Cortado vs Macchiato vs Latte vs Flat White: What’s The Difference?

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Right off the bat, I can tell you that Cortado, Macchiato, Latte, and Flat White are all espresso-based beverages and are basically made with only two simple ingredients – espresso and steamed or frothed milk.

What differentiates these famous coffee drinks from each other is the ratio of espresso to milk in them.

The varying proportion of espresso and milk gives each of these drinks its distinctive taste, strength, and texture. 

Cortado vs Macchiato vs Latte 

A cortado contains equal amounts of espresso and steamed milk whereas a macchiato is made with espresso and only 1-2 teaspoons of foamed milk on top. Latte, on the other hand, is 60% steamed milk, 20% espresso, and 20% milk foam. Macchiato is the strongest among the three coffee drinks.

Cortado vs Flat White vs Latte

A cortado is made with 1 part espresso and 1 part steamed milk whereas a flat white is made with 2/3 espresso and only 1/3 micro-foam milk. Latte, on the other hand, contains 4/6 steamed milk, 1/6 espresso, and 1/6 foamed milk. Flat white has the strongest coffee flavor among the three beverages.

Key Takeaways:
  • A cortado is a small drink made in a 4-ounce cup with almost equal parts espresso to milk.
  • Macchiato is espresso just dashed with a small amount of milk – only 1-2 teaspoons of foamed milk on top of the espresso.
  • Flat whites are made by pouring purely textured milk (micro-foam) over 1-2 shots of espresso.
  • A latte is a classic espresso with steamed milk added to it. It typically has a thin layer of foam on the top.

If you are interested in learning more about these four world-famous coffees, the article below will give you all the details you need to make your next coffee house order.

In this article, I will compare these beverages in terms of their preparation method, taste, strength, caffeine & calorie content, and more.

Cortado, Macchiato, Latte, Flat White: What’s the Difference?

 Even for the biggest coffee connoisseur, understanding how popular drinks like latte, cortado, flat white, and macchiato differ in terms of ingredients, caffeine content, and nutritional value can be confusing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key differences and similarities between lattes, cortados, flat whites, and macchiatos.

  • Ingredients: 1/2 Espresso, 1/2 steamed milk.
  • Taste: Bold, robust, creamy, velvety.
  • Strength: Strong.
  • Caffeine: Depends on the number of shots of espresso. (1 shot of espresso = 68mg caffeine)
Cortado vs Macchiato vs Latte vs Flat White
  • Ingredients: Espresso, 1-2 teaspoons foamed milk.
  • Taste: Strong, bold, robust.
  • Strength: Very strong.
  • Caffeine: Depends on the number of shots of espresso. (1 shot of espresso = 68mg caffeine)
  • Ingredients: 1/6 espresso, 4/6 steamed milk, 1/6 foamed milk.
  • Taste: Mild, milky, creamy.
  • Strength: Light.
  • Caffeine: Depends on the number of shots of espresso. (1 shot of espresso = 68mg caffeine)
  • Ingredients: 2/3 espresso, 1/3 micro-foam milk.
  • Taste: Bold, robust, creamy.
  • Strength: Strong.
  • Caffeine: Depends on the number of shots of espresso. (1 shot of espresso = 68mg caffeine)

What is a Cortado?

A cortado is a form of espresso that originated in Spain. Cortado comes from the Spanish verb to ‘cut’ (cortar).

While it is essentially coffee and milk, how it is blended and prepared makes a considerable difference in the outcome of the flavor, texture, and even the look.

A cortado is a small drink made in a 4-ounce cup with almost equal parts coffee to milk. In this case, 1-2 shots of espresso are brewed and added to the cup. 

Steamed milk is also added to the cup (to ‘cut’ the bitterness and acidity of espresso) in either an equal amount or slightly more depending on your taste.

Although a cortado is made with milk, it is still a strong coffee due to the espresso base.

Cortado vs Macchiato vs Latte vs Flat White

What is a Macchiato?

The macchiato is a traditional Italian coffee that is made with espresso and milk. 

The word macchiato roughly translates to ‘marked’, coming from the fact that the espresso is essentially just dashed with a small amount of milk – only 1-2 teaspoons of foamed milk on top of the espresso. 

The milk is not meant to overwhelm the espresso in any way but is rather there just to add a tiny bit of sweetness to the drink.

Keep in mind that the macchiato uses frothed milk instead of steamed milk.

Foamed milk is made by aerating a small amount of the liquid with steam to the point that the milk becomes a foam.

