Flat White vs Cortado: Taste, Texture, and Tradition

Coffee culture is rich and diverse, with each coffee type offering a unique experience. Among the myriad of choices, the Flat White and the Cortado have gained significant popularity. Both beverages cater to those who appreciate the art of espresso and milk.

In this post, we’ll explore the differences between these two beloved drinks in terms of taste, texture, and tradition.

The Flat White: Origin and Characteristics

Origin: The Flat White is often claimed by both Australia and New Zealand, with its origins dating back to the 1980s. Regardless of its precise birthplace, it has become a staple in many coffee shops worldwide.

Cup of Flat White

Taste and Texture: A Flat White is typically made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk. The milk is microfoamed to create a smooth, velvety texture without the frothy top common in lattes. This microfoam blends seamlessly with the espresso, resulting in a rich, creamy beverage. The espresso’s robust flavors shine through, balanced by the milk’s sweetness.

Tradition: The Flat White is often served in a small ceramic cup, usually around 6 ounces. It emphasizes a perfect balance between milk and espresso, making it a favorite for those who enjoy a strong coffee flavor with a creamy texture.

The Cortado: Origin and Characteristics

Origin: The Cortado hails from Spain, with its name derived from the Spanish word “cortar,” meaning “to cut.” This refers to the milk cutting through the intensity of the espresso.

A Cup of Cortado

Taste and Texture: A Cortado consists of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. Unlike the microfoam in a Flat White, the milk in a Cortado is lightly steamed, offering a thinner texture. This combination highlights the espresso’s boldness while providing a slight creaminess, resulting in a balanced yet pronounced coffee experience.

Tradition: Traditionally served in a small glass, usually 4 to 6 ounces, the Cortado is enjoyed as a quick, strong coffee break. Its simplicity and strength make it a popular choice in Spanish coffee culture.

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Popular Variations And Customizations

When it comes to distinguishing between the popular coffee variations, it’s essential to consider the unique flavors and customizations that set them apart. Let’s delve into the additional flavors in a Flat White and the customizations in a Cortado, exploring the delightful options available for coffee enthusiasts.

Variations of Flat White and Cortado

Additional Flavors In A Flat White

A Flat White, renowned for its creamy texture and velvety microfoam, can be enhanced with additional flavors to cater to diverse palates. The classic combination of rich espresso and smooth, steamed milk can be complemented by a dash of vanilla syrup or a sprinkle of cocoa powder for a subtle hint of sweetness and depth. For those seeking a more indulgent experience, a drizzle of caramel or a touch of hazelnut can elevate the flavor profile of a traditional Flat White.

Customizations In A Cortado

While a Cortado exudes boldness with its equal parts of espresso and steamed milk, its customizations provide opportunities for personalization. The ratio of espresso to milk can be tailored to suit individual preferences, allowing for an extra shot of espresso for intensified strength or a less creamy texture by reducing the amount of milk. Moreover, a hint of nutmeg or a sprinkle of cinnamon can impart a delightful warmth to a Cortado, showcasing the versatility of this beloved coffee option.

When To Choose A Flat White

When To Choose A Flat White

Morning Routine: A Flat White is a great choice for your morning coffee, especially if you prefer a creamy and velvety texture with a balanced flavor profile. It provides a satisfying start to your day without overwhelming your taste buds.

Work Setting: When you need a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up at the office, a Flat White offers the perfect combination of caffeine boost and smooth taste to keep you focused and energized.

Relaxing Afternoon: Whether you’re unwinding at a café or enjoying a quiet moment at home, a Flat White lends itself well to leisurely afternoons. Its milder flavor encourages relaxation without causing jitters.

Pairings With A Flat White

Pastries: A Flat White pairs excellently with a variety of pastries, from buttery croissants to indulgent cinnamon rolls. The creamy texture and subtle sweetness complement baked treats wonderfully.

Chocolate: If you have a sweet tooth, indulging in a piece of chocolate alongside your Flat White can provide a delightful contrast in flavors. The coffee’s smoothness combines harmoniously with the richness of the chocolate.

When To Choose A Cortado

When To Choose A Cortado

While both the Flat White and the Cortado are popular choices for coffee enthusiasts, there are specific situations in which a Cortado is the preferred option. Whether you’re looking for a rich coffee experience or a balanced flavor profile, the Cortado has its own unique charm that sets it apart from its espresso-based counterparts.

Situations Where A Cortado Is Preferred

A Cortado is the perfect choice when you want a beverage that strikes a delicate balance between the richness of espresso and the smoothness of milk. Here are a few situations where a Cortado shines:

  1. Mid-day Pick-me-up: Whether it’s a busy workday or you’re enjoying a leisurely afternoon, the Cortado offers a gentle energy boost. Its smaller size and balanced flavor make it ideal for a mid-day coffee break without the risk of feeling overstimulated.
  2. Intimate Conversations: If you’re meeting up with a friend, a Cortado can be the ideal companion. Its smaller serving size allows for uninterrupted conversation while still providing a flavorful coffee experience.
  3. After-Dinner Delight: If you’ve just wrapped up a satisfying meal and desire a coffee that won’t overpower your taste buds, the Cortado is an excellent choice. This beverage provides a smooth and nuanced flavor that complements desserts without overwhelming them.
  4. Exploring Coffee Flavors: For those who want to fully appreciate the nuances of different coffee flavors, the Cortado offers a pure and uncomplicated taste experience. With a simple combination of espresso and textured milk, you can savor the flavor notes without any additional distractions.

Pairings With A Cortado

A well-chosen pairing can enhance your coffee experience and elevate the flavors of both the beverage and the accompanying treat. Here are a few ideas to enjoy a Cortado alongside:

Fruit TartThe Cortado’s smooth flavor profile pairs harmoniously with the tangy sweetness of a fruit tart, creating a delightful balance between the two.
Almond CroissantThe nutty, buttery notes of an almond croissant complement the rich and velvety texture of the Cortado, resulting in a delightful combination.
Caramel ChocolateThe subtle caramel and chocolate undertones of the Cortado find a perfect match in a piece of caramel chocolate, creating a delectable duo.
Shortbread CookiesThe simplicity of shortbread cookies pairs beautifully with the smooth and creamy nature of the Cortado, allowing both to shine.
Citrus CakeA slice of citrus cake provides a bright and refreshing contrast to the rich flavors of a Cortado, creating a combination that is both satisfying and invigorating.


Both the Flat White and the Cortado offer unique and delightful coffee experiences. Understanding their differences in taste, texture, and tradition can help you appreciate the nuances of each beverage. Whether starting your day or enjoying an afternoon break, both drinks provide a perfect blend of espresso and milk to satisfy your coffee cravings.

So, the next time you visit your favorite coffee shop, why not try both and see which one you prefer? Happy sipping!



Meet Ronsil, the master barista behind EspressoRivo. With years of experience in the coffee industry, he brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to the table. As the owner of a successful coffee shop, Ronsil is a sought-after adviser in the field. His expertise and love for the craft shines through in every cup he serves. We are honored to have him as part of our team at EspressoRivo

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