Coffee comes in endless varieties – from the simple black coffee to more complex drinks like cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos. One of the lesser known coffee drinks is the Cortado. With its origins in Spanish cafés, the Cortado has a unique flavor profile and preparation that makes it stand out. Please find out details through the following article of Mocha Art Cafe.
Origins of Cortado
The Cortado has its origins in Spain, where it emerged as a popular coffee drink in the early 20th century. The name ‘Cortado’ comes from the Spanish verb ‘cortar’ which means ‘to cut’. This is in reference to how the Cortado is made – by ‘cutting’ the espresso with a splash of warm milk.
The milk ‘cuts’ the bitterness of the espresso, resulting in a coffee that is stronger than a cappuccino but smoother than a macchiato. The end result is a harmonious melding of milk and coffee in perfect balance.
History in Spanish Cafés
During the early 1900s, espresso machines started becoming commonplace in Spanish cafés. Patrons would request a shot of espresso ‘cortado’ with a dash of milk to soften the intense espresso flavor.
This style of coffee gained popularity throughout Spain, especially in the bustling café culture hubs of Madrid and Barcelona. For the busy urban Spaniard, a Cortado provided a quick but flavorsome coffee experience.
Spread to Rest of Europe
Over time, the Cortado spread beyond Spain to countries like Portugal and Italy. The Italians enjoy a similar style of coffee called the ‘Café Macchiato’, although the Cortado and Macchiato differ slightly in their milk to coffee ratios.
In the last few decades, the Cortado has finally made its way across the Atlantic and is gaining a cult following in specialty coffee shops in the US and UK. Let’s look closer at what defines this unique coffee drink.
What is a Cortado Coffee?
The Cortado is made with two simple ingredients – espresso and steamed milk. But what sets it apart is the proportion of milk to coffee.
The Golden Ratio
A Cortado consists of equal parts espresso and milk – a 1:1 ratio. This is the ‘golden ratio’ that creates the iconic flavor profile of a Cortado. The milk is just enough to take away the acidity of the espresso, while the coffee retains its rich body and aroma.
Type of Milk
The milk used is typically steamed to a microfoam, creating a velvety texture and light layer of foam on top. In Spain, Cortados are often made with condensed milk for extra creaminess. But in specialty cafes, baristas favor high-quality fresh whole milk that complements the taste of the espresso.
A Cortado is usually served in a small 3-5 oz glass like a macchiato or gibraltar. The small cup highlights the perfect balance between the dark espresso and white milk. When artfully poured, the espresso floats on top of the microfoamed milk like a raft.
The end result is a coffee with a strong espresso punch but a rounder and softer texture. The milk tames the bitterness but doesn’t overpower the coffee. You get distinct notes of chocolate and caramel from the espresso along with the sweet creaminess of the foamed milk.
Popularity and Variations
While still lesser known globally, the Cortado is rising in popularity in specialty cafes around the world. Baristas are putting their unique spin on the classic Spanish recipe, creating new variations.
In Spain, Cortados are often made with condensed milk from a can for extra richness. Portuguese Cortados use a lighter touch of milk than their Spanish counterparts. Australian Cortados are almost always served in a Gibraltar glass.
Innovative New Styles
Besides the traditional 1:1 ratio Cortado, you can also find more espresso-forward versions like the Ticino Cortado with a 2:1 espresso to milk ratio. Cafes are experimenting with alternative milks like oat, soy, and almond milk for dairy-free Cortados.
Some third wave coffee shops also offer flavored Cortados on their menu like mocha, vanilla, and even pumpkin spice. While non-traditional, these expand the possibilities of the classic Cortado.
How to Make a Cortado
Ready to try making this delightful coffee drink at home? Crafting the perfect Cortado relies on following the right method and proportions.
To make an authentic Cortado, you will need:
- An espresso machine or stovetop moka pot to brew rich, concentrated espresso
- A steam wand to froth and foam milk
- A 3-5 oz glass or ceramic cup to serve the Cortado
Follow these steps for a flawless homemade Cortado:
- Brew 1 oz of espresso using your machine. The espresso should be intense, caramel-like, and topped with a creamy crema.
- Steam 3-4 oz of whole milk until it reaches a temperature of 150-155°F. The milk should have a silky microfoam texture.
- Pour the steamed milk into the glass, then gently pour the espresso over the milk. The espresso will float over the milk.
- Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder if desired. Enjoy immediately while hot!
Getting the Ratio Right
Nailing the 1:1 milk to espresso ratio is critical for the proper Cortado experience. Equal parts espresso and milk balance out each other’s flavors. Too much milk overpowers the coffee, while too little milk won’t mellow out the espresso.
Opt for a small latte glass, gibraltar, or cortado cup. The small size lets you taste the layers of espresso and milk distinctively. A wider rim also helps highlight the crema topping the drink.
Cortado: how it’s made, where it came from and why I love it with noahsterncoffee
According to my research and years of experience, I’ve found that the cortado, my favorite way to enjoy espresso, is a unique beverage that skillfully balances intensity and delicacy. In Spanish, “cortado” means “cut” or “chopped up,” reflecting the method of preparing the espresso by diluting it with steamed milk. This technique softens the espresso’s robustness without overshadowing its rich flavor. From my experience in preparing espresso, I approach making a cortado as I would any other coffee drink.
Our data shows that a typical cortado has a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, making it larger than an espresso but more contained than a cappuccino or latte. Tracing back to the early 20th century in Spain, the cortado’s popularity has now spread globally. In different regions, similar coffee drinks are known by various names, such as a “jalter” in the United States or a “padoo” in South America. Despite the diverse nomenclature, the essence of the cortado remains universally appreciated. From my extensive experience in the field of coffee preparation, I can attest that the cortado exemplifies the art of blending the aromatic compounds of espresso with the milk’s lipids and proteins, creating a harmonious and enjoyable sensory experience.
What is a cortado coffee?
A cortado coffee is a Spanish coffee drink made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk. The milk is steamed but not frothy, and the drink is typically served in a small glass.
What is the difference between a cortado and a macchiato?
While both drinks have a similar ratio of espresso to milk, a cortado has a higher milk content and is not as milk-heavy as a latte or cappuccino. A macchiato, on the other hand, has just a “stain” of milk.
What is the origin of the cortado?
The cortado originated in Spain and is a popular coffee drink in Spanish-speaking countries. The name “cortado” comes from the Spanish word “cortar,” which means “to cut,” referring to the way the espresso’s intensity is “cut” by the steamed milk.
What is the best way to make a cortado?
To make a cortado, pull a double shot of espresso into a glass and add an equal amount of steamed milk. The milk should be steamed but not frothy, and the drink should be served in a small glass.
What kind of coffee beans are best for a cortado?
To make a good cortado, it is important to select appropriate coffee beans that have chocolatey and nutty profiles. Heavy-bodied coffees other than delicately flavored ones are recommended, as these flavors will quickly be altered or subdued in a little milk.
With its harmonious blend of silky steamed milk and full-bodied espresso, the Cortado offers coffee lovers the best of both worlds. This classic caffeinated beverage from Spanish cafés is finally getting recognition globally.
The Cortado’s popularity is likely to continue rising as people discover its unique flavor profile – an invigorating shot of espresso tempered with just enough creamy milk. So next time you are at your favorite café, consider ordering this little-known but delightful coffee drink. Your tastebuds will thank you!