Cortado vs Flat White: What’s the Difference?

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Do you enjoy espresso drinks? Then you will love flat whites and cortados. But what is a cortado vs flat white?

These two beverages have similar ingredients and thus can be easily mixed up. Yet, these are two different coffees that have become very trendy in recent years.

After reading our short guide, you will become an expert on the difference between a cortado and flat white. And you could even start impressing your friends or your local barista with your knowledge of these two coffee drinks.

So, let’s get into it!

Cortado vs Flat White

Cortado with a cracker

Is a Cortado the same as a flat white? No, a cortado is not the same as a flat white. The Flat White originates from New Zealand and Australia, and the Cortado comes from Spain.

The Flat White can be easily distinguished from a Cortado because it is served in a ceramic cup and not in a tumbler glass typical to Cortados. A flat white has more milk, which is more texturized, creating a small micro foam layer on the top.

What is a Flat White?

A flat white is made of a double-shot of espresso with micro foamed milk steamed with tiny air bubbles to a velvety texture. The milk is aerated, which creates a thin layer of microfoam and then poured over the espresso.

The drink is from Australia and New Zealand. Since both countries claim to be the inventors of flat white, there is a bit of disagreement on the country of origin.

Sprudge conducted a poll amongst Aussies and Kiwis on what a real flat white is.

The key findings were:

  • A Flat White is a small coffee drink, and the ideal size is 5.5oz (160ml).
  • 59% said that it should be made with a double shot of espresso.
  • The majority of coffee drinkers agreed that Flat Whites are best served in a ceramic cappuccino cup at the coffee shops.
  • This one is controversial: 43% chose New Zealand as the origin, 35% selected Australia, 17% voted for “piss off,” and 5% chose neither. New Zealand won as the birthplace of Flat Whites.
  • 65% said that a proper Flat White has a very tiny amount of foam or barely any foam on top.
  • The Flat White does not get toppings or flavorings; most agreed on this one.

According to the Sprudge poll and the residents of the two countries who invented flat whites, all of the above are the hallmarks of a true Flat White.

Unless you go to Starbucks coffee shops in the US, where a Flat Whit consists of two ristretto shots. A double ristretto is 25% smaller than a double espresso, but Starbucks claims Ristrettos has more robust aromas.

Starbucks drinks sizes for a flat white range from 8oz to 20 oz. The coffee house chain offers a long list of toppings and flavorings with it. They made it to a completely different drink, which had nothing to do with the original flat white.

Cortados at a Glance

While the Cortado translates to “cut” in Spanish, it is a harmonious beverage and is all about balance in a cup.

The drink comes from Spain and consists of double espresso and steamed milk. The milk is only lightly steamed and does not have any forth or foam in it. Spanish does not texturize the milk as Italians do. The hot dairy reduces the bitterness, and the result is a balanced taste profile with rich coffee aromas and a hint of sweetness of the milk.

Cortado coffee

We have a list of ingredients and directions for a smooth cortado that you can try at home. The standard Cortado does not have texturized milk, unlike a Flat White or a cappuccino. Still, some baristas will add a tiny small amount on top to create fancy-looking latte art.

Is a Cortado Stronger Than a Flat White?

Both drinks will contain the same amount of double espresso at the coffee shop. But, the Cortado would have less milk which makes it taste stronger. This applies to standard beverages because there are many different local variations. Occasionally the Cortado is made with a single shot of espresso and steamed milk.

Also, remember that Starbucks is making the Flat White with two double ristrettos. So, yes, a cortado will be stronger, but it also depends on how the drinks are made and may slightly differ by the coffee shop, coffee beans, and brewing method.

The Cortado or the Flat White Has More Caffeine?

The Cortado and the Flat White are usually made with the same coffee shot. Thus, the amount of caffeine should be the same if the same coffee beans are being used.

A Starbucks Flat White made with the ristretto double shots have less caffeine than a cortado made with two espressos. Double ristrettos are 25% smaller in size compared to double espressos.

The Cortado or the Flat White Has More Calories?

A Flat White contains more calories than a cortado because it requires more milk. The difference is not huge, though. We need to keep in mind that most calories in a coffee would come from additives if you choose any flavors or toppings.

If you are watching your coffee calories, then milk is another important factor to consider. Low-fat milk would have fewer calories compared to whole milk.

How Does a Flat White Taste vs a Cortado?

Finally, let’s talk about the taste of a flat white vs cortado. A Flat White has a more velvety taste, more sweetness, and a thicker texture than a cortado.

The Cortado has a more coffee pun-gent taste, but the steamed milk nicely balances it. The drink is less sweet and smoother compared to the flat white.


There you have it! Our Cortado vs flat white comparison explains all the similarities and differences between these two popular coffee drinks.

If you watch the consistency of the milk, the milk ratio and the size of the drink, that can help you to recognize both cortados and flat whites.


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