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Cortado vs Cafe Con Leche: 5 Major Differences to Know

Henry Muller

In the colder seasons, a caffeine fix is all that one needs to keep going.

And there comes "cortado" and "cafe con leche," in the picture. Both these espresso-based drinks are equally good. And picking one from them is really a tough choice.

Thus to help you select your favorite, here I am.

Today in this article I will share with you the details about them. Plus I will also share with you what sets them apart so that you can make an informed decision.

So let's head forward.

Overview of Cortado

What is Cortado?

Cortado is an espresso-based coffee best known for its simplicity and elegance. It is also called "cafe cortado". This drink is best marked for its balance of espresso and milk.

Cortado coffee served in a glass cup

History and origin of cortado

The Cortado originated in Spain. It became a popular coffee choice by coffee lovers and became common in every cafe in Madrid and Barcelona.

The term "Cortado" means "to cut" in Spanish. It means that the espresso is cut with equal amounts of milk.

This balanced combination makes the cortado robust and creamy. Today, it is a beloved drink sipped by people for breakfast in Spain and Portugal. It is complemented with pastries and toast for a delightful treat.

How to make Cortado?


  • 40 ml espresso
  • 40 ml steamed milk

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1: Pull an espresso shot

Start by brewing an espresso shot. The base should be rich and flavorful for a strong base so make it accordingly.

Step 2: Steam the milk

While your espresso base gets ready, take an equal amount of milk and steam it. Keep steaming till it gets silky-smooth.

Step 3: Mix espresso and steamed milk

Now take a small and pour the freshly brewed espresso into it. Once done, add steamed milk from above and let the mixture blend.

Step 4: Serve it

Give it a fine stir for the ingredients to mix well.

Your cortado is ready.


  • With the use of equal parts espresso and milk, a perfect coffee is made that is neither too strong nor too milky.
  • Due to the addition of microfoam, cortado has a creaminess that complements bold espresso flavors.
  • Making a cortado is very easy, just 2 ingredients, a few steps and you are done.


  • Cortado might not be ideal for those who go for a larger coffee portion.
  • Cortado is not so creamy when compared to other milk-based drinks like lattes.
  • To make a Cortado, having an espresso machine is a must, which becomes another setback if you don't have it.

Overview of Cafe Con Leche

What is Cafe Con Leche?

Cafe con leche is a comforting coffee drink that is simply made by mixing espresso and milk.

It is known as "coffee with milk". People in Spain and Latin America love it the most.

Why? Because it is a tasty, easy, quick recipe. You can even add sugar to it and customize its sweetness as per your taste.

Cafe con leche coffee served in a white ceramic mug placed on a wooden table

History and origin of Cafe Con Leche

The origins of cafe con leche belong to Spain. It gained popularity in the coffee world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Today, cafe con leche is a common drink for breakfast in Spanish countries served with churros or toast.

How to make Cafe Con Leche?


  • 40 ml espresso
  • 40 ml steamed milk
  • Sugar or sweetener (optional)

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1: Brew espresso

Begin by brewing an espresso shot using your favorite machine. If you don't have an espresso machine, brew a strong coffee using your favorite brewing method. Just make sure we aim to brew robust and concentrated espresso.

Step 2: Steam your milk

Till the time your espresso is brewed, steam the milk. You should steam it to a consistency until it gets creamy and frothy.

Step 3: Mix espresso and milk

Now take a large mug and brew the fresh espresso. Once done, add an equal amount of steamed milk. Give the mixture a fine stir for the ingredients to combine.

Step 4: Add some sugar

If you want your coffee to be sweet, add some sugar to it.

Your cafe con leche is ready.


  • Cafe con leche offers a very creamy taste which makes it a comforting choice for coffee lovers that prefer luxurious mouthfeel.
  • With the right balance of rich espresso and smooth milk, cafe con leche maintains a balance in flavors. The sweetness of the milk is well complemented by the boldness of the espresso.
  • Cafe con leche is versatile. Thus coffee lovers can customize it as per their preferences by adjusting the ratio of espresso to milk or adding additional flavorings like vanilla or caramel syrup.


  • It is a unique coffee drink not available everywhere which makes it difficult to find on menus. Due to this many coffee lovers craving it daily get disappointed.
  • When preparing cafe con leche, there is a possibility that it might over-extract and result in a bitter or harsh taste. So make sure you maintain the perfect balance between espresso and milk.

Cafe Con Leche vs Cortado: Quick summary

1) Milk to coffee ratio

Cafe con leche has the same milk-to-coffee ratio as cortado, but you can make changes in cafe con leche's ratio and make it creamier and milder.

2) Serving size

Cortado is served in a smaller glass. It has equal parts espresso and steamed milk. While Cafe Con Leche is served in a larger mug with more milk than coffee.

3) Texture

The texture of cortado falls on a richer and bolder side due to its higher concentration of espresso. On the other side, cafe con leche has a creamier and smoother texture due to the addition of milk.

4) Flavor

Cortado has a more intense and espresso-based flavor, with some hints of sweetness from the steamed milk. In contrast, cafe con leche, has a milder and sweeter flavor profile, due to more milk.

5) Ingredients needed

Cortado has espresso and steamed milk, while cafe con leche requires espresso or strong coffee, steamed milk, and optional sweeteners.

Cortado or Cafe Con Leche: Which one should you choose?

Choosing between a cortado and cafe con leche narrows down to your preferences. Thus if you like a balanced blend of espresso and milk and want to enjoy smaller servings, try a Cortado.

But if you want large savings to keep going and want a richer, comforting experience, choose cafe con leche.

Wrapping up

Here, I have got you covered with the differences between cortado and cafe con leche.

Both cortado and cafe con leche have their own unique and distinct flavors, textures, and serving styles.

That's all for this article. Now you know both well and can pick the right one based on your preferences. So try them both and share your experience with us in the comments below.


Henry Muller

Team TAB
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I am a barista by profession hailing from NC. My journey began in my late teens when I started working as a barista in a local coffee shop. My passion for coffee quickly became evident as I immersed myself in the art of espresso extraction, latte art ...