frothing wand
  • Cappuccino cup


1. Brew your espresso shot and pour it into the Cappuccino cup.

2. Pour the milk into the steaming pitcher or with a frothing wand and steam it until you get a smooth and velvety texture.

3. Use a spoon to scoop out the foam from the pitcher and add it to the top of the espresso in the cappuccino cup.

4. Use the remaining steamed milk to fill up the cup.

5. Add any syrup flavors, if desired.

6. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Tips for Finding the Best Coffee Shops for Enjoying These Drinks

When looking for the best coffee shop to enjoy a cortado or cappuccino, it’s important to consider several factors.

  • First, check that they use fresh, high-quality beans and make their drinks with care.
  • Second, look out for any specialties they may have when it comes to serving these drinks – a good coffee shop will have its own unique spin on these classic beverages.
  • Lastly, read online reviews and check out the atmosphere of each shop to get an idea of which one suits you best.

By following these simple tips, you’ll be sure to find a great spot for enjoying a delicious cortado or cappuccino!


After exploring the wonderful world of coffee, it’s hard to decide which of these two delicious drinks is truly better than the other. Both cortado vs cappuccino offers a delightful experience for coffee lovers everywhere. Cortado offers a strong flavor with a creamy finish that creates a smooth and robust cup of coffee, but the added milk of cappuccino makes for a more satisfying experience for those looking for something extra.

Ultimately, it’s up to your own personal preference to decide which one you ultimately fall in love with. Whether you choose the velvety blend of cortado or the flavorful combination of cappuccino, both can be a part of your daily routine if you find yourself consistently returning to either drink.


What has caffeine cortado or cappuccino?

Both cortado and cappuccino contain caffeine, as they are both made with espresso. The amount of caffeine in each drink will depend on the type of beans used and how much espresso is included.

What is the Starbucks equivalent of cortado?

At Starbucks, the closest equivalent to a cortado is called an “Espresso Con Panna”. This beverage contains two shots of espresso topped with sweetened whipped cream.

Is cortado a ristretto or espresso?

A cortado is made with a single shot of espresso. It has less volume than a regular espresso and more milk than a ristretto.

Is cortado vs cappuccino healthy?

Cortado and cappuccino can both be enjoyed in a healthy way. If you opt for non-dairy alternatives, such as oat milk or almond milk, this will reduce the calorie content of the drink. Additionally, try skipping any syrups that may be added for a less indulgent beverage.

Can I use almond milk instead of whole milk?

Yes, you can use almond milk instead of whole milk to make a cortado or a cappuccino. However, it is important to note that the taste and texture of the drink will be different from the traditional drink that is made with whole milk.

When steamed, almond milk has a slightly nutty flavor and does not produce as much foam as cow’s milk. This can result in a drink that is less creamy and less frothy than one made with whole milk, but it can also be a great dairy-free option.

What are the tips for making a Cortado or Cappuccino with almond milk?

1. Use unsweetened almond milk for a more neutral taste.

2. Steam the almond milk well to create some froth, but don’t overheat it, as this can cause it to become watery.

3. If using store-bought almond milk, look for one that is specifically labeled as being appropriate for steaming, as not all almond milk brands are equal in their ability to produce froth.

By using almond milk, you can make a delicious and healthier version of this classic drink, with fewer calories than regular milk. Enjoy!

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