Cortadito- What is it, and How to make it?

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A Cortadito (not to be confused with a Cortado) is a popular Cuban coffee drink. It consists of strong black coffee, cut with milk and sugar. In this article, we will look at what a Cortadito is, how to make it and how it compares with the Cortado.

What is a Cortadito?

The Cortadito has become a mainstay coffee drink in Cuba but has yet to find acclaim in other parts of the world. The word Cortadito literally translates to ‘small cut’ in Spanish, and this broadly describes the drink. The Cortadito consists of strong, dark-roasted coffee cut with sugar and milk. 

While the ratio of coffee to milk varies, it is typically a 1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk. Given this, the Cortadito is a small drink, typically no larger than 4 oz. 

Finally, the other key characteristic of this drink is that the Cortadito is made with heavily sweetened Cuban coffee. Traditionally this is done by creating an espuma (foam). To do this, you add a small amount of espresso to a cup with sugar and whip it until the sugar is dissolved. Then you add the rest of the espresso and the steamed milk. The espuma forms a distinctive light brown topping on the drink. 

The other way of sweetening the drink is after brewing by using sweetened condensed milk rather than regular milk, creating a rich and decadent drink. 

Given that the Cortadito is such a sweet drink, it is traditionally served as a dessert coffee.     


How To Make A Cortadito

The Cortadito is a simple drink, and the good news is that the brewing method is flexible, so you can use whatever coffee gear you have at home. So let’s break down the structure of the drink.


A Cortadito is traditionally brewed using Cuban coffee, but you can use any dark roasted coffee. The usual method of brewing the coffee is to use an Espresso machine or a Moka Pot. These two brewing methods produce a rich, heavy coffee that pairs well with milk and sugar. If you are brewing for a crowd, the Moka Pot is recommended, given it can brew large batches of coffee at a time. 


When it comes to milk, whole milk or half-and-half is commonly used. If you are looking for a milk alternative, you can also use oat or almond milk. The other option is to use condensed milk to sweeten the drink. 

The milk should be thinly steamed to warm it with little froth added. If you don’t have access to a steam wand, you can heat the milk in a pot on the stove or in a microwave.


Various methods are used to sweeten a Cortadito, either before, during, or after the brewing process. The traditional way to sweeten a Cortadito is to create an espuma by whipping the sugar with a small amount of brewed coffee before pouring in the remaining coffee and milk.  

The other option is to sweeten during the brewing process. To do this, add sugar to the top of the Moka Pot or tamp it on top of the tamped espresso grounds in a portafilter before pulling a shot. 

Finally, you can sweeten the drink after brewing by serving it with sweetened condensed milk.

Most recipes use either brown sugar or regular sugar as a sweetener. A good starting place is to use two teaspoons of sugar per serve, but you can alter this to suit your tastes.

Cortadito Recipe


  • 2 oz espresso (double shot)
  • 2 oz steamed milk
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Serving cup
  • Spoon or small whisk


  1. Add two teaspoons of sugar to a cup
  2. Pull a double shot of espresso into the serving cup
  3. Add a small amount of espresso (just enough to create a paste) to the sugar and whip until the sugar has dissolved and you have a light and thick syrup.
  4. Sweeten the remaining espresso with the syrup to taste and stir to combine
  5. Top with an equal amount of steamed milk 
  6. Enjoy!

Tips for Brewing

While the recipe we have included uses espresso, it can just as easily be adapted for a Moka Pot if you want to make multiple servings. You brew coffee as you usually would with a stovetop espresso maker, then whip the sugar for all the servings at once with a little brewed coffee. After that, you portion the espuma into the cups and mix with the remaining coffee before topping with steamed milk.

Cortadito vs Cortado

If you know a little Spanish, you would think that the Coradito is just a smaller-sized Cortado, given that the -ito suffix usually indicates a smaller size. But this is not the case. 

The Cortado is a Spanish espresso drink that has become popularized worldwide. It has a very similar structure to the Cortadito consisting of a 1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk. The key difference between the two drinks is that the Cortado contains no sugar. Many coffee lovers think the Cortado offers the perfect ratio of espresso to milk to highlight the flavors and textures. The Cortado is served with warm, lightly steamed milk in a small 4.5 oz glass. 

The addition of sugar to a Cortadito changes both the taste and texture of the drink. The Cortadito typically is a sweeter, velvety drink with a heavier mouthfeel. 

What is a Cortadito | Final Thoughts

The Cortadito is a strong, but sweet coffee drink served in a small cup. The drink originated in Cuba and is typically served as a dessert coffee. The Cortadito is brewed using an equal ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and sugar. If you have a sweet tooth and are looking for a way to change up your coffee routine, consider giving a Cortadito a try.