Cortado coffee and cappuccino coffee shown beside each other in glass cup

Cortado vs Cappuccino: Know The Exact Difference

Audrey Harrison
Home brewer

Are you a coffee enthusiast looking to explore the rich world of espresso-based beverages? Two popular choices that often grace the menus of coffee shops worldwide are the cortado and the cappuccino.

Cortado and cappuccino are two popular espresso-based drinks that people love to consume worldwide. There is no coffee shop menu that doesn’t include them.

These two coffee creations may seem similar at first glance, but both of them differ a lot from each other.

However, if you are a true espresso lover, you definitely want to know the difference between a cortado and a cappuccino.

These drinks have distinctive characteristics that set them apart in terms of flavor, texture, and even cultural origins.

In this article, I will tell you how cappuccino and cortado are different from each other.

Let’s start.

What is cortado?

A cortado is a coffee beverage that originates from Spain and is also popular in some Latin American countries.

The name "cortado" is derived from the Spanish word "cortar," which means "to cut" or "to dilute." The drink is aptly named because it is made by "cutting" or diluting espresso with a small amount of warm milk.

Cortados are typically served in small, 4 to 5-ounce glasses or cups, making them a smaller and more potent coffee option compared to larger espresso-based drinks like lattes or cappuccinos.

What is a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is a popular espresso-based coffee beverage that originated in Italy. It is known for its rich and indulgent flavor, as well as its signature frothy and creamy texture.

The name "cappuccino" is said to be inspired by the Capuchin friars' brown robes, which the coffee's color is reminiscent of. Cappuccinos are usually served in small cups, generally ranging from 5 to 6 ounces, making them a smaller and more concentrated coffee beverage.

They are beloved for their balance of strong espresso, creamy milk, and airy foam, providing a harmonious blend of flavors and textures. Cappuccinos are a popular choice among coffee connoisseurs and are widely available in coffee shops around the world.

Cortado vs cappuccino

The main difference between cortado and cappuccino coffee is that cortado coffee is made with two espresso shots and milk, while cappuccino coffee is made with only one espresso shot, steamed milk, and foamed milk.

Also, cortado is less creamy and has more coffee flavor than cappuccinos. Also, a cortado is stronger than a cappuccino because it contains more coffee than a cappuccino.

Let's discuss more differences.

1) Origin

The cortado, born in Spain, is often hailed as the quintessential Spanish way to savor espresso. It encapsulates the essence of Spain's coffee culture and aligns perfectly with the country's distinct taste preferences.

In contrast, the cappuccino emerges from the coffee traditions of Italy, bearing deep roots in the Italian coffee landscape while achieving global acclaim.

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2) Size

When it comes to size, the cortado is typically served in a small, 4-ounce glass. This compact presentation caters to discerning coffee enthusiasts who relish the intensity of concentrated coffee flavors.

Conversely, the cappuccino offers a range of sizes, but the classic version usually presents around 6 ounces, offering a slightly larger and more indulgent serving than its Spanish counterpart.

3) Ingredients

The composition of these two coffee delights further underscores their differences. A cortado is a simple blend of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk.

This minimalist approach ensures that the espresso's robust and intense flavor remains at the forefront of the palate. 

Meanwhile, a cappuccino is more complex, featuring a harmonious union of espresso, steamed milk, and a sumptuous layer of milk foam. This trio of ingredients creates a luxurious coffee experience marked by its creamy texture and frothy crown.

4) Texture

In terms of texture, the cortado is characterized by its smooth and velvety feel, with a subtle creaminess contributed by the addition of steamed milk.

On the other hand, the cappuccino includes a creamy and opulent texture, thanks to the luscious layer of milk foam that graces the top.

5) Flavor

Flavor profiles distinguish these two beverages further. Cortado coffee offers a bold and intense coffee experience with the espresso's rich, robust flavors taking the lead, complemented by a touch of sweetness from the milk.

On the other hand, cappuccinos achieve a delicate equilibrium between espresso and milk, resulting in a milder, well-rounded taste with a subtle hint of sweetness.

6) Presentation

Presentation plays a role in their appeal as well. Cortados are typically served in small glasses, allowing coffee enthusiasts to appreciate the striking contrast between dark coffee and creamy milk.

Cappuccinos, in contrast, often arrive adorned with intricate foam art on top, transforming each cup into both a culinary delight and a visual masterpiece.