Because macchiato has the highest ratio of espresso to milk of any drink made with these two ingredients, it consequently has a much stronger flavor than any other espresso-based drink.

What is a Flat White?

A flat white is an espresso beverage first crafted by the Australians and then introduced to the rest of the world.

Flat whites are made by pouring purely textured milk (micro-foam) over 1-2 shots of espresso

They are served in smaller ~5oz tulip cups. In general, about 4.4oz of milk is enough to pull off the desired texture. It is important to know that the flat white micro-foamed milk shouldn’t contain any froth.

When you order this drink, you can expect a silky texture with zero frothiness. The flavor of the espresso features strongly because the flavor of the milk foam is more complementary than overpowering.

Cortado vs Macchiato vs Latte vs Flat White

What is a Latte?

A latte is a classic espresso with steamed milk added to it. It typically has a thin layer of foam on the top.

Caffe latte actually means “milk coffee” in Italian. Lattes are made using steamed milk and fresh shots of espresso. Then, lattes are topped with either frothed cream, milk foam, or whipped cream.

A standard latte contains 60% steamed milk, 20% espresso, and 20% frothed milk.

Compared with the other beverages, lattes have a more mild, slightly sweet flavor, as they contain a greater proportion of steamed milk.

Foamed vs. Steamed Milk

The most obvious difference between a macchiato and a cortado, latte, or a flat white is the amount of milk. But there’s another difference that greatly impacts the taste, and it’s how the milk is prepared.

Macchiatos and lattes use foamed milk. Foamed milk can be made with either a milk frother or a steam wand. 

As the tool moves through the warm milk, it traps air under the surface and creates small bubbles. 

This results in a light and airy beverage that taste delicious in lattes, cappuccinos, and other warm coffee drinks.

Cortados, lattes, and flat whites use steamed milk. Steamed milk is heated, but no air bubbles are added. 

This results in a smooth, creamy, and dense texture. If you don’t have a steam wand, you can create steamed milk on the stove by heating it until it’s just about to boil.

Steamed and foamed milk are often used together to create popular coffee drinks. 

Foam is essential to drinks like cappuccinos. They are 1/3 foam and wouldn’t be considered cappuccinos without it! 

Froth can also go into cold drinks, like iced cappuccinos, giving them complexity and texture.

If you get good at frothing milk, you can create all kinds of different drinks with the same set of tools and ingredients.

Cortado vs Macchiato vs Latte vs Flat White: Taste

Cortado has a smooth, strong taste of espresso along with a slight sweetness coming from the steamed milk added to it.

Cortado is soft and strong at the same time. Because the ratio of espresso to milk is 1:1, you will find the powerful taste of espresso, and at the same time, the smooth and silky taste of milk.

Macchiato offers you the bold, strong espresso flavor, but with a little milk for slight relief and texture. 

Macchiato has the strongest taste of espresso among all coffee drinks thanks to the tiny bit of foamed milk added to it.

It may have a strong, bold flavor, but it comes in a small package averaging between two to four ounces.

Flat white has a richer taste of espresso along with the velvety smoothness of the microfoam and milk. 

A standard flat white has a silky texture with little to no froth and the espresso flavor is much more pronounced.

Latte has the mildest coffee flavor among most espresso-based beverages. Latte, more or less, tastes more like sweet milk with a hint of coffee flavor.

A latte contains considerably more steamed milk than a cortado, macchiato, or a flat white, and has a creamy mouthfeel and smooth flavor. 

For the best results, you should weigh your water too. This might seem weird for some folks because we tend to think of water and other liquids in terms of volume.

Fortunately, water converts easily. One milliliter of water weighs one gram. Simple. 

While brew time, temperature, and grind will all affect coffee extraction in an Aeropress brewer. 

The brew ratio does as well. Too much coffee, and you’ll likely have an under-extracted drink. Not enough, and it will be over-extracted, which isn’t good either.

Caffeine Content

A cortado, macchiato, latte, and flat white can have the same amount of caffeine per serving.

This is because the amount of caffeine that a drink has depends on the number of shots of espresso that has been used to make that drink.

All you have to remember is that 1 shot of espresso contains 68mg of caffeine.

So, a double-shot macchiato or cortado will have: 

2 x 68g = 136mg of caffeine.

Since a double shot of espresso contains twice as much caffeine as a single espresso shot, ordering a double shot latte or any of the above drinks with 2 shots of espresso will give you an extra caffeine boost in the morning.

