Cortado vs americano, these two classic drinks may seem similar at first glance, but they have some significant differences that can make or break your morning routine.
Whether you prefer a creamy, velvety texture or a bold, robust flavor, the cortado and americano have something unique to offer. So, grab your mug and settle in as we explore the world of coffee and help you decide which drink is best for you!
What is a Cortado?
Let’s start with the cortado. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry, you’re not alone. This Spanish coffee drink is a relative newcomer to the specialty coffee scene, but it’s gaining popularity fast.
Cortado means “cut” in Spanish, referring to the small amount of milk that’s added to the espresso
A cortado is made by adding a small amount of steamed milk to a shot of espresso. The ratio of espresso to milk is usually around 1:1 depending on the preference of the barista—The result is a creamy, smooth coffee with a mellow flavor that’s less bitter than straight espresso.
What is an Americano?
On the other hand, the americano is a classic coffee drink that’s been around for decades. We’ve heard that the practice of making Americanos started during World War II.
It was when our American soldiers were in Europe, and they wanted a coffee that tasted more like what they were used to back home. So, they diluted their espresso shots with hot water to make a larger, less intense drink—And that’s how the Americano came to be!
An americano is made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso. The ratio of water to espresso is usually around 1:2, depending on the desired strength of the drink—The result is a bold, slightly bitter coffee with a thinner consistency than a cortado.
Differences between Cortado and Americano
Now that we know the basics of each drink, let’s take a closer look at the differences between them in comparison table below:
|Ingredients||Espresso and steamed milk||Espresso and hot water|
|Coffee-to-Milk Ratio||Equal parts espresso and steamed milk||1:2 ratio of espresso to water|
|Texture||Creamy and smooth||Thin and watery|
|Taste||Rich and balanced, with a subtle sweetness||Bold and bitter, with a slightly burnt taste|
|Serving Size||Small (3-4 oz)||Large (8-12 oz)|
|Caffeine Content||Lower than Americano due to the milk||Higher than cortado due to the larger serving size and less milk|
|Ideal Time to Drink||Morning or afternoon||Morning or midday|
|Best Paired With||Pastry or a light snack||Breakfast food or a savory snack|
|Suitable for||Those who prefer milder coffee with milk||Those who prefer stronger, bolder coffee with less milk|
|Popular Variations||Gibraltar (West Coast)||Long Black (Australia and New Zealand)|
Origin: Spain vs United States
The first difference between cortado and americano is their place of origin. Cortado originates from Spain, where it is a popular choice for coffee drinkers who prefer their coffee with a little milk.
But Americano is a classic American coffee drink that was popularized during World War II. It happen when American soldiers stationed in Europe wanted a coffee that tasted more like the coffee they were used to back home.
Ingredients: Espresso and Steamed Milk vs Espresso and Hot Water
The next major difference between cortado and americano is the ingredients. Cortado is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, which gives it a creamy and smooth texture. Americano, on the other hand, is made with espresso and hot water, which gives it a thin and watery texture.
One of the biggest differences between cortado and americano is the coffee-to-milk ratio. Cortado is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, while americano has a 1:2 ratio of espresso to water. This means that americano is much stronger than cortado, and has a more bitter taste.
Strength: Mild vs Strong
Another major difference between cortado and americano is their strength. Cortado is considered a mild coffee drink because of its equal parts coffee and milk, while americano is much stronger because of its higher concentration of espresso. If you’re looking for a strong cup of coffee that will give you a jolt of energy, americano is the way to go.
Texture: Creamy and Smooth vs Thin and Watery
Because of their different ingredients and coffee-to-milk ratios, cortado and americano have very different textures. Cortado is creamy and smooth, thanks to the steamed milk, while americano is thin and watery because of the hot water. If you’re looking for a comforting, velvety texture, a cortado is a way to go.
Taste: Rich and Balanced vs Bold and Bitter
One of the most important differences between cortado and americano is their taste. Cortado has a rich and balanced flavor profile, with a subtle sweetness thanks to the steamed milk. Americano, is bold and bitter, with a slightly burnt taste. If you prefer a coffee that’s not too strong or bitter, a cortado is a way to go.
Serving Size: Small vs Large
Another difference between cortado and americano is their serving size. Cortado is a small coffee drink, typically only 3-4 oz, while americano is much larger, typically 8-12 oz. If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, a cortado is a perfect size, but if you’re looking for a more much cup of coffee, americano is the way to go.
Caffeine Content: Lower vs Higher
Because of their different ingredients and coffee-to-milk ratios, cortado and americano also have different caffeine contents. Cortado has less caffeine than americano due to the milk, which dilutes the espresso. If you’re sensitive to caffeine or don’t want to be too wired, a cortado is a way to go.
Ideal Time to Drink
While you can drink cortado or americano at any time of day, there is a general consensus about the ideal time to drink each one. Cortado is considered a great coffee drink to have in the morning or afternoon when you want a little boost of energy without getting too wired.
But, americano is often considered a breakfast drink, perfect for waking you up and getting you ready for the day ahead.
Best Paired With
Another difference between cortado and americano is the best food pairing for each. Cortado is often paired with pastries or light snacks, such as a croissant or a muffin, because of its mild taste and small serving size. Americano, on the other hand, is often paired with breakfast food or savory snacks, such as bacon and eggs or a sandwich, because of its stronger taste and larger serving size.
When it comes to which coffee drink is suitable for you, it really depends on your personal preferences. If you prefer a milder coffee with milk and a smooth texture, a cortado is a way to go. If you prefer a stronger, bolder coffee with less milk and a thinner texture, americano is the way to go.
