What is a Cortado?

how to make a cortado

If black coffee without milk is too strong for you but you like a good strong coffee then a Cortado with an equal amount of milk to espresso is a great way to enjoy coffee without taking a lot of the flavour away with milk.

A Cortado is a coffee drink with 100ml of total liquid once you combine the espresso and hot steamed milk together.

With a Cortado you don’t need to do any weird calculations to work out the amount of milk to add like you do with a cappuccino or latte or flat white, you simply extract a double espresso with about 50ml of coffee and add 50ml of hot, steamed milk to it.

With a cappuccino or latte the flavour of the coffee gets masked by the amount of milk that you add but with a Cortado, the coffee flavour is very strong so in order to get the best possible tasting Cortado you need to get the double espresso shot just right.

You need to use about 18 grams of ground coffee to get to your 50ml of double espresso once it’s in the cup and it needs to be delivered into the cup in about 25-30 seconds.

That may sound complicated but it’s not. It also sounds like it could be expensive as well but it’s not.

It may sound like it’s time-consuming and well, you do need to spend a little bit of time creating your cortado but once you taste the difference between doing it the right way vs the wrong way you’ll never go back.

Most people never taste a good cup of coffee because we are so used to drinking instant coffee or poorly made coffee in a coffee shop that we just accept a sub-standard drink because it gives us our daily caffeine kick but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Coffee can be a truly enjoyable experience and although you do need to put in a bit of effort, it’s well worth it for the benefit you get out of it.

You don’t need any expensive equipment to get a really good espresso that is ready to convert into your favourite milk-based drink such as a Cortado.

How to make a Cortado

You do need an espresso machine but you don’t need to spend a lot of money on one to get yourself started. You can spend thousands but you can also spend less than £100 if you choose carefully.

Here is a selection of the best cheap espresso machines for you to consider:

Best cheap espresso machines

Once you have chosen a method to make your espresso then you will need to weigh your coffee. This will take approximately 30 seconds and is well worth doing because making a great cup of coffee is about consistently doing the same thing every time.

If you guess the amount of coffee then it will change the flavour every time.

No fancy scales are required. These are the scales that I use. They are very cheap and are not just good for coffee but they will also weigh anything and everything in the kitchen and beyond.

Accuweight digital scales

Use whole coffee beans and grind them just before you make your coffee. Freshly ground coffee makes a massive difference to the flavour. that’s why all coffee shops grind whole coffee beans just before making your coffee.

Coffee grinders can cost a fortune but if you are just starting out then you can pick one up that will do a decent job for a tenner. Well worth it.

Here are some of the best value for money coffee grinders.

Best blade coffee grinders

Weigh out 18 grams of coffee beans, grind them and then pour the coffee into the portafilter.

Put your cup on top of the scales and zero the scales so that the weight shows zero with the cup on it and start the coffee delivery and at the same time start the stopwatch on your phone.

Once the scales reach 50ml stop and also stop the stopwatch at the same time. if your coffee was delivered in 25-30 seconds then you have got it spot on.

If it took longer then you ground your coffee a little too fine. Don’t grind it for as long next time and if it took less time then grind your coffee a little longer and finer.

It sounds complicated but after a few goes you’ll nail it and you will notice a big difference in the taste of your coffee.

Steaming the milk is the easy bit. For a cortado, you don’t need any froth so just heat it up to 65 degrees with the steam wand on your espresso machine and you are good to go.

Importantly, add the same amount of milk as the coffee you have. To start with you can measure out 50ml of milk into a milk pitcher before you heat it but you will soon get used to it and be able to do it by eye.

And that will give you a perfect Cortado.

The confusion with other coffee drinks

Any drink you see on a coffee shop menu like Starbucks or Costa or Café Nero starts with a double espresso and its name reflects the amount of milk or froth that gets added to it.

As long as you know how much milk should be added, then you can confidently and without any embarrassment send it back if they get it wrong.

One of the most annoying things about ordering a coffee in a coffee shop is how inconsistent they are with the amount of milk they put in and therefore you always get something different when you ask for a cappuccino or a latte.

My preferred drink of choice used to be a cappuccino but I just could not get a proper cappuccino from any coffee shop that I visited.

Even when I asked for a cappuccino with only a small amount of milk or a “dry cappuccino” most of the time they serve it up with loads of milk that kills the coffee taste.

What’s even more annoying is that you are paying a lot of money to get the drink you ordered and for £3 they should be able to get it right.

If you order a vegetarian pizza and they bring you a pepperoni pizza it’s going to go straight back to the kitchen but if you order a cappuccino and they give you a latte it seems to be ok.

It’s not as if it’s hard. Cappuccino is one-third espresso, one third steamed milk and one third milk froth.

What makes it worse is that different coffee shops have different sized cups for drinks like cappuccino and latte and that makes it impossible to get the ratios of coffee, milk and foam correct.

The only big high street coffee shop that gets it consistently right is Café Nero with a really good-sized cup for milk and foam to be added to a double espresso. Everywhere else just fills a big cup right up to the top with milk.

Cappuccino and Latte are very different from a Cortado with lots more milk being added but there are some drinks that are closer to a Cortado in terms of the amount of milk that gets added.

Is a cortado the same as a flat white?

A flat white is a bit weaker than a cortado but stronger than a latte. A cortado is 50% milk and 50% espresso and a flat white is 33% espresso and 67% milk.

Here is a detailed article that explains flat white coffee:

How to make a flat white

Is a cortado different to a macchiato?

 A macchiato is just espresso with a blob of frothed milk foam on top. It’s pretty much a black coffee and is very strong.

See this article to learn more about macchiato:

What is macchiato

How many shots are in a cortado?

Almost all of the time a Cortado is made with a double shot of espresso but you can go single shot or triple shot if you want.

If you do change it up from a double espresso then just make sure to keep the milk ratio the same and increase the amount of milk for a triple shot of espresso and reduce it for a single shot.

Here is a short video that explains how Costa coffee make a Cortado:

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