Whenever we need caffeine, it's easy to simply order a double shot espresso or any other similar drink that screams "caffeine." Flat whites and cortados are two classier versions of such espresso drinks, but it's easy to mix up the two because they seem to look and taste the same. Unknown to many, they're actually two different drinks and have a subtle difference that you might be able to catch. Read on, and maybe you can be on your way to becoming an expert on the differences between a flat white vs cortado.

Flat White vs Cortado

coffee, cappuccino, milk, espresso, mocha, cream
Zaina Gowani

The flat white originated in Australia and consists of a double shot of espresso and micro-foamed milk. Its key characteristic is the textured milk, a style adopted from Italian coffee. The way the milk is foamed ensures every sip is velvety smooth. It's essentially a small latte, but is served in small 5.5 fl oz cups. 

The cortado hails from Spain; in Spanish, it means "cut." This refers to how the espresso is cut with an equal part of steamed milk. They're generally served in 5-7 fl oz cups.

coffee, espresso, milk, cappuccino
Kelsey Emery

Although the difference is very subtle, it's all about the consistency of the milk that is used. They have the same amount of espresso, but the milk in a cortado is not textured. Essentially, a cortado is smooth while a flat white is more velvety and thicker.

Now that you know what makes them different, the next time you get the chance to order either a cortado or a flat white, pay attention to the consistency of the milk. Is it foamy and thick or smooth like the espresso? That'll tip you off on the difference between flat whites vs cortados.