Americano Vs Cortado: What’s The Difference?

January 6, 2024 | Coffee 101, Coffee

Written By: Millie Pham
Last Updated: April 6, 2024

Quick Answer

  • Americano: Espresso with added hot water (100 to 120ml). American soldiers in WWII created it to make espresso taste like the coffee back home.
  • Cortado: A mix of espresso and steamed milk, served in a small cup. "Cortado" means "cut" in Spanish, showing how milk softens the espresso's strength.
  • Differences: Cortado is stronger and smaller, with a focus on espresso. Americano is bigger, milder, and more watered down.
  • Popularity: Cortado is a hit in European cafes for a touch of milk in espresso. Americano is a favorite in the US for those who like their espresso lighter.

Have you ever stood at your local café, staring at the menu, and found yourself stuck choosing between a Cortado and an Americano?

You're definitely not the only one.

In the wide world of coffee, these two stand out as fan favorites, each bringing its own twist to the coffee game.

But what's the real deal behind Americano vs Cortado?

We're about to dive into what makes these brews tick, breaking down their key differences in flavor and how they're made.

Americano Vs Cortado: A Quick Look

Both Americano and Cortado offer unique taste experiences and caffeine levels, but they aren’t the same. The more you know about the separations between the two, the easier it will be to select the next perfect coffee drink for your preferences.

Americano

make an americano cup with starpresso

Americano, that's the coffee you reach for when you want the bold taste of espresso but not all the intensity.

It's simple: just a shot of espresso watered down with about 100 to 120ml of hot water. This combo keeps the espresso's depth but tones down the punch.

It's so common in cafes that not finding it would be odd. And yes, some folks do get it mixed up with regular black coffee.

But here's a fun fact: the Americano got its start with American soldiers in Italy during World War II. They added hot water to their espresso to mimic the black coffee back home.

What's special about the Americano? It's all in the beans – espresso beans, that is. They're roasted longer and ground finer than regular coffee beans.

And even though it might not seem like it, your average black coffee actually has more caffeine than an Americano.

If you're into cold drinks, there's the iced Americano – the same idea, but with ice and cold water. Some people like it plain, but a dash of milk or sugar isn't uncommon.

iced americano  on a wooden table

And have you ever heard of a "white Americano"? That's just an Americano with a bit of milk, kind of like a lighter version of a latte.

So, if you want that espresso flavor without going full throttle, an Americano is a great choice.

Cortado

The Cortado, also known as a Piccolo, is your go-to when you want a quick espresso hit without the harshness.

Served in a small glass cup, it's a no-nonsense drink: one shot of espresso topped with a bit of foamed milk.

cortado coffee drink by millie pham

As for the size of the drink, it's fairly small, usually between 100 to 120ml, making it a compact, easy-to-enjoy coffee option

It's all about balance in a Cortado – the coffee-to-milk ratio is about 1:1. Unlike a latte with its generous milk and foam or a macchiato with just a dab of milk, the Cortado strikes a middle ground.

The milk's there, but it's not taking over; it's just smoothing out the espresso's sharpness.

"Cortado" translates to "cut" in Spanish, which is exactly what this drink does – it cuts the espresso with the right amount of milk.

No extra flavors, no sugar overload. Just straightforward coffee goodness.

Next time you're in a cafe and want something straightforward with a bit of kick, but not too much, the Cortado is a solid choice.

It's the kind of drink that wakes you up without overdoing it, offering a rich, smooth flavor that's just right.

Cortado Vs Americano Key Differences

1. Origins:

  • Cortado: Comes from Spain/Portugal. 'Cortado' means the espresso is 'cut' with a bit of milk.
  • Americano: Born during WWII, American soldiers in Italy diluted espresso with hot water to mimic their usual brew.

2. Taste and Texture:

  • Cortado: A straightforward mix of espresso with a little milk. It's smooth, but the espresso still leads the dance.
  • Americano: Espresso watered down. It's like espresso's laid-back cousin, same basic flavor, just less intense.

3. Size of the Drink:

  • Cortado: Usually 100 to 120ml. Small, served in a glass cup. It's a quick espresso hit.
  • Americano: Generally larger than a Cortado, often in a Cappuccino cup. It's a longer, more leisurely drink.

4. Strength and Caffeine:

  • Cortado: Stronger due to less milk. It's espresso with a hint of smoothness.
  • Americano: Diluted, so less strong than a straight espresso. It's a milder caffeine experience.

5. Preparation and Ingredients:

  • Cortado: Take one shot of espresso and add about the same amount of steamed milk. This creates a drink where the coffee-to-milk ratio is about 1:1.
  • Americano: Start with a shot of espresso, then add hot water. You can change how much water you use to make the drink stronger or larger.

6. Cultural Image

  • Cortado: More of a specialty choice, popular in European cafes. For those who like a bit of milk without masking the espresso.
  • Americano: Widespread, especially in the US. It's the familiar choice for those who want something closer to traditional coffee but with an espresso base.

Is Cortado always double shot?

No, a Cortado isn't typically made with a double shot of espresso. The classic Cortado recipe calls for a single shot of espresso, which is then balanced with an approximately equal amount of steamed milk.

This 1:1 ratio is what gives the Cortado its distinctive character: a strong espresso flavor that's softened just enough by the milk, but not diluted.

So, while it's a strong drink, it's not because of a double shot of espresso, but rather due to the minimal amount of milk that's added.

Is a Cortado stronger than a Latte?

Yes, a Cortado is generally stronger than a Latte. The strength we're talking about here isn't just in terms of caffeine content, but also in the flavor and texture of the coffee.

In a Cortado, the espresso-to-milk ratio is about 1:1, meaning the espresso is 'cut' with a smaller amount of milk compared to a Latte. This results in a more pronounced espresso flavor and a less diluted coffee experience.

On the other hand, a Latte involves a larger proportion of milk-to-coffee.

Typically, a Latte contains one shot of espresso (just like a Cortado) but is topped with much more steamed milk and usually some foam.

This higher milk content in a Latte creates a milder, creamier beverage, where the taste of espresso is more subtle and the overall drink is larger, usually served in 240ml (8 oz) or larger cups.

The Final Verdict: The Ultimate Coffee Drink Winner

Picking a winner between Cortado and Americano? It really boils down to your coffee mood.

If you're after a gentler espresso vibe, something you can sip on slowly, then Americano takes the trophy. 

Now, if you're all about that bold espresso flavor with just a hint of milk to take the edge off, Cortado is your go-to. 

So, who's the winner? It's all about what you're in the mood for - a milder, leisurely Americano, or a quick, robust Cortado.

Each has its own charm and die-hard fans.

Millie Pham

Hi there! I'm Millie Pham, a devoted brewer and tea lover at heart. As the founder of Bean Leaf Cup, my mission is to share my tea and coffee expertise with you all. I firmly believe that creating a fantastic cup of tea or coffee should be easy for everyone. No matter if you're already a coffee or tea expert or just beginning your journey, I'm here to help you navigate the world of brewing. Welcome aboard!

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