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New Coffee Drinkers Guide: Cortado vs Cubano – What’s The Difference?

So, you’ve just walked into a new coffeeshop and see some espresso drinks in the menu that you’ve not seen, nor tasted, before. What do you do? Should you try the cortado or the Cubano coffee?

How do you know which one you will like the taste of more? And most importantly, how do these two coffeeshop menu drinks differ from each other?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a quick intro to each drink so that you can make an informed decision.

What Is A Cortado?

This isn’t a drink that you’ll find on the menus of most coffee shops. It seems to be a more niche drink that hasn’t yet caught on everywhere. Though you can easily find it in London coffee shops.

cortado coffee on wood table

This espresso drink hails from Spain, but it’s also popular in Portugal. The name translates into English as cut, meaning that the espresso is cut with the steamed milk.

A cortado is a single shot of espresso cut with an equal amount of steamed milk.

The amount of milk that you get on top of your cortado is definitely more than you have on the Cubano. And that milk is really the defining feature of this drink.

The milk in the cortado is not foamy or frothy, which is it’s defining feature. It’s not textured at all. It is just warmed, steamed milk.

This is a small espresso drink and it is traditionally served in a small glass instead of a mug. Overall, the cortado has a sweeter taste than the Cubano because of the milk in this drink.

What Is A Cubano Coffee (Café Cubano)?

In some coffee shops, you may see a Cubano referred to as a Café Cubano. The big difference between a Cubano and a cortado is the sugar.

cafe cubano
cafe cubano via Pixabay

You see, a café cubano is espresso pulled onto raw sugar (demerara), which gives it a slightly sweet taste (though not as sweet as the cortado).

You can make a café cubano with one to two shots of espresso, whichever you prefer. And if you’re making this at home, then I suggest a moka pot and you just put the sugar into the bottom of your cup.

A café cubano is one to two shots of espresso pulled onto demerara sugar.

Traditionally, the café cubano is served without milk, though you can add it to taste, if you prefer. Though, technically once you add milk it becomes a cafe con leche, right? Right.

And since there is no milk in this coffee drink, it has a hotter temperature than the cortado.

How to Make Cuban Coffee - Cafe Cubano Recipe (Cuban Café 'Espresso' with Faux Crema / Espuma)

The Takeaway

To make your decision easier as to which small espresso drink is the best choice for your palatte, here’s the differences that you can use to determine which drink to order.

  • A Cubano is hotter than a cortado due it to having less milk
  • A Cubano tends to have a stronger, bolder coffee taste due it to having less milk
  • A cortado has a smoother, creamier mouth feel since it has more milk
  • A cortado has a sweeter taste due to the extra milk
  • A cortado is a slightly larger cup of coffee than a cubano simply due to the addition of milk
  • A Cubano is a hotter temperature coffee drink due to the lack of milk cooling it off

If that still doesn’t help you make a decision, and you’re curious about calories and caffeine, then you’ll find this interesting:

  • A cortado tends to have a more calories than a Cubano simply because it has more milk
  • Both drinks should have the same amount of caffeine because they both should be made with one to two shots of espresso.
  • Overall, the Cubano is healthier than the cortado since it has less milk in it

Still not sure? Why order up both and see which one tastes better to you!

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