Flat White vs Cortado: A Battle of Espresso Delights

Flat White vs Cortado

Do you find yourself standing at the cafe counter, contemplating whether to order a flat white or a cortado? You aren’t alone! Both drinks are beloved espresso-based delights that have their unique charms. But understanding their nuances might just help you make your morning coffee choice a bit easier. Let’s dive into the world of flat white and cortado, comparing their origins, preparation, taste, and how they might suit your palate. So, fasten your seatbelts as we embark on this caffeinated journey, exploring the subtleties between a flat white and a cortado.

Flat White vs Cortado

The Origins

Before we get into the specifics, let’s start with a little background on these two beverages. A flat white has its roots in Australia and New Zealand, while a cortado hails from Spain and Portugal. Both drinks were created as alternatives to cappuccinos and lattes, providing a more balanced espresso experience.

What’s in the Cup?

Now, what makes a flat white and a cortado different? A flat white is typically made with two shots of espresso and steamed milk. The key difference lies in the texture of the milk used – flat whites are served with velvety microfoam, giving it a smooth and silky mouthfeel. On the other hand, a cortado consists of one shot of espresso and an equal amount of warm milk. The texture of the milk in a cortado is thicker, with little to no foam present.

Preparing the Perfect Pour

The art of preparing a flat white and a cortado lies in the steaming technique used for the milk. For a flat white, the goal is to create microfoam by aerating the milk, resulting in a smooth and creamy texture. The foam is then carefully poured into the espresso, creating intricate latte art. On the other hand, a cortado requires steaming the milk to create minimal foam, as it is meant to be served with no or very little art on top.

Taste and Texture

Both drinks may seem similar at first glance, but their taste and texture are what set them apart. The creamy microfoam in a flat white adds a velvety richness to the drink, making it feel like drinking espresso with velvet gloves on. In contrast, the thick milk in a cortado offers a more intense coffee flavor, with its reduced sweetness providing a stronger caffeine kick.

Which One is for You?

When deciding between a flat white and a cortado, it ultimately boils down to personal preference. If you prefer a milder and smoother espresso experience with a touch of sweetness, the flat white might suit your taste buds. However, if you’re looking for a bolder coffee flavor with a stronger caffeine kick, the cortado might be more up your alley. Of course, there’s no harm in trying both and seeing which one tickles your fancy.

Popularity: Flat White vs Cortado

Flat White vs Cortado

As coffee culture thrives around the world, the popularity of both flat whites and cortados has seen a marked increase. Flat whites, with their origins in the Antipodes, have taken the coffee world by storm. They’ve become a staple in most coffee shops across Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, and their popularity is steadily growing in the US. The creamy texture and balanced coffee flavor have made flat whites a hit among coffee aficionados and novices alike.

Cortados, on the other hand, have been a long-time favorite in Spain and Portugal and are now making their way onto the global stage. Initially popular among the Latin American community, cortados have found their place in specialty coffee shops worldwide, attracting coffee lovers who prefer a stronger, less milk-dominated espresso drink. With its bold flavor and equal ratio of milk to coffee, the cortado offers a unique coffee experience that’s hard to resist.

Despite their differences, both flat whites and cortados have gained significant traction among coffee lovers worldwide. Each has its unique charm, catering to different taste preferences and offering a delightful espresso experience. Whether you’re a fan of the smooth and creamy flat white or the bold and balanced cortado, it’s clear that both drinks have earned their place in the world of coffee.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the key difference between a flat white and a cortado?

A flat white is made with two shots of espresso topped with steamed milk microfoam, resulting in a smooth, velvety drink. A cortado, on the other hand, is made with equal parts espresso and warm milk, offering a more intense coffee flavor.

  1. Which one is stronger, a flat white or a cortado?

While both drinks use espresso as the base, a cortado typically delivers a stronger coffee flavor due to the equal ratio of coffee to milk, as opposed to the higher milk to coffee ratio in a flat white.

  1. Do flat whites have more caffeine than cortados?

The caffeine content mostly depends on the number of espresso shots used. Since a flat white typically uses two shots of espresso, it generally has more caffeine than a cortado, which uses one shot of espresso.

  1. Which one is sweeter, a flat white or a cortado?

A flat white tends to be slightly sweeter due to the milk’s microfoam, which adds a touch of natural sweetness. A cortado has less milk, thus less inherent sweetness, resulting in a bolder, more robust flavor.

  1. Is a cortado the same as a Gibraltar?

Yes, in most cases, a cortado and a Gibraltar refer to the same drink. The name “Gibraltar” comes from the specific type of glassware used to serve the drink in some specialty coffee shops.


In this battle of espresso delights, we’ve explored the origins, ingredients, preparation techniques, and taste differences between a flat white and a cortado. While they may seem similar at first glance, these two drinks offer distinctive experiences that cater to different palates. So next time you find yourself standing in line at a coffee shop, go ahead and give both a try. Who knows, you might just discover your new favorite espresso drink! So whether you’re an avid flat white fan or a die-hard cortado lover, there’s no denying that both of these drinks have carved out their rightful place in the world of coffee.

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