If you’ve made it to this article, welcome to Kings of Caffeine.
Our aim is to make you as educated as possible in the world of coffee, so you can confidently order a coffee that you know you’ll love!
So if you have ever wondered…
What’s the difference between a Cortado vs Café au Lait?
Then wonder no more!
We will explain in clear and concise language the difference between a Cortado and a Café au Lait and offer up the answers to any other related questions we think you might be interested in.
Now, let’s jump in!
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The Cortado has its origins in Spain, the Basque Country to be exact.
It is an Espresso based drink so we start with a 1.5 to 2 ounce Espresso shot (sometimes 2).To that we add steamed milk in a 1:1 ratio. Meaning we use the same quantity of steamed milk as we do Espresso.
Some baristas will add a small amount of textured milk on top to create latte art, but traditionally the Cortado shouldn’t have this.
Because of its ratio the Cortado is a relatively small drink (4.5 ounces).
The name Cortado comes from the Spanish word “cortar” which means “to cut” in reference to cutting the Espresso shot with milk.
Due to the quantity of milk in the Cortado, the Espresso remains the main feature, while the milk adds a hint of sweetness.
Rather than being Espresso based the Café au Lait begins with strong brewed coffee, usually made with a Cafetière.
To this hot milk is added (commonly steamed) and just like the Cortado, in a 1:1 ratio, so 1 part coffee to 1 part hot milk.
Some baristas will add a small amount of foamed milk on top, but traditionally the Café au Lait should not be served with this.
Officially the Café au Lait does not have a size but is usually served in your classic French coffee cup (approximately 300ml or 10.5oz) as seen below.
The name Café au Lait translates directly from French to the very literal “coffee with milk.”
The Café au Lait is quite a milky coffee and as we are using brewed coffee instead of Espresso the flavour is nice and smooth.
The strength of the coffee flavour can be controlled with your brewing time and how dark the roast you are using is.
There are a few differences between a Cortado And A Café au Lait, let’s go through them.
- The Cortado has a base of Espresso whereas the Café au Lait has a base of brewed coffee.
- Even though the Cortado and the Café au Lait are both 1:1 ratio, the Café au Lait has a larger quantity of coffee and thus milk.
- The Cortado originated in Spain whereas the Café au Lait originated in France.
- The Cortado has to be made with steamed milk compared to the Café au Lait which can be made with any kind of hot milk.
What Is The Difference Between A Cortado And A Café au Lait? (Cortado vs Café au Lait)
The Cortado will taste stronger:
As the Cortado has a base of Espresso and less milk it is a stronger tasting drink.
The Cortado will have a nicer mouth feel:
The steamed milk and Espresso will give the Cortado a silkier and more indulgent mouth feel.
The Café au Lait is easier to make at home:
No matter what people say, the only way to make Espresso at home is with a machine.
Because of this fact, to make an official Cortado at home you will need an Espresso machine.
As we’ve learned the Café au Lait is made from brewed coffee and people are much more likely to have a Cafetière or something similar laying around in their kitchen cupboard.
Therefore the Café au Lait is much easier to make at home as it requires less expensive equipment.
For the more calorie conscious coffee drinker, you might be wanting to know which has less calories between the Cortado and the Café au Lait.
The good news is both drinks are pretty much equal when it comes to calorie content, so if you are trying to choose between the Café au Lait and the Cortado you can take this factor out of it.
For an example of this, the following calorie information has been taken from Starbucks UK:
Calories in a Starbucks Cortado made with skimmed milk
Short*: 44 Kcal
Calories in a Starbucks Café au Lait made with skimmed milk
Short: 35 Kcal
Tall: 47 Kcal
Grande: 69 Kcal
Venti: 92 Kcal
Calories in a Starbucks Cortado made with whole milk
Short*: 72 Kcal
Calories in a Starbucks Café au Lait made with whole milk
Short: 64 Kcal
Tall: 86 Kcal
Grande: 126 Kcal
Venti: 169 Kcal
For the whole list of Starbucks’ nutritional information click HERE.
Even though the 2 drinks come from completely different coffee brewing methods the Cortado and the Café au Lait have about the same amount of caffeine.
Even though the 2 drinks have some similarities the truth is they are very different coffee drinks, so I would suggest that you try both.
But if you are making the decision today, ask yourself:
- Do you like your coffee stronger? If yes, choose the Cortado.
- Do you like a silky milk consistency? If yes, choose the Cortado.
- Do you prefer brewed coffee to Espresso? If yes, choose the Café au Lait.
- Do you want more quantity? If yes, choose the Café au Lait.