Cortado vs Flat White: Understanding the Differences

Cortado vs Flat White

When it comes to the world of espresso-based drinks, the variations can often blur together, leaving coffee enthusiasts puzzling over the differences. In this article, we delve into two such beverages that often cause a stir in the coffee community: the Cortado and the Flat White. Both drinks share some similarities, yet have distinct qualities that set them apart. Let’s explore the Cortado vs Flat White debate to help you determine which coffee concoction might best suit your palate.

Also read about: Ristretto vs Espresso

What is a Cortado?

flat white vs cortado

A Cortado is a Spanish-originated drink that is essentially an espresso cut with a small amount of warm milk. The word “cortado” literally translates to “cut,” referring to the cutting process between equal parts espresso and milk. Typically served in a glass, this beverage has become increasingly popular in coffee shops around the world.


  • 1 shot of espresso
  • Equal parts steamed milk and foam

What is a Flat White?

flat white vs cortado

The Flat White, on the other hand, hails from Australia or New Zealand depending on who you ask. It consists of two shots of espresso topped with microfoam, which is foam created by steaming milk to a velvety texture. The goal is to create a drink with a smooth and silky texture, achieved by incorporating the foam evenly throughout the beverage.


  • 2 shots of espresso
  • Steamed milk with microfoam

What are the Differences?

flat white vs cortado

While both drinks contain espresso and steamed milk, there are some key differences between a Cortado and a Flat White. One of the main distinctions is the ratio of milk to espresso. A Cortado typically has equal parts espresso and steamed milk, while a Flat White contains double the amount of espresso as compared to milk. This results in a stronger coffee flavor in a Flat White, making it more akin to a traditional cappuccino or latte.

Another significant difference lies in the milk used for each beverage. Cortados are typically made with whole milk, while Flat Whites often use a combination of whole and skim or non-dairy alternatives such as almond or oat milk. This can affect both the taste and texture of the drink, with some arguing that using different types of milk can alter the overall balance of flavors.

Which One Should You Choose?

Ultimately, the decision between a Cortado and a Flat White comes down to personal preference. If you prefer a stronger coffee flavor with less milk, then a Flat White might be the way to go. However, if you enjoy a balance between espresso and milk in your drink, then a Cortado might be more up your alley. As always, experimentation is key in finding the perfect espresso-based beverage for your taste buds.

The Origins and History of the Cortado and Flat White

The Cortado has its roots in Spain, where it was traditionally consumed in the afternoon. The name ‘Cortado’ comes from the Spanish verb ‘cortar’, meaning ‘to cut’. As the story goes, cafĂ© patrons would ask for their espresso to be ‘cut’ with a splash of milk to reduce the acidity and make it easier to drink. This tradition spread throughout Latin America and eventually made its way to coffee shops in the United States in the 2000s.

flat white vs cortado

On the other hand, the Flat White has a slightly more debated history, claimed by both Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, the story of the Flat White begins in the early 1980s in Sydney. The term ‘Flat White’ was used to describe a cappuccino with less froth, or a ‘flat’ cappuccino, hence the name. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, coffee historians claim that the Flat White was first served in Auckland in the late 80s. Regardless of its true origins, the Flat White gained global recognition when large coffee chains began offering it in their menus in the 2000s.

While both drinks may have started in different parts of the world, they have become globally recognized and enjoyed, each bringing a unique twist to the standard espresso and milk combination. Whether you prefer the balanced simplicity of a Cortado or the rich, bold flavors of a Flat White, these beverages are a testament to the evolving culture and creativity within the world of coffee.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between Cortado and Flat White?

The main difference lies in the milk to espresso ratio and the type of milk used. A Cortado typically has equal parts espresso and steamed milk. While a Flat White contains double the amount of espresso as compared to milk. Cortados are usually made with whole milk. While Flat Whites can use a combination of whole, skim, or non-dairy milk alternatives.

Is a Flat White stronger than a Cortado?

Thanks to its double espresso shot, a Flat White typically has a stronger coffee flavor than a Cortado, which balances an equal amount of espresso and milk.

Which is healthier: Cortado or Flat White?

The healthiness of either drink depends largely on personal dietary needs or preferences. Generally, a Cortado, with its simple combination of equal parts espresso and milk. may have fewer calories than a Flat White, which often contains more milk and hence, more calories. However, the type of milk used can also impact the drink’s overall nutritional value.

Can I make a Cortado or Flat White at home?

Absolutely! With some high-quality coffee beans, a good espresso machine, and a bit of practice, you can make these delicious espresso-based drinks at home. It’s all about mastering the balance between the espresso and the milk.

Which has more caffeine: Cortado or Flat White?

As the Flat White is made with two shots of espresso compared to the single shot in a Cortado, it generally contains more caffeine. However, the overall caffeine content can vary based on the type and amount of coffee used.


In conclusion, while a Cortado and a Flat White may seem similar at first glance, they have distinct differences that set them apart from each other. Whether you’re an avid coffee drinker or just looking to try something new, both of these beverages offer unique flavors and textures that are sure to satisfy your caffeine cravings. So, the next time you’re at a coffee shop, why not give one of these espresso-based drinks a try? Who knows, it might just become your new favorite! So the question still remains: Cortado or Flat White? The choice is yours and yours alone. Happy sipping!

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