7) Customization

Customization options are another area of distinction. While Cortado offers limited customization due to its simplicity, you can still adjust the milk-to-espresso ratio to suit individual preferences. Conversely, cappuccinos are highly customizable. 

Coffee aficionados can select the type of milk, specify foam thickness, and even infuse various flavorings, making it a canvas for personalized coffee artistry.

8) Ideal for

In terms of suitability, cortado is ideal for individuals who cherish the purity of espresso but yearn for a touch of creaminess. On the other hand, cappuccinos are perfect for those seeking a harmonious and balanced coffee experience enriched by milky indulgence.

9) Temperature

Cortado is generally served at a slightly higher temperature than cappuccinos. The warm milk in a cortado is generally less hot than the steamed milk in a cappuccino which allows for a more immediate and comfortable consumption.

On the other hand, cappuccino is often served hotter due to the higher temperature of the steamed milk and milk foam. This can be an important factor for those who prefer their coffee piping hot.

10) Caffeine content

Cortado tends to have a higher coffee-to-milk ratio, resulting in a bolder and more caffeinated drink. It's an excellent choice for those who seek a strong coffee kick.

Cappuccino has a more balanced coffee-to-milk ratio, which means they may have slightly less caffeine per serving compared to a cortado. This makes cappuccinos a milder option for those who prefer a coffee with less caffeine.

11) Foam thickness

Cortado generally has minimal to no foam on top, focusing on the combination of espresso and steamed milk. This lack of foam allows the coffee's aroma to be more prominent.

Whereas cappuccino is known for its thick and creamy foam layer, which not only adds to the drink's texture but also contributes to its visual appeal. The foam in a cappuccino is often denser and more stable, creating a distinct mouthfeel.

12) Serving time

Cortado is often associated with a quick coffee break. Their small size and straightforward preparation make them a popular choice for those who need a caffeine boost without a lengthy coffee ritual.

Cappuccino is sometimes enjoyed as part of a leisurely coffee experience. The process of steaming milk and creating foam for cappuccinos can take a bit longer, making them a beverage for those who savor their coffee slowly.

13) Accompaniments

Where Cortado is usually served on its own, allowing the coffee's flavor to shine. Cappuccino is occasionally served with a sprinkle of cocoa powder, cinnamon, or chocolate shavings on top of the foam, adding an extra layer of flavor and aroma.

Cortado coffee or Cappuccino: Consider these while making the choice

Here are some considerations while choosing between cortado and cappuccino.

1) Taste

Are you in the mood for bold, refreshing espresso? Go for Cortado. But if you’re craving a well-balanced blend of coffee and milk, make yourself a Cappuccino.

2) Personal preferences

Do you prefer the simplicity of the Cortado or the artistic presentation of the Cappuccino?

3) Time

Consider your schedule. The Cortado is a quick sip while savoring a Cappuccino might take a bit more time.

4) Occasions

Think about the setting. Cortados are great for a quick caffeine fix, while Cappuccinos are perfect for leisurely coffee breaks or brunch dates.

Wrapping up

In this article, I have got you covered with the Cortado-Cappuccino difference.

From their unique origins in Spain and Italy to their distinctive sizes, ingredients, textures, and flavors, these two coffee classics have piqued our curiosity and offered a diverse range of sensory experiences.

While reading this article, I am sure that you have developed a desire to savor the unadulterated boldness of a cortado or indulge in the creamy complexity of a cappuccino.

I am sure that after reading this article, you will never be confused between these two drinks.


Is Cortado a Cuban coffee?

No, Cortado is not Cuban coffee. It originates from Spain, not Cuba. Cuban coffee typically refers to a strong espresso brewed with sugar and served in a small cup.

What makes Cortado coffee special?

Cortado coffee is special because of its unique balance between bold espresso and a small amount of warm milk. It's known for preserving the intense flavors of espresso while providing a touch of creaminess.

What makes cappuccino special?

Cappuccino is special due to its creamy blend of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. It's known for its heavy texture and balanced flavor profile, making it a classic choice for those who appreciate the combination of milk and coffee. The artful presentation of foam on top also adds to its charm.


Audrey Harrison

Team TAB
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I am a coffee aficionado based in Seattle. I have devoted my passion and expertise to perfecting the art of home coffee brewing. I became known for my exquisite pour-over and espresso creations. I source coffee beans from local roasters and explores ...