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Sometimes the amount of options you get in a coffee shop can feel overwhelming. This feeling can lead you to selecting the same coffee over and over again, too worried to try something new because you are not quite sure what it is.

That is no way to live!

This article will address a related question, a question we get a lot:

What is the difference between a Flat White and a Cortado?

After reading this article you’ll be strutting into a cafe with your head held high and you’ll overhear a customer asking the barista “what is the difference between a Flat White and a Cortado?” which the barista of course will begin to answer. Take one finger and shush that barista. You’ve got the answer to this. You know what? Fire that barista on the spot, who cares if you don’t have the official authority. Answer the nice customer, order your drink, apologise for shushing and firing the barista, then go about your normal day.

Now, don’t you want that to be you?

Of course you do, let’s get stuck in.

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What is a Cortado?

A Cortado is a very popular drink in Spain, the name “Cortado” actually comes from the Spanish word “cortar” which means “to cut.”

A Cortado is usually made up of a 1.5 to 2 ounce Espresso shot (sometimes 2), with the same quantity of steamed milk added to cut the Espresso. Traditionally the Cortado does not have texturised milk, though some baristas like to add a small amount on top to create latte art.

It’s a relatively small drink (4.5 ounces) with not much milk so as you can imagine, the taste of the Espresso remains quite strong, while the milk adds a hint of sweetness.

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What is a Flat White?

The country of origin of the Flat White is a contentious issue and so was invented in either Australia or New Zealand depending on who you want to offend. 

The base ingredient of the Flat White is an Espresso shot, though depending on who is making your coffee and where, it could be made with a double Espresso shot, a Ristretto shot or even a double Ristretto.

The coffee is completely combined with micro-foamed milk usually in a 2:1 ratio. The steamed milk partnered with the coffee produces a velvety, luxurious consistency, while maintaining a strong coffee taste, very much keeping the Espresso as the star of the show.

The Flat White is usually served in a 5 – 6 ounce cup, though UK chains like to increase this size to around 8 ounces. Obviously the more milk that goes into it, the weaker the coffee will taste and the more diminished the consistency will be.

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Flat White vs Cortado: what’s the difference?

The Flat White and the Cortado are similar drinks in many ways, however there are a few small differences that you need to know.

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What is the difference between a Flat White and a Cortado?

The Cortado tastes stronger:

The Cortado is a smaller drink with a coffee to milk ratio of 1:1, whereas the Flat White is larger and has a coffee to milk ratio of 1:2. The difference in the amount of milk will make the Cortado taste stronger than the Flat White.

The Flat White is smoother:

The milk in the Flat White is micro-foamed giving a silky, slightly heavier mouth feel.

The Flat White is hotter:

The process of creating micro-foam requires heat, therefore the Flat White is served hotter.

Which has more calories, the Cortado or the Flat White?

Counting your calories and want to know which has less calories between a Cortado and a Flat White.

It all comes down to the milk content, so with that in mind a Flat White will normally have more calories than a Cortado. However, the difference in calories between the 2 drinks is not huge.

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 Flat White made with skimmed milk

Short: 63 Kcal

Calories in a Starbucks Cortado made with whole milk

Short: 72 Kcal

Calories in a Starbucks Flat White made with whole milk

Short: 108 Kcal

For the whole list of Starbucks’ nutritional information click HERE.

Which has more caffeine, the Cortado or the Flat White?

If 1 Espresso shot is used for both drinks than the amount of caffeine is the same.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • Ristretto shots have slightly less caffeine than Espresso shots so if you are comparing a Flat White with a Ristretto shot vs a Cortado with an Espresso shot, the Cortado will have more caffeine.
  • Caffeine levels can and will vary in the same coffee shot (for example an Espresso shot) depending on which café you are buying your coffee from.

In conclusion, technically both drinks should have the same amount of caffeine if they are made with the same type of coffee shot, though in reality they probably won’t.

If you are wondering which of the drinks will taste stronger, than that will be the Cortado. This is due to the fact that a Cortado has less milk than a Flat White, thus a stronger coffee taste.

Which one should you order?

Firstly I would always suggest trying both and seeing what you prefer, but if you can’t decide which of the 2 drinks you should try first, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How strong do you like your coffee?
  2. Do you care about mouth feel and consistency?

The Cortado tastes stronger and the Flat White feels more velvety and luxurious.

That’s it, thanks for reading!

As always if you have any questions or feel like we have missed anything please send your questions/suggestions to [email protected]