Cortado Vs Flat White: What’s the Difference? (Answers Inside)

June 1, 2024 | Coffee 101

Written By: Millie Pham
Last Updated: June 1, 2024

Cortado vs Flat White: A Quick Look


cortado coffee drink by millie pham

A cortado is a straightforward coffee drink that combines equal parts espresso and steamed milk.

The name "cortado" comes from the Spanish word for "cut," as the steamed milk is meant to cut through the strong espresso, balancing its intensity.

When you order a cortado, the barista will serve you a small glass with a shot of espresso and an equal amount of warm, steamed milk.

This mix creates a smooth and balanced flavor, making cortados a favorite for those who enjoy the taste of espresso but prefer it toned down a bit.

It's a simple yet satisfying drink that highlights the quality of the espresso while adding a creamy touch to the milk.

Flat White

flat white

A flat white is a coffee drink that has its roots in Australia and New Zealand. It's made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk, but what sets it apart is the milk used in a flat white.

The milk is steamed to a velvety microfoam, which gives the drink a smooth, creamy texture without being too frothy.

The ratio of espresso to milk in a flat white is usually around 1:3, meaning you get a strong coffee flavor that's nicely balanced by the milk.

This makes it a favorite for those who want a rich espresso taste with a creamy finish.

Cortado vs Flat White Key Differences

1. Origins

The origins of the cortado and flat white are as different as the coffee beverages themselves.

The cortado hails from Spain, where it is a popular choice for those who want to cut through the strong taste of espresso with a bit of steamed milk.

On the other hand, the flat white comes from Australia and New Zealand. This coffee beverage was created to offer a smooth, creamy drink with a strong espresso flavor.

2. Taste and Texture

When it comes to taste and texture, cortado and flat white give distinct experiences for coffee enthusiasts.

A cortado mixes equal parts espresso and steamed milk, making the strong espresso taste smoother and more balanced. This makes it smooth and easy to drink.

On the other hand, a flat white features a double shot of espresso with steamed milk that has been frothed to create a velvety microform. This gives the flat white a creamier texture and a richer taste.

Both are espresso-based beverages, but the milk foam in a flat white makes it feel more luxurious, while the cortado offers a straightforward, balanced sip.

3. Size of the Drink

When comparing the size of a cortado and a flat white, you'll notice a clear difference. A cortado is typically served in a small glass, usually around 4 ounces.

This size allows for an equal mix of espresso and steamed milk, giving you a balanced and smooth drink.

On the other hand, a flat white is usually served in a larger cup, around 6 ounces, though it can be up to 8 ounces in some places. The extra space accommodates the double shot of espresso and the creamy, velvety milk foam.

So, if you're looking for a quick, strong coffee, go for a cortado. But if you want a longer, creamier experience, a flat white is the way to go

4. Strength and Caffeine

The cortado is stronger and bolder because it has less milk, letting the espresso really stand out. You get a more intense coffee flavor with every sip.

On the other hand, the flat white is creamier and smoother due to the steamed milk, which balances the espresso's punch.

It still gives you a good caffeine kick, but the milk mellows it out a bit.

So, if you want a coffee that's rich and robust, go for the cortado. If you prefer something more balanced and silky, the flat white is your go-to.

5. Cultural Image

The cortado is rooted in Spain and popular in many Spanish-speaking countries. It's seen as a classic, no-fuss coffee that packs a punch.

Often enjoyed in small, stylish cafes, it’s a favorite for those who want a quick, strong espresso with just a touch of milk.

The flat white, on the other hand, is beloved in Australia and New Zealand. It's become a trendy choice in coffee shops worldwide, especially after big names like Starbucks started serving it.

Known for its smooth, creamy texture, the flat white is often seen as part of a modern, stylish coffee culture.

It's a go-to for those who enjoy lingering in hip cafes, savoring a well-crafted, milky coffee


Why is flat white more expensive than latte?

A flat white is more expensive because it requires more skill to create the smooth microfoam, and it's considered a specialty drink. Its trendy status also contributes to the higher price.

Is a cortado stronger than a flat white?

Yes, a cortado is stronger because it has a higher espresso-to-milk ratio, making the coffee flavor more intense compared to the milkier flat white

What is Starbucks version of a cortado?

Starbucks offers a "Cortado," which is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, similar to the traditional cortado.

Should you put sugar in a cortado?

Adding sugar to a cortado is a personal choice. Traditionally, it's enjoyed without sugar to appreciate the balanced flavor of espresso and milk, but you can add sugar if you prefer it sweeter.

The Final Verdict: The Ultimate Coffee Drink Winner

In the battle of cortado vs flat white, both drinks bring something unique to the table. The cortado, with its Spanish roots, offers a balanced mix of espresso and steamed milk, perfect for those who enjoy a strong coffee with a smooth finish.

On the other hand, the flat white, hailing from Australia and New Zealand, provides a creamier, richer experience with its double shot of espresso and velvety microfoam milk.

Whether you prefer the straightforward, punchy taste of a cortado or the sophisticated, creamy texture of a flat white, both drinks cater to different coffee enthusiasts.

The choice ultimately depends on your personal taste and what kind of coffee experience you're after.

Why not try both and decide for yourself? Head to your local coffee shop and order a cortado or a flat white today!

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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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