Popular Variations: Gibraltar vs Long Black
It’s worth mentioning that there are some popular variations of cortado and americano that you might come across in different parts of the world.
For example, on the West Coast of the United States, you might see a variation of cortado called a Gibraltar, which is essentially the same thing but served in a different type of glass.
In Australia and New Zealand, you might come across a variation of americano called a Long Black, which is made by pouring espresso over hot water rather than the other way around.
Which one should you choose?
If you enjoy a dash of milk in your coffee, Cortado may be your match.
This velvety Spanish beverage blends steamed milk and espresso equally for a luscious and balanced taste with a hint of sweetness. It’s a great fit for those who prefer milder coffee and can be paired with a pastry or light snack. Cortado’s petite serving size of 3-4 oz makes it perfect for coffee breaks.
But if you crave a robust, milk-free coffee, Americano is your answer.
This US favorite mixes espresso and hot water in a 1:2 ratio, giving it a slightly burnt flavor with a bitter edge. With a larger serving size of 8-12 oz, Americano pairs well with breakfast foods or a salty treat and is best enjoyed in the morning or midday.
If you’re unsure which one to try, consider your caffeine needs. Cortado has less caffeine than Americano due to the milk, while Americano has more caffeine because of the larger serving size and less milk. So, if you need a little boost, go for Americano. But if you want to savor your coffee without getting too jittery—Cortado may be your pick.
At the end of the day, the choice between Cortado and Americano is up to you. Why not be daring and sample both to see which one you prefer? Remember, life’s too brief to drink icky coffee!
Can you make a cortado with decaf coffee?
Absolutely! Whether you prefer the taste of decaf coffee or just want to avoid caffeine, you can definitely make a cortado with decaf espresso. The only real difference will be in the taste, as decaf coffee can sometimes have a slightly different flavor.
Can you add flavor syrups to a cortado or Americano?
Of course! Whether you prefer a classic vanilla or something a little more unusual, adding flavor syrups to your coffee is a great way to switch things up. Just be aware that some syrups can be quite sweet, so you may need to adjust the amount of milk or espresso to balance the flavors
Cortado vs. Americano: Which one is better for latte art?
Latte art is all about creating beautiful designs in the foam on top of your coffee. While both cortados and Americanos can be used as a base for latte art, cortados are generally considered to be the better option. Because they contain milk, it’s easier to create the silky texture needed for latte art.
Can you make a cortado or Americano with cold brew coffee?
While cortados and Americanos are traditionally made with espresso, it is possible to make them with cold brew coffee instead. The resulting drink will have a slightly different flavor and texture — but it can still be delicious.
Are cortados and Americanos gluten-free?
In general, coffee is naturally gluten-free. However, if you’re buying pre-made cortados or Americanos, it’s possible that they may have come into contact with gluten-containing products during the preparation process. If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, it’s always best to check with the barista or make your own at home.
Which one is better for pairing with desserts?
Both cortados and Americanos can be great options for pairing with desserts, depending on your preferences. If you’re looking for something a little lighter and creamier, a cortado might be the way to go. If you prefer something stronger and more bitter, an Americano could be a better match.
Can you make a cortado with non-dairy milk?
Absolutely! In fact, many people prefer to use non-dairy milk in their cortados. Popular options include soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk.
Which one is more popular in Europe?
Both cortados and Americanos have their fans in Europe, but if we had to choose, we’d say that cortados are more popular overall. They are a staple in many Spanish and Portuguese cafes and are also commonly enjoyed in Italy.
Can you make a cortado or Americano in a French press?
While a French press is typically used for making drip coffee, it is possible to use it to make a cortado or Americano. Simply brew a strong pot of coffee using the French press, then add steamed milk or hot water to create your desired ratio.
Is it possible to make a cortado coffee or Americano with a pod machine?
Yes, many pod machines are designed to make espresso-style drinks, including cortados and Americanos. Just make sure you choose a pod that is compatible with your machine and follow the instructions carefully.
Which one is better for a hangover: cortado or Americano?
If you’re dealing with a hangover, a strong coffee can be just the thing you need to feel better. Both cortados and Americanos can do the trick, but because of their milk content, a cortado might be the better option. The milk can help to soothe your stomach and make the coffee easier to digest.
Can you make a cortado or Americano with flavored coffee beans?
Yes, you can definitely use flavored coffee beans to make a cortado or Americano. Just be aware that the flavor of the beans will impact the overall taste of the coffee. If you’re using strongly flavored beans, you may need to adjust the amount of milk or water to balance the flavors.
Which one is better for a rainy day: cortado or Americano?
On a rainy day, there’s nothing quite like a hot cup of coffee to warm you up. Whether you prefer a cortado or an Americano is largely a matter of personal preference.
If you’re looking for something strong and straightforward—an Americano might be the way to go. If you want something a little more comforting and creamy—a cortado could be the better option.
Can you make a cortado or Americano with a Moka pot?
Absolutely! A Moka pot is a great tool for making espresso-style coffee at home and can be used to create both cortados and Americanos. Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully and adjust the amount of milk or water to create your desired ratio.
Can you make a cortado or Americano with instant coffee?
While it’s possible to make a cortado or Americano with instant coffee — the resulting drink will likely have a different flavor and texture than one made with fresh espresso. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have access to an espresso machine, instant coffee can be a decent substitute.
Which one is better for a post-meal coffee?
After a big meal, strong coffee can be just the thing you need to help you digest. Both cortados and Americanos can be good options, depending on your mood and preferences.
If you’re looking for something creamy and comforting, a cortado might be the way to go. If you want something strong and straightforward, an Americano could be a better choice.