Cortado vs Macchiato vs Latte vs Flat White: Calories

To know the difference in calories of these coffees, we’ll have to look at the amount of milk used.

A cortado is made with 1 part milk and 1 part espresso and it comes in a small serving.

A macchiato too is served in a smaller size and it just has 1-2 teaspoons of foamed milk on top of 1-2 shots of espresso.

A flat white is also made with mostly espresso and a tiny bit of micro-foamed milk poured on top of it.

Latte, on the other hand, is a much larger drink as compared to a cortado, macchiato, or flat white.

On top of this, a latte is made with ounces of milk, as much as 60% of a standard latte is milk.

So from the above facts now we can conclude that a latte will have more calories as compared to a cortado, macchiato, or a flat white.

With that being said, if any of these drinks are flavored with sugary syrups or any other additive, it will consequently add significantly more calories.

Calories also depend on the type of milk used.

The type of milk you choose to make these coffee drinks can also have a huge impact on the calories that you end up consuming.

Most of the time, whole milk is used to produce these coffees. 

Whole milk gives off the fullest and rich flavor, and this is why it’s most commonly used to make these coffees.

However, 2% fat milk or nonfat milk is an excellent choice as well. Lower fat milk foams up much better and holds its fluff while you keep drinking your coffee.

You can also use milk substitutes such as almond milk, coconut milk, or oat milk to make these coffees.

These milk alternatives make for a much different tasting experience and are super delicious.

The only thing is that they don’t foam as well as cow’s milk, but the flavor of these milk alternatives makes up for it. 

How To Make A Cortado

  • Extract 1-2 shots of espresso in a small cup.
  • After espresso extraction, steam your desired milk of choice (I use whole milk, but you can use almond, coconut, oat milk, etc.)
  • Slowly pour your steamed milk on your espresso. Make sure the ratio of espresso to milk is 1:1.

Voila! You have just made a cup of strong, bold cortado.

The cortado is a very simplistic yet savory drink to master. As far as presentation is concerned, you can serve it in the traditional 5-7oz. or just in a coffee mug of your choosing.

Here’s a cortado recipe video, follow along to make cortado in your own kitchen.

How To Make A Macchiato

  • Brew 1-2 shots of espresso.
  • Steam milk to 160°, and hold the steam wand just below the surface to create foam.
  • Pour milk into espresso to taste and spoon the foam on top. It might take a few tries to get your personal ratio right.

Macchiato means “stained” in Italian, and you’ll see why when you make this tasty drink. The steamed milk makes a white mark in the espresso, essentially “staining” it. 

A classic macchiato offers the bold, bitter flavor of espresso cut slightly with velvety smooth milk.

Check out this video tutorial and learn how to make a delicious cup of macchiato at home.

How To Make A Flat White

  • Make 1-2 shots of espresso and pour into the base of your cup.
  • Steam the milk with the steamer attachment so that it has around 1-2cm of foam on top.
  • Pour the milk on top of espresso and you’ll notice that the milk starts naturally fold in on itself to create a pattern on the top.

Your smooth, velvety cup of flat white is ready to be enjoyed.

I found this video that may help you in making your own cup of flat white in your kitchen.

How To Make A Latte

  • Prepare an espresso (single or double) directly into a latte glass.
  • 1/3 fill your milk jug — whole milk is recommended.
  • Foam your milk prior to brewing your espresso, paying attention to creating a nice smooth microfoam.
  • Begin pouring the frothed milk into your espresso from a relatively high position.
  • Ensure a small amount of stiff milk foam sits on top after pouring.

Enjoy your latte!

With a latte, it is important not to introduce too much milk foam to the drink. Instead, you should be aiming for a nice, thin layer of foam to top off the latte.

Check out this video for more tips on making awesome lattes.


Now that you’ve been armed with the information you need to order or make the perfect gourmet coffee, you’re probably asking yourself which one you’ll like best.

If so, it’s helpful to focus on two factors: how much milk foam you want, and how strong you want the taste of espresso to be.

If you prefer no foam or you don’t want the foam on your coffee to be highly textured, go for a flat white or latte. Love your coffee strong? Then a macchiato or a cortado is your best bet.

If you want to learn more about the differences between coffee drinks then check out my other articles below.

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Amit Gupta

Hi, my name is Amit Gupta, and I am the owner and contributor at Cafeish. My obsession with coffee started when I received my first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, my love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets I own – has grown considerably.

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