There is a reason that the cortado is every barista’s best friend. Small but mighty, the cortado is the perfect ratio of coffee to milk. This powerful little beverage leaves a lasting impression in only a few sips and will have you committed to this compact delight for life!
What Exactly is a Cortado?
In the most simple of terms, the cortado is a small espresso and milk drink. Similar in style to a cappuccino or latte, the two components of the cortado are espresso and steamed milk. Unlike the latter two, the cortado is a much smaller drink and is prepared slightly differently, too.
The two ingredients for the cortado might make you think this is a simple and straightforward beverage, which in some ways it is, however, the cortado is unique and special in its preparation.
A cortado is made with a double shot of the espresso of your choice and topped with silky smooth milk steamed to perfection. While we can prepare our espresso the same way that we would for any other espresso drink, our steamed milk requires a slightly different approach.
How is a Cortado Different?
So how is a cortado any different from other espresso drinks? For starters, it’s prepared a little differently.
When steaming milk for a cortado the milk is steamed to a somewhat lower temperature than it is for lattes. The steamed milk for lattes and cappuccinos can range from 150 degrees Fahrenheit to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the steamed milk for a cortado should be steamed to only 130 degrees Fahrenheit to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Similar to a latte, the cortado steamed milk is steamed for a smooth and silky texture called microfoam. This texture is in contrast to the dry cappuccino texture that calls for thick and light frothy milk.
Aside from the difference in milk preparation, the other unique element of the cortado is the size and ratio of the drink. The cortado is a small beverage that rings in at around four fluid ounces, including both espresso and steamed milk. This makes the cortado more than have the size of most cappuccinos and lattes!
The ratio of the cortado is about 1:1 when it comes to espresso and steamed milk. Prepared with a double shot of espresso and equal parts steamed milk, the cortado is a creamy yet coffee-forward espresso drink. You get all the espresso flavor of a simple shot of espresso but mellowed out with the sweetness of perfectly steamed milk.
Caffeine Content in the Cortado
While the cortado is a smaller drink than most espresso and milk drinks, it carries the same caffeine content as most espresso drinks!
Espresso and milk drinks are prepared with a double shot of espresso with the main difference being the amount of milk used to prepare the steamed milk portion of the drink. That means that every espresso drink made with a double shot of espresso, regardless of the amount of steamed milk added, has relatively the same amount of caffeine.
So how much caffeine is that? Most double shots of espresso contain between sixty and one hundred milligrams of caffeine. The variable amount is due to a number of reasons including things like where the coffee is grown, the type of coffee species used in a blend, the way the coffee is processed and how it the coffee is roasted.
Other contributors to the amount of caffeine in a double shot of espresso are the ways that the coffee is brewed by the barista, including but not limited to the recipes used to prepare the espresso.
How to Make a Cortado at Home
There are a few ways to make a cortado at home ranging from home espresso machines to quick tricks and tips to imitate this delightful drink. We’ve compiled a few how-tos for anyone craving a cortado at home!
- Coffee of your choice. We recommend a nutty and chocolatey medium roast! Be sure to purchase your coffee pre-ground for espresso if you do not own a grinder.
- Milk of your choice. You can make a cortado with any type of milk or non-dairy milk. For the best results, we recommend whole milk or a barista edition dairy alternative milk.
Choose Your Coffee Wisely
We recommend going with a medium roast blend for your espresso. A medium roast will bring out rich, chocolatey flavors without too much smokiness. A dark roast can also be pleasant as an espresso but will not maintain the same level of nuttiness and sweetness as a medium roast might.
Using a similar thought process, a coffee blend rather than a single-origin coffee will reign in any wild flavors in your espresso. A blend allows for a more balanced and consistent espresso brewing experience. This is ideal for home brewing.
With an Espresso Machine
If you own an espresso machine at home, make your double shot of espresso as you would usually and set it aside.
Follow up your espresso by steaming milk for microfoam. If you have a thermometer, use this to read the temperature of your milk as you steam it. Again, we are looking for steamed milk around 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure that you preheat your machine to the appropriate steaming temperature so that your espresso machine can produce adequate steam. When steaming milk with an espresso machine, be sure to fully submerge the steam wand in the milk before turning on your steam wand. Be careful not to place your steam wand too deep in your milk pitcher – try to stay just below the surface of your milk.
After you have steamed your milk, pour your espresso into a four-ounce glass and fill the remaining space up with steamed milk.
DIY Espresso Without a Machine
If you do not have an espresso machine at home, you can absolutely imitate espresso with a few different methods. Try out the following brewing methods to make your very own espresso at home.
- Stovetop Moka Pot
- Manual Espresso Maker
Each of these methods will have its own instructions so be sure to follow them closely.
For example, the Aeropress requires a fine grind and can be brewed using two main methods – the inverted or the classic recipes. Meanwhile, the stovetop Moka Pot also requires a fine grind but, in contrast to most methods, have you portion out cold water rather than hot!
There are many other types of manual espresso makers for your home, including the Flair Espresso Maker and the Cafelat. Both of these are the most similar to a traditional automatic espresso machine in that they require quite a lot of pressure, however, it is applied manually rather than by machine.
In the end, no matter what your espresso-making method, the goal is to have a rich, full-bodied, and concentrated coffee beverage that resembles espresso as closely as possible. If you are able to achieve a thick, creamy crema atop your shot of espresso, you’re on the right track!
DIY Steamed Milk Without a Machine
Likewise, f you do not have an espresso machine with a steam wand at home, we have a few options that will allow you to steam milk at home with ease!
- Manual Milk Frother
- Electric Milk Frother
These two methods are two variations on the same design. The main difference being that one is manual and the other electric. Electric milk frothers are becoming a more and more popular appliance and are readily available.
Each electric milk frother is unique and will require specific operation per the manufacturer’s instruction. The basic rundown of an electric frother is that you simply plug in your frother (or not, if it is battery operated), portion out the correct amount of milk of your choice, and froth to your desired consistency and temperature.
Manual milk frothing can be done with a specific piece of equipment or simply with a French press. Heat your milk to the desired temperature on the stovetop or in a microwave. Then dispense the portion of milk into the manual frother or French press and quickly pulse the plunger up and down until you reach the desired consistency for your milk!
Again, pour your espresso into a glass and add milk for a four-ounce delicious beverage!
Little Drink, Big Flavor
The cortado may be a small drink but it sure packs a punch when it comes to flavor and even caffeine content. We love the cortado for its easy and quick drinking vibes but we also love that it does not sacrifice quality and flavor!
Not only does the cortado bring big flavor, it really brings the caffeine content for such a small beverage. Don’t be fooled by its size as this little drink contains enough caffeine to kickstart your morning!
So why not try a cortado next time you are at your favorite coffee shop or in the comfort of your own home?